Tonight, the Academy is packed out with ecstatic punters who can’t believe their luck in catching the arena bothering four piece, that is Black Stone Cherry, in such an unbelievably small venue. Overdrive met a very happy group of punters who traveled over from London as they could not get tickets for the bands headline Wembley Arena show, yes we said Wembley Arena!!! So what’s all the fuss about. Let’s find out shall we?
Opening tonight’s ceremony is Canadian Rock radio friendly “boys next door”, Theory Of A Deadman and although the venue warmed to them instantly (especially the females in attendance), the band did not resonate with me. A very condensed and compressed sound wafted from the stage as they plodded through their sappy predictable set list.
Opening song “Lowlife” had giddy girls jumping for joy and gushing with “want” in their eyes. At this point, we get it all eyes are fixed on vocalist / guitarist Tyler Connoly who looks more like a member of The Script rather than a “guy in a Rock band” and that’s ok! We are here to talk about the music and in the Theory Of A Deadman department, there was not much going on that was cause for any type of excitement.
As the band push through an uneventful bland set-list that consists of tracks like “Bitch Come Back, Not Meant To Be, Savages” and “Santa Monica”, there is a brief moment of Guns N’ Roses classic “Paradise City”, where the now packed venue is unified and collectively singing their hearts out.
This fire is quickly put out by the dynamic cerebral banter from Connoly, who talks about “looking for the pretty girls in Ireland”! Really? I mean really? Talk about a fucking yawn fest! Anyway as they mince around the stage and finish off, what I can only describe as the musical equivalent of the colour beige, a total of about 50 guitar picks are been flicked into the crowd and their job is done. Goodbye.
All thoughts of Black Stone Cherry continuing the “Rock by numbers” display that was put on my TOADM, are smashed to pieces from the first millisecond, when they explode on to the stage with “Rain Wizard”! The sound is enormous and each member of the band are just giving 100% blood sweat and tears here.
Guitarist (and Taylor Hawkins doppelganger) Ben Wells, has enough presence on stage to power the entire East Coast of the country. It’s hard to keep your eyes off the man. Headbanging and windmilling like a possessed guitar God, all the while scaling every inch of the stage with such a tremendous force of Rock n’ Roll energy, that it’s impossible to not feel the sheer power of Black Stone Cherry pulsing through your heart!
“Blind Man” is followed by the triumphant sing along of “Me And Mary Jane”, which blasts out with unbelievable delivery and fury. Drummer, John Fred Young is an absolute beast behind the kit and is flicking sticks up to the rafters of the venue, before catching them and belting out drum rolls that would have Lars Ulrich shaking with tears of frustration.
“In My Blood, Holding On To Letting Go, Maybe Someday” and “Such a Shame” come galloping from the stage to the swelling floor of the Academy with vocalist / guitarist Chris Robertson delivering each vocal line pitch perfect and as cool as a cucumber. The most obvious thing about watching Black Stone Cherry live, is that they just fucking adore what they do and don’t hold back on anything when performing live. Each and every word is sung by each member regardless of where they are on stage or what is happening.
Bassist Jon Lawhon interacts with Young and creates the most delicious rhythm connection that allows Well’s to unleash the berzerker in him. “Remember Me, Like I Roll and “Bad Luck & Hard Luck” sound immense before we are treated to a drum solo (toilet break) from Young who does all matter of tricks, much to the pleasure of the venue capacity.
As the remaining members of the band take to the stage, Chris seems to be genuinely enjoying himself and commented on the fact that Ireland was not on their tour schedule and they “had to fix that, Goddamn it”! Rapturous applause and shouts of approval fill the venue before we are treated to “Hollywood In Kentucky, White Trash Millionaire” and “Blame It On The Boom Boom”. The temperature in the Academy is now stifling with many a glistening smiling face lapping up every bit of Black Stone Cherry.
A few more tracks come from the band,before they make their goodbyes and leave the stage. The sound of thunder erupts throughout the venue as the sold out capacity demand more!
With just Well’s and Robertson returning to stage to perform “Peace Is Free”, there is a technical hiccup with Well’s guitar refusing to work, however this does not seem to be a show stopping problem for Black Stone Cherry! Robertson sings solo along with the whole venue, which raises a few neck hairs. As the tech problem is fixed, Well’s comes back in with his guitar perfectly, much to the delight of the crowd and gradually all band members appear on stage and finish off the song perfectly before taking a bow and thanking everybody for tonight’s show.
To see such a band in a venue of this size was a truly wonderful experience. Each member of Black Stone Cherry gave everything they possibly could for this show tonight, as did the audience. This is what live music is all about, unpretentious musicians enjoying themselves and doing what they are put on this planet to do. Fantastic!
Words – Oran O’Beirne
Photography – Anamaria Meiu / AM Star Photo
Check out some more photo’s from the show below.