Words by DJ Monk. Photos by The Dark Queen.

It most assuredly was going to be a hot night in the city. Not because the mercury had been soaring to ever higher levels over the past few days, but because Long Beach (via Nashville)’s favourite rock ‘n’ roll (rival) sons were back in ÜR’s hometown for the second of two exclusive (and almost sold out) headline shows on their Irish stopover during their current run of (largely) festival appearances. Yep, it was gonna be hot, sticky and sweaty – but, hey… that’s just the way we like it, isn’t it?

Philip McCarroll supporting Rival Sons at Limelight, Belfast, 27 July 2019

The task of warming up the early comers – and it was good to see a decent amount of them – fell to local songsmith Philip McCarroll. Regular ÜR readers will be familiar with the boul’ Phil and his pedigree, both as frontman of local hard rockers Pay*Ola and as a solo artist in his own right, so there is probably no need to retrace a lot of old ground, save to say that he delivered a pleasing set which was well-received by the majority of punters still filing into the venue. He did look a tad lonely on the big stage, but played with humour, even finding time to enjoy some banter with the trio of photographers in the pit: “I wasn’t nervous before I came on, but you guys are freaking me out,” he says of the lens pointed in his direction! The likes of the country-tinged ‘Cathedral’, the remorseful ‘Love And Money’, the travelogue of ‘George Best To John Lennon’, the retrospective ‘Cassette’ (even if his attempt at starting a singalong fell a bit flat) and the ever bright ‘I’d Rather Be Dreaming’ all served as a pleasant appetizer for the main attraction to come…

Rival Sons at Limelight, Belfast, 27 July 2019

People continue to pile into the venue throughout the 30 minute turnaround, and ensuring that both the heat and level of anticipation continue to climb, and by the time the heartbeat of Rival Sons’ intro tape pumps from the speakers the room is almost full to capacity.  And when the headliners take to the stage at the ridiculously early hour of 8.15, they waste  absolutely no time in bring the shimmy and the shake, the blooze and the groove, the rock that makes it roll as they tear headlong into a set built largely around their excellent current album, ‘Feral Roots’: of course, it’s also punctuated with liberal doses of the “big pops”, just to keep everyone happy!

With Michael Miley and Dave Beste holding down the rhythm end of things with precision and the tautness of a tightrope wire, while also possessing enough sense of improvisation to go with the flow, Scott Holiday has virtually free rein to widdle and weave to his heart’s content: while sticking fairly rigidly to the blues-rock mien they have followed since their ‘Pressure And Time’ album, the guitarist interjects plenty of psychedelic vibes, especially in his winding solo extrapolations which, in turn, and unlike a lot of lesser quality acts, do not to curtail the momentum of the show, as the crowd chant along to every cascading credenza.

Rival Sons at Limelight, Belfast, 27 July 2019

But, the undoubted star of the show is frontman Jay Buchanan, a star very much in the Morrison/Jagger vein, especially in his strutting and swaggering: but, where most frontmen in this mould come across as cocky and egotistical, Buchanan portrays confidence and assuredness in his ability to keep the audience both enraptured and entertained, as he proves that he not only is one of the most powerful blues/rock voices of his generation but also one of its most charismatic leaders. The only downside in this regard comes when his otherwise poignant introduction to ‘Jordan’, during which he talks about the importance of people being there for one another is virtually drowned out by the inane roar of myriad conversations, especially in the back half of the venue: can people not just shut the fuck up during gigs – and especially when the singer is encouraging us to “shush” during the quiet parts of the songs?

That minor foible aside, it’s an electric set, performed with panache and passion, and a true respect for the artform of which the four men on the stage are among the many custodians – and while they, and others, continue to raise the bar and pay due homage in such an impassioned way, then anyone trying to insist that “rock ‘n’ roll is dead” needs pointed in their direction and told “really, dude?”.

  • ‘Feral Roots’ is out now. You can get your copy HERE.

Rival Sons return to the Über Kingdom of Rock ‘n’ Roll in November, with dates as follows:

Saturday 2 – Liverpool, Mountford Hall

Sunday 3 – Brixton, Academy

Tuesday 5 – Nottingham, Rock City

Wednesday 6 – Edinburgh, Usher Hall

Thursday 7 – Bristol, Academy

  • PHOTO CREDIT: All photos © The Dark Queen/Über Rock. You can view our full gallery of photographs HERE.
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