Archive for December, 2014

Rival Sons @ Forum, Kentish Town, 10 December 2014

13 Dec
Rival Sons: not your typical rock band

Rival Sons: not your typical rock band

All killer and (almost) no filler.
Rival Sons shook the shabby art-deco surroundings of the Forum on Wednesday night with their heady artisan mixture of hard rock, soul and blues. The Doors and Led Zeppelin are evident influences but the appeal of Rival Sons to me is that they plough a unique furrow and don’t appear to break sweat doing it….
‘Great Western Valkyrie’ is their armour-plated fourth album and features heavily in the twenty song set, but early cuts are enthusiastically received when a belligerent ‘You Want To’ and the sleazy All Over The Road’ open proceedings. ‘Pressure & Time’ is an early set highlight, with singer Jay Buchanan howling frustration with working life and the audience bellowing along. The sound makes my rib cage vibrate and there don’t appear to be very many people not paying attention.
Rival Sons are guitarist Scott Holiday, Mike Miley on drums and Phillip Seymour Hoffman lookalike Dave Beste on bass, with Jay Buchanan on vocals. (Augmented by a mystery keyboard player who looks like a hipster rabbi).
Buchanan and Holliday front the band on stage angnd Holliday drives the band alo, but the singer is the walking definition of enigmatic and on occasion is channeling the spirit of Jim Morrison. Not that the Lizard King’s powwrful baritone is copied or aped: Jay Buchanan’s vocals are simultaneously robust and ethereal, soulful and sharp.
Buchanan also has little time for audience interplay and stage chat, focused on his performance and displaying his vocal talent. The voice is velvet, powerful, the delivery full of subtlety and depth. Although the songs and the band’s playing are consistently excellent, it is Buchanan’s astonishing singing which lifts Rival Sons to a very high melodic plain.
Jay Buchanan. Vocalist extraordinaire
‘Electric Man’ is heart-stopping rock at it’s best but it is songs like ‘Good Things’ and ‘Rich and the Poor’ which defy conventional description. At times they sound like The Animals, James Brown, Van Halen, Otis Redding, The Beach Boys, Deep Purple and Sam Cooke put their heads together. Very hard to describe but very easy to enjoy.
Penultimate somg of the night, ‘Jordan’ is pure gospel soul, no melodrama but a song which could be done acapella in the Royal Albert Hall or played at a wake. You can’t imagine another heavy rock band pulling that off, but Rival Sons do it effortlessly.
Mid-set, Buchanan gave a brief flash of raw emotion telling the crowd that ‘this (London) is where the shit (music) began!’ and most of a very happy crowd sang along all evening for almost 2 hours, enjoying Rival Sons playing in a relatively intimate venue. I don’t think they’ll be playing those for much longer. Keep on Swinging….

Review: Augustines at The Roundhouse, Camden, 8 December 2014

09 Dec
Billy McCarthy and Eric Sanderson

Billy McCarthy and Eric Sanderson

Augustines have come a long way since I saw them in the Hare and Hounds pub in King’s Heath, Birmingham two years ago – yet even then, front man Billy McCarthy shone brightly as he enthused about playing the city which spawned Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep, UB40 and Duran Duran. Tonight he, Eric Sanderson and local drummer Rob Allen are playing one of London’s iconic venues and clearly loving every minute of what they do.
It’s hard to be detached or cynical watching an up and coming rock band throwing everything they have into a performance and the sell-out Roundhouse crowd are quick to respond and involve themselves in the raucous sing-alongs instigated by McCarthy’s fist punching salutes.
A brave start to the gig see Augustines open with two slices of their premium material, ‘Headlong Into The Abyss’, the seminal ‘Chapel Song’, then ‘Book of James’ from their debut cut. Part of the joy of this band is McCarthy’s voice, at times high and pure alternating with fragile and insistent. It takes Billy five songs before he chats to the audience and we are clearly watching a work in progress as the band segues from playing 150 capacity music pubs to the bigger venues their music so obviously merits.
The addition of a trumpet player from New York ‘the sleek Greek’ expands and enhances the Augustines sound and it is still amusing to watch the guitar roadie pick up a bass for half a dozen numbers in between trying (and failing) to ensure McCarthy and Sanderson don’t wreck their own equipment.
The initial two thirds of the set is almost entirely songs from ‘Arise Ye Sunken Ships’, a surprise given the strength and difference of the recent ‘Augustines’ follow-up, but a one hour set ends up with a 50 minutes ‘encore’ including ‘Cruel City’, ‘Nothing To Lose But Your Head’ and the sublime ‘Kid You’re On Your Own’ showcasing McCarthy’s wonderful fragile vocal.
This was the biggest gig the band have ever played: ‘I’ve been waiting all my fucking life for this night’ says Billy to apprecaitive cheering and they are clearly destined for greater things. The encore kicked off by a surprise foray into the far balcony to deliver an acapella song before returning to the stage, although obviously contrived it sums up the engagement and enthusiasm which this band brings to the party. Very, very good – and more to come…

Stephen Smith: writer

Rants, rambles and other assorted thoughts

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