In the now ten years since the release of their self-titled debut, Kentucky rockers BLACK STONE CHERRY have grown to become one of the best-loved modern rock bands around. Their bluesy blend of Sourthern-rock, alternative metal and post-grunge stylings has served them well over that time, but it’s now with fifth album Kentucky that the quartet are trying out something different with their live show. Dubbed An Evening With Black Stone Cherry, this jaunt sees the quartet eschewing support bands, and instead packing both acoustic and full-band sets brimming with hits, rarities & surprises. We caught up with the band at Manchester’s O2 Apollo to find out just how well they could pull it all off.
As tonight is essentially two totally different shows in one, it’s hardly surprising to see the stage initially set up in a far more intimate-looking fashion than the average rock show, with a simple backdrop and minimalist fairy lights the only counterpart to the four men who soon take to the stage. Opening with a new track in the form of In Our Dreams might seem like a slight risk, but given the setting as well as the altered styling, it works incredibly well. This portion of show also succeeds in that almost all of the band’s career to date is represented – everything from Hell & High Water, to Big City Lights, to The Rambler gets an airing and all come off incredibly well. Vocalist Chris Robertson in particular shines during the slower numbers – his voice, given ample room in the toned-down soundscape, sounding absolutely monstrous throughout in terms of sheer emotive brilliance. On the whole, it’s a great way to kick off the evening, and shows just how versatile BLACK STONE CHERRY are as a unit.
One interval later, during which the audience amuse themselves with a massive singalong to TENACIOUS D’s hit Tribute, and the band return in full-rockstar mode, ploughing straight into the driving anthem that is Devil’s Queen. Almost immediately, it’s clear to see why BLACK STONE CHERRY have managed to reach such heights during their career – every facet of their music, from the crunchy tones of Robertson and rhythm guitarist Ben Wells, to the pounding backing of drummer John Fred Young and bassist Jon Lawhon is delivered with such passion and intensity that it’s difficult to not become engrossed in the sheer fun that unfolds over the course of the evening. Of course, it helps that by now BLACK STONE CHERRY are simply packing hits in spades – the likes of White Trash Millionaire, Blind Man and especially Me and Mary Jane all sound like bona-fide anthems in their delivery tonight, and newer cuts like Cheaper To Drink Alone, Darkest Secret and Shakin’ My Cage all hit with the intensity of a freight train.
As if that wasn’t good enough already, the band then unleash what can only be described as one of the best closing salvos in modern rock music, with a one-two pairing of Blame It On The Boom Boom and mega-hit Lonely Train. The former, with its sexed-up lyricism and gloriously sleazy tone, sounds simply titanic in such a relatively compact room, whilst the latter is simply untouchable in terms of sheer chorus power – it really is hard to argue against a track when you can witness some 3,500 people bellowing every line back at the band with such love. You’d then assume that was probably it, but naturally, the BLACK STONE CHERRY boys have one more surprise up their collective sleeve – a completely out-of-nowhere cover of MOTÖRHEAD’s classic anthem Ace Of Spades. Delivered fairly faithfully, albeit with a welcome blues-rock twist, it’s a spectacularly fun way to cap of what really has been a remarkable night of music.
If tonight has achieved anything for BLACK STONE CHERRY, it’s proved just how well the band have cemented their legacy in the UK over the last few years, and that they’re a band with far more strings to their bow than the average listener might expect. The Kentucky collective have shown with this tour that they’re more than capable of not only throwing out effortlessly catchy rock anthems, but also delivering an emotionally-impactful set of toned-down material that really shows another side to their sound. We can only wait with bated breath for their 2018 return to find out what’s in store for them next.
Check out our photo gallery from the night’s action in Manchester from Sabrina Ramdoyal Photography here:
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