Three great bands at a bargain price saw the SSE Hydro packed for Black Stone Cherry’s first UK arena show of all time, ever. Having worked their way through the ranks (Cathouse, Academy, Barrowlands), the band were unsurprisingly grateful to the crowd for this rapid elevation in venue size (and record sales, I’m sure!). But before them…
Theory of a Deadman kicked things off at seven o’clock with a half-hour set consisting of material from their recent Savages release as well as more well-known pieces from their now 5-album repertoire. As ever, they were funny, entertaining and musically as talented as the headliners (in my opinion, at least), but became the first band I’ve seen at the Hydro to suffer from atrocious sound quality.
A lot of people I know have complained about the acoustics in this new venue before now, but personally I’ve never had cause to complain. Tonight’s openers were the unlucky winners of the “first band ruined” award. The first couple of songs in particular had me thinking I was inside Joey Dandeneau’s drumkit. Whilst underwater.
Such a shame as Tyler Connolly’s lyrics are a huge part of ToaDM’s appeal, and we could barely make any of them out.
Despite this setback, Theory put on a good show managing to cram a little bit of chat into their short stage time alongside seven tracks. Starting and Ending with tracks from Scars & Souvenirs they also included the title track from Savages along with Drown. Crowd favourites “Lowlife” and “Hate My Life” (in so far as you could make out the words) fleshed out the set along with the superb “Santa Monica”.
I’d love to see these guys back again, hopefully somewhere that does their songs justice (i.e. not the QMU which they last headlined), but they can rest assured that they did play a great set last night. Let’s call it a warm-up for next time.
A quick set change – 20 minutes is good in my book – was all it took before Airbourne exploded on stage. Well, three of them anyway. Bassist Justin ambled on about halfway through opener “Ready to Rock”, and judging from the constant attention from a technician was struggling with the transmitter stuck on his belt.
The sound was a bit better for the Australian powerhouses, but still lacked a fair bit of clarity. However, I don’t think Airbourne care about anything other then belting out songs, headbanging and yelling at the crowd so as long as it was loud, they were good.
I have compared Airbourne’s sound to AC/DC in the past and I’d like to clarify – in terms of cheesy lyrics, catchy riffs and throaty vocals (as well as the fact they’re Oz-based), if there’s a young band which could carry the flag for AC/DC and continue a tradition when the old-timers eventually decide to call it a day then Airbourne are it.
If Joel isn’t on some kind of performance-enhancing drug then we need to figure out what the hell he has instead of blood and recreate it to cure slothfulness. He bounded around the stage non-stop – except for a brief excursion to the seated area on the shoulders of a crew member – for the full 45 or so minutes the band had control of the arena.
Co-members Justin, David and tub-thumping brother Ryan were equally as energetic, stomping back and forth, swinging heads and posing with guitars in unison – all very Status Quo.
Joel doesn’t so much communicate with the audience as shriek at them – and they lap it up. Beer was thrown, women complimented and song titles yelled out a fraction of a second before they were begun as the band tore through ten songs from their three albums (plus a now-standard rendition of “Scotland the Brave”).
If there’s a band alive who know how to finish a show by leaving the crowd wanting more, it’s Airbourne. Choosing to finish with probably their strongest track, “Runnin’ Wild” guarantees a crowd to be sweaty, exhausted and not wanting the show to finish.
Black Dog Barking came out midway through last year. Could we be due another album by next summer? Here’s hoping.
Finally, a shade after nine on the clock, the lights dropped for a third time (as did a big curtain) and our headliners strode confidently on stage.
Starting with a “Rain Wizard” off their first album, they churned through three songs before Chris took the time to say “hello” to all present. Surprisingly, one of those early song was “Blind Man” which I’d expected them to save till later but it really caught the crowd’s ear before being followed by the first song to be revealed from Magic Mountain, “Me and Mary Jane”.
The crowd got to sing along to “In My Blood” with very little prompting required, before the band played their version of the Randy Rogers Band’s “Holding On… To Letting Go”. “Such a Shame” got the crowd going again before the pace slowed with the emotional “Things My Father Said”.
I love this song, but the last couple of gigs the band have left the crowd to sing it in a kind of large-scale karaoke fashion. Fine for one tour, but my wife and I would really love to hear Chris singing it again. Maybe next time!
With a great mix of songs old and new, Black Stone Cherry were on fire. There were still a couple of sound issues (Chris’ vocals for “Hollywood in Kentucky” were impossible to make out) but the band gave it their all. Guitarist Ben Wells was like a man possessed and John Fred Young battered the drums into submission to the point where I feared they’d fall off the riser!
The aforementioned “Hollywood” began a run of great tracks, in my opinion, flowing into “Soulcreek”, “White Trash Millionaire”, a wonderfully funky version of “Blame it on the Boom Boom” and ending the main set with their first ever release, “Lonely Train” – a song that never sounded heavier than tonight.
During the gap before the one-song encore, a woman behind me collapsed, most likely from the heat. Kudos to those around us who helped out looking after her stuff and signalled for medical staff who were there impressively quickly. She was fine, though they took her to the edge of the crowd in a wheelchair to be sure.
The encore, “Peace is Free”, was the perfect sing-a-long way to finish a great gig, and an impressive beginning to a run of arena gigs for the band.
Something does need done with the sound at the venue. As I said, it’s taken me until now to realise this, and it’s a shame that it took the edge off three fantastic performances. All of the bands deserve a raised fist and a hearty yell of approval. I’d recommend catching any/all of them again the next time they’re doing the rounds.