This was gonna be a night I was really looking forward to. Three bands who should work well together at the sold out Shepherds Bush Empire venue in London. The blues based groove of The Graveltones, The blues/glam/rock&roll/classic/Indie you name it every kind of influence of Ulysses and the classic blues infused rock and roll sounds of Rival Sons.
First up, support band The Graveltones walk out onto the stage. Now this is a two piece band I have seen before, and I was very much looking forward to seeing them again tonight. Comprising of two Aussies, Mikey Sorbello on drums, and Jimmy O on guitar and vocals. Anyone there tonight who had never seen these two perform before were probably thinking what can these guys do? Not long in you do get the sense of hell yeah, these two can make an awful lot of noise! With catchy blues based riffs and the pounding from Mikey’s skins on opening song “Take It From Me”, following into “Blamin’ It On You”, again complete with great crunching riff work by Jimmy. He does have a lot of movement and uses up a lot of the open stage.
It’s during the third song “Throw It Over Me” you get a real sense of the might and power of the big guy Mikey on drums. This was thunderous. You could be forgiven for thinking that at any point those skins could break. It did remind of a heavy John Bonham style, and then some! Again with wonderful catchy riff work and wonderful vocal wails and screeches by Jimmy, the dynamic duo were beginning to get into full swing. With the venue’s numbers slowly starting to improve, “I Want Your Love” had a more classic rock feel to it, and again had great guitar work by the energetic and charismatic Jimmy. At the end of this song Jimmy highlighted the new album, which will be available in July. I will have me some of that thank you very much!
“Love No Good” sounded to me more of a harder rocking number and I was waiting for Mikey’s drums to give in at some point with the pounding they were receiving. The Graveltones end their set with “Sullen blue”. A solid blues rocker, halfway through Jimmy turns his back and quietly stands aside, lowering the tempo of his guitar to a basic repeated few notes. This allowed Mikey to take over and do some seriously skilled drumming and percussion techniques using his sticks, hands and fingers. I was also half expecting him to use his toes too! It was great to watch and the big guy again produced some quality wonderful sounds for the now half to three quarter filled venue. This ended with Jimmy joining in again, and the two of them belting out a final jamming swansong. What a great set. The crowd responded well to these two, and shame on those who decided to come in later and miss this great act. To sum up The Graveltones, think of The White Stripes, but with more raw energy and power!
Take It From Me
Blamin’ It On You
Throw It Over Me
I Want Your Love
Dying On Feet
Money No Good
Catch Me Fly
Next up were Bath based four piece band Ulysses. Again, I had seen these guys before last year supporting Rival Sons. They complimented Rival Sons well last time out, and were a quality sounding blues/glam based rock outfit. This time Ulysses had only just released their new album “Kill You Again”. I had heard this before the night begun, and it had a multitude of different styles and sounds. I was looking forward to hearing the new stuff being pulled off live.
The band in appearance, look bright, colourful, a lot of fun, there is a slight Glam look. Especially with Lead Vocalist/Guitarist Luke Smyth wearing a colourful striped top and skinny dark trousers. Bolanesque lets just say! All the band members except Luke were wearing hats of various types. The band open up with their previous album Title track “Everybody’s Strange”. This had me thinking back to the sounds of the late sixties and early seventies Glam/rock and roll. I thought it worked well, but the crowd to me seemed a bit subdued. This did make for a strange atmosphere to me. Some were still rolling into the venue to take their place for the headline act.
The band seemed to be getting into their stride by the time third song, from their new album “April Showers” begun. This sounded fresh and lively, and to me, generally a lot of fun. “Mrs Drawnel“, another new one had a kind of Beatles/Rolling Stones quality about it, and then it changes towards the middle to end section. The band do a kind of slower instrumental and towards the end drummer Shane Maxymus does show off how good a drummer he really is. In fact, I’d say all the bands on tonight’s bill had killer drummers. They all possessed similar qualities. Thunderous, tight and rhythmic drumming. Did they all share similar influences? I wonder, hmmm. New song “French/Japanese” had more of a classic blues rock sound. This is one I really liked on their album, and it sounded fantastic live in the venue. Still however it seemed a lot of the crowd were subdued. Was it because they were an opening band? Was it because the songs were new and did not quite grasp them? I don’t know. It was nothing to do with the band however. They were playing tight at this point. It felt like a strange kind of atmosphere.
More thunderous drumming from Shane during the song “Eye On You”. I was really enjoying watching this guy play, and damn he could play! Another newbie “Taxi Driver” had chunking great guitar riffs, a great rocker, and when you hear this at the start, it did remind me a lot of The Rolling Stones “Its Only Rock’N’Roll (But I Like It)”. This came complete with the catchy “Beep beep, beep beep, beep beep yeah” line at the start of the song and repeats at various points during the song. This sounded very classic and had the crowd moving more to this one. An extended instrumental was played at the end of this song. This was fantastic. The guys were tight, with a super rhythm section in Shane and bass player Julyan. The end of their set had all band members playing various percussion instruments, and at the finish they were richly given a great round of applause. Again, I did think the crowd were slow at getting into Ulysses, but had warmed up by the end.
Oranges & Mary
Eye On You
My Hands Pt2
Now the moment the anticipating crowd were waiting for at this sold out show. The sound of White Noise comes hissing through the speakers. This must have seemed like a long time to those anxiously waiting. On walks drummer Michael Miley, Bassist Robin Everhart, guitarist Scott Holiday, and last but not least Jay Buchanan walks to his starting position. They get ripped into “You Want To” which is as much of an energetic opener we could have hoped for tonight. With Jay’s soulful crooning and mesmerising vocals, the band started tight and wowed the crowd. “Get What’s Coming” quickly followed, one of my favourite older tracks. Here they extend the guitar section and this built into a slower blues groove, it worked very well tonight and I could see a lot of heads nodding, getting into this. The crowd screamed when Jay chanted during this song. “Wild Animal” seemed to have Jay’s vocal sounds being tweaked a little, with what seemed to be a kind of echoing effect. Whether it was deliberate or not, it did work at times but seemed to be too quiet during the verse, and sounded a little tinny where I was sitting in the first floor balcony. It was still great to hear this being played but that effect didn’t work for me. Again to me, the crowd did seem a bit subdued and reserved for the first few numbers. It did seem strange but by the time “Gypsy Heart” arrived, I could feel a change, and this is when Jay now completely owned the place. This was awesome and Scott Holiday, wearing a silver suit with trademark shades, played some mean guitar. Robin Everhart, in a grey and black pin striped suit, complete with flat cap and shades, grooved along nicely. Accompanying him was Mikey Miley’s tight drumming in the rhythm section. I could see Jay making lots of moves throughout tonight, covering a lot of the stage. His feet movements were slick and smooth, and it did bring a smile to my face seeing his little sideways shimmy, kind of like a sidewinder in the desert. The quality that that man delivers, not only with his soaring vocals and wide range, but Jay possesses an ambience. Huge stage presence and quirky movements that not many others can achieve. Sets Jay apart from everyone else, and I have never seen the likes of him, since Robert Plant/Jim Morrison/Chris Robinson.
Another classic song “Torture” sounded fantastic on the night. It was great to hear Robin’s funky bass groove when the song lowers. Here Jay does some more chanting, and it breaks into a beautiful long instrumental. Jay was giving the crowd some long vocal Oooohs, and it went quiet after he did this. It did seem Jay was encouraging the crowd to join in and copy what he just did, but it was a missed opportunity for a real beautiful moment with some audience participation. At the time for me it seemed a natural thing to do. You could see Jay giving it his all during “Memphis Sun”. A lot of emotion pouring out, and at one stage Jay lowers himself and the microphone to the floor, screaming into this.
The London crowd do get it right during the song “All The Way”. Some were clapping, and where the song breaks, and Jay does some Wahoos, the crowd were divided, and both those standing on the floor, and those in the balconies gave it their all separately when Jay pointed them out. Jay addresses the London audience and talks about The Shepherds Bush Empire being the best theatre venue they have played, and it meant a great deal to them, before bringing it down a little for the song, as Jay quotes “about losing someone close to you. It’s a personal song”. Then “Jordan” is played through beautifully, with a lot of emotion being felt from the stage, and within the packed venue. The most intimate moment of the night. Now the moment I and a lot of other fans were probably waiting for. “Manifest Destiny Pt.1”. This was a different beast though tonight. Not the dark, heavy, moody guitar driven song from the “Head Down” album. They did mix this up a good bit, as drummer Mikey pointed out to me earlier in the evening they would be doing. The tempo seemed to have changed, ever so slightly slower than the album version. The style changed. The long instrumental became more I suppose, blues/jazzy fused rock or something. It was hard to put a finger on it. Scott’s solo was different. He mixed and changed it up, which sounded fresh, and it was great to hear something different that you were not expecting. In fact I believe they changed and reworked a few songs tonight, some subtle and less noticeable than others.
A totally electrifying version of “Keep On Swinging” had the crowd erupting at the end. Then Jay speaks to the crowd almost in awe, recalling Rival Sons first UK gig at The Barfly two years ago. “Look at us Now”. “Pressure and Time” had Scott strutting his stuff, covering a lot of the stage, moving here and there, this also had the crowd whipped into frenzy. The band announced the song they very rarely do on tour, “Sacred Tongue” was just haunting, with Jay holding the perfect note at the end of this song, where he sings the word “again”. Just beautiful. The band end the set with “Face Of Light”which had an extended instrumental and the band brought it down a little towards the end, exploding into the finish of the song. The band then leaves the stage.
There was a short break before Mikey Miley returns on his own. Wait where’s everyone else? Hang on, Mikey is starting. I wasn’t expecting this. Mikey just goes and performs one hell of a drum solo. Very tight, very clinical and very skilful. The lighting effects from the venue worked well with this, and it brought a huge smile to my face watching Miley pound those skins like his life depended on it. The rest of the band then comes out and there’s time for one longer version of “Soul”. You could see the passion, and of course soul oozing out of the band here. Huge Instrumental and a Scott Holiday solo near the end. Jay continues to sing and uses his full vocal range during this song. From his deep hearty baritone to the higher levels it gets covered. There’s no better way Rival Sons could have ended the night, and finished with the place erupting and cheering with huge applause. Well deserved. It was another super performance from quite arguably, one of the best bands around at the moment.
The only thing I did find odd was the atmosphere within the venue at times, a bit subdued. For the main though all three bands rose to the occasion and put on one hell of a performance. If you have never seen Rival Sons live, quite simply, you are missing out on one of the biggest musical discoveries there has been for a very long time.
You Want To
Get What’s Coming
All The Way
Until The Sun Comes
Manifest Destiny Pt.1
Keep On Swinging
Pressure And Time
Face Of Light
Michael Miley Drum Solo