Concert Review: James Riley’s full band rooftop show

James Riley climbed on to his garage roof to play music for his neighbours, and in the process helped raise over £40,000 for food banks.

June 27, 2020

With news emerging about the possibility of ticketed outdoor live concerts, there’s one artist who has certainly had plenty of relevant experience!

While most touring musicians suffered from enforced inactivity during lockdown, James Riley took the ‘let’s put on a show’ impulse to new heights – quite literally! He climbed on to his garage roof to play music for his neighbours, and in the process helped raise over £40,000 for food banks in collaboration with #LIVEFORLOVE. Check out BBC Radio London’s feature about Riley’s rooftop performances.

After ten weeks of solo shows, he invited a brass band to join him. The following week saw a supergroup featuring Americana Association UK (AMA-UK) Instrumentalist of The Year winners C.J. Hillman on pedal steel and bassist Thomas Collison, plus Greg Sheffield on drums. Here’s the lowdown on that high rise show.

Although it had been quite a while since they’d last played together, the musicians were very familiar with each other’s styles. They were in a cover band for raucous party nights at Blues Kitchen venues around London, as well as in Riley’s band to promote his latest album, Transatlantica.

Lugging a heavy pedal steel guitar (AKA ‘ironing board of love’), guitars and amps to and through London venues is bad enough. Load in to the roof of a garage is something else entirely, but bandmates and flatmates pitched in to perfect the socially distanced setup.

The weather looked threatening and the band rushed to waterproof the electrics just in case, but luckily the sun came out just as the music started.

So, what does a band made up of Americana luminaries play at a local community street meet? Why, 90s country covers, of course! There were songs by Lyle Lovett, Judy Collins, Clint Black and many more during the 60 minute show.

The band also performed New York Minute and Lay Me Down; songs from Riley’s record.

The neighbours watching from the street below particularly enjoyed dancing to You Never Can Tell and Boys of Summer. They were also entertained by Riley’s ultimately unsuccessful efforts to prevent his hat from flying off in the wind!

The full band gig was so popular that they’ve reconvened on the rooftops every week since. The concerts are livestreamed and take place on Fridays or Saturdays at 6:00 p.m.

You can tune in to watch the July 11 performance on Facebook or Instagram at 6:00 p.m.

If you would like to donate to #LIVEFORLOVE, fundraising for Trussell Trust foodbanks, head to GoFundMe.

James Riley singing on a rootop

Transatlantica by James Riley is out now.