Rival Sons – The Junction, Cambridge 1st February 2017


This was a headline gig for Rival Sons as they return to the UK for their support slot with Black Sabbath, who are on their farewell tour.

I have seen Rival Sons a number of times in the past and have always admired their great spirit and energy when on stage, although I was disappointed when I saw them at Download in 2016 and this was on my mind on the drive over.

The support act were Pat Dam Smyth who were billed as being a John Lennon style 2 piece band.  They played a great set with an indie rock vibe but with very real world lyrics, for example there was a song about coming down on ecstasy!     It was a kind of lyrical poetry, dealing with today’s issues, set to a percussive drum beat and guitar.

Then it was time for the main act.  As usual Rival Sons came, swaggering on to the stage, to The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.  Certainly, where I was standing (at the barrier, naturally) there was a great reaction from the crowd who roared and applauded as they launched into 3 songs from the latest album, Hollow Bones.    This may sound like a lot of tracks from the new album but the Rival Sons crowd is, generally, a very loyal crowd.  They went down a storm, with beautiful riffs and licks from Scott Holiday, supported by stunning bass playing from Dave Beste and Jay Buchanans spectacular vocals.

From here we went back to usual territory of Electric Man, Secret and Pressure and Time. Jay removed his Jeffrey West boots and stood barefooted on stage, singing at his absolute best.  He has a beautiful, soulful voice that exudes passion and intensity and if you happen to be a lady in the front row and he fixes you with his gorgeous eyes then it is a very powerful connection.

When Great Western Valkyrie was released there was a campaign for Belle Star to be played and it featured tonight along with Memphis Sun which, I think, not only surprised the audience but everyone in Rival Sons except Scott who was weaving his magical threads of luscious music with a massive smile on his face.

There was a great deal of camaraderie between all of the members of the band, jokes being made and interesting variations on their songs mixed with funky, psychedelic vibe to some of the guitar playing from Scott and Dave.  As usual Todd Ogren-Brooks played like a demented man on the keyboards, really adding an extra layer of groove to the vibe.

Half way through the set we had Where I’ve Been, a slower, more personal song from the band, which always makes me cry like a child and Face of Light which  is about Jay’s son when he was small and we had an insight from Jay into the struggle that faces many bands who have young children and want to carry on with their musical career.

The Torture chant was a beautiful thing to behold, especially when Jay changed the words and was serenading Cambridge, it did not last as long as some that I have heard but the intensity was there and the band seemed genuinely touched.

Mike Miley gave us a drum solo towards the end of the set where he played with a huge smile on his face, nodding at the audience to clap along and when to cheer.  He keeps great time for the band throughout, counting them in to a lot of the songs.

So, all in all we had everything, a wonderful mixture of old and new songs, some unexpected surprises, great interaction from the crowd, singing and clapping along, sublime singing, fantastic guitar playing, thumping drums and funky keys.  There were great touches from the band also, giving a young boy drum sticks and picks, Jay announcing that he was “having the time of his f**king life tonight” plus the absolute looks of joy on all of the faces of the band when they heard the reaction they were getting.

This is powerful rock and roll as it is meant to be played and was a very fine example of just how a band can evolve.  They tinker around with their songs, changing the introduction or tempo but then allow the crowd to join up the dots and plunge head first into the wall and waves of sound that hit you like a battering ram.  It is rock and roll for grown-ups, thinking people, people who love and give their love out, it makes the world feel like a better place to be.

Jay said that they are looking forward to coming back and playing intimate venues again for the crowds that they love, which puts a massive smile on my face and strengthens my belief that Rock and Roll is not dead.

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