It is the first night of Rival Sons UK tour here at Roundhouse, London. The band is currently feasting upon a banquet of one recent album release and another impending (20th October) album release amongst an array of promotional goodness, which has seen them fly back and forth from their base in California.
Roundhouse, London – 13 October 2023
Words: Monty Sewell
Photography: Antonio Giannattasio
From our chat with guitarist Scott Holiday earlier this year, it is clear Rival Sons are on the cusp of a catapult to greatness, though respected titans of the industry they already are. With murmurs of songs’ live debuts rife and the great circle dome of Roundhouse packed with fans harbouring an excitement only second to the general rock-thirsty aura of the room, it was time for this leg of the tour to begin.
A tremendously well-set stage featuring a colossal Rival Sons backdrop with their signature white, swirling typeface and two mirrored tigers taken from the Darkfighter album cover. In distinction to this, the band opens with Darkfighter’s track one: Mirrors.
Echoing the studio take to perfection, we get the anticipatory opening synths before the rest of the band take to the stage to a resounding cheer. Fan favourite Do Your Worst jumps out as a surprising second song choice. But in only the best of ways. Roundhouse becomes host to one giant mass of raised arms and beaming faces singing along to each chorus word.
Electric Man showcases frontman Jay Buchanan’s stage-cracking vocals before we get more newly released material with Rapture and Bird in the Hand. Whilst Buchanan is known for his combination of note-to-note perfect delicacy within an unearthly power-trip howl of a voice, tonight, the words ‘on another level’ springs to mind.
More from the Great Western Valkyrie album (Where I’ve Been and Open My Eyes) before Mike Miley lets loose on the drums in a crowd-wowing solo. Nothing says ‘first night of tour’ like an enticing explosion of energy. Drum fill-galore, alongside some nifty time signature changes and, at one point, using the audience as his personal metronome, Miley’s grinning face says it all.
Some phenomenal light play from behind his setup also provides some spectacular visuals.
Pleasure and Time is as good as ever, preparing us for our tasting of the album Lightbringer, out in a few short days: Sweet Life, Mercy and Mosaic. The latter two were playing in their live debut wears, with all three garnishing an unshakeable approving response from the room.
It is then time for the classic Feral Roots and unassuming track Face of Light, which we get gifted to us with an extended guitar solo from the man incapable of a bad look: Mr. Scott Holiday.
Rip-roaring his way through the set on an array of Firebirds, Gretschs, and one with a rather fabulous glittered, gold body, here we see his best work as – not just the songwriter but – the undeniably dexterous six-string player. (And at one point, 12-string player when he ships out his double-necked guitar, much to the audience’s joy).
Buchanan then returns to the stage alone, with only an acoustic guitar and his voice to play through Shooting Stars. As emotional as it is powerful, the song aligns the room with a spine-tingling sensation that one only experiences a few times during a show. Stunning.
Darkside and Keep On Swinging top the night off as Rival Sons have no need for an encore or a false finish. From start to finish, this was a show that will ring in the grateful ears of – I can only assume – everyone who bore witness to it.
This really is the year of Rival Sons. And it ain’t over yet.