Rival Sons – The Roundhouse, London (13/10/23) – Gig Review

Rival Sons – The Roundhouse, London (13/10/23) – Gig Review

17th October 2023 0 By Dan Peeke

Between 2011 and 2013, Rival Sons’ second album, Pressure & Time, became a definitive part of quite a formative time in my life. I’d just become a teenager and was discovering a world of music beyond my parents’ Level 42 CDs (though they were also fantastic). Alongside a mate from school and a revolving cast of chaperones that included my mum and his dad, I saw Rival Sons maybe four or five times in small venues around London.


As my taste in music evolved, I pretty much forgot they existed. That is until DARKFIGHTER dropped, and I reviewed its upcoming follow-up, LIGHTBRINGER. This pair of incredible albums brought me back to Rival Sons, and I felt an overwhelming need to see them live for the first time in ten years.


Aside from the bizarre feeling of seeing Rival Sons on a stage at least three times bigger than that of the Islington Academy, it felt a bit like everything had fallen back into place: the same mate standing next to me (no need to be escorted by my mum these days); the same punchy, Southern-blues guitar riffs bursting from the stage.


The setlist is pretty drastically different this time around, though. The first seven songs hadn’t even been written the last time I saw these musicians on stage, but I didn’t care in the slightest. This opening run of tracks included the almost instant singalong of their most played track, ‘Do Your Worst’, as well as the ferocious groove of ‘Electric Man’. They also quickly dropped my two personal favorites from DARKFIGHTER, ‘Rapture’ and ‘Bird In The Hand’, back to back.


These two tracks are incredible feats of catchy blues rock composition, and nothing would stop me from screaming every word. However, the extremely powerful production that runs throughout both of the band’s 2023 albums is just impossible to replicate live, no matter how perfectly the tracks are played. On record, ‘Rapture’ is dynamic and tender at the same time, with layers of compressed, gritty guitar punching you in the face every time that riff returns, contrasting the folky, acoustic hooks. Live, sadly, its sound can never match that intensity or texture.


The other thing that falls pretty flat is Jay Buchanan’s strange, rambling speech between songs early on. It was pretty difficult to understand what he was saying through his muffled mic, but the crowd was certainly not fans of whatever story this was, especially as it approached its fourth minute… Hecklers got to work fairly quickly, and despite a few dirty looks initially, it didn’t take long for the more mellow audience members to share bemused smiles with each shout of “play a fucking song”.


They did, and after a pretty impressive drum solo from Mike Miley, we’re hit with the title track from Pressure & Time. These are sounds that absolutely can be replicated, and elevated, in a pretty incredible way. Since they’ve been playing this one live almost every night for more than ten years, you can feel that its rhythmic twists and turns and jazzy drum groove are almost second nature for Rival Sons. The crowd responds more to the opening notes of this track than they do to ‘Do Your Worst’ and ‘Mirrors’ put together.


Cleverly, the band place a trio of songs from the upcoming LIGHTBRINGER directly after, capturing the energy with the brilliantly melodic ‘Sweet Life’, which precedes the live debuts of both ‘Mercy’ and ‘Mosaic’. All three tracks are as strong as anything on DARKFIGHTER, but again struggle with the inability to replicate such an intense wall of sound in a live setting. It’s hard to blame the band, who are clearly hitting every note, so let’s just let the Roundhouse take the flack for this one.


‘Face Of Light’ might be the best demonstration of what an exceptional band Rival Sons is. It’s more tender and less in-your-face than many of the night’s other tracks and allows Buchanan’s voice to flip between the quiet, conversational nature of the verses, to the seriously impressive scream of the track’s hook. It forces him to hold his mic at arm’s length to counteract the sheer power of his voice, while basically everyone in the venue screams it straight back at him.


Instead of taking the mellow energy of ‘Face Of Light’ and using it to harness the power of one of their more magical, textured ballads (‘Jordan’, for example), Buchanan picked up the acoustic guitar and performed 2020 single ‘Shooting Stars’ without the rest of the band. Sure, his voice remains incredible and delicately navigates every note, but it doesn’t feel right to make Rival Sons seem like a bit of a one-man show. Even worse, it led to ‘Nobody Wants To Die’ being cut from the set…


After the romp of ‘Darkside’ brings both the band and the energy back, ‘Keep On Swinging’, as it has done so many times before, brings the set to a rapturous close with one of the most iconic riffs in modern rock. They go one minute beyond the Roundhouse’s strict 11 p.m. curfew, so there’s no hope of an encore, no matter how hard the audience tries.


The most committed of the bunch plead desperately with the security staff to pass them a setlist, which, to bring us full circle, is exactly what I used to do between 2011 and 2013.

Set List

  1. Mirrors
  2. Do Your Worst
  3. Electric Man
  4. Rapture
  5. Bird in the Hand
  6. Where I’ve Been
  7. Open My Eyes (w/ drum solo)
  8. Pressure and Time
  9. Sweet Life
  10. Mercy (Live debut)
  11. Mosaic (Live debut)
  12. Feral Roots
  13. Face of Light(Included an extended guitar solo)
  14. Shooting Stars
  15. Darkside
  16. Keep On Swinging

How useful was this post?

Click on a thumb to rate it!

Average rating 5 / 5. Vote count: 2

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

As you found this post useful...

Follow us on social media!