On a very wet Sunday night in late October, thousands of Scottish rock fans headed to the SSE Hydro for one of the most eagerly anticipated shows on the calendar.
The occasion? – Black Stone Cherry’s first ever UK arena show as headliners. A show not to be missed!
So, who do you get to warm up the crowd for such an auspicious occasion? First up were Theory of a Deadman. I personally feel that the opening slot in front of a Glasgow crowd is a tough gig for any band. Theory of a Deadman rose admirably to the challenge, despite a few sound quality issues, and delivered a solid seven song half hour set. They played a mix of older material and new, including two songs “Drown” and “Savages” from their latest album “Savages”. If I’m honest I’d rather they had chosen “World War Me” over “Drown” but c’est la vie. The highlights of their set were “Lowlife” (I just love the lyrics on this one) and the beautiful “Santa Monica”. Theory of a Deadman were only just getting into their stride when it was time to leave with the final number, “Bad Girlfriend”. Better sound and more time were definitely required here.
No sound issues for the second band on stage- or more accurately- no volume issues! Aussie rockers “Airbourne” burst onto the Hydro stage with a full on, in your face performance of “Ready to Rock”. And yes, the crowd were! Stripped to the waist, front man Joel O’Keefe soon had the Glasgow audience eating out of the palm of his hand.Airbourne can even be forgiven for a cheesy rendition of “Scotland the Brave” washed down with a “swally” of Buckfast. (Notorious tonic wine) Before beginning “Girls In Black” Joel asked for all the beautiful girls in the crowd to be hoisted shoulder high. Slightly behind me and to my right, a group of fans launched their decidedly male friend, sporting a Metallica shirt, shoulder high. Their cheek didn’t go unnoticed and “Mr Metallica” was rewarded by Airbourne by way of a beer flung from the stage. Nice audience interaction and a beer shower for all around! Again, too short a set. Airbourne were in full flight, with the crowd right behind them, when it was time to bring their set to an end. Would go and see these guys again.
Around nine o’clock the arena lights dimmed, the chant of “Black Stone Cherry. Black Stone Cherry” echoed round the vast arena and in an explosion of lights, backed by a stunning mountain vista, the boys from Edmonton, Kentucky took to the stage, launching straight into “Rain Wizard” – an apt choice considering the crowd got drenched on the way in! This was the third time I have had the pleasure of watching Black Stone Cherry live and seeing them command the huge Hydro stage was quite something. With a runway looping round the back of John Fred Young’s massive drum kit, Ben Wells and John Lawhorn worked that stage through the entire twenty song set.
Black Stone Cherry had pulled together an awesome set for their first big UK arena show, getting the balance of old material and new spot on. There’s a new energy to these guys and their passion and enthusiasm shone through in every note of every song. Overall the set felt and sounded heavier (no sound issues for these guys) than I’ve heard them before and it all felt tighter. A well-oiled rock machine in full flight!
I could wax lyrical all day about each and every song they played but I won’t. Highlights for me personally were “In My Blood, The Beautiful “Things My Father Said” and “Such A Shame”. A very minor observation – “Me and Mary Jane” seemed to miss its mark slightly with the Glasgow crowd. No idea why as it is a fantastic number – perhaps it was its slot in the running order. Another major high point of the set was the tongue in cheek “Hollywood In Kentucky” from “Magic Mountain”. I just love those lyrics and Ben’s cowboy hat added just a little decorum to proceedings. Awesome good fun rock ‘n’ roll. “Soulcreek” is always a firm favourite as is “Lonely Train” –both delivered perfectly.
As for John Fred Young’s drum solo – what can I say? He is without a shadow a doubt one of the best drummers around today – and one of the nicest guys. In a frenzy of long curls and sticks, he delivered a solo to rock the roof off the joint. Incredible to behold and to feel your lungs vibrating from the power of his drumming. Kudos to you, sir!
Sadly, like all good things, the show had to come to an end. After “30 Seconds of Death Metal”, the boys from Kentucky left the stage to thunderous applause. A few moments later, Chris Robertson and Ben Wells returned. A slightly emotionally tongue tied Chris humbly thanked the Scottish crowd for being there “for the biggest show we’ve ever done on our own” then asked them to sing with him for one last song. There could only be one song to end with – “Peace Is Free”. Every single fan in the arena sang out loud and strong, proud to be a part of this moment. Towards the end of the song, John Fred and Jon returned to the stage for a rousing climax to “Peace Is Free”.
A truly awesome start to Black Stone Cherry’s UK arena tour. I just wish I could’ve followed them round the country for the week. One night just wasn’t enough. Hurry back, guys.