King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut in Glasgow was creaking at the seams on Saturday night. Expectation was high, and at 10pm when Rival Sons hit the stage it was suddenly all justified.
I have seen the band twice before; once at Sonisphere Festival in 2011 and a few weeks later supporting Judas Priest at the SECC. Rival Sons were really good those nights, but tonight they were the kings of their own domain playing their own headline show and the difference was obvious.
The band come from L.A., but don’t sound like what I’d argue the world has come to expect most L.A. rock bands sound like. It is more accurate to suggest their sound as akin to southern rock bands of the 70s, blues rock, and – though it is becoming cliché – Led Zeppelin. It is a fair comparison to Zeppelin, but they are so much more, definitely sound current, though it also needs to be said; there are worse bands to be compared to!
Opening song “Torture” showcases the talent across the band, and ironically in few other songs does Jay’s vocal sound more like Zep-era Robert Plant. Scott Holiday’s guitar is at times stunning, but for the most part exactly the right amount of loose easy chords which steer the songs along. Easily confident, and yet humbled the conversations with the crowd between songs was good-natured, and brought a smile to many audience members.
The band have a sense of humour and aren’t afraid to let their guard down and enjoy the moment; too many bands seems so very serious on stage, as if showing their more human nature somehow makes them less ‘celebrity’. Three songs in, and after singer Jay had once again indicated to the sound engineer to turn his vocal monitor up, he bent down fiddled with it then stood up laughing, “Of course, it would probably work better now I’ve plugged it in!”
The main part of the set was an hour-long, and covered mostly material from recent album Pressure and Time, and throughout it was impossible to take your eyes of the band. Each song sounded better than the last, and the atmosphere was building and building until last song ‘Soul’. In truth, that’s where it went a little wrong for the only time of the evening. For me the song didn’t really work as a last song. Not tonight, it is much slower and seemed to bring the feelings of the set down somewhat, especially given the crowd were now so pumped up from what had went before. There was little wrong with the performance of it, or the song itself, simply that it didn’t feel right as the last song of the main set.
The encore was an (easily) 15 minute version of ‘I Want More’ which managed to segue into Them’s ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’ before lazily working its way back into ‘I Want More’, all the time pushed along and held together by the powerhouse of Robin Everhart and Mike Miley on bass and drums. If you’d only seen this one song performed you’d have understood everything which Rival Sons are: their ability to perform in such a tight unit, the masterful musicianship, the fantastic singing voice of Jay Buchanan all coming together to produce a sound which easily has the maturity of 1970s gods, the bombast of the 1980s LA rock scene, but the ingenuity and clever licks of a band in the here and now.
There is a feeling with Rival Sons that is of comforting familiarity. I don’t mean you’ve “heard it all before” and should ignore them, what I mean is simply a feeling of quality imbued in their songwriting which invites you to want to hear more, as it is exactly the sort of music you know you will like.
Based on tonight’s performance which blew the roof off of the venue, and the sold out crowd’s reaction, they are about to be catapulted to new levels.