Prior to his show at Bristol’s O2 academy, I have to admit that I had barely heard even the most mainstream tracks from Rory Graham, A.K.A. Rag’n’Bone Man. And in truth, I half expected to be seeing a commercialised pop-singer who can’t deliver anything like the vocals you hear on their records. This, I am glad to report, was entirely too pessimistic.
Entering the venue, the wave of heat that greeted me at the door was quickly followed by a wall of shuffling heads and shoulders, as a tightly packed crowd squirmed for a decent view. I myself squeezed through whatever gaps I could find, eventually settling on a spot by the stairs that just about afforded me a view of the stage – with a decent amount of back-of-the-head action.
The 6’4” star of the show strolled onto the stage as unannounced as possible and was greeted with cheers of excitement from the already giddy crowd. Not being a massive fan prior to my arrival, I can’t tell you the exact songs Rag’n’Bone Man pulled out of his catalogue. But what I can tell you is: this man can sing! His voice is as powerful and blues-y as it sounds on his records. And just a few songs in, people around me were genuinely in tears listening to him perform. I can’t say I felt that level of emotion, but the atmosphere was one of real joyfulness, and the performance full of energy, passion and stunning vocals.
He also seems like a genuinely *decent bloke*, punctuating his act with the odd, uncensored anecdote that added a more personal feel to his performance. With his new album, Life by Misadventure, debuting at number 1, it looks like Rag’n’Bone Man is here to stay. This can only be a good thing for the British music scene. But the O2 Academy in Bristol already feels too small for someone of his stature… So, if you get the chance to see him, make sure you do so at a big enough venue or, at the very least, get in early to secure a good spot – you won’t be the only one.