Rival Sons

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author AP date 01/03/17 venue Store Vega, Copenhagen, DEN

After a several weeks’ break from gigs, the first day of Spring seemed opportune for kicking off the typically busy concert season that it brings. The honour of the inauguration fell to classic rockers Rival Sons — who seem to play in Denmark more often than most Danish bands, yet whom I have miraculously managed to miss every one of those times. Although I was quite fond of their 2011 LP, “Pressure & Time, I must admit to losing track of the band since and as such, I have no clue what I should be expecting. For all intents and purposes then, Rival Sons have in me a clean slate on which to etch their impression.

All photos courtesy of Peter Troest

Rival Sons

As the years have rolled by, Rival Sons have apparently honed their image from scrubby-looking pub-types to stylish, greased-up ‘60s gents, better to align with the style of their music. The five musicians look very sharp tonight, it must be said, and in general there is a completeness to the production of this Teatro Fiasco (as the tour is dubbed) that is hard not to be impressed by. Up until the ‘Sons take to the stage, DJ Howie Pyro has been spinning ‘50s and ‘60s vinyl at clips of old, black’n’white striptease clips and vocalist Jay Buchanan’s good friend, the poet and comedian Derrick Brown, has treated us to an amusing but also incisive set of spoken word, as one of the most unusual supporting casts that I have witnessed at a rock show. It does not make sense to grade their efforts individually, because they are both a key part of this self-indulgent circus that Rival Sons have dreamed up for us tonight.

Warming up arena-size audiences on Black Sabbath’s farewell tour over the past two years certainly seems to have left its mark on the Long Beach, CA-born quintet; the show opens to the tune of “Hollow Bones Pt. 1” and the first thing one notices is the blasé mien of Buchanan and his cohorts. VEGA is completely sold out and, assuming that the fact is not lost on them, Rival Sons could hardly look less amazed. There is a cool arrogance to the way the five musicians carry themselves which suits them well, but as we close in on the first highlight — the feverish and jammy second half of “Secret” off last year’s “Great Western Valkyrie” — honestly, the band has seemed simply to go through the motions without any real desire to blow us away. After their many, many visits to Denmark, they seem to expect adoration rather than earn it.

For Rival Sons however, business as usual is not equatable to mediocrity. Far from slow-clap majesty though the performance may be, the groove that these gentlemen possess is quite spellbinding by itself — and when you count the extra seasoning of Mike Miley’s swing and swagger behind the drum kit, the pedal-wound magic of Scott Holiday’s guitar histrionics, the swathes of elegant keys and organ from Todd Ögren-Brooks and the soul and power of Buchanan’s singing on top…. Well, suffice to say that few other artists can boast such a high bottom standard as the Rivals. Then there is the matter of the songs; whether embodied by heartfelt balladry or strutting rock’n’roll, they are designed for entertainment, designed to inspire movement, and as such the lively audience is almost a given.

Rival Sons appeal to me most at their most daring, with the lengthy instrumental section at the rear end of “Fade Out” and the symbiotic jam that erupts during and extends the duration of “Hollow Bones Pt. 2” both emerging as personal highlights alongside the flawless execution of “Where I’ve Been” — a ballad so classic it is surprising Disney has not yet thrown money at it to have it soundtrack some particularly melodramatic moment in one of the company’s future films. It all comes down to personal preference of course, but if you ask me, it would become Rival Sons to embrace their psych-side and apply these trippy instrumental segments to their music more often. Whether this is a vintage Rival Sons concert thus comes down to how big a fan you are and what expectations you have for them. There is no denying the infectious energy or the quality of the band’s showmanship, but to me it never feels intimate or earnest — and I guess it makes no sense to anticipate an improvement on that when the band returns to Denmark yet again this summer to support Aerosmith in the much larger confines of the Royal Arena.



  • 01. Hollow Bones Pt. 1
  • 02. Tied Up
  • 03. Thundering Voices
  • 04. Electric Man
  • 05. Secret
  • 06. Belle Starr
  • 07. Where I’ve Been
  • 08. You Want To
  • 09. Fade Out
  • 10. Tell Me Something
  • 11. Face of Light
  • 12. Torture
  • 13. Open My Eyes
  • 14. Hollow Bones Pt. 2
  • 15. Keep On Swinging

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