Chingford quartet, The Rifles hit Southampton mid-way through their UK tour playing at The Brook in promotion of their fourth LP None The Wiser. Support was provided by Nottingham indie band The Swiines who gave a fantastic half-hour performance full of energy and variety within the songs which suggests a great future for the group.
Having seen The Rifles play in London on many occasions, it felt strange to see the band emerge from a small door behind the stage to an appreciative but sensible welcome from the fairly small crowd rather than the riotous scenes that you would expect at the coronet or forum! However the band kicked straight into their set with ‘Go Lucky’ from their most recent LP None the Wiser – released in January. The first hit of the night came along straight after. ‘Sometimes’ reminded everyone in the venue exactly why they love The Rifles and the songwriting ability possessed by Joel and Luke (vocals and lead guitar). Having hit an early high in the show, the band pressed on and played ‘Robin Hood’ which again was received very well with the majority of the crowd belting out the words along with Joel
Throughout the set, numerous newer songs filled the gaps between fan favourites and unfortunately these songs did not gain the same response which made the atmosphere feel a bit flat at times. Generally, this was because the newer songs don’t have unbelievable hooks or infectious choruses; for example ‘Heebie Jeebies’ simply failed to get the crowd excited and even came across as a bit football chant-like. Despite this, the band looked like they were thoroughly enjoying playing at this point and it was very nice to see the original four members back together again.
Midway through the set, the band reduced down to two with Joel and Luke picking up the acoustic guitars and working through a five song mini-set comprising mostly of old classics including ‘Spend a Lifetime’; ‘Rock the boat’; and ‘Peace and Quiet’, all of which turned into indie ballads and gained the crowd’s full support vocally. Furthermore, these songs showed how well the songwriters know each other and their songs and essentially why people love their music and continue to support them.
Towards the end of the gig, the band played a quick-fire mix of old and new, ‘Toerag’ was brilliant – particularly as it morphed from an intimate acoustic beginning to a full band finale; ‘Tangled up in love’ was the pick of the songs from the last two records; and ‘Romeo and Julie’ (the penultimate song) was simply perfect, arousing complete crowd involvement and putting a smile on everyone’s face.
Overall the gig was a triumph and was extremely enjoyable, though some newer material didn’t quite hit the spot like many of the band’s great songs. However, this is a band who knows that they have a big catalogue of indie anthems and are trying to push forwards with a slightly more pop-style which can’t be knocked. The lads have maintained a constant level of fame and recognition without ever moving up or down in the last seven or eight years which is a true credit to the fan base. Singer Joel summed the band up proclaiming “we’ll be massive by the time I’m eighty”, as if he knows they have the talent and the songs but don’t have the commercial success they deserve. They are one of the best indie live bands and I would thoroughly recommend going to one of their shows.