A chilly Sunday evening mid-December saw me heading to Glasgow for the last gig on my calendar for 2014. The band of choice – Rival Sons at the city’s O2 ABC venue.
First on stage was Jameson, a blues influenced musician from California. He appeared a little nervous and slightly lost at first. Just one man, his guitar and his amp. At the end of the day, what more do you need? Content from his current ep “Carnivore” dominated his short set. Loved the easy laid back style of this guy. Highlight of his set was “Breathe Your Last”,the current single. Would’ve loved to hear more. Perfect start to the evening.
Next up, Swedish band Blues Pills, fronted by the beautiful and quirky Elin Larsson. I’m pretty sure she instantly won over every man in the room! They played a solid half hour set. Some fabulous drumming on display by Andre Kvanstrom. Elin’s vocal performance was a mix of Lzzy Hale meets Janis Joplin. Loved the fact she chose to sing one track in her native tongue. Highlight of the set was “Devil Man”. Check these guys out. You won’t be disappointed.
I’m going to be honest here – I had no idea what to expect from Rival Sons. There were no clues to be gleaned by assessing the audience- it was a very mixed crowd that made up this sell out show. I had also been cautioned that Jay Buchanan’s voice was suffering a bit.
Shortly before nine, the guys from California took to the stage amid instantly appreciative cheers. The loudest of which were for guitarist Scott Holiday (or were they for his trademark moustache?)
Rival Sons opened their set with “You Want To” which was quickly followed by “Pressure and Time”. “Electric Man” was the first of six songs in the set from their current album “Great Western Valkyrie”. With a barrage of flashing spotlight beams, Scott Holiday and bassist David Beste launched into the distinctive opening riff. Jay Buchanan, armed with a tambourine, poured his heart and soul into his vocals. His gyrations on stage have to be seen to be believed!
I’ve been trying to find appropriate words to describe Jay Buchanan’s stage presence and failing. At times, it’s as though he is undertaking a shamanic ritual rather than a vocal performance. His “dance” movements vary from being very fluid and graceful to being jerky and robotic, almost as if ever move pained him. On occasion, he looked like a marionette being controlled by a drunken puppeteer. Frequently he was reduced to his knees on stage by the powerful emotions the performance was stirring. It all felt a bit false and over the top,for my personal taste. I’m not detracting from his vocal abilities as Jay Buchanan has an incredible voice. Just sing the song with a little less amateur dramatics, please.
Scott Holiday, for me, is without doubt the star of the show. I’ve never seen a guitarist change guitar so often during a set – nor seen one who “tosses” his guitar to the guitar tech with such faith that it will be caught safely! With multiple solos throughout the set, Scott Holiday held court on stage nicely and with an air of mischief in those twinkling eyes.
Highlight of the main set was “Where I’ve Been”. After an emotional build up to the background of this song, marred by a loud mouthed Glasgow drunk, Rival Sons played a stunning rendition of this song. Yes, Jay Buchanan’s voice was suffering a tad but the extra huskiness added that je ne sais quoi to proceedings.
The main set ended with a fantastic performance of “Get What’s Coming” and the band left the stage to thunderous cheers.
A few minutes later, Rival Sons returned for their eagerly awaited encore. During “Open My Eyes”, Jay Buchanan discarded his jacket and shoes. Barefoot, he stood and delivered a stunningly beautiful performance of “Sacred Tongue”. The piece de resistance was yet to come. The incredible “Jordan” had crept back onto the set list. Awesome song. Emotional powerful performance. Loved it!
“Keep On Swinging” brought proceedings to a close for the night.