Callahan’s Music Hall, Auburn Hills, MI
Rio Scafone, lead vocals; Jarod Thompson, guitar; Sean “Junebug” Harris, stand up bass, backup vocals; Charlie Bongo, drums; Renee Turner, backup vocals; Kelly Bevez, backup vocals.
Material: From Johnny Cash and early rock & roll pioneer Jack Scott to Brian Setzer and Big Mama Thornton, Rio & the Rockabilly Revival bring it all home, with an authentic take on the origins of American rock and country music. But it’s not just a history lesson, as the group draws upon those touchstones to create a sound that is equally modern and intense, with soul and a theatrical spirit that is as contemporary as it is timeless.
Musicianship: The ensemble is fronted by Rio Scafone, but you quickly realize that this is a concerted effort. Scafone and her primary vocal counterparts Renee Turner and Kelly Bevez possess an innate combination of stage presence, choreography and peerless harmonic precision. Add to that mix the instrumental acumen that exists between Jarod Thompson, Sean Harris and Charlie Bongo and you have a complete unit that operates like a well-oiled machine.
Performance: An unfortunately uneven audio mix to the house seemed to plague the group the majority of their set, but they remained vigilant and put on a very strong show. Scafone has an extensive theater background as well and she pulled out all the stops in terms of projecting her voice and playing to the back of the house. She also showed a great rapport with her backup vocalists who, at one point, comforted her with a blanket in a stagey manner a la James Brown. The band swung like there was no tomorrow and struck a nice balance between extended improvisation and laying down a tight danceable groove.
Summary: Rio & the Rockabilly Revival are not so much about reviving the past as they are about giving today’s rock a swift kick in the ass. Rio Scafone is dynamic, vivacious, sexy, seductive and a genuine talent. Her fellow revivalists have this classic show band vibe that harkens back to decades past when an act left all their blood, sweat and tears right there on the stage. This group does all of that and would be appropriate for a variety of venues, including small clubs, casinos, festivals and arena events.