Words: Justin Hulford.
To close the year gigwise, and end our recent residency at the ABC, come Rival Sons. We saw them last year in Edinburgh when I felt they were song or two short of a headline set, and earlier this year when they launched their album at Scala in London.
But first up was Jameson. I don’t know if that’s a surname or a first name, or just a name, but he was unusual for a man with guitar act in that his was an electric. It gave a rougher raw edge to his four songs and even the usual whisperers were drowned out for a change. A promising start.
Next came Sweden’s Blues Pills. I’d seen the hairy musical trio waiting for a takeaway pizza at the very pleasant Café Antipasti opposite and knew they had to be in a band. It was no surprise to find “Blues” in their name but what was a shock was the arrival of tiny Elin Larsson. Bereft of shoes and standing at about my eye level in spite of being on a raised stage, she sure did have some presence. When she sang she was just one angry, passionate entity, reminiscent in tone of the likes of Janis Joplin but with traits of some other heavy blues rock fronts such as Gillan and Ozzy. She threw her hair back with abandon, unbothered if it covered her face. She joggled around like the energy was trying to break out of her and then thankfully it did via her full bloodied vocals. Reassuringly she did smile between songs so shouldn’t need counselling but when she sings you can’t help but take notice.
Keeping the food theme going I had spied Rival Sons guitarist Scott Holiday sitting in the window of the mighty Pomme Frites on the way to the show so I’m guessing the rider isn’t too hot at the ABC! He and his fellows owned the stage from the start and were readily devoured by the rampant crowd. From the outset his riffs were melodic and often heavy, the other musicians all playing clear parts and all four offering nicely balanced backing vocals. Which of course leads us nicely onto their frontman Jay Buchanan.
He’s not the biggest, dresses like an extra from “Oliver!” (aside from some very fancy shoes) and quite simply owns it. He shimmies and twirls, living every note and is a huge bundle of raw energy. In fact I’d go so far as to say he was the biggest presence from a small package since…Elin Larsson!
The band ripped through the songs, hitting a lot of the big numbers as they did so. I didn’t care for a couple of slightly more drifting blues heavy instrumentals in a couple of the earlier tracks and I certainly missed “Burn Down Los Angeles” (which could have easily taken the place of a slightly basic drum solo) but there is no doubt that this still a band very much on the rise.
The combination of Buchanan and Holiday is electric, both offering emotion and depth to their respective parts. The rest of the band do feel occasionally like a supporting cast (the former two are so good) but it’s rich stuff nonetheless. The crowd was in raptures all the way and delighted to see Jay leave the stage wrapped in a fan’s saltire flag. With such a warm reception, and with such a cool performance I think they’ll be back a lot more times yet.