RIVAL SONS at The Roxy in Vancouver, January 31, 2013

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Last night I went to The Roxy in downtown Vancouver, and for the price of $10 Canadian dollars, I got to see Rival Sons up close and personal. What a gig it was, though when the band got up on stage singer Jay Buchanan did have a bit of a spaced out look about him, and my friend (who had never heard a Rival Sons’ tune before this), was afraid he might topple off the stage. Buchanan had apparently spent the day laid low by the flu and running a fever, but the band had decided not to cancel the show in spite of that (thank you so much for that guys!).

The band kicked off with Keep On Swinging, and for a moment I was worried – not because the band was off at all, but because the sound of the band overpowered the vocals (always a very bad thing, and even worse in this case), but whoever was doing the sound fixed that pretty quickly.

I don’t think I can even describe in words how good this gig was. My expectations were sky-high after listening to the band’s albums, and watching videos online of them performing live. Those expectations were exceeded. Jay Buchanan owned that stage and that room completely, fever or no fever. He’s the kind of singer that has so much natural charisma that it radiates off him like a beacon, even when he’s not doing anything, saying anything, or even singing. Yes, think Robert Plant, think Jim Morrison, though he is not them, and is not trying to be them either, but that’s the level we’re talking here.


It is easy to rave about Buchanan, but this is truly a band. The players are all amazing with Scott Holiday on guitar performing some rather spectacular feats of his own, and both bassist Robin Everhart and drummer Michael Miley getting their moments to show off as well. I loved seeing how the band seemed so connected on stage during the performance, feeding off each other, and with Buchanan seemingly getting his energy from both the crowd and his fellow band-mates throughout the gig. There’s a real organic feel to this band on stage, a sense of flow and freedom, like the show is alive and breathing, with nothing feeling too planned out or canned or forced.

There was an amazing positive vibe in the room too. At one point I caught one woman’s eye in the crowd and we both looked at each other and grinned, with this “Can you believe we’re here to experience this?” kind of look on our faces. It was just that kind of energy in the room, when a big group of strangers are tripping out on some very good stuff, together.

And again: the band… wow. There were several times when I just kind of stood there, in awe, almost laughing out loud because the stuff on stage was so good. Towards the very end, there was a point when Buchanan and Holiday did this back and forth, with Jay singing and Scott’s guitar answering, mimicking each other. Jay’s voice went through the full spectrum from the lowest tones to the highest scream and it was something else to behold… If this is what the band is like on the flu, I can’t wait to see them again when they’re at 100%.

Rival Sons’ web-pageTwitterFacebook

Memorable moments:

  • When I arrived at The Roxy just before 7 pm, to meet my friend there before we headed out for dinner, and I could hear the band inside during sound-check. Standing in Granville Street with a small crowd of strangers, listening in on that… yeah, that was good.
  • The raw moment towards the end when Buchanan laughed on stage, whether because he was exhausted, woozy from fever, or loving the hoots from the crowd, or just because he had a flash of joy, and then seemed to decide that he wasn’t done yet and showed off some more of his spectacular vocal talent.
  • Hearing Manifest Destiny live. When Buchanan went into those high high notes at the beginning and just hit them perfectly… Oh my lord. I think I zoned out blissfully there for a moment. And Jordan, and Face of Light, and Pressure and Time, and … well… you know…

Other observations:

  • It was a totally mixed crowd, and to my delight I wasn’t the oldest person in the room (which could be the case at The Roxy!). Lots of people who were already Rival Sons’ fans, and lots of people who were not (yet).
  • The “biggest Jäger drop ever!!!” event preceding the gig was kind of interesting, but also kind of time-consuming. 30 minutes to set up I don’t know how many glasses of Red Bull (hundreds), and then balancing shots of Jäger on the rims between the glasses (12 bottles of Jägermeister). Then it took only a few seconds to tip them all into the Red Bull, domino style, and the drinks were all passed around. (And no, no Jäger and Red Bull for me please! I’m definitely too old and wise for that.)
  • Vancouver’s Static in the Stars opened for Rival Sons and did a great job. Wish the sound had been better so I could have heard the singer (he could really sing too), but I’ll be checking them out more online for sure.
  • Rival Sons have some kick-ass t-shirts. And yes, I’m already wearing mine..

Here’s a short video from the gig. I regret I didn’t record more, but at the time, I just wanted to be in the moment, not look at it through the camera.

Set list, thanks to Tim on Facebook:

  1. Keep on Swinging
  2. Burn Down Los Angeles
  3. Gypsy Heart
  4. You Want To
  5. Until The Sun Comes
  6. Manifest Destiny Pt. 1
  7. Torture
  8. Jordan
  9. All Over the Road
  10. Young Love
  11. Face of Light
  12. Pressure and Time
  13. Soul


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