Spending much of the past year on the road has honed Bronze Radio Return into a tight, lean musical unit, capable of powerful live performances like the one the band gave Friday night in the Great Hall at Union Station in Hartford.
It was a hometown show for a Hartford band busy enough that it doesn’t get as many chances to play at home as it used to, which is bittersweet: the band is all grown up and making its way in the big wide world, but we’ll keep their old room just as they left it.
Er, anyway, the group made the most of the show, which is supposed to be the first of more to come in the grand, high-ceilinged room at Hartford’s train station. Bronze Radio Return played a 90-minute set of songs drawn from its various releases. Big driving bass and a rock-steady beat powered opener “Wonder No More,” and the band breezed through the verses of “Blurry-Eyed Worries,” before turning a sharp corner into the chorus.
Although the band laid back on “Sell It To You,” letting rootsy vocal harmonies carry the song through the chorus, many of the songs have become bigger and robust on stage. It was apparent on “Rough Town,” the band’s loving ode to Hartford, and especially on “Wolves,” which rode a bigger beat and a fuller arrangement that lent the song an urgency the album version, on the band’s 2009 release “Old Time Speaker,” only hinted at. Bronze Radio Return has also gotten very good at letting the joy in its songs ring out. The rustic rocker “Down There” became a soaring sing-along, and “Shake! Shake! Shake!” — the title track of the group’s 2011 release — ended the main set with a big-hearted poignance, like reminiscing with your oldest, best friends.
The band returned for a two-song encore, starting with an acoustic roots jam on stage and ending by with “Shade Tonight,” a song with a slight reggae backbeat from the band’s debut EP in 2008.
The Brian Jarvis Band played before Bronze Radio Return, and the Manchester singer and songwriter has grown more confident over the past few years, shedding the obvious imprint of his influences for a sound more his own. His band wasn’t too shabby, either, particularly lead guitarist Brian Fechino, who also joined Bronze Radio Return to play virtuosic licks on “Shade Tonight.”
Bridgeport’s Alternate Routes opened the show in duo form with a half-hour of yearning, catchy roots-rock from singer Tim Warren and Eric Donnelly , including a gorgeous, spare version of “Carry Me Home.”
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