First on stage for the evening was Aaron Keylock. Accompanied by a bass player and drummer, his half hour set was all too short. At sixteen – yes sixteen- this awesome musician held court centre stage and I can honestly say he is one of the most skilful guitarists I have ever seen. Rake thin and wearing bright purple corduroy flares that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the 1970’s, this young star was a talent to behold. The passion he displayed during his solo in “Just A Minute” (a song he wrote for the tour) was a joy to watch. Most definitely a name to watch out for. I just wish I’d gone back over to the merchandise stall to pick up his CD. C’est la vie!
Perhaps they were feeling shy but a pink gauze curtain was then drawn across the stage as it was set up for Blackberry Smoke. Hazy shadows moved about behind the drapes as the temperature in the room soared along with the air of anticipation.
Lights down. Curtain drawn swiftly back and Blackberry Smoke kicked off their ninety minute set with “Like I Am”. The entire crowd was on side and in good voice by the time the guys played “Six Ways To Sunday” a few minutes later.
With an almost constant cloud of smoke drifting out over proceedings, Blackberry Smoke charmed the crowd and had them eating out of the palms of their hands. It was obvious from the smiles on the band’s faces and the glances between them that they were enjoying themselves as much as the rest of us. Even enigmatic bass player, Richard Turner, a vision in black leather, allowed himself the occasional smile.
Front man, Charlie Starr, refers to his fellow band members as Brothers – Brother Brit Turner on drums, a mass of hair and bandana, Brother Paul Jackson on guitar, Brother Richard Turner on bass and Brother Brandon Still, barely visible at the back behind his keyboards. For me personally, he’s the unsung hero back there. I love that honky tonk piano style.
Highlights of the seventeen song strong set were “Shakin’ Hands With The Holy Ghost”, “Sleepin’ Dogs” with its impressive extended solos and the simply beautiful “The Whippoorwill”.
By the time Blackberry Smoke were twelve songs in and had reached “Up In Smoke” the Glasgow choir had sung itself hoarse. At one point Charlie praised the quality of the crowd’s singing, declaring that they were a much louder audience than they had played to in Dublin the night before.
The second last song of the night was a taster of the great things sure to come on their forthcoming album. They played a brand new song titled “Living In The Song” – the crowd lapped it up appreciatively.
After a quick band photo call for the Classic Rock magazine photographer who was present on stage (wonder if I made the photo?) Blackberry Smoke brought the evening to a close with “Shake Your Magnolia”. Every single person in the sell-out crowd sang their hearts out to this final number. The band left the stage to rapturous cheers and with promises to be back.
As we made our way towards the exit, everyone around me was smiling. In front of me at one point were a small group of people with two guide dogs. From the force of the wagging tails whipping my knees even the dogs had enjoyed the show. It would’ve been impossible not to.