The smell and sound of fireworks fill the air in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter and whilst they make look all bright and colourful, it’s the loud noise I’m more interested in. But not the bangs of the fireworks, it’s the loud sounds inside the Asylum, namely in the shape of Rews. On the final night of their twelve-date tour (with zero days off!) and another stellar album recently added the collection, it’s certainly a way to do said album justice and see out the year in style.
Joining them on the last nine of these dates is IDestroy. Despite seeing the name crop up constantly since their formation, this is the first opportunity I’ve had to see them. Blending alt rock with power pop and punk, they’re a feisty trio with something to say. Making the most of their time, they hammer through an extensive back catalogue whilst heavily (and rightly so) promoting the newest material they’ve got to offer. There’s obvious nods to The Runaways and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts but they modernise it with a grungy tone and riot grrrl to create something more modern. Subtly balancing that loose feel you need for this kind of music along with a tightness as a band makes them a great watch and listen which makes me want to see them again and listen to their music at a later date.
After a couple of shots of seeing them at Camden Rocks in 2018 and 2019, as well as supporting Halestorm in-between, it’s a long overdue chance to catch Rews in a headline capacity. And worth the wait it most certainly is. Hammering through a healthy eight songs from Meridians to make up half of tonight’s set, there’s also a welcome big dose of Warriors since linchpin Shauna Tohill never had the chance to tour that album when it was released.
Now performing live as a trio rather than just guitar and drums, the addition of bass in the live set has bulked out the sound monumentally and has allowed for a great variation in songcraft. At points, Tohill takes a backseat with the guitar to let the bass drive the songs and in those moments, she’s wandering the stage or out in the crowd to belt the songs out in the faces of the audience. The upbeat, bouncy nature of the music is reflected in both the band and the crowd who move with enthusiasm and for the band, it’s to be admired given they’ve been non-stop for the best part of a fortnight. However, there are a couple of moments when they drop a gear in the dream pop and shoegaze-y tones of “Misery” whilst “Habits” has Tohill swap the electric guitar for an acoustic one and deliver the first half of the song unplugged in the crowd. And as she does so, the respectful silence from the enraptured crowd is deafening.
Elsewhere, Warriors’ “Razorblade” is loaded with fuzz and “Birdsong” is a misnomer with its aggressive chunky riff and rumbling bass. There’s a real synergy between this latest live incarnation with Iain Davies and Joe Bradley handling the bass and drum parts, respectfully, like it was their own. The pair of them lock in perfectly and when combined with Tohill, it’s like this has always been the band. Certainly, it would be great to see this iteration moving forward and what new music the three of them could create together. Whilst Rews’ music has hardly lacked it, there’s a new edge to be found in their performance, fuelled by hunger and adrenaline. Tohill’s vocals are sharp, veering between husky whispers and full-on belts and everything in-between. She’s also able to show her sense of humour and grace when she admits to forgetting the lyrics during “Psycho Maniac Killer”. It’s met with good humour and whilst it’s easier to hide a mistake in the music, it’s a bit harder when it’s the words but she styles it out to add a memorable moment to the evening.
It’s only towards the end where the Pyro material gets a look-in with the solitary song of “Shine” and whilst the album isn’t bad by any means, its two successors are better and lend themselves better to working together compared to the more pop and indie sound of the debut. However, there’s also “Shake Shake” (complete with IDestroy joining them onstage for it) from Pyro for the encore which has been roughed up a bit for a grittier moment. The only issue is their pause for an actual encore where the band conga themselves through the crowd to the back and then return in a similar fashion. Whilst the notion of an encore is dying off, it does feel strange to walk through the crowd to come back unless it was done without realising. Regardless, the band are able to handle the situation with a dose of awkward humour where we’re in on the joke, think something along the lines of moments in The Simpsons where a character says they have to go, you hear the footsteps turn to a run before a car peels away.
As a great portrayal of the albums without becoming a recital, Rews certainly deliver on the material they’ve got. A performance full of energy which mixes grit with pop sensibilities for a night which captures the attention of those in the room. For a band with a constantly revolving set of musicians with Tohill as the mainstay, it hasn’t scuppered them and her latest set of accomplices are the best she’s had along for the ride yet. It’s a short hour which they make full use of and if you gave them an extra twenty minutes, I’d wager they’d be able to take full advantage of it.