REVIEW: ROYAL BLISS AT LAKE SHAKE FESTIVAL IN CHICAGO

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Not all that long ago, Royal Bliss caught the attention of several folks in a part of the music industry some might not have expected. After months of work, the result comes in the form of bringing their flavor of music to the masses this summer at various country music festivals, the first of which was at Lake Shake in Chicago, Illinois. Held along the lake front at FirstMerit Bank Pavilion, the first day of this 3-day festival consisted of big name acts Lady Antebellum and Sam Hunt. Royal Bliss were billed on the Next From Nashville stage on the first day and shared the stage with part time rocker/part time country boy, Aaron Lewis along with other up and coming artists. Their set consisted of songs from their new EP, The Truth, a couple of unreleased songs and a popular cover.

As intro music started to play, drummer Jake Smith was the first to take the stage. Gradually, each member of the band walked on stage and immediately started their contribution to the opening song. Once lead singer Neal Middleton had taken the stage, their set started with the title track from their newest EP, The Truth. The song started off with upbeat music that transitioned into a calming mid-tempo chorus that really brought you into their world. Next was their current single, We’re All Livin’ the Dream, which just begged for the audience to sing along once they were familiar with the chorus, “So come on and play us a song, play us a song we’ll all sing, yeah, life is a blessing, here with our best friends, tonight we’re all living the dream.”

Neal dedicated Into the Night, a yet to be released song, to the ladies. The galloping drum beat at the beginning of the song along with the addition of flowing sounding music automatically made you feel as if you were gliding through the air. This is definitely a windows open, driving down the highway type of song. For the next song, Royal Bliss slowed it down with another yet to be released song, I Don’t Listen. Guitarists Taylor Richards and Sean “Memphis” Hennesy both traded in their electric guitars for an acoustic guitar and an Inuk, which is a fascinating 11-string instrument, respectively. Jake Smith added a different element to the song by playing a handheld shaker, leaving bassist Dwayne Crawford on electric bass. While the song initially started off with only Taylor playing acoustic guitar, it really took on a twist with the addition of Sean playing the Inuk. With the addition of very personal sound lyrics, the song really made you stop and reflect as Neal sang.

They picked up the pace again with Drown With Me, a song that immediately made you want to move. There is a section of the song that has a powerful driving beat that builds up with anticipation. The guitar playing by Taylor and Sean in this song was top notch. I’m sure there are times when it is hard for a band to play to an audience that isn’t familiar with their songs, however, Royal Bliss gave the audience something to get excited about. Their set went out on a high note when they played a cover of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ American Girl which had people dancing and singing along.

Their 25-minute set was everything you could have asked for, not only in the variety of tempo with their song selections, but if you paid attention, you got to know a little bit about where they’re coming from lyrically. Also, each band member gave you a taste of what they are about. From Taylor and Sean each taking a moment with their guitar solos or playing side by side, the connection was there. Dwayne and Jake, always in the groove, often interacted with each other as well. While I noticed Neal appeared to get lost in the moment a few times as he sang, which for me always brings a deeper meaning to the song, he had the hardest job of all, which was to try and make a connection with the audience. Overall, it’s always nice when you can see the desire a band has through their singing and playing, but it’s even better when you witness the hunger in their eyes.

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Find all Royal Bliss tour dates and VIP options here. Watch the video for their current single We’re All Livin’ The Dream below.

 

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