Rival Sons, The Roundhouse, London 1 April 2105

07 Apr

It’s only 5 months since I saw the Sons play in Kentish Town but even in that short time they’ve upped their game.

From the thunderous chords of ‘Electric Man’, drawn out by Scottie Holliday in a teasing opening, it is clear Rival Sons are thrilled to be at The Roundhouse. And why not?

It’s an iconic venue where The Who, The Stones, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors and many other luminaries have gone before and singer Jay Buchanan tips his cap accordingly.

Said venue is full and enthused and the band responds with a strong set drawn largely from 4th (and most recent) release, ‘Great Western Valkyrie’

This band are going places for a number of reasons: their song writing is consistently improving; and in Jay Buchanan and Scott Holliday, they have an exceptional front pairing.

Buchanan is an enigmatic singer with clarity and charisma but it is the gunslinger guitarist who makes the Rival Sons sound resonate with colour and depth. It’s rare for a guitarist to provide structure and detail, but Holliday pulls it off seemingly effortlessly, his twirling moustache, Ray Bans and sharp suits helping construct a cool and assured stage presence around which Buchanan’s ethereal blues vocal stylings have room to breathe.

The Sons ripped through the opening 4 songs back-to-back, all up-speed numbers from Valkyrie, with the sound superb and well-balanced and the light show making the most of the smoke and mist in the venue.

Manifest Destiny is an epic tale of how the West was won/lost, and it segues into Torture. Previously, I’ve seen Buchanan try to shush the crowd as they sing the closing refrain, but this time the band goes quiet and the house lights put on so the Roundhouse crowd can give it full throat.

We then had a departure from the script as a five song semi-acoustic part appeared, including a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Long As I Can See The Light’, a sublime, fragile Nava and a great version of Burn Down Los Angeles which eschewed the thumping chorus and breakneck speed.

Belle Starr makes a rare but very welcome appearance and Where I’ve Been tugs at the emotions before the show closes with a fire-breathing sequence of Tell Me Something, Open My Eyes and Pressure & Time, ended by the anthemic Keep On Swinging.

A quickfire half-assed review of this gig I saw made me think twice about it, but gut instinct is reliable for a reason: Rival Sons are excellent. a band and a live act well worth checking out for anyone interested in heavy rock with a psychedelic blues twist. It sounds like it shouldn’t work, but believe me, it does.

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Stephen Smith: writer

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