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Rival Sons/Dirty Honey –

The Nick Rayns LCR, UEA, Norwich, Monday 27th June, 2022

There was a feeling of excited anticipation at the Norwich L.C.R. If one thing is going to get your blood pumping it’s a dirty honey!

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Dirty Honey have been getting high praise as they tour Europe on the festival circuit supporting amongst others Kiss and Guns & Roses. Such is the storm they have been kicking up their set at Download was met by more than an enthusiastic response by my three sons.

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But here at the L.C.R I am unaccompanied apart from my partner in crime, photographer Paul Hampson. Instantly Dirty Honey hit the stage they captured the attention of all in attendance. ‘Gypsy’ the opener and my introduction to their brand of rock, which sits somewhere between AC/DC and AEROSMITH. Frontman, Marc Labelle was instantly engaging as he delivered great song after great song.

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The rest of the band, Justin Smolian (Bass), Corey Coverstone (Drums) and John Notto (Guitar), made this a group of stars who all oozed charisma as they interacted with the crowd in stunning fashion. As for interaction, Justin flicked a well-aimed plectrum at me which hit me in the chest, as it fell to the floor a dozen or so excited fans threw themselves to the floor to claim the prize as it fell to my feet!

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‘Break You’ and ‘Heartbreaker’ kept the atmosphere electric as the intensity grew on the faces of those around me. Marc then said, “we normally do a cover here and you get to choose”. ‘So, do you want some Prince”? (Low key response.) “Or do you want some AC/DC”? (Wild response.) “We expected that! Dirty Honey then launched into ‘Shoot To Thrill’ which included some fine duck walking from John!

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The set continued to be a thrill a minute with their set rushing by, ending all to quickly with ‘Rolling 7 s’. They had built a brilliant rapport with all in the venue and in my humble opinion Dirty Honey could be headlining major venues very soon.

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I was very fortunate at the end to have a brief chat with Marc, you are going to be massive I told him, mark my words. They have attitude and swagger in bucketloads, do yourselves a favour and buy the debut album. They really are a real dirty Rock 'n' Roll band!

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I had seen Rival Sons at this venue twice previously, unfortunately the first was cancelled after the opener, as Jay Buchanan was seriously struggling and ill. They promised to return and when they did, wow! What a show!

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I am biased towards this band having been mesmerised and astonished by the ‘Great Western Valkyrie’ album. So, my adrenaline was pumping as they took to the stage. The stage set appeared a bit sparse, with a massive gap between guitarist Scott Holiday and bassist Dave Beste, the drums with Mike Miley were positioned left of centre, as you look at the stage, with Todd Ogren, keyboards, added percussion, set firmly at the back centre. Images of enormous lions filled the backdrop; how would they fill the void?

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Dirty Honey had more than done their bit so now it was the turn of Rival Sons to take things to another level, hopefully. The show was to be the 10th anniversary of ‘Pressure and Time’. Lead track ‘All Over The Road’ elicited the kind of response reserved for bands of this power and magnitude. As for the space on the stage, what space? Jay Buchanan instantly filled it with that uniquely magical voice and personality.

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In sequence the songs poured from the speakers, the class of the musicians creating a magical magnetic aura. ‘Only One’ was an early highlight, Jay’s voice beautifully ambient, Scott Holiday playing with an enigmatic quality rarely seen. But really this song is about Jay’s voice, wow goosebumps and shivers. Other band members seemed to be having the time of their lives, judging by the smile on Mike Miley’s face and Todd Ogren was playing with such exuberance, he appeared to be on another planet.

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‘Burn Down Los Angeles’ really got the crowd involved, well you can’t resist with such a commanding frontman, can you? As proceedings continued there was a feeling of almost stunned belief at what we were collectively witnessing. There was simply no let up in the wizardry on display. ‘Face Of Light’ closed ‘Pressure and Time’ part of the set and again that voice sent shivers up my spine and to other parts that I am not going to mention. He touches the very essence of your soul, such emotion…

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‘Too Bad’ opened the second section after a very brief interlude and away we go again, such awesome class. Around this time Jay said, “Norwich I remember you”, I suspect he was referring to the show that never was and the obvious adoration being heaped on this spectacular group. ‘Open Your Eyes’ and ‘Electric Man’ from ‘Valkyrie’ continued to blow those watching away reducing our collective senses to rubble.

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If our collective senses were reaching emotional overload ‘Jordan’ simply took us there. By now Scott had introduced us to a vast array of guitars, each one played with so much feeling that you ached with a mixture of pleasure and wonderment…

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Things simply could not go to any higher place, but they did, an acoustic version of ‘Shooting Stars’, introduced by Jay as a song for all the misplaced people in the world, referencing, the situation in the Ukraine, was mind-blowingly poignant… Tears and shivers and goosebumps…Everyone in the room joining in with this unforgettable moment. I am exhausted just writing this, as I recollect the events of a simply bewildering night of music. Next up was another song from Feral Roots, it’s title track. I have run out of words, magnificent will have to do.

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‘Do Your Worst’ powered things to the finishing line, A new song, I think, called ‘Nobody Wants To Die’ brought things to a close. Of what has to be the greatest night of music I have ever witnessed, such depth, such dexterity, what a band!

Review By Paul 'Rhino' Mace

Photographs By Paul 'Animal' Hampson

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