It is rare to be present for one of a band’s first shows, and even more rare when that band consists of widely-known and well-respected musicians. Such was the case on Sunday, September 10, 2017 when the freshly formed supergroup Roadcase Royale took over Gramercy Theatre in New York City. One of a few headlining shows before the band head out on a nationwide tour supporting Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band, the night was an intimate showcase of their forthcoming debut album, First Things First. Of course, there were some classics thrown into the mix, too.
So some maybe asked, who are Roadcase Royale? Well, the answer may strike some interest – they are a new project led by Liv Warfield, the R&B legend best known for her time in Prince’s New Power Generation, and Heart co-founder Nancy Wilson backed by Lead Guitarist Ryan Waters, Drummer Ben Smith, Bassist Dan Rothchild, and Keyboardist Chris Joyner. Wilson stated that Roadcase Royale “is a band I’ve always wanted to be in,” and that they draw inspiration for their songs from each respective member. Judging by their set at Gramercy Theatre, First Things First will be an exciting, soulful mix of Rock and R&B.
However, before Roadcase Royale could take the stage, Singer-Songwriter Brian Ripps came out to warm up the crowd. Armed with only a guitar and his killer voice, New York City’s own Ripps had a stage presence that could not be ignored. He has released several albums of both covers and original material that can be found on music streaming services such as Soundcloud and Spotify, and there is no doubt he garnered a few new fans with his personable performance. Despite the light crowd, Ripps managed to engage even those people sitting in Gramercy’s trademark broken seats. To make the evening even more special, before going into his first song, Ripps told the crowd that it was his birthday.
Ripps enchanted the crowd with his raspy voice and impressive acoustic chops with original songs “Needles” and “Tell the One” before playing a cover of The Allman Brothers classic “The Whipping Post.” He asked the crowd to sing along with the chorus, since they would likely know it, and they obliged him. Finishing off his set with the catchy “Wonder” and “Verge of Breaking,” Ripps was able to teach the crowd the chorus of his Last song and they happily sang along. Ripps had a stage presence that could not be ignored, and as he seemed genuinely hyped to be performing that night, there is no doubt that he gained himself a few new fans.
Sounding nothing short of impeccable, the set went on with “Even It Up” and “Hold On,” while Warfield worked the stage, dancing around and playing a tambourine, keeping the crowd fully engaged. Following that, there was a brief pause as Wilson told the story of “The Dragon” and how the song made its way onto First Things First. She stated that it was originally a song written for Heart in the ’90s, but with the help of each member of Roadcase Royale, “The Dragon” was given new life.
Moving on with a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “All is Fair,” this slow and soulful track put the focus on Warfield’s excellent voice and Waters’ impressive guitar solos. In fact, the crowd gave a huge cheer whenever Warfield would hold out an extra long note. It was a perfect choice to show off what Warfield and Waters do best. Then came on of the covers that fans had been waiting for – first was Heart’s “Straight On.” Though, is it a cover since the song was written by Wilson? Either way, the crowd was thrilled to hear a new version of this classic hit and happily sang along to it. With Wilson and Warfield’s vocals combined, “Straight On” was given some refreshing new life. To make it even better, this new version will make its way into First Things First to be listened to over and over.
Following that up with a snappy new original called “Mind Your Business,” one that Wilson joked she would like to e-mail to certain people and “watch them disappear.” Fans bounced along to fun track, responding to the band’s positive high energy performance. The same could be said during “Not Giving Up,” the hardest-sounding track played that evening. Then, the band changed things up with a Heart ballad entitled “Two,” followed by one of Heart’s most popular hits, “These Dreams.” Everyone was thrilled to hear this song in such an intimate venue, a place so small that they could communicate directly with the band between songs. Normally, bands like Heart can only be seen in much larger spaces, so that evening at Gramercy Theatre was definitely a treat for fans.
Next up was another new one entitled “Cover Each Other,” a sweet song that Wilson crafted for her husband, she explained. Then Wilson used her acoustic guitar to begin the iconic riff of Heart’s “Crazy” and as soon as these notes rang out across the theater, fans rushed to grab their phones to record the moment. Though “Crazy” was already a fast-paced Rock track, the addition of Warfield’s vocals gave the classic a brand new flair that closed out Roadcase Royale’s set.
Wanting more, fans stomped and cheered, and it was not long until the band returned to the stage to finish out their set with an unexpected cover of The Foo Fighter’s “No Way Back,” which sounded great thanks to the band’s high-energy performance. Then, they closed out their set with an intimate acoustic performance of “Never Say Die,” during which Drummer Ben Smith encouraged the crowd to stomp and clap along to the song’s beat before they exited the stage to huge cheers, leaving fans buzzing after the performance.
All in all, it was a great night for Heart fans, and those present will definitely be looking forward to Roadcase Royale’s new album due out Friday, September 22nd. In anticipation of this new release, the band will be playing a few more headlining gigs around the U.S. now through October 17th when not opening for Bob Seger. Be sure to check out one of these dates if you have the chance, before Roadcase Royale blows up!