It is incredibly difficult to articulate the sensations that one can experience at a live music show. This is the challenge for music writers. We want our readers to live through the words on the page as if they had been right beside us as the band took the stage. But how do you put into words the heart-swelling lift one can get from the perfect guitar solo? Or the delicious tingling in the eardrum when the drummer goes ballistic on his kit in frenzied rhythm? Or when the lead singer hits a screaming high note that jangles your spine and makes you want to live in that moment of time forever? How can a writer make you feel the phenomenal power that Rival Sons displayed at Irving Plaza last Friday night? Bear with me as I do my humble best to break it down for you, dear readers.
Rival Sons has been churning out albums since 2009. They have gone through a few evolutions in terms of members, but seemed to have finally settled into a harmonious groove. I caught the band last summer at Mercury Lounge and although that performance was invigorating, it paled in comparison to their Irving Plaza show. Running through fan favorites such as Electric Man, Keep on Swinging and Pressure & Time, the band eased through their set with a finesse on par with any major act on the circuit. An acoustic breakdown in the middle of the show gave the audience an opportunity to hear this band stripped of the amplifiers and crashing cymbals. It was elegant. It was natural. It was the real Rival Sons in their most basic cohesive state.
Lead singer Jay Buchanan confessed mid-set that his throat was strained that evening, but proceeded to sing as if angels and demons were battling inside of his larynx and the notes were perfect in their imperfection. We, the audience, were emblazoned to cheer him on to struggle through his own human frailty and channel a power from the musical gods. Making a sweat-filled concerted effort, Buchanan pushed his voice to another plane, shaking the Irving Plaza chandeliers above our heads with sheer gut strength. That’s a performer. That’s a rock star.
Guitarist Scott Holiday was channeling a power from the gods all his own as he sent electrified notes driving through the packed house on stallion legs; craning his head back with a nod to the heavens as he delivered his solos. The dapper mustachioed axe-man shined in a tribute to the late B.B. King during Rival Sons’ take on “The Thrill is Gone” showing that Holiday understands the musical path others’ before him have laid. He has paid his dues to learn the guitar as an art form and he has the chops to blaze a course all his own.
Before the band was mid-way through their set, the audience was already calling for “one more song” for fear that the night would end before their gluttonous ears were satiated. The fans urged the band to perform as musical giants and Rival Sons delivered song after song without buckling under the pressure.
This band has character. This band has class. They have learned to tap into something in the universe that can lead an audience to the height of ecstasy and make them believe in every word the lead singer is preaching, every note the guitarist is strumming, every snapping beat of the drummer’s sticks. They play rock and roll, but is that all it really is? When you hear a band go from full-blast crashing rock to a simply effortless acoustic jam session, are they really just another rock band? Or are they something more? One might say that they are the epitome of a band that has learned to create a signature sound and perform it in a way that makes people look at the world with a different kind of sight. But that’s just this humble music writer’s opinion. Catch them live and decide for yourself.
Read our interview with Jay from Rival Sons here.
Article: Hannah Soule