The wait between scanning your tickets and screaming can seem endless before a good rock show, but sometimes, the reward is even better than you’d imagined. It was one of those nights on Sunday at Jersey City’s White Eagle Hall, where merch-collecting fans had packed together tightly to witness Rival Sons up close. The historic venue just celebrated one year since its impressive restoration, and lately, is getting some well-deserved buzz for its acoustics – which proved impeccable at all decibels on a night of explosive rock and roll.
We clearly weren’t the only ones excited to catch Welles, the perfect-fit openers who joined Rival Sons for the U.S. leg of their tour. Fronted by their eponymous lead singer, who shreds and roams the stage in a veritable tornado of his own hair, the band was in fine form and quickly seduced the room with their scorching sound. The music of Welles is an exhilarating, pure-rock manifestation of his own no-B.S. attitude (which we got to know well at Governors Ball last summer), built with arena-worthy guitar licks and a fuck-off edge that makes it all the more addictive. Rocking a Rival Sons shirt that was a blur in his thrashing, Welles’ vocals were both razor sharp and sultry on catchy standouts “Life Like Mine,” “Hold Me Like I’m Leaving,” and “Seventeen,” the last of which was embellished with a killer long-lasting solo section. Their 1960s-tinged progressions were a fundamentally cool piece of just-released single “Rock N Roll” (the first from Welles’ forthcoming LP, Red and White Trashes, due out next month) on which he sneers, “So give me all the drugs! Cover me in blood! It’s all I need…” with exquisite apathy.
You could tell there was some extra excitement for Rival Sons’ performance on Sunday – its source, perhaps, the fact that it was their last U.S. tour date before they head to Europe next month. Just seeing their crew setting up was enough to trigger cheers and launch their most observant fans into eager discussions about their gear. Both guitarist Scott Holiday and bassist Dave Beste had a rack of gorgeous guitars at the ready, which were swapped out frequently during the Long Beach band’s high-energy performance. Barefoot from the beginning, frontman Jay Buchanan was on fire as he tore up the stage and carved lyrics into the band’s blues-infused layers, his earthy and wide-ranging vocals coaxing out loud screams at every turn. Fans were equally hyped for every move made by Holiday, who kept his dark sunglasses on as he ripped up riffs in the well-deserved spotlight.
Rival Sons’ 13-song setlist notably kicked off with their popular single, 2012’s “Keep On Swinging,” which seemed to completely throw the crowd and had them singing along at full volume. It also leaned heavily into their 2014 album, Great Western Valkyrie, with “Electric Man,” “Good Luck,” “Belle Starr,” and final songs “Open My Eyes” and “Secret” satisfying longtime fans. With such strong and seasoned presences on stage, it’s tough to imagine how anything could really surprise them, but Buchanan seemed genuinely awestruck by the raucous applause that kept punctuating their impacts. For the first part of the show, the only response he could muster between songs was a pleasantly amazed “Ohhhh shitttt…” Ironically, that’s exactly how the crowd was feeling about Rival Sons.
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Photos: Shayne Hanley