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Rival Sons rock hard in Holmfirth

Californian rock'n'rollers hit Yorkshire, with Old No.7

In the latest of Jack Daniels’ ‘Jack Rocks Your Town’ series, Rival Sons were whisked to the idyllic Yorkshire town of Holmfirth. Following arrival at the local cricket club, they set off for countryside strolling, meet-and-greeting and tearoom-sampling. All leading up to a blinder of a gig at the Picturedrome. Curiouser and curiouser – quite baddass, in a very unique sort of way…

A helicopter makes for a ‘rawk’ entrance anywhere.

The sight of Rival Sons arriving in the home of Last Of The Summer Wine, via a Jack Daniels chopper, is both very weird and brilliant. As steady rain gives way to a sunny spell (to the incredulous relief of PR peeps onsite), the Long Beach gents step onto the cricket green in a cloud of leathers, shades and hair dos. A few louche strides away from their vessel, and they’re mobbed by grey-haired locals in sensible outdoorsy jumpers. Well, we say ‘mobbed’, they’re very polite and seem genuinely excited to meet today’s rockstars (a JD rep whispers ‘they’re just doing their lipstick!’, as two pink-lipped ladies come fluttering out onto the grass).

Beyond the chopper the band are greeted with scones, sandwiches and a large dog. In all honesty we’re not totally sure what the significance of the dog is, but people seem keen for it to meet the band. ‘Shelby’ (its red bib reads) drools profusely, and Jay Buchanan chatters cheerfully with a group of old boys. “I dig the elderly,” he grins later, “coz they don’t have anything to prove, but the ones that still have something to prove are the most fun.”

Rock’n’roll isn’t just for big cities.

Objectively, of course, we already knew this was true. But still, in the venue-heavy bubble of London and other urban hubs, it’s easy to forget that rock gigs can thrive elsewhere. Which is certainly the case at tonight’s jam-packed setting; it’s as if the whole town has come out to watch. The place is filled with local music lovers of all ages and JD competition winners from surrounding towns and cities. It’s no wonder the Holmfirth Picturedrome is appearing on more and more tour date lists. A gorgeous old cinema, it makes an attractive, vintagey setting for tonight’s heroes of contemporary classic rock.

Electric Man was made to open gigs.

Not just the album it’s taken from (Great Western Valkyrie). And track no. two from the same record, Good Luck, was meant to be a killer second live number. In fact, that opening wodge of GWV seems to have been written with the notion of becoming a fantastic setlist. Secret reaps sensational mad man shrieks from Jay – by now minus his shoes. The song finishes. Jay puts a towel over his head and blearily cries ‘what the hell’s going on out there?’, before changing the tone with Manifest Destiny Part 1. It’s atmospheric, it’s spacey, it’s slightly Floydian, then…oh hell yes, it’s Torture! This ferocious yet seductively pretty piece of rock’n’roll (circa 2010) generates an extra surge of energy, with a beaming Mike Miley stylishly beating the crap out of his drum kit.

Sparing doses of instrumental showing-off are an excellent thing.

In all his moustachioed glory, Scott Holiday might look like Poirot crossed with Grease’s Danny Zuko after a trip through India, but watching him tear up that guitar tonight is nothing short of joyous. And it’s all the more gratifying because his blasts of all-out ‘noodling’ are select affairs – rather than relentless showboating. Similarly David Beste’s almost rhythm guitar-like basslines feature just the right level of fiddly panache. And the whole band exchange grins that quietly show they know they’ve got it right.

Rival Sons now have multiple quality setlists in them.

While tonight’s material goes down a treat, there are plenty of numbers they could’ve happily swapped in. For example, where Head Down-era favourites like Until The Sun Comes or Jordan may have appeared, we’re instead offered a spine-tingling Belle Starr – the first ever live rendition of that particular track. “Thank you Holmfirth!” Jay declares happily, arms aloft in Jesus/Jim Morrison style, following a superb encore trio of Open My Eyes, Pressure And Time and Keep On Swinging. “What a pleasure, what an honour.” And with that they set off into the night, down the hillside in a bathtub on wheels…OK, not actually in a bathtub on wheels, but wouldn’t that have been lovely?

What a night. Easily one of the best times we’ve seen them.

How to really make an entrance: Rival Sons arrive via Jack Daniels helicopter at the Holmfirth Cricket Club

Polly is Features Editor at Classic Rock magazine, where she commissions regular pieces and longer reads (including new band coverage) and writes a few things. She also writes for Louder, Prog and Metal Hammer, and talks about songs on the 20 Minute Club podcast. In her spare time she writes fiction and cooks.