November 11, 2016
Billy Bob's Texas
Fort Worth, TX USA
Review by Tim Taylor
Photos by Terry Walsh
California Sons Return To Cowtown
Whether the world knows it or not, Rival Sons are currently the best rock n' roll band in existence. These road warriors from Long Beach, California have managed to release five full-length records and an EP in just seven years, and have shared the biggest stages in the world with the likes of Deep Purple, Aerosmith, Black Sabbath, and other huge names while somehow staying under the radar in the United States. Rival Sons are criminally underrated in my opinion, so it was a bit of a relief to see a legendary venue like Billy Bob's Texas take notice, and invite them to be a part of their 35th anniversary celebration. After a crushing performance on an outdoor stage at Billy Bob's a year and a half ago, this time the Sons played indoors, and blew the roof off the building.
Opening with the one-two punch of "Electric Man" and "Secret," the tone was set for a high-energy mix of songs from all of their records, including the incredible 2016 release Hollow Bones. After spending much of the year playing short sets opening for Black Sabbath, the band seemed to be feeling a sense of freedom; playing for as long as they want to a crowd that was there to hear their music for a change. As a result, they delivered extra powerful versions of old favorites like "Torture" and "Pressure and Time" and new tracks "Hollow Bones Pt. 1" and "Tied Up" that forced their fans to move and sing along.
The beauty of a Rival Sons show is that you never know what they're going to play, and they almost always give you a special performance of a rarely played song or two. The die-hards in the audience freaked out over the dark and heavy "Belle Starr," and shed tears during the bluesy, heartfelt "Soul". The raw emotion in Jay Buchanan's voice was on full display during the moving "Fade Out" and "Where I've Been," guitarist Scott Holiday and drum god Mike Miley set the room on fire with electrifying solos, Dave Beste nailed every intricate bass line, and touring keyboardist Todd Ogren Brooks (who should be a permanent member of the band) made each song complete by adding a little extra soul.
They ended the night with flawless renditions of fan favorites "Face of Light (w/ an excerpt of Sacred Tongue)," "Open My Eyes," and "Keep on Swinging" that left us all exhausted and partially deaf.
This show was rock n' roll perfection. Everyone in Billy Bob's was maxed out on adrenaline. After the show was over, many people just stood there in disbelief of what they had just witnessed. A few years from now, Rival Sons will be headlining the big venues, and those of us who were at this show will be sharing the memory with the jealous fans that didn't catch on as early as we did. When you see this band live, it just feels different. You know you've seen something special and unforgettable, and you wish you could share that feeling with the whole world.