Tag Archives: Black Stone Cherry

Year in Review – Gigs (and which were the best?)

Well, December is almost over and it’s time to dig through the reviews and see what I reckoned was the live musical high-point of the year. And it’s bloody hard, believe me. If you just want to skip down to the bit where I try to make my mind up, scroll down until you see the headline. Otherwise, let me take you on a quick run-down…

First gig was Reel Big Fish at the Garage (and they’re touring again in early 2013). Having never seen them before, I was very pleasantly surprised with an excellent atmosphere and a ton of fun!

Biohazard made a welcome return in February, playing a crushing set at King Tut’s, but the highlight of their gig was touring support Heights. Definitely ones to watch out for.

Alestorm drowned the Garage in rum a week later and also supported Dragonforce in September (for those who got to the ABC in time to see their ridiculously early slot).

Less than a week after that and a tremendous two-header hit the Academy with soon-to-be-fecking-huge Halestorm opening for the brilliant Shinedown. Both bands reappeared later in the year, with Shinedown headlining the HMV Picturehouse on Hallowe’en and Halestorm upgrading from the Cathouse to the Garage (which then sold out) due to phenomenal demand.

The first let-down of the year was Theory of a Deadman. Not the band themselves, but the truly awful sound at the Queen Margaret Union building. One I’ll be avoiding in future, though I’ll certainly give the Canadian rockers another chance if they play elsewhere in future.

February drew to a leap-year close with Rammstein at the Newcastle Arena. Not so much a gig as a spectacle, and something that any band would be hard-pushed to beat. They’re headlining Download this year and if you’ve not seen them then they’re worth the ticket price alone.

Another ridiculous (and unannounced) change to the door times meant that I missed the two openers for Cannibal Corpse at the ABC, but did get to see most of Triptycon’s set. Corpse, however, played a drastically shortened set in part due to now knowing they had to be off-stage at 10pm for the student night to take place.

March ended at a blistering pace with three cracking gigs in the space of a week. Black Stone Cherry rocked the Academy, Bowling For Soup (and People on Vacation) had us entertained and laughing along at the Oran Mor with their acoustic tour and Steel Panther taught us all The Shocker at the Academy (a few months after stealing the show from Def Leppard and Motley Crue at the SECC). Hard-working as they are, they were back in Scotland soon after with a show in Edinburgh.

Into April and two very contrasting styles of music in a fairly fallow month for me. First up, an unadulterated party atmosphere lifted the Garage when Andrew W.K. came the play. Barely a week later and Paradise Lost angled more for the doom end of the scale in a wonderfully downbeat performance at King Tut’s.

My only gig in May was to see the delightfully ridiculous Tragedy with their tie-dyed, glitter-encrusted Bee Gees cover extravaganza at the ABC2. Only a few days after the sad passing of Robin Gibb, I doubt he could have been more proud of the send-off this group of fans gave him.

Halfway into the year as June finished and two gigs that month. Sacred Reich with their first Scottish date in eighteen years as they tore up the Wah Wah Hut; and a slight departure for me as I sampled Combichrist at The Arches with their dance-infused metal.

And then… a breather. July and August passed gig-free despite us staying in the country. Virtually every major band was heading to play the festivals which we couldn’t attend due to work and family commitments. On the other hand, we saved some cash.

We made up for it in September with no fewer than five concerts. The Darkness were touring the UK with Lady Gaga (I know, WTF?) but as the tour wasn’t hitting Scotland they opted to play a one-off headlining show with long-standing local favourites Gun at the ABC.

Three gigs in three nights saw me at the Cathouse (Dying Fetus, Job For A Cowboy, Revocation and Cerebral Bore), Edinburgh PlayHouse (W.A.S.P.’s 30th anniversary tour) and the Garage for the aforementioned sell-out Halestorm show.

Another previously mentioned gig ended the month as Dragonforce and Alestorm formed a perfect partnership at the ABC.

October could have been the busiest month of the year gig-wise. We still did very well, but missed no fewer than five gigs. The first one we had to skip was Soulfly as it clashed with Nickelback at the Newcastle Arena and we got tickets to see Chad and co. before those for Max’s project were announced. The Canadian guys were good – very good – but Soulfly would have been much cheaper and closer to home!

Nickelback became the last gig I went to with my fiancée as we skipped Bowling For Soup, Trivium, Muse and Terrorvision to jet off to Jamaica with the family and get married! I did try tweeting most of the bands, but they didn’t reply as to the possibility of shifting their gig dates. Pah.

Our first gig as a married couple was a second performance this year by Shinedown in Edinburgh (mentioned back at the top). A big crowd despite playing on the same night and less than 2 minutes walk away from Alice Cooper’s seemingly annual Scottish show.

The second-last month of the year equalled the second as November joined February in hosting six gigs. Sabaton / Eluvetie at the Garage opened the month for me with an interesting combination and more people on one small stage than I’ve seen since Lawnmower Deth allowed stage-diving at the Newcastle Riverside. We then had the choice between Motorhead’s annual gig at the Academy or going to see Steel Panther again, this time in Edinburgh. There was no decision to be made as soon as we saw Lemmy’s support band – the mighty Anthrax. Glasgow it was.

Two nights later I headed to the Cathouse for the Metal Hammer Razor Tour II  featuring Steak Number 8 (missed them, sorry), Heart of a Coward, Heights (again) and Devil Sold His Soul. I love cheap gigs like this featuring relative unknowns and this was a prime example. All of the bands on here should do well though, again, Heights stole the show for me like they did in February opening for Biohazard.

Turbonegro brought their brand of death-core-punk to King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut towards the end of the month and impressed, while legendary Thrash-meisters Testament made a triumphant return to these shores after far too long. They destroyed the Garage with a mixture of old material and stuff from their superb latest album. Barely pausing to draw breath, I was at the SECC the following night to see the Twins of Evil tour. Marilyn Manson put on a decent enough theatrical performance while Rob Zombie deservedly played the “headlining” position of this equal-footed billing.

The year drew to a close with a hugely anticipated comeback tour from the Little Angels who rocked the ABC as if they’d never been away these last twenty years. Just under a week later and Fear Factory gave me a birthday present consisting of an hour-long set at the same venue in support to the Devin Townsend Project.

SO – GIG OF THE YEAR?

Bloody hell. That’s a tough question. At a rough count, there are 39 bands in contention (including some of the support acts) for the top performance. Hell, there are some I’ve not even mentioned such as Deathstars who opened for Rammstein. Not in contention, but deserving of a mention. As are Lionheart (Biohazard), The Treatment (Steel Panther), Insomnium (Paradise Lost), Skin (Little Angels)…

So let’s just hand out some awards based on certain performances. That’s fair. After all, what small band – no matter how talented – could expect to play a 200-capacity venue and compete with the:

Most Spectacular Gig

Easy winner – Rammstein at the Newcastle Arena. At £50 plus fees plus travel expenses, not a cheap ticket but worth every penny as you could see where your cash was going. Superb songs wrapped in probably the best showmanship in metal these days (Iron Maiden at a festival are about the only band that come close) and I doubt a single person that night left the venue feeling ripped off. My only disappointment is that it’s still the only gig I’ve ever been to that I don’t have my ticket as a souvenir. Stupid floor policy of taking your ticket off you!

Best Atmosphere At A Gig

Quite a tricky one as there are different atmospheres. The expectation at the Testament gig after their long absence. Similar with the Little Angels. Reel Big Fish, of course. The boos rained upon Turbonegro as they chose to play an England football song before they came on stage in Glasgow. Tragedy, who could have been playing to thousands, not just the couple of dozen who showed up (shame one you – see them next time). But, no. As with Rammstein above, there’s only one streets-ahead winner of this award: Andrew W.K. at the Glasgow Garage, who put on as big a party as he promises in his Twitter feed day after day – using nothing but the power of short, silly, punchy rock anthems. A man who can talk the talk, walk the walk and rock the rock.

Best Comeback Gig

A surprising number of entrants this year (and many more who I didn’t go to see, sadly). Some just haven’t toured the UK, some have actually been split up for years and reformed recently. In the running, we have:

  • Biohazard
  • Little Angels
  • Testament
  • Sacred Reich

Bloody hard to decide with this one. Really hard. My heart says Little Angels because of the fact I saw their last ever gig before they split. My heavier side (and the bruises) say Testament. My “support the underdog” mentality says Sacred Reich. My surprise at having a guitarist standing my shoulder during the first song says Biohazard.

The heart wins. Little Angels at the ABC take the prize, partly as I’ve seen Testament and Sacred Reich at Graspop in more recent years.

Best Support Act

Let’s not forget those poor sods who often get ignored (or worse) trying to warm you up for the headliners. This year, there were some great bands – many of them listed at the top of this section. The winner will come as no surprise, but special mentions to Halestorm – headliners in their own right, frankly, but still touring as a support band in 2013 – and Anthrax, who for some reason haven’t done a UK headlining tour in far too long.

Heights for two gigs – Biohazard and the Metal Hammer Razor Tour II. They’re back in Glasgow again in February, if I recall correctly. And main support again. Keep up the hard word guys, and here’s hoping we get ninety minutes from you in the years to come.

Best Sound At  A Gig

Now this one is a toughie. Some of the venues can be hit and miss with sound (ABC), some are usually crap but somehow pull a blinder once in a while (Academy), some are just awful (Queen Margaret Union, Cathouse) and some have the advantage of being huge (SECC). Winner this year? Bowling For Soup (Acoustic) at the Oran Mor for being just right. Maybe it’s easier as the volume doesn’t need to be cranked, but we could hear every note being strummed.

I’ll leave the awards there for this year. Next year will be a little quieter gig-wise  as I’m changing to a part time job with the equivalent drop in pay. Unless someone wants to sponsor me buy buying tickets or guest-listing me…?

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Black Stone Cherry – Glasgow O2 Academy

Black Stone Cherry
Black Stone Cherry (Photo credit: Iain Purdie)

[Full set of pictures is available on Flickr]

Four months after their show-stealing support slot for Alter Bridge, Black Stone Cherry returned to Glasgow to play their own headliner at the O2 Academy. The gig was a complete sell-out as evidenced by the nightmare we had parking in the streets around despite getting there fairly early (8-ish) after a nice dinner out at “ask”.

I guess a fair few people had made the effort to get there for doors opening so that they could catch the support act, Rival Sons. Recently signed to Earache after releasing their own debut album digitally, the band seem to have gained a decent following and a good portion of the crowd was cheering each song.

Frankly, though, I don’t know why. They were awful. Slow, boring, widdly, no charisma, no stage presence, dull songs… I couldn’t think of anything positive to say about them. In fact, I thought they’d learned a lesson from Alter Bridge in not having a support band blow you off stage by deliberately getting a crap one.

In fairness, their music just wasn’t my kind of thing. If I had to pigeon-hole them then I’d start throwing band names like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and (someone else mentioned this) White Stripes around. All decent enough bands, but none of which I’d really say I like. As ever, they weren’t helped by the awful sound mix. Every time the singer tried to talk to the crowd, the guitarist would be widdling away. Even quietly, his notes would drown out every word – a common problem at the Academy.

They did seem to divide the crowd. I heard two kinds of comments – “they were brilliant” and “they sucked balls”. Did anyone think they just fell somewhere in the middle?

Black Stone Cherry
Black Stone Cherry (Photo credit: Iain Purdie)

Anyway, earlier than I’d usually expect a band to appear, Black Stone Cherry strode on stage at nine and kick-started an excellent ninety minute set.

Barely pausing for breath, they must have made it through half a dozen tracks before Chris Robertson talked to the crowd… and then plunged into another medley. Song after song ploughed through the crowd as the band looned about like a bunch of teenagers play-acting in a garage.

Musically, they are simply superb. Incredibly tight, not a note wrong and with a huge amount of energy. Robertson himself was the most stationary (even moreso than drummer John Fred Young who must have spent a quarter of the gig on his feet), though did stand on a monitor now and again. Ben Wells and Jon Lawhon, however, were all over the shop. Name a stereotypical “rock pose” and they pulled it at some point.

I don’t think they failed to play a single good song from any of their albums, although they did – technically – fail to sing one. “Things My Father Said” was performed vocally 100% by the crowd, with the band settling for musical accompaniment.

My facebook and Twitter feeds are full of deserved praise for Black Stone Cherry after the gig and it’s deserved. However, if I may be contentious, I still think that Shinedown pip them so far as “gig of the year”, with the exception of Rammstein which is just on another level.

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Alter Bridge / Black Stone Cherry / Theory of a Deadman – Glasgow SECC

Theory of a Deadman
Image by Iain Purdie via Flickr

What a line-up. Three cracking bands on one ticket, only a shame that it meant an early door-time and that we missed the first half of Theory of a Deadman. What little we caught – about five or six songs – was good stuff. I enjoyed it enough to want to get tickets for their upcoming headlining show in February anyway.

After a very brief set change, Black Stone Cherry arrived to huge applause and played their way through an excellent set. Their blues-influenced rock works well on CD and is just as catchy and enjoyable live, especially coming from a band with so much charisma. I’ve never even seen pictures of the band, and they really weren’t what any of us were expecting. The guitarist and bassist look like they walked right out of recording the next Status Quo album, the drummer could pass for The Muppets‘ Animal and lead singer Chris Roberston looks like a chunky sociology teacher.

Appearances are nothing to go by and Robertson has an incredible, and fairly unique, voice. You hear him sing and you know it’s BSC you’re listening to. For a band in a support slot they owned the stage as well as any headliner, playing tracks from all three of their albums. I would say there was a toal of about one-and-a-half songs which involved the crowd taking over vocal duties. Again, not something any old support act could get away with.

Black Stone Cherry
Image by Iain Purdie via Flickr

For a second time that night, I found myself looking forward to seeing an act live again – this time on their March tour.

A credit to the engineers and crew saw Alter Bridge themselves take to the stage after another remarkably short delay to begin their hour-and-45-minute set. They ploughed through the opening four songs without so much as a pause for breath, covering both old and new material. The band is very much Myles Kennedy‘s baby, but the rest of the band put in every bit as much as the lead.

It was, however, Myles’ birthday and he got the rousing chorus you’d expect from the crowd.

The set covered all aspects of the band’s three albums, from the heavier rock to the solo, acoustic ballads. Note perfect for the duration, there’s no doubting their abilities as performers but I would have to give them one piece of advice – drop the wanky alternating guitar solo crap. It went on for far too long and we could have had at least one, possibly two more songs in the time it ran on for.

Alter Bridge
Image by Iain Purdie via Flickr

Whinge over, another exhilarating performance from a top notch quartet which rounded off a superb evening of music. The three bands fit together well musically, in my ears. If you like one of the groups then the others are definitely at least worth having a listen to.

As I said earlier, the two supports have sold themselves a few more gig tickets by virtue of their performances. I can’t wait!

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