Review & Photography by Manny Manson for MPM
At last ‘Onzlo’ and myself get a gig close by. Rock City, Nottingham, one of my favourite venues, is only 30 minutes up the road in the heart of Robin Hood country, ok it’s a good heft of a rock away from Nottingham Castle itself but within walking distance.
Brother Waldorf is still sitting this one out, tonight is his dad’s birthday so yet again he has another valid excuse, Happy Birthday Mr Finn. Meanwhile, ‘Onzlo’ (the gig car) and I have become better acquainted, the arm rest cubby is full of midget gems.
Rock city has been about for ever and as such has seen just about anybody who went on to become somebody, tread its boards over the years. Gillan, Gary Moore, Motorhead, Guns n Roses and Def Leppard to name but a few. It has become the must do venue on most bands tour schedule due to its great ‘vibe’ and history.
Tonight, we have an all ‘Merican double header, starting with L.A’s own Dirty Honey. The band have been touring quite extensively this summer, having taken in a few festivals around Europe, including ‘Hellfest’, ‘Graspop’’, and the mighty Sweden Rocks’ earlier in June.Feedback has it that they have gone down a storm on every night of their campaign so far.
Formed in L.A. in 2017, the band were reputedly called the ‘Shags’ before changing their name to ‘Dirty Honey’ apparently, after hearing Robert Plant mention his band ’the Honeydipper’s on the Howerd Stern show, thinking it sounded like a ‘Dirty ‘rock and Roll name the new band identity was born.
The band are: Marc LaBelle on Vocals, John Notto on Guitar, Justin Smolian on Bass and Corey Coverstone on drums. They have previously opened for Slash, The Who, Myles Kennedy, Alterbridge, KISS and this tour adds The Rival Sons to that impressive list.
Their take on 70’s sleazy melodic rock has garnished them a growing following of fans, their much-awaited debut album, released in may 2022, has been a solid performer.
They will continue across America on ‘the California Dreamin’ tour 2022, well into the back end of the year, but tonight they are here in Rock City. As the intro music plays out, AC/DC’s ‘Rock n Roll Damnation, the band race on stage and are straight on it, heavy snare flams ringing out as the band get down to business with ‘Gypsy’.
Singer, LaBelle, prowls the stage wearing shades and a cowboy hat, a firm grip on the mic stand as his gritty vocal’s smashes front and centre as he asks for hands in the air. The crunching guitar of Notto and the thundering bassline of a young Glenn Hughes look alike, Smolian wake the dead in the next county.
A stunning opener as they quickly go into ‘Break You’ this sleazy laid-back vocal shows a slightly different edge to LaBelle’s voice. Bouncing around him Notto and Smolian pose to the crowd as they smash out the solos. Rock City are loving this as they clap along. There is an early ‘Black Crowes’ type edge to the playing, another band they’ve toured with.
‘Heartbreaker’ is up next from the 2019 EP. This gets the sing along going from the crowd as the band dig in and riff out, Corey Coverstone on drums is having a great show, smiling as he beats the hell out of his kit, Notto, Les Paul vertical in his crotch smokes the solo as LaBelle gets the singing going again.
Telling us that they’re from LA they blast off into ‘The Wire’ and again we’re onboard a dirty rock and roll train that’s careering down a track full of filthy and tasty licks. Notto and LaBelle stand centre stage, their voice and guitar lick copying each other, as Notto gives his fret board a good fingering before riffing out the end of the song with Smolian.
More filthy licks are ground out as Smolian leads the clapping into ‘Tied Up’. LaBelle has his arm around Smolian as he delivers the laid-back vocal to this, another off the 2022 album. Notto’s phased dirty distortion gives this one the filth it deserves, as Labelle closes out this one with a stunning gritty warble.
‘California Dreamin’ brings it all down with its steady melodic beat, plenty of ride ‘bell’, which always cuts through and Notto throwing in some tasty licks, this single from the new album is a tasty addition to the set, and again goes down well with the masses in tonight.
‘Another Last Time’ dripping with soul, starts off with Notto on a guitar full of Hendrix’s bluesy vibes , think ‘Castles Made of Sand’. The fat distorted sound carries on as Labelle gets to grips with the vocals, delivering a smooth gritty lyric as he throws the mic stand out of the way, he’s up on the bouncer step of the barrier, his perfect teeth lullabying the crowd in front of him, the girls especially, are loving him this close and personal and as the song finishes he climbs back on stage.
Smolian is now showing us what he can do on a bass full of distorted filthy dirt! He goes into a run of Van Halen style hammer on’s before thumping the hell out of the poor thing, this leads into Coverstone’s rattle around his simple kit of one up one down. With such little kit Corey holds the crowd’s attention until Notto jumps back in. Riffs and licks fly everywhere as Notto cuts loose, stopping to get the applause from the crowd, he’s quickly off again, his Les Paul crying out in submission.
Delicate riffs lead into a round of “hey’s” as he runs from side to side, before hitting a blistering lick that finishes with the compulsory wah-wah run during which, the band rock into the opening riff to the penultimate song on the way too short a set, ‘When I’m Gone’.
This 2019 thunderous rock n roll number from the Dirty Honey EP, reached No1 on the US Mainstream Rock chart in Billboard magazine, and rightly so it’s a cracking tune just listen to the crowd as they sing along. The heavily distorted guitars of both Smolian and Notto are up front and personal as the song screams to a supersonic ending.
Amidst plenty of cheering, the last song of the set rips out. Notto’s double stops are full of filth as the band gets introduced to even louder cheers from the crowd. This tune has an almost classic Aerosmith bouncing vibe to it, probably driven by the chime of the ride bell being smashed by Coverstone, as it rings out from the heavily back lit stage.
The guitars finish this one on the barrier, as the lights pulse on stage, Notto and Smolian are back lit as the grind out this filthy tune inches from the noses of the fans, and the fans love it! The dirty voice of LaBelle brings the song down to a thundering finish with an astonishing vocal. Outstanding! What an opening set. For a band that’s on the ‘undercard’ that was a headline worthy performance. In the words of Jim Carey’s, mask character, “that was Shamokin”
The Rival Sons have now got to follow that, of course, they can and will, I’ve seen them a couple of times previously and they’ve never failed to rise to the challenge.
Rival Sons have toured the UK frequently since they formed back in 2009. Hailing from Long Beach, California their upbeat ‘sunny’ groove has proved popular with Fans. They have an impressive back catalogue of six albums to date, a seventh, we hear, is in the pipeline. Being hailed as a ‘Rock and Roll’ band to watch, they went on to support AC/DC, Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath, they also performed at the world-famous Indianapolis 500, a notable accomplishment up there with the half time act at the Superbowl.
Their sophomore album, called ‘Pressure & Time’ was released in June 2011.
The album artwork was done by the great Storm Thorgerson who created the work voluntarily for the band. In 2012 the band were voted ‘Best New Band’ by Planet Rock and ‘Breakthrough Artist of the year’ by Classic Rock Magazine. A string of sold out European shows followed their debut appearance at the Camden Barfly in July 2011.
Tonight, sees the 10th Anniversary, give or take a year, of this stunning Albums release, and the first half of their set is dedicated to it being played in its entirety.
Hitting the stage hard you already know things have been turned up to a ‘Spinal Tap 11’, as Rival Sons are on the money and straight into ‘All Over the Road’. As the drums slam out loud, heralding the intro to this, the opening track of their sophomore album ‘Pressure and Time’. The tour has been dedicated to its 10th birthday, Well, it was released in June 2011 but the pandemic put paid to any tour plans in 2021.
The Band, bathed in spotlights, fly through this opener that has a nod towards the great Jimmy Hendrix mashed up in the mix. The crowd are clapping and cheering as ‘Young Love’ scorches from the hands of Holiday, Beste, and Miley, as Todd Ögren, the touring keyboard maestro, is rocking along on a tambourine. Jay Buchanan’s voice is sparkling in its delivery as he croons to all the ladies, dressed in a sharp three piece, in the audience. Scott Holidays disgustingly filthy sounding guitars rips you open as the band give it the beanz, a round of “Yeahs” follows.
They’re quickly into the title track ‘Pressure & Time’ a tune full of grit which showcases Buchanan’s amazing vocal range. From out the back we get some Cowbell, Yay, Cowbell and Ride bell, it doesn’t get any better as the band, again, go into overdrive.
The sonic distortion coming from Holidays guitar is face ripping nasty. The whole band drop down and are on hand shakers as Michael Miley provides the solid beat to which the crowd clap along too. Buchanan picks the vocal back up before the band joins back in and with tasty riffs flying, they wrap the song up with a crescendo of beats from the drums and claps from the crowd.
Jumping to a snare fill, the slower ‘Only One’ now follows. The band are bathed in blue light, matching the mood of this one perfectly. Holiday strokes his firebird as Beste releases a steady rumble on his red fender bass. Buchanan, looking like ‘Thor’ swaggers across the stage as he delivers this classic, Ögren punches the keys on his Hammond, as he looks on from behind a pair of dark aviators, as he and Holiday provide the melody to this laid-back number.
A quick change in tempo see’s Holiday rasping out the dirty intro to ‘Get Mine’ as both he and Beste provide backing vocals to Buchanan’s perfect delivery of this mid album romp. It goes without saying that the guitar is suitably evil, as the crowd clap along to the ascending riff that leads into a joyous gospel sound that is ‘Save Me’. Buchanan plays to the audience as he delivers a sermon, that a pay to view preacher would be proud of.
The bouncing bassline ties in with Holidays fuzz laden licks as the crowd, several already with their hands in the air start clapping along to the meaty riff from Beste’s bass, as Holidays guitar, full of dirt, fills the venue with the start to ‘Burn Down Los Angeles’, a tune full of meaty riff filled delights. There is no time for a breather as each tune follows straight on from the previous one, as we slide into the bluesy ‘Gypsey Heart’, full of swampy blues distortion.
The breakdown pulls the skin off your face as Holidays sonic bombardment fry your senses as he gets his guitar to scream, before rocking into the main riff, accompanied by a good pummelling from Miley on the kit. Buchanan, looking into Holidays eyes, brings the song down to a close, as he does so Miley starts a gentle run on his simple kit and the crowd clap along almost embarrassingly.
The church organ of Ögren swirls in the background mixing it with Holidays fat distorted, echoing sonic phrases, a simple stick count by Miley has the band fuzz off into ‘White Noise’ with its almost aboriginal, Jews harp soundscape rasping along.
Buchanan knocks this one out of the park. His vocal is full of natural vibrato and easily cuts through the smorgasbord of sound being ejected from the stage. Holidays solo is full of all kinds of riffage and aural delights as the crowd cheer this stunning tune. A slight pause and then the rim shots are heard again as Miley thuds out the intro to the last song off the album. ‘Face of Light’ which continues with the psychedelic soundscape. Miley and Holiday face each other briefly, as Buchanan picks up the tune, the cacophony of filthy sound envelopes him as yet again, he delivers another faultless vocal.
The distorted guitar slams out hard as Holiday hits natural harmonics during his crazy solo. The rest of the band weave and swoop around him as he brings Buchanan back in, who’s hanging vocal on the word “light” is show stopping good, with a round on the drums and flurry on the guitar the song is over and with it the first half of the evening.
I’d honestly forgotten what a great album Pressure & Time is as I’ve not played it in quite a while, with the show coming up I decided not to pre listen to it preferring to hearing it played live. The band leave the stage momentarily as the second half is one filled with aural delights from the other albums and promises to be just as outstanding.
The third album ‘Head Down’ was released in September of 2013, at the same time, Robin Everhart quits the band citing personal reasons and Dave Beste joins them just as they head out on a US tour supporting the legendary Sammy Hagar. ‘Great Western Valkyrie’ follows in 2014 and another extensive tour schedule follows. Classic Rock Magazine garner this album with a nomination for ‘Album of the Year’. In 2016 their 5th studio album ‘ Hollow Bones’ is released. This is followed by a tour with Deep Purple on their 2016 European tour and the Infamous Black Sabbath, ‘The End Tour’ throughout 2016 and into 2017.
Their latest album ‘Feral Roots’ was released in January 2019 and received great critical acclaim. It was nominated for ‘Best Rock Album’ and ‘Best Rock Performance’ for ‘Too Bad’ in the 2020 Grammy awards. This album marked a noticeable shift in their song writing as it was a process done over eight months rather than the 6 weeks or less of the previous offerings. A new album, the 7th, is all but ready for release, as yet a name hasn’t been dropped but no doubt it’ll be a head turning master piece.
As the clapping increases, we have a pulsing blue light which drives the clap in to one of more uniformity, there is a rhythmic sound emanating from the stage which slows down and a steady drum beat kicks in followed by Holidays fuzz laden guitar.
The lights come back on and we see Miley on the kit, all Animal muppet like as his animated arms fly around the cymbals and toms. We are now into ‘Too Bad’ from the latest offering ‘Feral Roots’. This slow delivery opens up with swaggering solo from dapper, Holiday, who is back lit as the smoke swirls around him looking like he’s on fire, the crowd applaud the delicacy of his touch throughout the remainder of this song.
The drums continue, with the kick, thudding away in a steady walking beat pattern, one that has several heads nodding in the crowd around me. Holidays guitar is, yet again, in overtime as it grinds out its dirty story, ‘Open My Eyes’ from 2014’s Great Western Valkyrie’. This was their 4th studio album and, again, another ripper of a long player.
The crowd have been swotting up as they continue to sing along, up until we get another of Holidays scorching solos, this is finished with a stunning scream from Buchanan. The crowd’s hands are overhead, as this one gets a great reception, the crowd carry on clapping, as Holiday solo’s the outro, irrespective of the crowd, he is finishing off the song.
A quick guitar swap and the dirty organ sounding riff that is the intro to fan favourite ‘Electric Man’ has Buchanan almost yodelling the vocal. Miley cracks the ‘bell’ of the ride repeatedly as the band and crowd sing “I’m Electric, I guess I am” as one voice.
The red and orange lights swirl and dance across the stage as this tune slams you in the chest with its frenzied delivery. Holiday is swooping across the stage as he delivers a guitar sound more akin to the White Stripes or the Cold Stares, its buzz saw delivery is devastatingly brutal. A brief keyboard break and then is full on dirt for the finish and the crowd rapturous applause.
Buchanan bathes briefly in the adulation as the band sort their kit out. Ögren is smiling from behind his glasses and hippy beard, looking like an extra from a Sky Amish documentary. Buchanan introduces the next song from the third album ’Head Down’ the song is the lovely ‘Jordan’. This joyous song about watching somebody dying had the crowd respectfully quiet as Buchanan’s voice treated it delicately.
The playing starts of less rowdy for this one, the subtle slide guitar slotted in perfectly, and just when you thought it was about to cut lose it did the exact opposite, a great tune, tight and on the money, Buchanan’s voice is so full of control a real show case for his stunning talent.
The ending of “Oh Oh Oos” he encourages the crowd to sing as he freestyles powerfully over the top, before lowering the crowd’s volume to almost nothing he gives it a “yeah” and walks to the drum kit as the song finishes and the crowd once again cheer the band.
Taking up an acoustic, it can only be one song, with a poignant mention of the state of the world he dedicates this one to the fight for survival happening in the Ukraine. Buchanan is now centre stage as he sings “my love is stronger than yours”. The opening lyric to ‘Shooting Stars’ off Feral Roots. The “Woah Whoas” has the crowd joining in to this simple but powerful song. Standing on stage on his own he completes this tune with only the crowd for support, his band mates have left him to it. The crowd love it and cheer and stamp in appreciation.
The last couple of songs are also from 2019’s album, Feral Roots, the title track has the band back on stage, Buchanan still has the acoustic. As he sings. Holiday is sporting a neat twin neck, the 12string section has an almost mandolin sound to it.
The band lock in as the song ramps up a gear. Miley smiles as he strikes both crash cymbals, rising from his seat momentarily as he does so. Holidays strangled solo has the crowd clapping along as he joins Buchanan stage centre as they bring the song down, once again he has the crowd sing the dying moments of the song, accompanied by Holidays tone bending, flashy outro and bearded Buchanan’s vocal acrobatics.
Thanks, are now free flowing, to both Dirty Honey and to the crowd who’ve ventured out on a Tuesday night to see them.
Holiday plays a nasty little riff as the crowd clap, he then drops into a game, as he smilingly builds the intro until the band crash in for this rocking tune ‘Do Your Worst’. Dirty tones flood from the stage as a quick Queen-esque drum riff spills over the top which helps the crowd go nutz. The stage is bathed in red light as Holiday winds up his industrial chainsaw of a guitar complete with BBC sound effects department sonics thrown in for good measure.
The last song of the night is given to a new one. The seventh album is in the pipeline so to speak, so with a couple of snare flams, a quick count in on the sticks and Holiday with his flying V and Miley crack out the opening to ‘Nobody Wants to Die’. This is a rockier tune and shows that the band have, yet again, tweaked their style to give the fans something different.
Buchanan’s vocal is fast paced and on point as this hard-hitting number races along much to the delight of the fans, myself included. It’s always good to hear new music. The solo has the trade mark filthy distortion that the fans love. The crowd clap along as the number builds, full of distortion and snare fills. With a final crash it’s all done with. The night is over. It’s been a stunning 90+minute set with a little bit of everything thrown in for the fans, unless your favourite tune happens to be on the first album, ‘Before the Fire’ or the fifth one ‘Hollow Bones’ these two, somehow, never made the cut this time around, maybe next time.
Rival Sons are: Jay Buchanan – Vocals/ Acoustic guitar, Michael Miley – Drums, Dave Beste – Bass Guitar, Scott Holiday – Guitar and Todd Ögren – Keyboards
Set List ‘Pressure & Time’: 1. All Over the Road, 2. Young Love, 3. Pressure & Time, 4. Only One, 5. Get Mine, 6. Save Me, 7. Burn Down Los Angeles, 8. Gypsey Heart, 9. White Noise, 10. Face of Light
Set 2: 11. Too Bad, 12. Open My Eyes, 13. Electric Man, 14. Jordan, 15. Shooting Stars (acoustic), 16. Feral Roots, 17. Do Your Worst, 18. Nobody Wants to Die (new song)
It was the penultimate night of the UK tour and definitely worth the wait. Both bands totally destroyed Rock City and treated the fans to a great night of American Rock n Roll.
If you get the chance to see either band then take it, you won’t be disappointed.
The last night is this Wednesday, July 6th at, the London O2 Forum, a great way to spend ‘hump-day’