There was a constant flood of people rushing into Rock City and showing their tickets for Rival Sons, while outside the heavens opened in spectacular fashion. Somehow, all these people were meant to cram themselves into the venue ahead of an early show (Rival Sons’ set started at 8pm). The crowd seemed, in general, to be an older generation, however it also included a comprehensive range of ages and styles, something I often miss at other gigs.
Rival Sons exploded onto the stage with their first song, with the ease of a band that had already played well into their set. They were performing to a full-to-capacity venue, there wasn’t a gap anywhere, people filled the floor, stairs, balcony and any other space they could find. This was, if anything, the most frustrating part of the evening – trying to find a space with a chance of seeing the band. Rival Sons exude style: from the obvious – singer Jay’s plethora of jewellery and guitarist Scott Holiday’s ‘hipster’ slicked-back hair and groomed moustache (something from a bygone era), to the musical elements that can’t simply be donned before a show. Jay never stopped moving all gig, and it seemed each band member was feeding off one another’s energy.
There was no doubt, Rival Sons were here to play an astounding set first and foremost. Each member is a true musician in his own right, but together they were a powerhouse of blues rock. During “Secret”, from their latest album Great Western Valkyrie, guitarist Scott showed his talent with some incredible blues noodling, and the harmonies in ‘Belle Star’, were spot on. Throughout the gig there were several instrumentals showcasing the talent and passion this band has for their music. Mid-gig there was a short break, the stage fell into darkness and birdsong played from the speakers, and when the band returned to the stage they were arranged in a more stripped-back manner, with drummer Michael coming away from his kit, replacing it with a shaker and box and bassist David playing an electric double bass for “The Man Who Wasn’t There”. This slowed down the pace of the gig and gave everyone, including the band, a breather from the madness that had preceded it. During this more intimate part of the show there was a lot of crowd noise, and I wished I could tune everyone else out and hear nothing but the band.
The gig then took on more of a southern swagger with “Burn Down Los Angeles” and “Tell Me Something”. Towards the end of the set, between songs Jay told the crowd, ‘Explaining and hypothesising about a song takes away the meaning for you’, showing a more spiritual side to himself. Possibly the peak of the whole show was their performance of “Where I’ve Been”, a song I am sure would move anyone who listened to it. Jay ended the song on his knees beside his microphone, and after watching the passion with which he sang that song, I felt like I had been taken through a whole spectrum of emotions and material that this band has to offer. Jay made a short, very thankful speech before the last song, and as one person in a sea of people, I felt a unity amongst the crowd, and this must be one of the friendliest audiences I have been part of in a while. For anyone who fears for the future of Rock and Roll, this band is it – and the future is bright. This was a phenomenal gig and an experience I would recommend to anyone.