And with concert season in full swing, Californian rockers Rival Sons came to Newcastle on Saturday. The band arrived in the North East following a sold-out show at the Roundhouse in London on Friday evening.
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The two-time Grammy-nominated ensemble is currently in an incredibly creative phase. Rival Sons released their album Darkfighter in June to critical acclaim. The band will release their new accompanying album Lightbringer on October 20th.
Ahead of the album’s release, the quartet arrived at HMV Newcastle on Saturday afternoon, where fans of the group had the chance to meet their heroes in person.
The band caused quite a stir when they entered the store via Eldon Square rather than the back entrance. Countless fans traveled far and wide to meet the band; Some had even traveled from Ireland to be there. Each guest brought memorabilia and albums for the group to sign. One fan even brought his prized Fender Stratocaster.
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But after the dust settled on the signing, it was time for the band to make their way to NX in Newcastle, where they performed on Saturday evening. A sellout crowd was in attendance to witness the Sons’ first local performance since 2019.
The pandemic-related absence from the road allowed Rival Sons to get to work on their amazing two 2023 releases. And with their new albums under their belt, Saturday’s concert featured eight songs from their latest album. Opening the show with Mirrors from the June release of Darkfighter.
Frontman Jay Buchanan is one of a kind. He has the qualities and characteristics of the lead singers of yore; His voice transports the listener to another time and place. Like an old soul with a young heart. Jay’s voice melted the butter and he left everything offstage. Buchanan didn’t hold back for a second.
The frontman put his heart and soul into his performance for over two hours. And in the final stages of the set, he asked the audience for help. He explained that he wasn’t sure he had enough gas to get home. And after two hours of vocal acrobatics, who could blame him? Despite that offhand remark, Jay delivered one of the most absolutely perfect opening lines to a song you’ve ever heard. The singer is in a different class.
Similarly, guitarist Scott Holiday’s fuzzy riffs and incredible guitar tone created a tapestry of sound that captivated the Tyneside crowd. The Axeman even wrestled with double-neck guitars a few times, delivering a feverish guitar solo on “Face of Light” that left Newcastle fans in a state of shock.
In the back of the stage, the powerful groove of powerful drummer Mike Miley beats the heartbeat of Rival Sons. The smiling, talismanic figure sat atop his drum rig, playing out an arsenal of earth-shattering beats one after the other. Bassist Dave Beste is the perfect complement to Miley in the band’s unparalleled rhythm section.
But what about the setlist? Four years after the band’s last appearance on Tyneside, the US-based outfit have been busy. Fan favorites like Electric Man, Open My Eyes and a breathtaking rendition from Jordan fit seamlessly into the tracks from the band’s two new albums. The inclusion of “Torture” midway through the set took the audience back to the group’s early days.
A wild blast of “Nobody Wants to Die” showcased the quality of the band’s current material. While Buchanan talked about how the song “Mosaic” from their upcoming Lightbringer album was the song that broke the fever, he knew at that point that writing on the album project was complete. The live performance of the song was simply outstanding.
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A beautiful, stripped-back performance of “Shooting Stars” led by Buchanan on acoustic guitar led the group into the final stages of their two-hour set. And without heirs or graces or false walk-offs, Rival Sons played straight through before closing their set in the most modest of ways with Secret.
On Saturday evening the Californian Sons shone in Newcastle. Maybe the gig of the year on Tyneside? With only ten weeks left in 2023, only time will tell. But one thing is certain: Rival Sons have set the bar very high for imitators. Just like the title of one of the songs on Saturday’s setlist – if you missed that show, it’s “Too Bad.”