Review by Peter Keevil. Photos by Russ Powney
Just a few days prior, fellow southern-American rockers, Black Stone Cherry played the same venue, on their 4th album they have made the UK their second home with constant touring and re-touring.
Blackberry Smoke on the other hand were playing their very first UK tour and doing so off the back of a highly respected debut album, The Whippoorwill (technically it’s their 3rd album but first officially released in the UK).
Despite the lack of a presence over these shores, the well co-ordinated press hype and strong internet fan-base caused the Wulfrun to swell to near capacity – middle aged men vastly out-numbering the women by at least 20/1.
Northern Irish hard-trash rockers, Million Dollar Reload, had been chosen for the full European tour and it was a brave move by the promoters to create a little diversity within the bill, rather than sticking another blues, southern rock band on the undercard. Whether it paid off I’m not so sure – with the Smoke being a large enough draw for the venues booked it made little difference financially.
I wasn’t to complain though as I’ve been a fan of these boys for a good few years and just lament that we don’t see them enough on the mainland.
Their music is bold and brash, drawing upon early GnR’s and the sunset strip but with killer vocal harmonies and riffs that Slash would be pleased to call his own. So this wasn’t a natural audience for them. M$R know what they do well though and although a little slow out of the blocks they just let their music do the talking. Minimal crowd interaction, one song bleeding into the next intro riff.
And boy, those riffs are meatier than a Max Clifford trial dossier. Dripping with sass and guile and low-slung attitude probably more suited to Wolverhampton’s Broad Street late night action if you get my meaning. ‘Tattoos and Dirty Girls’ requires credit card permission just to listen to it.
But they are not without their subtlety and M$R prove this with the hypnotising ‘The Last Icon’, with singer Phil Conalane leaving everything on stage as he knows he has the next day to recover.
The guys are in and out the studio over the next few months recording their next album.
1. Under your Skin
2. Can’t Tie Me Down
4. Tattoos and Dirty Girls
5. The Last Icon
6. Living in the City
7. Bullets in the Sky
Blackberry Smoke hail from Atlanta, Georgia and reek of moonshine, spittoons and good time rock n roll. Its Skynyrd smoking a joint, dancing with the Crowes, while The Eagles are waiting to butt in for the next waltz.
Like M$R they let their music do the talking, there are no between song ramblings, just the occasional song title and obligatory band member introductions part way through. This is a chill gig where they want you to sit on the porch, crack open a beer and welcome the sound of crickets cutting through the balmy night air.
Its a big contrast from the Black Stone Cherry gig where they implore you to holler and jump and shake your Boom Boom. For me, at times it was a little too sedate but in order to appreciate those harder moments sometimes, perhaps, you need to step off the gas a little and let it cruise for a while.
Me, I much preferred it when they cranked it up a bit and got that waist length good ‘ol boy hair a-swinging. ‘Six Ways To Sunday’, ‘Up In Smoke’, ‘Sanctified’, ‘Aint Much Left of Me’ and their big crowd pleaser, ‘Shakin Hands With The Holy Ghost’ had those Black Country receding hairlines in the crowd a whoopin’ and a hollerin’.
And if you needed any proof of their good-time authenticity, then look no further than the huge 3-legged cock on their backdrop. Ok, they call it a rooster but it reads better my way and it made me smile. Which for a mid-week night of rock n roll in Wolverhampton, that’s right on the money.
1. Leave a Scar
2. Like I Am I’d be Lyin’
3. Six ways to Sunday
4. Good one Comin on
5. Pretty Little Lie
6. Scare the Devil Outta you
7. Sleeping Dogs
8. The Whippoorwill
9. Everybody knows she’s Mine
10. Shaking Hands with the Holy Ghost
11. Up in Smoke
12. Ain’t got the Blues
14. One Horse Town
15. Ain’t Much Left of Me
16. Fire in the Hole
18. Crippled Creek
Listen to our interview with drummer Brit Turner
Read our review of their album The Whippoorwill
See more of Russ’s photos here;