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Sunday, 2 November 2014

Two Views From The Back Of The Room: Black Stone Cherry (Reviews By Paul Hutchings And Nick Hewitt)

Black Stone Cherry & Airbourne, CIA, Cardiff

We as a collective attended the Black Stone Cherry concert in Cardiff needless to say two of our number had slightly differing views of the concert. So here is something I'm calling:

The Battle Of Cardiff: Blame It On The Sound Man

First up is Paul's view:

A rare visit to the cavernous Motorpoint Arena for the visit of Kentucky outfit Black Stone Cherry. Opening the evening were Theory of a Deadman but they are shit so my review begins with the Australian nutcase outfit Airbourne.

Blasting onto the stage with a huge banner with their logo on it, Airbourne, led by the hyperactive Joel O’Keefe delivered 40m minutes of awesomeness. Yes, they are AC/DC in all but name, and yes, O’Keefe is a Angus and Bon Scott rolled into one but fuck it, they play hard and fast rock n’ roll which does exactly what it says on the tin. Opening with Ready To Rock the Aussies hit Cardiff with a storming set which included anthems such as Too Much Too Young Too Fast and the ode to all Cardiff ladies, Cheap Wine And Cheaper Women. Interestingly, when O’Keefe demanded the good looking ladies in the audience got higher in the crowd, as many men as women were hoisted onto shoulders. Only in the ‘Diff. After a solo foray into the crowd from O’Keefe ala Angus and Bon circa 1977, a final blast with Runnin’ Wild brought their set to a close. Always excellent entertainment, Airbourne play at the same tempo be it the local pub or in front of 50,000 at a festival. 8/10

And so to BSC. Many a band has struggled to make the jump to arena; think Machine Head on the Locust tour (although anyone that takes Bring Me The Horizon as main support deserves it). Opening with the powerful double of Rain Wizard and Blind Man BSC took to the stage with a glossy polished approach. All power chords and posture; particularly Ben Wells who plays rhythm and gurns for fun. Has anyone in rock got more polished teeth than him? Choreographed to within an inch of their life, BSC delivered a slick, polished performance that had everything except the energy and drive that had coursed through the Airbourne set. Me And Mary Jane was followed by In My Blood which allowed vocalist Chris Robertson to loosen the pipes. And then it just got a bit pedestrian. The god-awful Things My Father Said got the arena crowd singing along. Now in my mind, getting the crowd to sing along is a demonstration of laziness. If I want to hear BSC karaoke I’ll got to a bar or stay at home. When I see the band in the live setting I want them to sing the bloody song. Fiesta del Fuego, one of the few rockers from latest release Magic Mountain picked the tempo back up a little but the set felt pretty pedestrian with the band a little bloated in comparison to the lithe, hard rocking outfit that had torn the roof of the Solus, blown a hole in the afternoon at Download a few years ago or given Myles and co such a run for their money at the Motorpoint not that long ago. Closing the main set with obvious crowd favourites White Trash Millionaire and Blame It On the Boom Boom, BSC completed an hour and 20 minutes of perfectly competent arena rock. Now maybe it was because the notorious Motorpoint sound was about as poor as it could be, or maybe it was the fact that in the last week I had seen Opeth and Blackberry Smoke, but BSC demonstrated why the transition to arena is both right and wrong for them. For me, seeing them in a sweaty club beats this environment every day. The reaction of a far from sold out crowd suggested that a lot of people like this kind of evening. For me, a disappointing evening. I would need to be persuaded big time before parting with cash to see these guys again. 6/10

Now for Nick's take:

Theory Of A Dead Man.

I and my fellow musipedians have little to no time for Theory of A Dead Man, a generic bad that on the few occasions I have seen convey their music with equal generic delivery. Needles to say we stayed in the pub for this one.


Leaving the pub we headed into the arena arriving just in time to see the wild-headed Ozzies enter the stage. Without a second wasted O’Keefe hit the stage running with the energy and vigour he always has. Running up and down the stage thrashing his guitar, you need to ensure your neck stretches have been completed before catching these guys live. Presenting a set predominantly filled with tracks from their debut album, pleasing hardened Airbourne fans and Airbourne virgins alike. Highlights of the set included the regular Runnin’ Wild, Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast and the cracking Cheap Wine and Cheaper Women; which live, is nothing short of brilliant. Every person young or old held their arms aloft and joined in with great delight. Airbourne are a band that will never fail to disappoint live. The utter passion and belief that the O’Keefe brothers and co have for their music is alone enough to drive any crowd along. The only disappointment, which is a recurring theme every time I see Airbourne, was again the lack of Airbournes ability to control O’Keefes vocals. The sheer power and pitch is a struggle for any microphone to take, yet they seem to ignore this every show, which is a great shame as it does detract greatly from their performance. If you are not familiar with these Ozzie nuggets vocals are important and at times they were very hard to decipher. Having said this, we all know the sound in the Motorpoint is far from brilliant, which never helps. 8/10

Black Stone Cherry

For many years I have admired Black Stone Cherry, not only for their music but also for the hard work they have put into it. When I consider where they have come from and the way they have risen to such hefty heights in such a relatively short amount of time, it truly is impressive. Now came the next step in their growth; the arena tour. I have seen these gents in many venues varying in size and an arena tour is nothing short of what they deserve. Entering the stage behind a curtain the obligatory opening of Rain Wizard kicked in to which the crowd joined in with great enthusiasm. Air guitars were scattered all over the arena as Black Stone Cherry burst into an opening furore of classic anthems including Blind Man, Me And Mary Jane and In My Blood; all of which were met with rapturous applause and a three thousand strong sing along. During this opening tirade of anthems the pure look of disbelief and humbleness was plain to see on the face of these Kentucky farm boys. Chris Robertson particularly was clearly astounded at times, considering his recent fight I'm sure this was a great boon for him. After this the pace slowed a little as other familiar songs such as Holding On To Letting Go and Such A Shame were offered with great aplomb. Next came the fan favourite and clearly a special song for the band; Things My Father Said, predominantly serenaded by the crowd Ben Wells stood high on a platform dumbstruck as he strummed away. Usually things like this annoy me as I pay to see a band perform, however there is something about this song that make it’s acceptable, it’s somehow more personal, more meaningful? 

As the set moved on things started to fall apart a little, tracks from Cherry’s most recent album Magic Mountain were delivered but despite the songs being good strong songs they are not anthems that the Black Stone Cherry are known for and this killed the flow and mood of the set also the arena. Don’t get me wrong, Magic Mountain tracks like Bad Luck Hard Love and Fiesta del Fuego were delivered with great assurance and style but the songs just don’t engage the crowd. This is a great shame as until this point the Cherry’s were on top form. Robertson’s voice on top shape, getting better every time I see him, while Young is just as skilled animated on the drums as ever, he remains one of may favourite drummer to behold live to this day. Nonetheless Black Stone Cherry finished the set in style with another run of anthems; Soulcreek, White Trash Millionaire, Blame It On The Boom Boom which again brought the crowd to loud voice and great power. Leaving the stage the crowd had been won back and there was a ecstatic chant for more, as Robertson creeped back on stage… they duly delivered, and in style; with Peace is free and the mighty Lonely Train which live is heaver than I expect every time I hear it. You can’t help but get your head down and thrash away with the person nearest to you.

Black Stone Cherry is a class act, this cannot be argued, and they are more than worthy of an arena tour. The sheer number of fans and they have and the crowd they draw is answer enough. However this means there is a lot more people to please and people will expect a little more for their money. The main problem the guys had tonight was the set list, opening and closing with a bombardment of anthems sets the mood and may send the fans home with a smile on their face, but leaves the middle of the set very lethargic and this is a dangerous line to tread. With the amount of anthems Cherry have in their back pocket they can easily afford to spread them across the set to hold the pace and energy of the crowd. Unfortunately this is not what happened in this set, nevertheless myself and the majority of the crowd had a cracking night. Black Stone Cherry deliver heavy rock with unquestionable skill and style, they just need to plan their attack a little better in the future. Personally, I hope to see them back in arenas sooner rather than later. 8/10.

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