Jay Buchanan doth protest too much. Keen to confirm his Scottish roots to a partisan Edinburgh crowd, quick to cuddle bald-headed security man Big Gav and eager to relate the tale of how it was only whisky that saved his voice ahead of a packed show, it was easy to lose count of the erudite frontman’s various ploys to get the fans on his side.
In reality the Rival Sons’ star has no need to use every tactic in the book to elicit unwavering popularity. Buchanan’s voice alone guarantees unconditional love and admiration from any self-respecting follower of blues-infused rock and roll.
Had he been Margaret Thatcher’s love child, sparked a riot and stormed off stage complaining of a throaty tickle it’s a fair bet the uniquely gifted singer would still have emerged a winner.
Buchanan may be 50% Scottish and 50% Native American but he’s 100% rock and roll. Whether it’s the smooth moves, the passionate outpouring of heartfelt lyrics or the mid-song storytelling-cum-preaching, here is a character demanding respect and adulation. No wonder Rival Sons have gone from underdogs to top dogs north of the border in the space of six startlingly successful months.
There’s no secret to an ever-growing surge in popularity: songs. Rival Sons write good ones for fun and somehow ensure they sound ever better played live. It’s a winning formula that will propel this classy quartet into arenas before long.
Right now it’s a joy watching Buchanan and his buddies confidently own the nation’s smaller stages and carefully push the boundaries within constantly changing sets.
If the juxtaposition of Keep On Swinging and Pressure And Time would be a winning combination for any band, anywhere, anytime then those two tracks played back to back in Edinburgh had never sounded so good.
However, the first part of the spiralling Manifest Destiny, from UK Top 20 album Head Down, is where the Sons truly shone. On record the epic two-parter, charting the darker side of America’s colonial history, sounds immense. Somehow it sounded bigger, bolder and even more divisive on a night when four musicians from Long Beach took a wrapt crowd on a compelling journey through the sands of time.
Rival Sons play the Download Festival for the second successive year this summer, such is the outrageous demand for their 70s-infused take on classic rock. Equally adept at cajoling unfamiliar festival crowds, Buchanan will inevitably persuade thousands more to embrace his mantra of earnest and uplifting songwriting in a soggy field in the East Midlands.
But make no mistake: Rival Sons are best enjoyed in the dark, under soft lights, behind dry ice and on creaking stages built to breed rock and roll legends. The Picturehouse provided the perfect setting for the perfect rock and roll band – Buchanan and co. did the rest.