‘Unplugged: Live In The Limelight EP' by The Rising

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‘Unplugged: Live In The Limelight EP' by The Rising

Review

Yet another quality to admire in artists is resilience and a determination to overcome obstacles on the road to ensuring that as many people as possible get to hear their music.

Regular readers will know all about the trials and challenges The Rising have faced: just as their commitment to a programme of live performances across the UK was winning them more & more fans, COVID19 wrecked that ambition and caused physical relocation.

Undaunted, they threw themselves into writing & crafted a long series of very well received singles which came out so frequently that it kept their name & music in the public arena and to some extent mitigated the effects of not playing live as much as intended. Even so, they also embarked on weekly livestreams which they've kept up to this day.

Just as momentum seemed to have reached the levels they'd intended pre-lockdown, they were then hit by being swindled by a sync/PR company last year: an experience sufficiently soul destroying that one might forgive them for throwing the towel in at that point.

However I'm delighted that after reeling from that blow, they seem to have decided on an approach of what didn't kill them made them stronger and one catches a whiff of defiance in their current attitude. They are promising us many more releases in 2024, including their next album, long planned but delayed while they dealt with the shenanigans thrust upon them.

In the meantime, the hopefully will be taking encouragement from the continuing (and growing) support of their fanbase, the esteem of their peers (they were nominated for the award of Best UK Group at the British Country Music Awards) and the invitations to play such prestigious events as "Nashville Sounds in the Round" at Birmingham's Symphony Hall.

They are also keen that they don't leave too long between releases and so appear to be focusing on a dual approach of ones which also remind people that their reputation was originally based upon live work.

Thus last summer's "Endless Summer: Live in Dublin" will be followed on February 2nd by another live recording: the ‘Unplugged: Live In The Limelight EP' on their Renegade Maverick Records label. (And I like the wordplay in the title!).

Featuring live renditions of no fewer than five songs you'll already know from their studio versions ("I Want You", "2AM Call", "Endless Summer", "Bruise You Left" and "Highway To The Lost & Found"), the EP was recorded live and direct from the sound desk with no additional post production at the legendary Limelight venue in Belfast on 26th November 2023 when the band supported US artist Sunny Sweeney.

It's great to note once again the band's confidence in their own quality of performance to eschew post-production and release the songs as the audience heard on the night: "..an official bootleg recording…" as they describe it.

It's also worth noting that where this performance differs from their Dublin one is that this time it's just the core duo of Chantelle & Chris onstage without the support of the rhythm section they had with them in the summer.

This doesn't really matter a jot. The two are the ones you hear exclusively on the livestreams & who dominate the studio releases. Such is their evident joy in performing live (they do seem to feed off their audience) and effervescent stage presence that you really don't need to count how many are up there on stage. The songs are so well crafted & they know them so well that the shining performance requires no additional instrumentation.

Interestingly, (and personally I'm glad they did), the EP doesn't favour only "big" bubbly pop songs from their repertoire. I really respected them when they plunged into the darkness with "Shadows on the Wall" back in 2020 and I believe that much of their respect is due to people recognising that they have the capacity to cover a wide emotional spectrum with the same level of passion and commitment. Consequently we get to hear "Endless Summer" but it's balanced with "Bruise You Left" which is arguably the most ear catching cut on the EP: stripped of all the studio instrumentation bar the acoustic guitar, we are left with little else but Chantelle's impassioned and raw vocals, her articulation of her pain being exacerbated by the lack of compromise in the production. A brave move but it only increases the artistic standing of The Rising in my opinion.

2024 is a year The Rising have earmarked for significant career progression. They've been tipped for big things since at least 2019 when I first wrote about them & it's a testament to their vision & tenacity that in five subsequent years they have greatly added to their body of work, their writing has continually developed and despite the obstacles in their path, their profile has too.

A live EP will not be the key to pushing on this year: that will be their forthcoming new work. However as a reminder of what they are so good at doing, it's a timely nudge and as a statement of intent, opening 2024 with a burst of energy while looking back at relatively recent glories, it does an excellent job. Now onwards & upwards.

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