First of all you have to take your hat off to Rival Sons. In an age where it is increasingly hard for new bands to get heard, what they have achieved in the last couple of years in the UK is pretty remarkable.
When RTM first saw them in 2011 they were at a packed Slade Rooms. Then in autumn last year they were at a packed Wulfrun Hall and now just six months later they are at The Institute main room and guess what, that’s all but sold out too. The group are living, breathing proof that if you tour constantly, engage with fans on social media and have good songs, then you can still play rock n roll.
Both support bands for this evening are on this month’s Classic Rock “Bands to Watch” CD. Bath’s Ulysses we have seen before, when they opened for Rival Sons at the aforementioned Wulfrun gig. Unashamedly 1960s sounding, they remind RTM of The Kinks. “April Showers” is chirpy, while closing song “Taxi Driver” (the song on the CR CD) is catchy and immediate and sees the band all playing Kettle Drums before bidding us adieu.
London two piece Graveltones are next up, an odd affair, as two piece groups tend to be, they make a real racket. Sort of heavy blues, let’s be totally honest, whatever they do they are going to get compared to the White Stripes. If that is comparison that will upset them they are doing nothing to dissuade it. “I Want Your Love,” their song on the cover mounted CD is a good one, as is “Money”, but they finish off, rather strangely with a drum solo.
Which brings us to Rival Sons. Guitarist Scott Holliday emerges wearing a very loud suit, while singer Jay Buchanan has the look of a younger Steven Tyler. The band are greeted like heroes. Opener “You Want To” is rather a cameo of what happens for the rest of the night. The song is a good one, but the band – as befits a group with a retro outlook – they extend it into a huge jam, likewise the following track “Get What’s Coming” follows the same path. It does, to be totally honest, get just a little wearing.
“Gypsy Heart” is better, borrowing as it does, from The Black Crowes “Remedy” while “All The Way” with its attempts at light-heartedness doesn’t quite work. That is absolutely not the case for “Until The Sun Comes” the stand out moment of last year’s “Head Down” album, a fine song, full of Stonesy stomp, you wish all their songs were as short and sharp as this.
“Jordan” is a little bit too mystical for our tastes, while epic closer “Sacred Tounge” and “Face Of Light” starts off acoustically and builds to a conclusion.
The encore of “Burn Down Los Angeles” a brilliant track from the superb “Pressure And Time” album and “Soul” which is equally good, showcase just why this band is so popular, and why – despite RTM’s misgivings about the third album and the jamming nature of their delivery – they keep filling halls up and down the country.
Personally not all of this gig was to our tastes, that said, we are in a minority as the band continues to go from strength to strength.