Rival Sons at the Scala, by Pat Cash

Guitar-lovers gathered in London last night to watch Rival Sons launch their new album. Amongst their number was 1987 Wimbledon Champion Pat Cash, who provides this report.

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It’s hard to put your finger on exactly what makes Rival Sons such a good band. There’s something familiar yet challenging about them. Is it their eclectic songs? After all, they feature elements of blues, rock, 60s pop and even psychedelia.

Tonight is a showcase for their new album Great Western Valkyrie (released that very day) and the first five songs are the first five from the release. It seems the sold-out crowd had, like me, been playing the album all day. New song after new song is welcomed with rapturous response, as Electric Man and Good Luck get things rocking quickly. It’s hard to think of too many bands these days that could come up with such simple Led Zep-style intro riffs and turn them into foot-stompin’, head-shakin’, barnstormin’ songs like Secret or Play The Fool. Maybe this is helped by the fact that Scott Holiday plays loose, fuzz-distorted guitar that’s eerily reminiscent of Jimmy Page – but thankfully he’s no mere copy cat. There’s Doors-style keyboards from Todd Ögren-Brooks, drummer Michael Miley is a powerhouse of energy — you can see he was build for live performance — and Dave Beste calmly keeps the groove going on bass.

Now I’m starting to see what all the hype is about, as they break into a couple more familiar songs. The storming Torture and Gypsy have the place bouncing, before singer Buchannan wrenches at our heart-strings with the beautiful slow blues of Jordan.

Back to the new album: Rich And Poor and Open My Eyes, before classics Pressure And Time and Keep On Swingin start to close out the night and have everyone singing along.

(Photo: Laura Richardson)

As eclectic as the music is, so is the audience. Tonight fans range from balding 60-plus men to 19-year-olds realising they’ve discovered the hottest new band, to the splattering of women swooning over singer Buchanan as he shuffles and sways his way across the stage. Whether he likes it or not, it’s hard not to think of Jim Morrison and other charismatic performers — it’s hard to take your eyes off him. That is, until Holiday slips the slide on his finger and — almost chameleon-like — starts to channel the likes Johnny Winter or Alvin Lee tearing up blues licks. I’ve been all over the world watching gigs, and I know Londoners are about the most intelligent, spoilt-for-choice critics there are, but tonight’s response suggests the band have won them over.

I can’t help but think Rival Sons would be out-and-out megastars if they were playing in the late 60s or 70s. Their experimental music is a breath of fresh air in a world of join-up-the-dots rock, and I only hope the fact that they’re so hard to pigeonhole doesn’t prevent them from becoming the stars they deserve.