Live Review: Bronze Radio Return with The Falls at the Hamilton, Washington DC – 31st January 2014

By on Monday, 3rd February 2014 at 2:00 pm

For a city that’s not New York, DC has a pretty good range of different venues, of which the Hamilton sticks out as a rather unusual one. In a good way. The upstairs restaurant comes across as very Washingtonian; it’s the well-appointed, immaculately tiled, sophisticated kind of place you expect senators to dine at during power lunches. But once you head down the stairs that are gorgeously lit from below, the feeling is very different. In a quasi-dinner theatre sort of way, the Hamilton the venue makes you feel very welcome with its inviting atmosphere, and it sure beats the usual cramped and dingy places us Washington writers are used to. Last summer when they came and did a show for us there, Little Comets commented to me that the place reminded them of Brudenell Social Club in Leeds, but much more posh and pretty, which us Washingtonians can only take as a compliment.

The other two times I’ve been to the Hamilton, the advertised show was not sold out, so there wasn’t an issue with crowdedness. Not so much on the last Friday night of January for Connecticut roots rock band Bronze Radio Return. More on them in a moment. I was more interested in going to see The Falls, the Sydney-based singer/songwriter duo made up of Melinda Kirwin and Simon Rudston-Brown, who I’d seen over a year ago during the MGM/SPA Australia showcase in Sydney when I’d visited Australia to cover the inaugural ARIA Week and the 2012 ARIAs. At that show, I met a lovely woman who has since become a very good friend and actually, it was her who told me just how great the Falls were. I was not disappointed. That night in Sydney, they played with a string quartet, but in Washington and on their dates with Bronze Radio Return on the East Coast of America, it was just the two of them, which I think actually worked in their favour.

Kirwin and Rudston-Brown’s story is not one that is repeated too often. They used to be a couple some years ago, but the thing that kept them together as best friends and business partners is true testament to the power of music. Also, their genre is the folk / pop, singer/songwriter variety, which tends to be the most emotional and honest of all. All that taken together, there is no wonder why The Falls are able to craft such beautiful songs. Their voices harmonise not only well but one does not overpower the other and if I didn’t know they weren’t a couple romantically, that would be the immediate conclusion I’d draw from their sound.

While the audience did not seem familiar at all with the duo’s work, they seemed quickly enamoured by the pair’s songs, which included ‘Hollywood’, a kind of love letter to the Hollywood Hotel, where they played many of their early shows before they tasted success in Australia; the lilting voices and upbeat tempo of ‘Home’; and ‘When We Were Young’, inspired by their first visit to New York City in the winter of 2013. Kirwin’s wonderment about their recent experiences in America was delightful, as she explained that during the time before this tour, they had been doing some writing and recording in Los Angeles, living in Laurel Canyon and feeling very inspired by the great music made there, encouraging the two to cover Neil Young’s ‘Heart of Gold’ for us. They ended with ‘Into the Fire’, the title track of their debut American EP out on the 17th of February. I look forward to hearing what they have for us next and their conquering of America’s hearts.

Prior to this show, I thought it would be a good idea for me to investigate who Bronze Radio Return were. Evidently, the folk / roots rock band are a pretty big deal in this country, having three full-length albums to their name and their video for ‘Further On’ having surpassed 250,000 views on YouTube. This left me wondering, how the heck have I never heard of them? Maybe I have missed them on local radio (?) but from my internet wanderings and looking around during the show, they seem to have a cult college (university) following here. My guess from what I heard prior to the show and actually at the show is that their music is for the Mumford followers, though you might have guessed this from the prominent banjo lined up on stage even before it was their turn to play.

From the first few measures of introductory song ‘Wonder No More’, it was clear that Bronze Radio Return had plans on turning DC into a hoedown than it’s usually used to, and the crowd ate it up, along with louder numbers like ‘Everything Moves’ and buoyant ones of the ‘Rather Not Know’ ilk. Also, judging from the excited shouts of approval sent towards lead singer Chris Henderson’s way, most of the people present had seen the band multiple times, including at this very venue. Their sound is certainly fun and upbeat, but in these post-Mumford success days, you have to wonder if they’d gotten to the American people first, they’d be the ones with the Grammys in their hands instead.

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[…] their debut EP in America, called ‘Into the Fire’. The title track was the song they ended their set with at the Hamilton last month supporting Bronze Radio Return. The singer/songwriter genre isn’t my usual area of expertise, […]

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