Rival Sons @Newcastle NX, October 14 2023

As Jay Buchanan shone during a stripped down, solo version of Shooting Stars it was finally time to reflect on Rival Sons’ remarkable contribution to rock and roll.

Almost 11 years ago to the day, Rushonrock recounted how the band’s androgynous singer ‘fired off a series of sensational vocal salvos’ in the then O2 Academy’s smaller, upstairs venue.

Judging by Buchanan’s latest — and some would argue greatest — turn on Tyneside, it’s quite clear that the latter-day Jim Morrison was only just getting started.

More than a decade down the line and the peerless frontman is in an ethereal league of his own — celebrating the Sons’ ever-evolving catalogue with the confidence of an empowered artist at one with his work.

When Buchanan promised a sold-out NX that he and his band mates never take their privileged position for granted, he meant it.

Just like he meant every last word, note and flamboyant gesture on a night when Rival Sons turned the focus on the year of bold new music that continues to buck the industry trend.

Of the 18 songs here, no fewer than eight were culled from Darkfighter and Lightbringer.

The former was released earlier this year to widespread critical acclaim and its companion piece was readied for release just six days after this wonderfully unpredictable show.

Refreshingly, given the raw energy underpinning Rival Sons’ most recent work, the emphasis was very much on the here and now, rather than the band’s storied past.

Pressure Off & Time To Move On

It’s incredible to think that only one of Pressure & Time’s 10 tracks made the cut: Face Of Light featured an extended Scott Holiday solo that radiated Page-esque heat in the week autumn finally made its presence felt.

Torture, from the band’s self-titled 2010 EP, made a welcome mid-set appearance but there was no Keep On Swinging, no Burn Down Los Angeles and no Pressure & Time. No matter.

Such is the quality of 2023’s exceptional output that even the early adopters and the die-hards in the audience couldn’t make a case for voicing the merest hint of disapproval.

What’s not to like about the quite brilliant, soaring Bird In The Hand? Nobody wants to miss out on a live version of Nobody Wants To Die.

And heads would surely roll if Holiday and co. dared to omit the glistening Guillotine.

According to Buchanan, completing the meandering Mosaic, from Lightbringer, was the moment he knew his work was done. For now, at least.

And what a way to sign off on the latest chapter in a career punctuated by so many memorable highs.

Mosaic sets the seal on Lightbringer and, given its luscious layers of Americana-tinged melody, it could comfortably wrap a Rival Sons’ live show. 

Instead it was Secret, one of three songs lifted from Great Western Valkyrie, that called time on another riveting evening in the company of California’s finest.

Ironic, really, as this was surely the most overt display of swaggering rock and roll Newcastle will witness all year. 

Images by Adam Kennedy