Once again the Black Stone Cherry wagon rolls into town, this time around their appearance at Ramblin’ Man in a few days time. As ever, the guys aren’t content with a festival appearance when they can shove in a few smaller shows as a warm-up. Tonight’s show clashes with some other band at the other end of town. I can’t remember their name, but they wear facepaint and their support act apparently spent thirty minutes splashing Dulux on a large canvas.
However, the fireworks show (with accompanying soundtrack) at the Hydro certainly doesn’t seem to have detracted significantly from ticket sales at the Barrowlands. A very healthy crowd is in place by the time Otis walk on stage, and the venue was packed for the headliners. In fact, if they were more than a hundred or so from capacity, I’d be surprised.
Otis are a band that BSC have played with many times in the States but who’ve never hit the UK before. In a similar vein to the headliners they play southern blues-y rock, but they’re no clones having a definite edge to their sound that separates them from BSC. What they do have in common is that they’re good. Very, very good. Their half-hour set passes in the blink of an eye and the audience response as they end their last song is enough to tell you that should they return, they’ll have a fanbase awaiting them. I’m not going to go through the setlist as I’m not going to pretend that I knew of them before the show. What I will say is that I’ll aim to be catching them again.
More familiar to many of the fans here tonight are the Kris Barras Band. Homegrown yet matching the Americans at their own game, they’re again a good fit for the show. The man stood next to me was rather taken with them and had to ask who they were as he’d missed the start of the show. He reckoned they had an edge of Little Angels about them and you know… once he said that I kept hearing it. The keyboards definitely, and the occasional guitar flurry did bring back a taste of Jepson and co. However, their sound is very much more blues/country rock and they do it well.
Again the crowd response was beyond pleasing (and well deserved) and again I won’t go through a setlist I didn’t recognise as I’m a newcomer to the band. They have a new album out in September and will be touring in support of it the month after – or you can catch them with the headliners at Ramblin’ Man in a few days time. While I definitely preferred Otis, Kris Barras and his merry crew put on a good show. I think Otis hit the ground running and never let up, while the second act took a song or two for me to warm to. As always, though, Black Stone Cherry brought very good support with them.
And on to the headliners. The lights went down at around 9:15 and Black Stone Cherry once more strode onto the Barrowlands stage… and tore it up. After a brief introductory tease they belted into “Burnin'”, “Blind Man” and “Mary Jane”, as an opening threesome. For a genre more associated with low tones, head-nodding and cool riffing, Black Stone Cherry have mastered how to turn this on its head. Ben was all over the place. If he wasn’t kicking head height, he was bunny-hopping or playing his guitar over his head. How the hell he manages all this without fuelling himself on nice, fried food (reference to our pre-show interview) I don’t know.
Not to be outdone, bassist Jon isn’t afraid to bust a few moves either. He’s no Flea (I’ll retract this statement the day he performs on a Jonathon Ross-hosted TV show while suspended upside down) but he’s still hella fun to watch. Chris spends as much time away from the mike as he does in front of it. In fact, if he’s not belting out those rich vocals, he’s acting like any other lead guitarist. As for John Fred, he knows how to entertain as well – as the drum solos (one short, one long) showed. Not content with just battering the skins into submission, he moved and twirls the sticks, making the whole thing look easy.
However. He has competition. Late into the show, mid-song, he and Chris swapped over. At first playing the drums together, John Fred slipped out of the throne and Chris took over tub-thumping. John Fred moved to harmonica and a guest guitarist (who’s name I didn’t catch… McKinley?) stepped up also.
There were many highlights tonight. “Things My Father Said” was the perfect balance between band and audience singing, “Blind Man” had the voices warmed up (if they needed it in the sweltering sauna that was Barrowlands), “White Trash Millionaire” was a bounce-fest, and “Peace is Free”… well, what a way to round up the show.
After the mild disappointment of the SEC in December, tonight’s powerhouse again showed Black Stone Cherry back on the top of their game. Brilliant fun!
Photos by Exposing Shadows Photography