Black Stone Cherry @ Hammersmith Apollo, London

15th October 2009

Another new acquisition to the O2 live music brand was the setting for this evenings rocking antics. Hammersmith Apollo has had a facelift, a few licks of paint here and there hasn’t done much for the place however, still it remains the better of the 2 large theatre venues in London.

Back here this evening was a band I first witnessed at Hyde Park Calling in the summer of 2007. Then again as one of the last bands I had the fortune of seeing at the now deceased London Astoria. Black Stone Cherry have clearly increased their fan base since them and a date at the Apollo is only what they really deserve.

They brought with them 2 US based support bands the first being one of the standout new groups from 2009, The Parlor Mob. These guys were quite unassuming in their appearance but their music really does demand your attention. Steeped in old school blues and with more than their fair share of Jack White similarities they played some cracking basic hard rocking country blues. Their song craft is worthy of Raconteur comparisons and their melodic solos were a match (and a sound-a-like) for Jack himself. These guys made a big impression on me and I’m giving these a firm thumbs up!

Now I have hear that you should never meet your idols as you will only be disappointed, this couldn’t have been more true tonight. Next up were the new band of one of the founding members of the greatest hard rock band of the 80’s, responsible for some of the most recognisable anthems of the generation…Ex-Guns n’ Roses bass guitarist Duff Mackagan. Loaded are a fuelled up mix of sleaze punk, classic rock and hard rock. The image was perfect for the genre too, so long as you only looked at Duff! His bands style choice from the overweight podgy dad like lead guitarist to the dull bassist only Duffs leather, tattooed powerful arms and his striking white and black Les Paul did the band any justice. Their music was not particularly good either, loud and well performed their tracks were not interesting and beyond their recycled riffs and the one string solos they had limited appeal and not a great deal to offer.

This is probably why the biggest cheer of the night arrived when Duff introduced a special guest James Bradfield, Lead guitarist and singer of The Manic Street Preachers to play their cover of the Gun’s and Roses classic It’s So Easy. This was superb the clear highlight of a very ordinary set (I think the Docktor would have nodded off if it wasn’t for the whole standing up issue).

Black Stone Cherry’s triumphant return to London was greeted with the roar of the huge crowd pack in here adorning the usual array of classic rock T-shirts from Led Zep to Lynyrd Skynyrd. It’s these two bands that BSC combine to such great effects. The huge blues riffs of zep channelled through the southern rock roots of Skynyrd with maybe a side dose of Black Crowes results in the spectacle on show this evening. Still amazingly young they play like touring veterans, effects galore, lights everywhere and special effect mics added to the spectacle.

Touring here this evening on the crest of their latest album Folklore and Superstition the new tracks sounded great and were well worthy the grand venue they filled. Blind Man set the tone for the evening, a bluesed up southern rock with some vocal hooks ready to land jaws himself. More rockers followed in this energetic set with hard rocker Shooting Star, country blues of Tired of The Rain, scream along Rain Wizard and guitar totting The Bitter End.

For the second show in succession the ballads took centre stage once again with the absolutely super (if a tad preachy) Peace is Free. Its message is simple and if everyone had this much passion to change the world, earth would be in safe hands. Acoustics were simple but beautiful and were equally matched for effect by the colossal sing along of “Don’t you bring your sadness down on me, when peace is free”, poignant and honestly spoken.

The second stunning ballad of the evening is epic tribute to a father lost (familiar?). Things My Father Said is an open hearted, endearing and emotional track in which singer Chris Robertson pours every last breath into soaring his vocals skyward, dad would be proud. This tune has an effect on everyone here, the transparent. Simple lyrics and beautiful arrangement is a superb statement of great song writing written true from the heart.

During the encore break, the now customary drum solo captivated a huge crowd for a seemingly endless mesmeric performance with his bare hands slapping the skins John Bonham Style. Showmanship was at its peak post the band returning jamming their blues of yesteryear tribute with a heavy handed version of The Hoochie Coochie Man. As if originality was running out they employed another of their old tricks…playing a stunning guitar flaring version of Jimi’s Voodoo Chile, again each playing their guitars behind their head as the track climaxed. (It was as if I’d seen this bit all before)

An epic rendition of Lonely Train played us out tonight, it was played with so much vigour they could have snapped their guitars in half turning it into a thrash metal moshers paradise. A triumphant return for one of the top rock bands of the Noughties.

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