George van den Broek leads Yellow Days during a performance on Nov. 29 at 9:30 Club. (Photo by Casey Vock)
It’s historically been a struggle for budding musicians to rise to fame and still maintain control over their own vision and their connection to their fans. But one young man from Manchester, England, has probably already achieved more in his advanced stage than most artists could only hope to accomplish in an entire career.
Yellow Days is the vehicle driven by George van den Broek, and it has allowed him in a small window of time to vault himself into an incredible position for someone who’s just 22 years old — or any age, for that matter.
Making a stop at 9:30 Club on Nov. 29 for an anticipated show, and a sold-out one, van den Broek impressed as a confident, dexterous and deeply provocative conductor with few if any equals, at least not in his age bracket.
van den Broek released his first EP in 2016, a 7-track collection titled Harmless Melodies with some of those songs now totaling more than tens of millions of streams on Spotify. George has since moved himself to Los Angeles, and he’s put out several additional works of his own as well as some collaborations that speak to an artist eager to blend his flourishing sounds with those of other promising musicians.
For all of his triumphs thus far, van den Broek is reserved in manner and maybe as removed as some of his most cross offerings, but in interviews he’s discussed the role songwriting plays in his life and as a defense against dejection.
The escapist, alluring ambiance of van den Broek’s studio recordings — influenced by lo-fi indie rock, old school R&B and jazz suave — translated to an even more seductive, fascinating live experience in DC, and emerging through the artistic haze of Yellow Days, George showed himself to be a sophisticated, unconventional guitarist — a modernized, kaleidoscopic bluesman, a troubadour with a style very much his own.
Watch the official video for Yellow Days’ 2021 single “I’ll Be Loving You” on YouTube:
van den Broek would shift between his small keyboard and the standing microphone to his left, where he’d clutch one of several Vox Teardrop MKIII guitars, including a sonic blue edition that couldn’t have better suited him — his long blonde braid dangling over his right shoulder.
At 9:30 Club, playing to an enthusiastic room, George led the night off from back behind the keyboard and synthesizer section, directing his band through the lead “Intro” instrumental track from his 2020 album release, A Day In A Yellow Beat. Featuring a dub track recording of two older folks discussing artists and identity, this piece’s theme harkening ’70s sitcoms, foreshadowing the direction the set would take.
Walking to the front of the stage to a seat at his own keyboard, George uttered his first words of the night to segue into “Be Free,” a bold track following the introduction to the newest album, one that floats bass and keyboard melodies around his seductive tone of voice and his determined, desirous words.
A sophisticated example of Yellow Days proprietary blend of neo soul, organ funk, jazz fusion, doo wop and more, “Be Free,” as did other standout tracks from the band’s newest release, invited a more-than-willing 9:30 audience into the group’s bubble of pleasure.
Stream Yellow Days’ 2020 studio album A Day In A Yellow Beat via Spotify:
van den Broek was backed by a dimly lit, but immensely talented crew including extremely busy keyboardist Oliver Cadman, drummer Milo Goldsmith and bassist Hector Delicious. Casting stress-free, reassuring looks over his shoulder along the way, George showed the confidence and wherewithal of seasoned veteran, one who became more comfortable on the 9:30 Club stage as he went, offering little to say between songs, instead just sipping a Stella Artois.
“Getting Closer,” defined by a shamelessly attitudinal bass rhythm and glamorous accents, translated to an anthem of sorts. As the band found rotational synch, van den Broek found a higher volume in celebrating the creation of his own music and his commitment to enriching his soul (and others) with the fabric he’s knitted:
“With the music that I make
I’ll make sure they know my name
And by the time that I’m gone
There’ll be no more songs to be sung
I guess music’s my best friend
I mean it never ever lets me down
Oh, sweet melody
It’s the glorious sound”
Another juicy, imploring track on the 2020 album, “Treat You Right” saw George entering a zone, clearly immersed in the substance and presentation of his music, showing more joy and more despair than most people in their 20s can grasp, let alone tightly package into a charming, inspirative composition that energizes the mind and moves the body:
“Well there’s not a thing
That I want from this world
Wish I can run away, babe
With you my girl
And leave this world behind
And make a life in the star
Get great big house
Inside the moon
Well I wanna love you baby
I wanna treat you right
Oh tell me everything
Is gon’ be alright
And if you can see
That I’m on my knee
And it’s so
A single released in September, “Belong Together” rang with warm resonance and gave van den Broek a chance to shine on the guitar, and with authority and with an explosive, rapid finger-picking approach, he created what is an uncommon sound — what one might call meta-blues — from his small, colorful rig.
Watch the official video for Yellow Days’ 2021 single “Belong Together” on YouTube:
After a curiously catching, offbeat take on “You”, Yellows Days pulled from the premiere EP as George offered up a sexy, swaying version of “A Little While,” his most heavily streamed tune and one showcasing his vocals at their most begging, most forlorn in the face of potential or unavoidable heartbreak.
George’s growl in this track, here maybe at its throatiest and most irresistibly pleasing, dispatched over a contemplative foundation, proved itself to be the most valuable instrument in the outfit. It delivered impressively engaging words with a fervor few other singers boast:
“Broken by the love, this hurt divides itself
Decided that kissing you is just bad for my health
So I’m gonna ride, I’m going the other way
I would’ve told you why if there was any space for me to say, to say
Oh, don’t you see it now? I’m staying for a little while
Oh, don’t you see it now? I’m staying for a little while”
Just past halfway through the set, George welcomed to the stage the night’s opening act, Ric Wilson, a Chicago-based hip-hop artist and funk and disco specialist. Wilson’s made a reputation for himself touring and by way of notable performances at festivals, like at the 2019 Pitchfork Festival in his hometown.
Ric also made his way over to London this year, where he met up with van den Broek, and the two collaborated for an album, which having dropped in November, is the most recent from either.
Simply and appropriately titled Disco Ric in London Town, it’s an outstanding, late-year release that will likely gain interest with its refreshing endeavors. The five-song EP foreshadowed these two joining together on stage during this tour to share some of the invigorating music born from their partnership. Hot takes on “Love Bloom” and “Deep In Your Mind” shifted the audience from the throes of Yellow Days sentiment to a twirling boogie with Ric taking command of the room — not an easy transition, but one that looked natural for these young pioneers.
Stream the 2021 collaboration album put out by Yellow Days and Ric Wilson, Disco Ric In London Town, via Spotify:
Rewarding those in attendance with an unforgettable, sumptuous edition of “Your Hand Holding Mine,” George seamlessly returned to crooning form, and the extra wail he put into it revealed a man filling his tank through performance.
“I’ll Be Loving You,” a sweetly satisfying, appeasing single van den Broek put out in June, was delivered at 9:30 Club with a playful, flirtatious swagger. Brimming with love to give, George offered this track with certainty. “The Curse,” a track featuring Canadian indie star Mac Demarco in its album version, manifested as a dark, possessive meander, van den Broek’s words set back just a touch to create a sense of space between his own sensations and the rhythm of the song, illustrative of the detachment portrayed by so much of his lyrics. And another must-listen from his initial EP, “Gap In The Clouds” was a fascinating cacophony from where his howling cries ascended higher and higher in recognizing a throttling attraction that had been previously overlooked.
Capping off the mesmeric set, Wilson returned to the stage for an arresting version of “Life’s Been Good,” the opening track on the pair’s joint studio recording. And it heavily slapped, riveted and skipped with such appreciation, as Ric — with his contagious likeability — sang the most tender praise over a luscious, unwavering bass and drum beat and with hovering, retro vibes produced by Cadman’s collection of keyboards.
Returning for their encore, George and crew performed “Outro/Baked In Sunshine,” the closing track from Harmless Melodies, and one with only the most distant lyrical layer, while a fetching, esoteric swell of keys, bass and hymnal chanting set adrift.
Toting a Yellow Days songbook that gushes with affection as a means to ward off antipathy, and with form wholly his own, van den Broek dazzled this week in DC as a masterful, intensive musician, and one who is likely just getting started.
Yellow Days Setlist
Love Is Everywhere
The Way Things Change
Treat You Right
Keeps Me Satisfied
A Little While
Love Bloom (with Ric Wilson)
Deep In Your Mind (with Ric Wilson)
Your Hand Holding Mine
I’ll Be Loving You
Gap In The Clouds
Life’s Been Good To Me (with Ric Wilson)
Outro/Slowly Baked In Sunshine (encore)
Here are images of Yellow Days, along with the night’s opener, Ric Wilson, performing at 9:30 Club on Nov. 29, 2021. All photos copyright and courtesy of Casey Vock.