Rival Sons + The Sheepdogs @ The Barrowlands, Glasgow

Date: Friday, 1st February 2019
Review By: Pete Mutant
Photography By: Gavin Lowrey

Another Rival Sons appearance in Glasgow and another sell out show. It has been just over two years since they last graced this city in support of Black Sabbath at the Hydro, and the hard hitting yet soulful band were back with another headlining slot on the billing.

It had been years since I last saw them live, over six years in fact, right before the original lineup broke off somewhat. This was a year after a friend and I bumped into them by coincidence trying to escape Weezer at Sonisphere the year before. Rival Sons were on the Jaegermeister stage then and now they are selling out a 1500 capacity venue and could have sold out an even larger venue without much issue. Giant strides.

I sort of lost touch with the band but still had their self-titled EP on my phone wherever I went, so they aren’t a band that I had forgotten about. They have been nothing but productive and had recently brought out their sixth album in ‘Feral Roots’, which we were going to get a first glimpse of live.

The Sheepdogs – Ewan Currie, Ryan Gullen
Sam Corbett, Jimmy Bowskill, Shamus Currie

They brought with them Canadian rock outfit The Sheepdogs [4.0/5], whom I’d never heard of before this gig was announced but I was really loving some of their discography, especially ‘Learn & Burn’. I caught them a couple of songs in but right in time for ‘Who?’, which was at a perfect time for me. The audience was packed from front to back as the band played away. There wasn’t too much movement going on but the sound was incredible. The dual black Les Pauls combined beautifully with near perfect tone, and the band’s tightness and exchanges were so fluid.

The Sheepdogs – Ewan Currie, Ryan Gullen
Sam Corbett, Jimmy Bowskill, Shamus Currie

They bring a good mix of classic rock, blues and some quite jovial sounding influences in their music. The harmonising guitars through ‘Southern Dreaming’ reminded me of Super Mario for whatever reason and I was getting more and more drawn in. Some of the crowd were as well and there were bodies swaying and some heads slightly bobbing throughout the venue.

The Sheepdogs really looked the part: with their bright logo prop flickering on and off you could see the whimsical outfits that vocalist/Guitarist Ewan Currie was kitted out in; likewise with fellow Guitarist Jimmy Bowskill and bassist Ryan Gullen. It all completed a look and sound that was not really of this world but one of the not too distant past. Ewan Currie would ask how we were getting on and say a few words, but they mainly stuck to the music and with songs like ‘Feeling Good’ and ‘I Don’t Know’, the crowd getting more involved as one patron decided to climb on her partner’s shoulders to stand out from the crowd a fair bit.

The set was closed with ‘Nobody’, which I thought of at the time as not really being a good choice to close their set, but I doubt anyone truly minded as the main event was just around the corner and the Rival Sons were nearing their triumphant return. I really liked The Sheepdogs and I will definitely keep a close eye on them for any return in the future as they really were a sight and sound to behold.

Setlist:

I’m Gonna Be Myself
I’ve Got A Hole Where My Heart Should Be
Who?
Ewan’s Blues
Saturday Night
Downtown
Cool Down / Brass Ring
HMS Buffalo
Feeling Good
I Don’t Know
Nobody

Rival Sons [4.0/5] however, were a different beast entirely. Jay Buchanan brings a vocal range which is damn near impossible to match and it’s fair to say that he has captured the hearts of many with his near flawless delivery over the years. Guitarist Scott Holiday was also going to be there; the mad force of the modern blues riffs that he is kicked us off with ‘Back In The Woods’, a new song no less.

Rival Sons – Jay Buchanan, Scott Holiday, Mike Miley, Dave Beste
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The air was electric when they came on and the first few songs really whet the appetite for more. The more familiar ‘Pressure And Time’ was our third track and the one that brought the biggest cries out from the audience during the early portion of the set. The music was perfectly executed too and, of course, Jay Buchanan’s voice was excellent.

Rival Sons – Jay Buchanan, Scott Holiday, Mike Miley, Dave Beste
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‘Pressure And Time’ went into ‘Electric Man’, which kept everyone happy, well, beyond happy as the potent rhythm seemed to be infecting all attendees in the Barras. One of the highlights for me came next in ‘Too Bad’, another new track but one with an absolutely tremendous riff, full of raw power and emotion; a reliable quality of Scott Holiday. He was also seeing it fit to change his guitar for every track and we got about 6-7 songs in until we saw a repeat. He has amassed quite the arsenal, from his trademark Firebirds to some nice double necked guitars, and he was bringing out all the stops, as were the rest of the band.

Rival Sons – Jay Buchanan, Scott Holiday, Mike Miley, Dave Beste
Absolutely no internet use without the written permission of the copyright owner

We went a fair bit back for ‘Torture’, which was obviously a crowd favourite as energy was spilling out all over the place onto the Barrowlands’ famous bouncy floor. We got the title track for the new album straight after and Jay Buchanan had his acoustic guitar out to help deliver the cleaner passages of the song. Can’t have been easy when so much concentration must go into keeping that voice so flexible. It was all very well done and the crowd couldn’t help but join in as we all joined voice to sing along well after the song stopped. Sometimes you just can’t beat a Glasgow crowd.

Rival Sons – Jay Buchanan, Scott Holiday, Mike Miley, Dave Beste
Absolutely no internet use without the written permission of the copyright owner

We got some more new tunes, with one premiering live in ‘End Of Forever’ before ‘Do Your Worst’ took us to the encore. We were 14 songs in and we had two left to go as the band walked off then back on in the act of that most deplorable of functions. Encores aren’t for me but there probably weren’t many similar complaints circling as people were happy to get more…even though they were going to get it anyways…

Rival Sons – Jay Buchanan, Scott Holiday, Mike Miley, Dave Beste
Absolutely no internet use without the written permission of the copyright owner

We got one last new track as the first part of the encore in ‘Shooting Stars’, which proved to be quite good for another sing-along as many sang with Jay: “My love is stronger than yours, stronger than yours…”, etc. It was an alright song but good for the interactive elements. To finish the set, and the night, Rival Sons came out swinging with ‘Keep On Swinging’ for one last anthemic smash for the crowd to enjoy. Huge sound with another huge riff to top off another top night in Glasgow’s most loved venue.

Rival Sons – Jay Buchanan, Scott Holiday, Mike Miley, Dave Beste
Absolutely no internet use without the written permission of the copyright owner

It had been six years too long but I am glad that it never became a seven year itch. Rival Sons scratched deep and made a deep impression that will stay with me for a fair while. Not a bad way to start the weekend and it may be hard for any band of a similar ilk to have as much impact as Rival Sons. I wonder what venue they’ll play in next time, but it won’t matter much as long as I’m there.

Setlist:
Back in the Woods
Sugar on the Bone
Pressure and Time
Electric Man
Too Bad
Look Away
Jordan
Stood By Me
Torture
Feral Roots
Imperial Joy
Open My Eyes
End Of Forever
Do Your Worst

Encore:
Shooting Stars
Keep On Swinging

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