@ Newcastle O2 Academy, September 26 2012

Double bookings. Don’t you just hate them? For fans of fast-rising 21st century rock royalty this had always looked like an uncomfortable clash. And so it proved.

As Rival Sons ruled the upstairs room, Halestorm bossed the basement.

As retro-soaked blues rock filled the Academy’s smaller venue, emotive modern metal galvanised the frenzied main hall.

And as the androgynous Jay ‘The Cannon’ Buchanan fired off a series of sensational vocal salvos his every move was matched by the fearless Lzzy Hale. 

Where Halestorm wear their 80s pop metal hearts on their sleeves – peddling a toxic brand of chorus-driven post-classic rock – Rival Sons’ roots lie deep in the previous decade.

Buchanan and super cool sidekick Scott Holiday own the stage like a latter day hybrid of the Doors and Cream. The Sons’ singer raises the ante with a charismatic impression of post-Purple David Coverdale while his fret-melting buddy plays guitar with a Clapton-esque swagger.

It’s a classic combination that has carried the US heroes to the top of the UK rock charts with current long player Head Down: theirs is a killer partnership proven on three albums of pure listening pleasure.

Where Rival Sons’ sound is borne out of mutual respect for a bygone era Halestorm rely on raw passion and youthful exuberance to underpin their melodic metal highlights.

Hale’s solo delivery of piano ballad Break In was only spoiled by the inconsiderate banter of punters who failed to spot a genuine moment of magic. But the multi-talented singer was just as convincing delivering the raucous Rock Show and the niggling It’s Not You.

Rarely has Newcastle played host to two equally fascinating purveyors of the vocal art on the same night – let alone inside the same venue.

And if the promoters responsible for such a cruel clash deserve a painful rap on the knuckles then the people of Tyneside should feel mightily privileged that they were so blatantly spoilt for choice. Welcome to rock’s battle royale!

Yet those looking for an outright winner were surely missing the point. This was a landslide victory for live music – Halestorm’s succinct yet soaring set more than a match for the classic rock jam that saw Rival Sons end on a sprawling, spiralling high.

Three months ago both bands ruled Download’s second stage. Three months from now nobody would be surprised if Halestorm and Rival Sons ruled the rock world.

Simon Rushworth

pic courtesy of John Burrows  @ishootgigs