Opening for Black sabbath has meant it’s been a while since Rivals Sons have headlined in the UK, however that doesn’t seem to have diminished any kind of support and Leeds O2 is packed to capacity, waiting to see how much of their new album Feral Roots would feature in the show.
However, before we get to the main event there’s the Canadian band The Sheepdogs, the venue is new to them having previously played at Brudenell Social Club. They certainly didn’t disappoint, bursting onto the stage with a vibrant yet eclectic look and a sound reminiscent of early Woodstock mixed with thundering bass.
The smooth vocals of front man Ewan Currie gelled seamlessly with the flamboyant riffs, expertly played by Jimmy Bowskill and a keyboard sound from Shamus Currie that would have done John Lord proud, gives the bluegrass tone a true 70’s vibe.
Pretty soon it’s clear that The Sheepdogs are going to be leaving with a whole new crowd of fans. They cram in an awful lot to their set giving us hits from four of their albums. The biggest rise of the night “I Don’t Know” from their first album 5 Easy Pieces, gets the crowd going and singing along.
Whilst they’re undoubtedly a great mix for Rival Sons there’s no doubt who the crowd are waiting for. With none of the previous nights technical faults the set begins with a pounding heartbeat drawing attention to the backdrop on the stage, amping up the tension in the crowd. As the band appear the backdrop changes to the new Feral Roots album cover and Michael Miley starts with a pounding solo into ‘Back in the Woods’.
The band keep the tension with a darkly lit stage as they lead into their second song from the new album ‘Sugar on the Bone’. It’s clear that this crowd have had the new album on repeat as they sing along. By song three, ‘Pressure and Time’ the crowd are more than warmed up and Jay Buchanan’s mesmerising voice has the floor bouncing with pounded feet.
This crowd is more than with them every step of the way, loving the uber polished performance of Scott Holiday on lead guitar looking very Robert Downey Junior. ‘Too Bad’ brings together a faultless performance, Jay’s voice draws you in and keeps you there, you’re with him note after note and it’s effortless. A glance across the front row shows fans pouring their hearts out alongside Jay, then captivated by Scott’s solo.
“Thank you Leeds” says Jay “See a lot of familiar faces. 10 years touring, started here in the tiny cockpit, way upstairs – now look at you! Thank you so very much.”
It’s clear that the band have as many great memories as the crowd and Jay continues “Giving you one near and dear to our hearts, this song always makes it in. So many people need this song. We’re just a rock n roll band and it means so much to know that someone found comfort – this is Jordan”
It’s an effortless performance from the whole band as the crowd favourite takes things to a whole new level. A glance around shows Jay is correct and this song has touched so many who may have previously lost loved ones.
New song ‘Stood By Me’ introduced by Jay “We all have friends but what about the times you were an asshole? If you’ve lived at all then you know you’ve been one!” has feet stomping, then led into crowd favourite ‘Torture’ with a phenomenal bass solo from Dave Beste. The crowds singing, many making up their own lyrics!
Scott was on form with his guitar wizardry during Imperial Joy, another new track, the crowd loving it. Slowing down into ‘Open My Eyes’ breaking into a kaleidoscope of colours from the set.
As it came to an end with ‘Do Your Worst’, the chap behind me said “F*cking incredible” couldn’t have said it better really!
The lads came back on with the encore of ‘Shooting Stars’, “Going to need your help singing this one” and the crowd duly obliged. Leeds love was greater tonight.
They may have been a decade on tour but the band sound fresh and full of a new energy, breathing life into firm favourites both new and old.
There may have been some criticism on the new Feral Roots album and their choice to pack the setlist with new songs but there was no feeling of that in Leeds. A restriction on filming or photography meant that the crowd had their eyes firmly on the stage and not their screens and they loved every moment.
The sound is uniquely theirs a mix of classic rock with an edge, made just that little bit more special with Jay’s class vocals.
Images courtesy of Simon Walker