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….

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Stephen Smith: writer

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