Kentucky’s Black Stone Cherry have been regular visitors to the UK since their early club shows which saw a gig at the old Birmingham Barfly, fondly remembered by guitarist Ben Wells during the headliners explosive set which stretched to almost two hours. This time around they were joined by Nashville’s Cadillac Three, themselves no strangers to these shores over the past few years, and hard rocking Canadian outfit Monster Truck for a triple bill that certainly lived up to expectations.
With an early start time of 6.45 the arena was pretty sparse as Monster Truck kicked off their set but by the time they finished half an hour or so later it had filled up noticeably, despite reports of ticket sales being sluggish for this tour. MT are all about turbo charged, revved up rockers that have plenty of immediate appeal. Earlier this year they released True Rockers and, as the likes of the title track and ‘Evolution’ proved, they have stepped up a gear in terms of songwriting and execution. Old favourites ‘She’s a Witch’ and ‘Sweet Mountain River’ are huge sounding arena rockers and bassist /vocalist Jon Harvey’s voice was more than up to the task. It would have been good to hear Brandon Still’s organ higher in the mix as it was buried so deep as to be hardly discernible but overall this was a feel good, up-tempo performance that looked to win the band some new friends. With a headline tour of the UK recently announced for April the Monster Truck juggernaut is set to keep on rolling.
The Cadillac Three first played in Birmingham in the tiny room at the Institute supporting the Graveltones and have certainly come a long way since. Their gloriously heavily blend of Country fuzz has seen them grow a large UK fan base and they keep on improving year after year. Now appearing on increasingly larger stages the trio have to deal with Kelby Ray sat behind his lap steel and Neil Mason his drum kit, Jaren Johnston thereby bearing the burden of being the sole member able to freely roam around. He proved more than up to the task and as a live unit they never disappoint. With songs about loved ones (‘White Lightning’), influences (‘Hank & Jesus’), missing home (‘Tenessess Mojo’) and being from the South (too many to mention) there is a lot of love in the room for Nashville’s finest. As they closed out with signature song ‘The South’ we are left with the strong impression they will be headlining here in the not too distant future.
With video screens, lasers, pyro and effects it is clear Black Stone Cherry are looking to bring the fully blown arena show experience. But of course having a great stage production means nothing if the band aren’t able to match it with their performance so it is pleasing to report that, aside from an overlong mid-set dip, the Kentucky quartet delivered the goods. Latest album Family Tree continues to offer up Southern Fried hard rock in abundance and features some of the heaviest tunes they have written to date; at the same time retaining their never ending knack for creating catchy hooks as evidenced when they kicked off with ‘Burnin’. ‘Me and Mary Jane’ and ‘Rain Wizard’ soon followed and with so many great songs to choose from BSC are increasingly facing the problem of which old favourites to leave out.
Chris Robertson’s vocals were strong throughout, and he has grown into a commanding front man as well as a formidable guitarist. Ben Wells and Jon Lawhon have always been animated stage performers and, either side of Robertson’s more laid back approach, they make for a powerful trio. After showcasing their funk influences with ‘James Brown’ the stand out moment was the sentimental ‘Things My Father Said’ that back in the day would have had lighters held aloft, albeit mobile phones have long since taken their place. Jon Fred Young’s drum solo felt slightly superfluous and an extended blues breakdown during ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ could certainly be improved by being half as long. Something special was required to bring the spark back to both band and audience and luckily BSC kept the trio of ‘Lonely Train’, ‘Blame it on the Boom Boom’ and ‘White Trash Millionaire’ up their sleeves which ensured the show ended on a real high. This was a thoroughly entertaining evening that saw terrific performances from all three bands who will surely be gracing these shores for years to come.
Me and Mary Jane
Like I Roll
My Last Breath
Cheaper to Drink Alone
Things My Father Said
In My Blood
I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man
Blame It on the Boom Boom
White Trash Millionaire
Peace Is Free