Rival Sons are getting a lot of good press and deservedly so. Their third album Head Down is not long released and already they are touring the UK once more; this time to much bigger venues than the previous trek.
Coming on at 8:20pm and scheduled to be playing until 10 we have a one hour forty minute set to look forward to. First track, single and title track from last album ‘Pressure & Time’ is the perfect opener with its solid groove and wailing guitars. ‘Wild Animal’ and ‘You Want To’ from the new album are the fast and frenetic follow-ups. A great start.
Jay Buchanan’s voice is still immaculate and worth the ticket price alone, but only just superior to the musicianship of the band. Having seen them in support slots many times, and once headlining late last year in Glasgow King Tuts their playing and stage prowess came as no surprise. Tonight’s venue is held in the grasp of every note, every beat.
‘Burn Down Los Angeles’ and ‘Gypsy Heart’ were fantastic standout tracks as things continued, however as time went on the show began to suffer. Perhaps it was from the crowds familiarity with their songs, or perhaps even though there was a lot of talking to the crowd true “interaction” seemed lacking. It’s a hard one to explain other than to say that although Rival Sons sounded amazing and although the crowd were cheering and watching there seemed to be no gel, no connection. It was as if Rival Sons were going on a fabulous journey but not trying to take us with them.
It could be the mix of step up to bigger venues and a much longer set; I’ve seen them slay big venues as a support act with a short, sharp set. Then just as the may have been losing it with the crowd they played ‘Face The Light’, a gorgeous ballad any band would be proud of. Tonight it was dedicated to Jay’s son who was back home in California and missed very much. This proved to be the last song of the set and a perfect closer.
Returning for an encore shortly after, ‘Manifest Destiny Part 1’ and ‘Manifest Destiny Part 2’ proved to be a 15 minute indulgent Led Zeppelin-esque jam session which although musically adept, seemed to leave the crowd cold. The 600-strong room stood motionless as the band played their hearts out. At the end of the extended track only a small handful of hands raised to applaud.
To top this off they started final song, ’Soul’ with Scott Holiday playing an extended blues solo and Jay walking off stage. In the end the song was a long drawn out affair, with many false stops and then a guitar solo to end followed by a Plant / Page call and response session just proving the band were not in touch with the crowd tonight. The problem underlined by the fact that although that felt like the end of the song there resulted in a few more reprisals, solos and “bluesy” interludes before finally calling a halt to it. ‘Soul’ had more endings than “Lord of the Rings : Return of the King”!
Having seen Rival Sons many time live and I have never previously felt like this watching their show. I was very much looking forward to tonight, the talent is there in spades and yet I left feeling more than a little indifferent. The musicianship and the tight live unit will make them stratospheric in popularity – just as soon as they can carry the crowd with them for the whole show.