Rival Sons + Crown Lands @ Corona Theatre – 18th August 2019

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The Corona Theatre turned into a Wild West saloon last Sunday night as hipsters and hippies sported their favorite cowboy hats in honor of Rival Sons. Known for their extensive touring and exciting live performances the crowd was full of musicians, radio personalities and hardcore fans.

When the lights dimmed around 8:00 and Rush’s “Closer to the Heart” began blaring through the speakers,  I felt the energy shift. And then, the two young men from Oshawa with the luxurious locks and the retro yet modern sound immediately hijacked the room.

I caught Crown Lands when they opened up for Jack White last year at Place Bell and was blown away.  Kevin (guitar/keyboard/bass) and Cody (drums/vocals) have been a dynamite duo for around 4 years and have spent more than half that time on the road.  

(The fact that Jack White and Rival Sons chose them to be the opening act up during his North American tour speaks volumes.)

Drawing inspiration from older prog rock,  (Rush) their heavy, bluesy sound is the perfect blend of modern and classic rock.  

While Kevin juggled guitar & keyboard, Cody belted out some solid vocals, never losing his breath as he pounded the shit out of his drums. From the popular “Waterfall” to the haunting “Mountain”, they hypnotized the audience with their tribal drumbeats and heavy lyrics.  

“Mountain” is about the horrors of Canada’s colonization. Cody is Mi’kmaq and a strong advocate of indigenous rights.  The majority of Native Reserves are on Crown Land.

“We call ourselves Crown Lands because of how tightly interwoven it is to our identity as Canadians.” Cody (Canadianbeats.ca)

I met Cody after their set at the bar.   He was watching Rival Sons and he was dancing in the crowd.  When I told him that they made a lot of noise for only two guys, he actually beamed and thanked me.  He looked like he was having a blast, of course he was, Rival Sons were performing.

Rival Sons hit the ground running, as they kicked off their set with “Back In The Woods” and then “Sugar On The Bone” from their latest and 6th studio album.  (“Feral Roots” was released in January and the lead single “Do Your Worst” peaked at number one on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Songs chart in March 2019.)

It’s hard to believe that they’ve have been around for 10 years.  Jay Buchanan’s voice sounded better than ever and he held nothing back.  I heard the deep growl of Bad Company’s Paul Rogers and the passionate urgency of Foreigner’s Lou Gramm which are two of classic rock’s greatest voices.  I also felt him invoke the spirit of Jim Morrison, as he struck some sexy poses, with his long wavy hair and groovy beaded necklace.

Not to be overshadowed, Scott Holiday lit up the joint like a modern-day Musketeer in his pastel jacket and horn-rimmed shades.  Sporting an original anchor style beard and moustache that would make Salvador Dali jealous (picture the Guy Fawkes mask from “V For Vendetta.”), his style was only outdone by his supernatural guitar skills.

This master of riffs brought quite a collection of his rare and customized guitars.  From his Gibson Firebird to his Kauer Banshee, Scott had a vast arsenal of fuzz boxes and pedals that would impress the most accomplished guitar god.

They slowed it down mid-show with some sweet ballads and acoustic versions (“Face of Light” and “Feral Roots”).  While Scott waited for the music tech to adjust his double-neck, Jay addressed the audience, reminiscing about their early days, before recording their first album.  The long drives from California to Florida, being away from their family and touring little dive bars.  

Shifting gears, they pumped up the crowd with “Electric Man” and “Keep On Swinging” and got everyone to sing along before exiting the stage.

We got three songs for the encore and the entire Corona Theatre got up to celebrate.  They ended the show with the song everyone was waiting for and it was no surprise that we all knew the lyrics.  Rival Sons sang “Do Your Worst” but we know that they gave us their best.

Review – Annette Aghazarian 

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