Delta Rae – Live at the Tralf – Buffalo, NY – June 25, 2014
Delta Rae released their debut album, Carry The Fire, in 2012, and it was a musically mind blowing experience. The intensity and quality of the music were breathtaking, and the album earned Desert Island Disc status. I knew all of this walking into The Tralf last night, and yet I was not in the least prepared for the reality of Delta Rae on stage.
That intensity that comes through in the studio recording is a mere echo of what the band brings on the stage; and there the musicality of the band is absolutely unquestionable. Opening with a blend of “Dance In The Graveyards” and “Run”, Delta Rae established a surprisingly aggressive energy level from the get go. And while it took the sound board the first song to get the vocal mix right, the band was nothing less than amazing out of the gate. Up next was “Better Off Alone”; another knockout performance. A brand new song, “Better Off Alone” followed, with Ian Hölljes opening up his impressive voice for the crowd. It was an amazing moment; the first of many. This led into a composite of “Is There Anyone Out There” and “Morning Comes”, which seemed to be a musical launching pad for the band. Everything to this point was musically pristine and full of energy, but bar was about to be raised.
It began with Brittany Hölljes tackling “Bottom Of The River” like a woman possessed. The entire band was taken with the primal rhythms of the song and it turned into not just a performance but an experience. Liz Hopkins took over the mic for a cover of Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith’s “Because The Night” and blew the roof off the place. Her intensity and tone were amazing, and the band matches her step for step.
The band went off mic for a new song; a moving and impressive turn entitled “Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This”. Eric Hölljes took the lead this time, and the band backed him with a vocal collage that was unforgettable. Up next was another new song, “We All Want Love”. This time is was Ian alone on stage with piano for a lyric ballad that ought to see Delta Rae climb the charts when the song is released on the next album. This was an absolute “Wow” moment.
Liz Hopkins came out front again for “Chasing Twisters”, and once again raised the roof with a powerful and compelling performance. As good as this was, it was a mere appetizer for “Bethlehem Steel”. Delta Rae rocked the stage, the rafters and the very foundations. Brittany’s vocal was incomparable as she prowled the stage like a woman possessed. The song was based on the experiences of the Hölljes siblings’ father, who worked for Bethlehem Steel for many years, and laments the loss of factory jobs in a declining America. Liz Hopkins kept the energy going with an intense and powerful “If I Loved You”. This is one of my personal favorites from the debut album, and Delta Rae did not disappoint. Brittany came back out front to close the set with “I Will Never Die”, from the band’s Chasing Twisters EP. You couldn’t blame the band for letting up a bit at this point, but the energy and intensity of the performance never flagged.
The small but devoted crowd demanded one more song. Delta Rae accommodated the applause and chants with two. The first, “After All”, is a new song that will be on the new album if the band is wise. The Hölljes siblings and Liz Hopkins were all featured on vocals this time around, and the music was a piece of pure beauty. Delta Rae closed out the night with a buoyant take on “Dance In The Graveyards” that had the entire club swaying along. It was a knockout blow worthy of one the most vibrant and musically apt bands working today.
Opening act Gabe Dixon was a revelation in his own right. Even Ian Hölljes said that Dixon is writing some of his favorite music right now, and Dixon did not disappoint. Trading back and forth between piano and guitar, Dixon traded ballads and blues-infused rockers that recalled past greats such as Billy Joel and Ray Charles. Highlights included “Disappear”, “Runnin’ On Fumes” and the delicious piano work of “Till You’re Gone”. If nothing else, make sure to download his track “All Will Be Well”, a “Wow” moment all its own.
Both Delta Rae and Dixon were available and accessible after their sets. Delta Rae came out and signed at a table after the show, but unlike many acts, each member took the time to greet and get the name of each person walking by. It was a great dose of southern hospitality, and will pay dividends to the band from the personal connections they made.
Delta Rae’s tour continues tonight at The Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto. Dates for the summer tour are currently scheduled through August 3rd. Check out www.deltarae.com for more information, and go see them live if you get the chance. You won’t be disappointed.
Gabe Dixon will be opening for Delta Rae through July 9th, and is currently booking shows for his Gabe Dixon band for the summer. Get more info at www.GabeDixon.com.