Rival Sons Jay By Ian Horrocks@Newcastle O2 Academy, December 15 2014

Hopefully Rival Sons enjoyed their third visit to Newcastle’s O2 Academy -because it will probably be their last.

For the Californian rockers, formed by guitarist Scott Holiday five years ago, are surely primed for arena-sized venues across the world.

This is a band that ticks so many boxes, they should set up an advice clinic for up and coming wannabes, eyeing up a similar career path. 

(Perhaps Michael Schenker may consider hiring their mixing desk engineers after sacking his own one because the aural quality here was everything his band’s was not five days earlier)

Rival Sons are retro-rockers, whose inspirations include Led Zeppelin, The Doors and Cream but that’s to over-simplify both their sound and their message.

For example, Holiday is a bone-fide guitar hero but with his slicked back hair, neatly trimmed beard and suit, he’s more sharp-dressed man than some 21st century minstrel.

On vocals, Jay Buchanan is more modern-day Robert Smith of The Cure than Viking God frontman but has the vocal range, charisma and moves most 70s icons would be proud of.

Last night, Rival Sons chose not to play some of their more commercial songs such as Wild Animal and Until The Sun Comes – tracks given mainstream air-time on Radios One and Two – which probably contributed to last night’s packed audience bridging the gender and generation gap.

Instead, they concentrated on this year’s widely-acclaimed Great Western Valkyrie with Secret and Open Your Eyes being particularly well received.

However, it was the nine minute Manifest Destiny Pt I which, to this observer, marks them out as a band who look on course to become one of the biggest rock bands on the planet.

The interaction and improvisation between Holiday and Buchanan was reminiscent of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant in their pomp.

And with a thunderously efficient rhythm section in Michael Miley and new bassist Dave Beste providing a Led Zep strength platform, all the ingredients were in place for a truly memorable show.

Mind you, Rival Sons had to be on top of their game considering how good support band Blues Pills were.

It’s an indisputable fact that Elin Larsson has the most powerful female voice on the rock scene today and those who hadn’t seen the Swedish band live or heard their excellent self-titled debut album, were genuinely astonished by her performance.

Perhaps it’s a lazy comparison but it’s also an apt one. The elfin-like Larsson really does sound like a reincarnation of Janis Joplin.

Blues Pills are touring again in April next year though sadly Newcastle is not on their schedule.

Like Rivals Sons, they too appear to be heading on an upwardly mobile journey.

Ian Murtagh

Image courtesy of Ian Horrocks  – ianhorrocksphotography.zenfolio.com