Autumn is always a busy time of the year for music fans. So much so that this month has traditionally and affectionally been named Rocktober by many.

And with gig season in full swing, Californian rockers Rival Sons descended upon Newcastle on Saturday. The band arrived in the North East following a sold-out show at the Roundhouse in London on Friday night.

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The two-time Grammy-nominated outfit are in an incredibly creative place right now. Rival Sons released their album Darkfighter in June to critical acclaim. The band will follow up with their new companion album Lightbringer, on the 20th of October.

Ahead of the album’s release, the quartet arrived at HMV Newcastle on Saturday afternoon, where fans of the group got the opportunity to meet their heroes in person.

The band caused quite a stir by wandering into the store through Eldon Square rather than through the rear entrance of the shop. Countless fans travelled far and wide to meet the band; some had even made the journey from Ireland to be there. Each patron brought with them memorabilia and albums for the group to sign. One fan even brought his prized Fender Stratocaster.

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But once the dust had settled from the signing, it was time for the band to hot-foot it to NX in Newcastle, where they were performing on Saturday evening. A sold-out crowd was present to witness the Sons’ first show in the region since 2019.

Time off the road due to the pandemic allowed Rival Sons to get to work on their astounding pair of 2023 releases. And with their new albums in the bag, Saturday’s concert featured eight songs from their latest output. Opening the show with Mirrors from June’s Darkfighter release.

Frontman Jay Buchanan is a one-of-a-kind. He has the qualities and hallmarks of lead singers of yore; his voice transports the listener to a different time and place. Like an old soul with a young heart. Jay’s voice could melt butter, and he left everything out of the stage. Buchanan didn’t hold back for a second.

For over two hours the frontman sank his heart and soul into his performance. And in the latter stages of the set, he asked the audience to help out. Declaring that he wasn’t sure if he had enough gas to get home. And who could blame him after two hours of vocal acrobatics? Despite that passing comment, Jay went on to deliver one of the most pitch-perfect opening lines to a song you’ve ever heard. The singer is in a different class.

Similarly, guitarist Scott Holiday’s fuzz-fuelled riffs and incredible guitar tone created a sonic tapestry which cast a spell over the Tyneside audience. The axe man even grappled with double-necked guitars on a couple of occasions, as well as delivering a feverish guitar solo during Face of Light that left the Newcastle fans shellshocked.

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At the back of the stage, powerhouse drummer Mike Miley’s hard-hitting groove, is the heartbeat of Rival Sons. The smiling, talismanic figure sat on his drum riser as he dished out a back-to-back arsenal of earth-shattering beats. Bass player Dave Beste is the perfect foil to Miley in the band’s incomparable rhythm section.

But what of the setlist? With four years since the band’s last appearance on Tyneside, the US-based outfit had a lot of ground to cover. Fan favourites such as Electric Man, Open My Eyes, and a breathtaking rendition of Jordan sat seamlessly alongside tracks from the band’s two new albums. The inclusion of Torture mid-set took the audience back to the early days of the group.

A ferocious airing of Nobody Wants to Die illustrated the calibre of the output of the band’s recent material. Whilst Buchanan discussed how the song Mosaic from their upcoming Lightbringer album was the song which broke the fever, he knew at that point that the writing for the album project was complete. The live performance of the song was simply transcendent.

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A beautiful stripped-back airing of Shooting Stars led by Buchanan on an acoustic guitar ushered the group towards the final stages of their two-hour set. And with no heirs and graces, or false walk-offs, Rival Sons played straight through before closing their set in the humblest of ways with Secret.

On Saturday evening, the Californian Sons shone in Newcastle. Perhaps the gig of the year on Tyneside? With only ten weeks left of 2023, only time will tell. But one thing is for sure - Rival Sons have raised the bar very high for those to follow. Just like the title of one of the songs on Saturday's setlist - if you missed out on this show, then that’s Too Bad.