Concert Review: Rival Sons / The Record Company / Starcrawler @ Empire Live 06/04/2023

The West Coast visited Albany Sunday night for a nearly 4-hour concert of exciting and dynamic music from 3 disparate bands that stylistically ran the gamut of this thing we call rock and roll.

First up from Los Angeles, ladies and gentlemen, are Starcrawler. Frontperson Arrow de Wilde is a star; it’s just that not many people know it yet. Looking like the kohl-eyed love child of Michael Monroe and Courtney Love, de Wilde is a whirling, twirling pink peroxide pez dispenser, spraying mouthfuls of cherry cola laced with amphetamines. Feeling every note and riff jerking through her toothpick-thin body, de Wilde leers and sneers at the audience (“Come on Albany, you geriatrics,” she yells at one point), treading the fine line between obnoxious and fascinating with teetering balance. Ducking down and then bobbing up from the photographer pit, she arcs a bottle of water into the throng, most of the contents hitting your writer full in the chest – quite refreshing actually. Resplendent in a thrift store nudie suit, guitarist Henri Cash blazes away furiously, a beatific smile on his face as he gets lost in the maelstrom. His brother Bill, the Malcolm to Henri’s Angus, headbangs as he lays down a churning and relentless rhythm accompaniment. Bassist Tim Franco and drummer Seth Carolina drive the band’s mix of glam punk metal expertly, Carolina casually tossing in some thunderous fills. The only downside is the mix, burying much of de Wilde’s vocals, the result of a short sound check, not an uncommon inconvenience for an opening act.

Photo by Leif Zurmuhlen

But still, Starcrawler – my goodness, most definitely “mad, bad and dangerous to know.”

Next to go, and also from Los Angeles, The Record Company. (Terrible name, though, guys.)

The three-piece won the crowd over almost immediately with its gritty, blue-collar bluesy material with Southern rock and Country flavors. Lead singer Chris Vos delightedly stomps around the stage with just a vintage handheld mic and harp, blowing up a storm on opener “On the Move,” not even picking up his guitar until the second number. Alex Stiff on bass and Mark Cazorla on drums make enough of a racket as a two-piece anyway, both providing excellent harmony vocals as well. Vos is a fine guitarist, though, and rips out some sizzling pedal steel/slide work as the set continues. They close with the jammy “I’m Getting Better (And I’m Feeling it Right Now”), also sans guitar, and the crowd is very definitely feeling it. The full-throated roar they give out at the end proves it.

Photo by Leif Zurmuhlen

And so to the headliners, Rival Sons, formed in Long Beach, CA, not far from L.A.

If Starcrawler seems to be time travelers from the Sunset Strip of the eighties, then Rival Sons could almost be a band from the previous decade, when mighty behemoths of rock strode the earth. They combine a seventies stadium rock swagger with a ninety’s grungy heaviness. Two fellow concertgoers, far apart in age, both told me they thought they sounded a bit like Bad Company. For me, it was more like Soundgarden meets Led Zeppelin. Lead singer Jay Buchanan’s rich and powerful voice reminded me of the late Chris Cornell. Indeed, if Soundgarden ever wanted to do a memorial/tribute show, I think Buchanan could handle the gig. He apologized for his voice not being in the best of shape due to their touring workload, but he needn’t have. Although you could tell he occasionally strained and cracked, his was a heroic and astonishing vocal performance, going for every note, never chickening out, never taking the parts down an octave. Looking a bit like Val Kilmer playing Jim Morrison, Buchanan was incredible, pushing himself to his absolute limit. The seventies vibe was heightened by both an extended drum solo by Michael Miley AND an extended finger-twisting guitar solo by Scott Holiday. In both instances, the rest of the band leaving the stage – just like classic rock bands used to do. The quartet is rounded out by bassist Dave Beste. All great players. This was a partisan Rival Sons crowd, no doubt, many of them punching the air and singing along with the heartfelt anthemic songs. This was particularly affecting towards the end of the set when Buchanan performed “Shooting Stars” solo on acoustic guitar. His fragile vocals, buoyed by the crowd, added further poignancy to the already emotional song. Then the band blasted out a couple more rockers, and the night was over, a magnificent night of righteous rock and roll to move your soul.

There’s really nothing like it.

Set Lists:


  • Goodtime Girl
  • Roadkill
  • I Love L.A.
  • Stranded
  • Pet Sematary (Ramones cover)
  • She Said
  • Used to Know
  • Different Angles
  • Train
  • Bet My Brains 

The Record Company:

  • On the Move
  • Broken
  • Roll With It
  • Rita Mae Young
  • How High
  • Off the Ground
  • Life to Fix
  • I’m Getting Better (And I’m Feeling it Right Now)

Rival Sons:

  • Mirrors
  • Nobody Wants to Die
  • Pressure and Time
  • Electric Man
  • Rapture
  • Bird in the Hand
  • Where I’ve Been
  • Open My Eyes
  • Drum Solo
  • Face of Light
  • Guitar Solo
  • Bright Lights 
  • Horses Breath
  • Feral Roots
  • Shooting Stars
  • Darkside
  • Do Your Worst

Photo Gallery of The Record Company by Leif Zurmuhlen

Photo Gallery of Starcrawler by Leif Zurmuhlen

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