Delta Rae Carries the Fire

Delta Rae Carries the Fire

-Concert Reviewed by Diana Mumford

With music inspired by folktales and southern culture, Delta Rae has sold out shows nationwide. The Jefferson Theatre in Charlottesville, VA was no exception. The house was packed on February 20 for the North Carolina native group’s second headlining show. The band’s blend of folk and pop-rock brought in fans eager to escape the cold to hear songs steeped in sweet tea and southern mythos.

Delta Rae’s musical clout stems from the harmonies of their four main vocalists–siblings Brittany, Ian, and Eric Holljes and Elizabeth Hopkins. Rounding out the sextet are Mike McKee and Grant Emerson on drums and bass, respectively.

After performances from openers Angelica Garcia and The Falls, Delta Rae emerged from backstage with little fanfare and clad in simple black attire. Then the party began. The entire venue came alive at Delta Rae’s first note, writhing and dancing en masse. It’s unmistakable—these people are talented. Their performance felt raw and exciting, but it should be noted that it has taken years of hard work to create so much electricity. Over time, these musicians have morphed into professional performers with an undeniable stage presence.

The band’s repertoire mostly included songs from their first official full-length album, Carry the Fire. Listeners will note that while the album is well constructed, and enjoyable, it pales in comparison to their live performances. In contrast to Delta Rae’s adrenaline-fueled shows, the music feels sterile. Studio versions of the band’s songs are a little too polished. Listen to Delta Rae in the car or on headphones, it’s difficult to interact or even absorb the lyrics. The human element that makes their live shows so thrilling has been stripped away, leaving behind clean, predictable vocal harmonies and unadventurous instrumentals.

Not the case on stage. During the performance of their first single, “Bottom of the River,” unprompted, the crowd stomped and whooped along with the band, mimicking their energy. ”Hold my hand,” the audience called. Delta Rae responded, “Ooh, baby, it’s a long way down to the bottom of the river,” slamming chains to the floor. Delta Rae has always given high voltage performances, but now it’s apparent they’ve grown more comfortable owning the venue. Thursday night, they belted out harmonies while jumping, dancing, and running around the stage, choreographing crashing instruments with their movements.

Regardless of their overly refined studio album, on February 20th, Delta Rae certainly carried the fire to the stage. In person, the audience could hear and feel the band’s voices crescendo and the instruments swell. Delta Rae has come a long way from the sparsely populated bar scenes where they got their start. Now playing to densely packed, sold out shows, their live performances are so natural and warm that it feels as if they are giving the audience permission to borrow a piece of their musical soul.

This will be a big year for Delta Rae. The band has recently set out on tour and they have a new studio album in the works. Their success shows no time of slowing any time soon. For those of us without tickets, however, we can only hope that they soon learn to bring the same intensity and emotion of their stage demeanor to the record store and streaming radio stations.


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