Having heard many things about the Rival Sons, with so many comparisons being drawn to them, I was really looking forward to seeing the band live for the first time.
Many friends and colleagues had painted vivid pictures of the experience, seeing them in small intimate venues such as the Slade Rooms and the Wulfrun in Wolverhampton that a journey to a larger venue made me feel, that maybe this was a band that was on the verge
of the big-time in the U.k.
Making my way into the venue I was greeted by a comforting sight of many ages and demographics of people, from your rock kids to older more mature music appreciators, who to be frank would look more at home at a record fair around Walsall town hall, but it was building more anticipation in the thinking that people are coming round to the distinct sound that the band have honed through the previous album ‘Pressure & Time’ to the latest release ‘Head Down’.
So after settling into a space in the crowd, and paying the going rate for a plastic cupped lager, I watched the two support acts, Firstly Ulysses from Bath who supported the ‘Sons on their last UK tour. A good band but seemed to be relying on art mimicking music with a bizarre array of head gear and a drummer who would have been more at home in the Bjorn Borg fan club.
Secondly the Gravel Tones, a two piece guitar- drums combo from Australia, who frankly reminded me of the White Stripes even down to the Jack White tone of the vocals, but the drummer was hugely entertaining with frankly new founded ways of playing the kit with a tambourine and a piece of string (which I was straining to see what it was attached too). Both bands did the job of building the atmosphere ready for the Rival Sons to make their awaited appearance.
So to the main event…………………..Anticipation was the key with Mike Miley’s drum kit and Scott Holiday’s Amp stack being kept covered until mere seconds of the band taking the stage, people around me were asking the question that I was merely thinking, why? But when the covers were pulled off to show a Bank of Orange Heads and Cabs and then a Mayer Bros custom drum kit in Bonham sizes (26” kick drum, 14”16” & 18” toms in case you were wondering), tie into this the huge backdrop designed by Jason Holley, instantly I knew this was going to be no ordinary gig and how right I was going to be proven.
From the off the drum beats of Mike Miley teamed with the unassuming presence of Robin Everhart on Bass was a rhythm powerhouse that played with such depth, control and style that just gave licence to the guitars of Scott Holiday and the vocals of Jay Buchanan to soar free and fill the theatre styled room.
So where do you start to describe the enigma that is Jay Buchanan? From his sultry swagger onto the stage, approaching the microphone with an air of authority, the last time I saw a frontman this confident was watching Robert Plant on old VHS tapes of the world famous 73 gig in Tampa Florida (Cheers Dad), and the similarities to Plant didn't stop there, evident the effect Zeppelin have over the band was clear to see, but this wasn't just a bunch of Zeppelin wannabes from Long Beach California, influences of Morrison, Joplin, Cocker, Free, Bad Company, Deep Purple, Trapeze and the blue grass of the south all thrown into one big melting pot.
The band worked through their set with ease from the opening track of ‘You want to’ through ‘Get what’s Coming’ and ‘Wild Animal’, Scott Holiday’s complex finger picking and solo’s running wild, but you could see getting further into the night that Jay was struggling with his voice, something he would elude to the audience later on, but this was nothing that detracted from the experience,if anything it just spurred on a man who’s voice and
lyrics mean something, not like some of your throw away rubbish that insults your ears on a daily basis.
Highlights of the night for me were ‘Memphis Sun’, their current single ‘Until the Sun Comes’ which when played halfway through the night confirmed that this was a band who know what they’re doing, and comfortable with showing it.
So what do you come up with next then? Well if your Jay Buchanan and Scott Holiday the epic smouldering ballad that broods like a black hole called Manifest Part I, as the lengthy introduction from Buchanan preaches about the native American Indian (close to the heritage of Scott Holiday) this did seem to go over a few heads but then team this with a mixture of singles off the second studio album and the latest offering including ‘ Keep on Swinging’, ‘Pressure & Time’ brings us to possibly my track of the night ‘ Face of Light’ with all four components of the band tightly in sync with each other leaving everyone routed firmly to the floor.
Rival Sons are a band not known to do encores, and have widely stated that they don’t like them, so how do you combat this with a crowd baying for more? Easy when you have a drummer like Mike Miley the easiest thing to do is a drum solo, right? Right, but this is more than a drum solo, as mentioned before the Zeppelin effect comes back to fruition with Miley’s drum solo, a nod and a wink to Bonham’s Moby Dick and the crowd are ready for ‘Burn Down Los Angeles’ & ‘Soul’ to finish off the night.
When music in this country looks bad and we are confronted with the creature from the goonies for entertainment on TV each Saturday night, it’s easy to look back at the past and yearn for days when a band would come to town bringing something new and fresh to minds waiting to listen but this was more than just a gig, it was a show, a show which showed class & musicianship that I haven’t seen in a long time, it was about a vision and a musical journey planned and played from the heart.
Rival Sons are a band for the future influenced by the past with an understanding of what is happening right now.
Photos by Stuart Walton of Aperture Beats