Rival Sons @ O2 Academy, Birmingham – Tuesday 17th October 2023

Rival Sons returned to Birmingham for their first show in the City since early 2019, the band having taken stock during the pandemic and returning with a pair of studio albums book ending the year, Darkfighter and the just released Lightbringer. Delighting the audience with a two-hour show, they played Darkfighter in its entirety, offered up a couple of numbers from Lightbringer and the remainder of the set dipped here and there amongst the back catalogue. The new material is still unmistakably Rival Sons, encompassing a mixture of blues, funk and rock while maintaining a sound that is still very much the essence of what makes the band tick, Jay Buchanen’s distinctive, forceful voice being at times like having an additional instrument at their disposal.
As a front man Buchanan feeds of the vibe of the crowd, and the response as they launch into ‘Mirrors’ is enough for us to be certain tonight will be a special one. The newer material is broken up with the garage rock of ‘Electric Man’, driven along by Scott Holiday’s immense riffing and Michael Miley’s thunderous drumming. With an abundance of new songs to showcase, inevitably some of the old favourites have had to make way and so only the heartfelt ‘Face of Light’ is taken from 2011’s breakout Pressure & Time, with the show closing barn burner ‘Keep on Swinging’ the sole cut from 2012’s excellent Head Down. Some of the older songs will no doubt return in tours to come, but tonight evidenced that Rival Sons are still coming up with the goods both on stage and in the studio. The sparse, dynamic groove of ‘Darkside’, 60’s infused ‘Bright Light’ and epic brilliance of ‘Horses Breath’ are performed with the unshakable belief that they are amongst the bands best moments. Lightbringer‘s ‘Mosaic’ is the light to the shade that is evident across Darkfighter, and while they have been released individually, and several months apart, they can be viewed as one truly remarkable double album.
Other artists may have come along over the past few years and grabbed some of the headlines and attention that Rival Sons once commanded, but there is no doubting on nights like this they remain an irresistible proposition. And on the strength of both Darkfighter and Lightbringer there are lots of miles left in the tank. For the band that supported Black Sabbath on their mammoth final tour, their own end is, thankfully, still a long way distant.

Nobody Wants to Die
Electric Man
Bird in the Hand
Where I’ve Been
Too Bad
Drum solo
Bright Light
Feral Roots
Horses Breath
Open My Eyes
Face of Light
Shooting Stars
Keep On Swinging