By the Rivers are garnering quite a reputation for their live performances and watching them at the Exchange on Saturday night it was easy to see why. The group have toured incessantly since the release of their self-titled debut album back in 2013, indeed this was their second Bristol visit this year, and the experience of all this gigging was reflected in a tight live performance that brilliantly showcased their energy and skill. The King Solomon Band, a somewhat chaotic ten-piece reggae outfit, provided able support drawing in the crowd with their mellow roots rhythms, but it was a noticeable change of pace when By the Rivers hit the stage.
It would be a mistake to try and strictly define By the Rivers’ music; at its core is reggae complete with virtuoso trumpet and sax, but it is also very poppy and soulful. Fronted by the frantic Nile Barrow, he drives the pace of the gig on lead guitar and vocals, jumping across the stage as the six-piece tears through most of their anthology in just under two hours. I was struck by how much I enjoyed every single song; from the poppy One Word (their earliest single) right through to What You See, the summery and playful title track of their latest EP, their set is packed with hits. Their pounding rendition of Vulture perhaps showed them at the effervescent best as well as One Step Two Step, a new single which is a fantastic example of the fusion of the clean cut rhythms, stirring horns and shimmering vocals that make the band so listenable. My particular favourite though was This Love, a song so catchy I was still singing along in the cab home. I don’t want to mince words over these guys too much: they are just brilliant. Singable, uplifting and most importantly fun they are the best thing I have seen for some time. With more releases and shows on the horizon, be sure to check them out.