Royal Bliss were part of Rock White and Blue on day one of the Great Lakes Naval Station’s two-day Independence celebration. No strangers to playing the event, let alone the WIIL Rock listening area, Royal Bliss treated fans and attendees as far as the eye could see across Ross Field, to a set full of fan favorites and songs yet to be released.
Royal Bliss’ approximate hour long set started off with a new song, titled How You Like Me Now. I’m not sure it will be released any time soon, but it was a great rock song to kick off the set. Oh and for anyone that was surprised to see Neal Middleton sporting short hair, at the end of June, he participated in a charity event and allowed a certain little girl to cut his hair, which he planned to donate to Wigs For Kids.
Drummer Jake Smith made sure they kept the pace upbeat as they continued with We Did Nothing Wrong before going into the seductive Turn Me On. Guitarists Taylor Richards and Sean Hennesy, along with bassist Brian Hennesy, moved to center stage, and played at blazing speed during the fast-paced solo towards the end of the song.
As is the case with a lot of Royal Bliss songs, the extremely catchy Drown With Me from 2016’s The Truth had plenty of people dancing and singing along. The song that really caught my attention was listed as Raging Bull on the set list. Another new song, this one had a reggae flow and vibe to it. It seemed to be well received by the crowd too. Taylor played acoustic guitar on their Tom Petty cover of Runnin’ Down A Dream while Sean took lead. Having two guitarists in the band gives you so much versatility and Royal Bliss uses every opportunity to showcase that.
Neal dedicated Crazy to all of those in the military. He commented that it was because of them that we were able to enjoy nights like this, “Never forget that. Never forget that.” This song has always come from a deep, heartfelt place for Neal, but this time, it seemed a little extra special. They continued at a slower pace with Neal playing acoustic on Devils & Angels, another fan favorite.
Save Me, another well known Royal Bliss song from 2009’s Life In-Between, turned the set back up to 11, especially with the build up at the back half of the song. Devil With Angel Eyes, their newest single that goes over really well live, fit well sandwiched next to Cry Sister and another new song, listed as Hard/Loud on the set list. I thought I caught the line, “I like whiskey, women, and rock ‘n’ roll.” It’s always hard to judge a song when you hear it for the first time because you immediately want to hear it again. Neal mentioned it was only the second time they had played it live. They should definitely add it into the rotation.
The night came to a close with their most popular song, I Was Drunk. Over the years, this song has taken on a life of its own, but one thing remains true. Everyone sings along and a lot of people can relate. This night was no exception and there were many raised beers in the air as folks sang along.
At one point Neal shouted, “God bless the U.S.A. baby. This is beautiful.” However, before I realized what was happening, Neal and Taylor where in the crowd heading to the back of the Rock, White & Blue Zone VIP area to find a spot to play, Home, the final song of the night. As Neal walked by, he shook hands with a lot of people along the railing. He stopped a moment to shake hands with a military man and to thank him, “We’re nothing without you. We don’t get to do this without you boys.” Once he caught up to Taylor, he was uneasy to stand on someone’s wooden chair, but he held his balance during the entire song. While Taylor played acoustic, Sean came up from behind with his electric guitar and everyone had a chair to stand on. Neal called out for everyone to sing along as if it were a drunken campfire and he started with the first line, “Oh black beauty take me home,” and Sean repeated, “Take me home, take me home, take me home.” People around them filmed the song with their phones and sang along. On stage, Jake and Brian continued to play along. After some call and response with the crowd, they wrapped up the song. Neal hung out in the crowd a bit to take photos with fans before heading back. Watch the video of Home here.
For those that don’t know, Royal Bliss celebrated their 20th year as a band in April. That is a very long in this business and it’s really great to see that they are still making new music and continuing to do things on their terms. As a result of relentless touring of the Midwest (and a kick ass radio station in WIIL ROCK), Royal Bliss have acquired a very dedicated following and many were happy to come out to support the band and celebrate America. Need another fix? Find all tour dates here.
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