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Tuesday 13 November 2018

A View From The Back Of The Room: Blackberry Smoke (Live Review By Paul H)

Blackberry Smoke, The Tramshed, Cardiff

It has taken a while but Atlanta’s Blackberry Smoke finally made it to Cardiff in support of their latest album, Find A Light which was released in April this year. I’ve seen them in Birmingham, Bristol and London so it was pleasing not to have to travel far for this sold out event. Of course, the problem with a sold out event at The Tramshed is that it becomes just a bit too crowded. Luckily we were afforded seats as a result of the MJR Group’s really helpful support and assistance to Mrs H’s current health issues and this made the whole evening a lot more bearable. The whole vibe I get from the staff and security at this venue is always fantastic.

The Quaker City Night Hawks (QCNH) (7) hail from Fort Worth, Texas and have been together for close to ten years. They’re a rock n roll band in the true Southern tradition, steeped in the blues heavy rock from the 1970s but with a fresh modern spin. The band kicked through their set with pace and style, lead guitarist and vocalist David Matsler trading lead vocals with rhythm guitarist Sam Anderson. The band were enjoyable to watch and their music was certainly worth hunting out.

Main support was provided courtesy of the feisty punk garage rock of Junkyard (7), who come from Hollywood. Their latest album was given a solid review by Matt last year and whilst he didn’t feel the raw power of the band, their aggressive approach won over several fans, although maybe not the lady in the front row who looked aghast when vocalist David Roach climbed the barrier and inadvertently thrust his crotch in her face. The band, who formed originally in 1987 cross the stomp of AC/DC with the frenzy of the MC5 or The Stooges, and they certainly went for it. Clearly a challenge for some of the audience, I found them compelling and thoroughly entertaining.

I’ve written reviews about Blackberry Smoke (9) several times before. Their live shows just don’t disappoint. The band is slick, professional and extremely talented. They are also aware of heritage and threw in Come Together by The Beatles during the Sleeping Dogs medley along with a bit of Little Feat’s Sailin’ Shoes in their final medley. With a wider catalogue than ever their set list has become more varied in recent years. The band have a core number of songs and vary the reminder of the set from night to night which adds to the surprise. Older songs such as Ain’t Got The Blues, Shakin’ Hands With The Holy Ghost and Good One Comin’ On sit comfortably with newer songs such as Like An Arrow, Medicate My Mind and Flesh And Bone. Highlight of the evening was possibly The Whippoorwill, a track that is beautifully constructed and was fabulously delivered, the calm and gentle song perfect at slowing the pace right down. Charlie Starr may not interact with the audience that much, although he was taken with the Welsh flag on the barrier, preferring instead to let the music do the talking. His easy relaxed style is replicated by the rest of the band, including the no frills calmness of bassist Richard Turner who in the 18 months since the band were last on these shores has sprouted the most magnificent beard. 

The packed venue responded with gusto throughout the night and from our vantage point above the main floor it was great to see the reactions of the various audience members to this band’s music. In general, in a week where audience behaviour has left much to be desired, the crowd seemed generally respectful of the Atlanta boys, although the man who decided to relieve himself against the bar door in the main arena should never be allowed to enter a music venue again. Closing with a stomping Ain’t Much Left Of Me, you could only marvel at the continued energy of a band that are always on the road, clocking up in excess of 250 gigs per annum. Blackberry Smoke deserve their success. Hopefully there is even better is to come for one of the hardest working bands in the business.

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