Rival Sons // Dirty Honey // Live Review // The Limelight I // Belfast

Rival Sons bring their 10th Anniversary of Pressure & Time to a sold-out Limelight 1, Belfast and prove just why they are one of the best live bands around.

One of the main reasons I have travelled from Scotland today is to catch Dirty Honey again after their amazing UK headline debut show at the legendary Cathouse and tonight proves that the show was not a fluke and that they are going to be one of the fastest up and coming bands in the next few years.

There were a few differences from that Glasgow show, they were not headliners,  they had a shorter set, the high stage meant the band were mostly contained on that stage and the sound was not as pristine but the class still shone through.

They have whittled down the set to ensure every song is a banger and the crowd has to take notice. They kick off with “Gypsy” and the upbeat bluesy number got the Rival Sons fans into it in an instant.

There are plenty of Dirty Honey t-shirts in the crowd so we are well aware of the talent before they hit the stage but for the Rival Sons fans they are introduced to the incredible skills of John Notto on guitar and the outstanding voice of Marc LaBelle not to mention the solid backbone that Corey Coverstone on drums and the young version of Glen Hughes that is Justin Smolian.

The tempo is kept up on “Break You” and the sing along of “Heartbreaker”, the latter one of their strongest tracks and played live this reminds me of a very young Black Crowes who were on the verge of world domination and owned a live show.

There is very little talking from Marc tonight as if the band have decided this is not their show so we play our asses off, win over the fans and move on. It is very much a wham bam, thank you maam as most of the crowd at the end of the show are thinking what did we just witness.

The cool is just dripping off the stage through “The Wire” and “Tied Up”. John Notto is undoubtedly my favourite new guitarist and tonight the Sgt Pepper suit is gone and he going for the Joe Perry look with the licks to match.

The big number comes next with “California Dreaming” and anyone in that crowd that was not getting involved was instantly drawn in hook, line and sinker. A stunning classic rock track that epitomises the band.

Marc is obviously frustrated at having to strut his stuff confined to a stage so on the slow burner “Another Last Time” he jumps down, runs stage right and heads to the bar and finishes the track atop the bar…keeping the Irish from their drinks? That could have been dangerous but the phones are out and the female bartenders do not look to upset staring at Marc’s ass.

The show is finished with “When I’m Gone” and “Rolling 7s” and with a 40-minute set the band has won over Belfast with ease. They now have another home to return to and another good night at the merch stand means the locals will be shouting the name “Dirty Honey” for some time.



Now the crowd were suitably warmed up it is over to the old masters to show us what it is all about.  The first part of the set from Rival Sons is Pressure & Time in its entirety. It is unfathomable that this is now 10 years old and that the band has only been about for 12 years. They have produced some incredible music in that time and that shows no signs of letting up as the outstanding “Feral Roots” shows.

It is great to see this album in its entirety as it was this album where I first discovered the band but missed the relevant tour so hearing these songs played live was extremely enjoyable.

The band have grown so much in the passing 12 years, the shows are now part of folklore and these musicians just shine on a stage and work so well together now as they did way back when.

They now have to be classed as one of the best live bands which rests its shows on talent rather than gimmicks. Scott Holiday oozes cool and Jay Buchanon is a voice and persona any band would love to have…even if the poor bloke can’t afford a shirt or socks.

It is so hard for bands to break these days, to step up to constantly outgrowing venues and stages and to get to that festival headliner status but this band has done that and it is with performances like tonight why you can see how they have done it.

After an intermission at the end of the “Pressure & Time” segment it is onto a best of closing section started with “Too Bad” from Feral Roots and I am instantly in heaven. 12 years down the line and for me this is their most powerful offering to date and I am delighted we get a good showing in this final slice of the show.

From one incredible album to another in “Great Western Valkyrie” with “Open My Eyes”. For a lot of fans this was the album that introduced them to the band and when you hear this song you cannot wonder why. With this being eight years old lets hope this gets the full play through in 2024.

With an album so good lets stick on it so we get “ Electric Man” and there cannot be many out there who have not heard this brilliant track. As soon as those fuzzy guitars start the crowd undulate as one and from Belfast we are transported to Woodstock and everyones free love oozes out of them…straight to the sugar shack.

After a showing from Head Down with “Jordan” out comes the acoustic and as soon as Jay straps that baby on there is only one song it can be and we burst into what now has to be the pinnacle in a Rival Sons set in “Shooting Stars”. The simplicity, the lyrical content and the ability to have you hoarse from screaming that song like an evangelical choir always leaves me in awed disbelief.

 The acoustic stays for “Feral Roots” and those two songs back to back are sublime and leaves us shouting our lungs out again.

I am already in pleasure overdrive but before the band take their curtain call we have “Do Your Worst” and “Nobody Wants to Die” to finish us off. This was a show of might from Rival Sons, this was a shove your Covid where the sun does not shine and join us in a celebration of life, love and music. The band have shown time and again why they were propelled to such heights and tonight cements why they are still there.


Review: Ritchie Birnie

Photography: Wayne Donaldson



Rival Sons

Dirty Honey

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