Rival Sons Take No Prisoners In Mansfield, MA (SHOW REVIEW/PHOTOS)

It’s not every day that metal’s Prince of Darkness can be quoted as saying, “Fucking awesome! Best band I’ve seen in a long time. That’s the truth.” just after briefly discussing the possibility of having Rival Sons tour with the fathers of heavy metal, Black Sabbath. But, that’s exactly what happened when Sharon spotted the Sons’ keyboardist Todd Ögren Brooks, after an award show that the band had just performed at back in November of 2014. It was very clear that both Sharon and Ozzy were floored by the rock and roll band from Long Beach, California. And, lo’ and behold, it didn’t take long for Sabbath to announce their farewell, world tour with special guests, the Rival Sons – giving them an amazing opportunity to promote their magnificent new album, Hollow Bones, around the world.

Now, fast forward to late August in Massachusetts, where the nights are growing longer during the most beautiful days of summer. The night was perfect, with clear skies and temperatures hovering around seventy degrees at Mansfield’s Xfinity Center. The music fans rolled into the parking lot and promptly proceeded to tailgate with lawn chairs, coolers and barbecues. Judging by the vast number of Sabbath and Ozzy T-shirts, it would have to be assumed that most who were setting up shop, were not planning on venturing in to catch the opening act and rather opt to loosen up until it was time for Ozzy and company to take the stage. However, those who chose to find their seats before the Rival Son’s 7:40 time slot, were pleasantly treated to a tight and crushing eight-song set.

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Customary to all Rival Sons performances, the theme song to the movie, The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, slithered out of the columns of speakers that descended from the top of the stage scaffolding. A large banner, with the band’s name, was draped behind the drum kit with their logo, glowing a hot, ruby-red. Keyboardist, Todd Ögren Brooks and his trademark beard, spryly crossed the stage to his seat behind his red keyboard. He was followed by, the ever-reserved bass guitarist, Dave Beste and the enigmatic, inked-up drummer, Michael Miley. Miley gave a big smile and a wave before settling in behind his no-frills Gretsch kit. Scott Holiday, the dapper lead guitarist took his mark, smiling behind his sunglasses, custom guitar and well-groomed moustache. The barefooted-lead vocalist, Jay Buchanan, shadowed Holiday en route to the middle of the stage. Buchanan, dressed in all black, with his hair pulled back, began centering and mentally aligning himself within his surroundings.

The soundtrack wrapped up and with just a couple of seconds of silence, guitarist Scott Holiday surveyed his NASA-worthy pedalboard one last time before getting the show started with the distorted cacophony of “Electric Man”, just one of the many explosive riffs that earned him the nick name of Fuzz Lord by his fans. The bludgeoning, bluesy, bass-driven “Secret” followed, priming the audience with what was to come. And, almost certainly, the hook-filled “Pressure And Time” made all of those in attendance take notice. With the catchy, interactive chorus, “Can we build it up?/I know that we can/Can we build it up?/Let’s get to work every woman and man/Can we build it up?/With pressure and time/Can we build it up?/I said I’m gonna get mine.”, the Sons continued to fuel the fire.

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Buchanan greeted and spoke to the audience for a minute or two before announcing the next song, “Tied Up”, from 2016’s Hollow Bones. Buchanan seduced the audience with the hip-shakin’ song’s first verse, “Go to the dark side full moon/You shoot the apple off of my head/Cause your love, sweet love, is all that you put me through/And honey without it you know I’d rather be dead”, before the rest of the band punched in for the chorus and subsequent blistering solo from Holiday. “Torture”, a staple of the band’s headlining gigs, followed. The band brilliantly teased the audience with an ebb and flow of changes with seemingly improvised moody bridges, only to ignite its furious climax.

Buchanan briefly spoke to pay his respects and to mention, “This song is from our record that came out in June. It’s dedicated to a friend back home.” The band proceeded with the  epic “Fade Out”. Buchanan displayed, not only the impressive range of his voice, but his ability to sing with a whisper as well as releasing an overwhelming flurry of controlled wails that could make the earth move. Holiday’s slick, slide-guitar solo added to the gravity of the song while Buchanan clearly immersed himself in the moment. He appeared to be shifting between our world and one known only to his own self. The song came to a close and Buchanan graciously added, “Thank you.”

Allowing Buchanan a moment to catch his breath, Miley helped shift gears by initiating the trippy, phased-out backbeat of “Open My Eyes”, which echoed with a ghostly nod to John Bonham and Zeppelin’s “When The Levee Breaks”. But the similarity stopped there. Buchanan took the reigns with vicious attack, sneering, “Too many people/Coming out of doors/In and out of my life/In the night, in the day/I’ve got to make it on my own”. Miley and Beste kept this solid rocker moving while Holiday waited patiently to slay the crowd with another frantic, effects-laden solo. Later in the song, Ögren Brooks could be seen savagely attacking his keyboard from behind his ZZ Top-worthy beard before Buchanan released one last banshee roar. Buchanan then addressed the audience one last time with, “Thank you for being so good to us. We are the Rival Sons and we play rock and roll music. Thank you.”

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And if “Open My Eyes” wasn’t heavy enough, the Sons continued to throw one last hay maker with the insatiable bluesy-barn burner “Keep On Swinging”. Holiday led the match with more uber-distorted, feed back-fueled, and octavised riffage before pulling the choke to kick start the no-holds barred rocker. “Swinging” forced those who were still sitting to get their asses out of their seats to groove and sing along with the whole band during the chorus of, “Hey, I keep my head down/But I keep on swingin’.”

One has to assume that the audience, who most likely were there to see Sabbath one last time, were whiplashed into wondering what they had just witnessed. The Sons had their set down tight and they clearly were dead set on letting the music do the talking. Playing cherry-picked, massive songs, they took no prisoners.

It’s rare to be moved by a warm up act, but in this case – most were. The scuttle-but on the way to the concessions was that the band was indeed quite impressive. “Amazing!”, “Blown away.” and “Incredible!”, along with other similar superlatives were heard during the intermission. It was clear after the Sons’ set, that one would be hard-pressed to find another vocalist as genuine, generous and gifted as Buchanan. It would also be next to impossible to find the likes of Buchanan, bound together with such an amazing band of mates, playing rock and roll together on the same stage. The only downside to the night, was that the Rival Sons couldn’t play longer.


Rival Sons Setlist Xfinity Center, Mansfield, MA, USA 2016, The End


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2 Responses

  1. Great review of the Rival Sons. … one of the best! !!!
    Thank you! And it’s all true, they are the real Rock
    and Soul band today.

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