After a short run of “fan picked” setlist shows earlier in the year in considerably smaller venues, Black Stone Cherry returned to Britain’s shores, this time headlining some huge rooms. The last time they were playing arenas, they were on a co-headline run with Alter Bridge back in 2011, however this time it was up to them to end the night with a set worthy of 8,000+ fans paying their hard earned cash for.
I missed the vast majority of Theory of a Deadman’s set, however ‘I Hate My Life’ and ‘Bad Girlfriend’ both sounded suitably massive and their cover of ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ (and changing the words to “Sweet Home Birmingham”) sounded suitably cheesy. However the mix wasn’t as clean as it could have been which ruined some of Tyler Connolly’s vocals. It would be a lazy comparison calling them a Nickelback wannabe band, partly as they were formerly signed to Chad Kroeger’s 604 Records as well as being Canadian, however their brand of arena radio-friendly rock, in a similar style to Nickelback’s, is perfectly suited for opening shows in these sized venues.
Hitting the stage with the pace of Usain Bolt at full speed and the power of a punch courtesy of Mike Tyson, Airbourne [9/10] proceeded to show everyone why they are one of the best rock’n’roll bands around today. Their music has an uncanny ability to kick a reflex that makes your body want to drink beer and rock out. With a back drop of a wall of Marshall Amps, Airbourne proceeded to kick ass and take names in a manor Stone Cold Steve Austin would be proud of, tracks such as ‘Get Ready To Rock’ and ‘Cheap Wine & Cheaper Women’ caused fun sing-a-longs and lots of fists in the air. The highlight of the set was on a prolonged version of ‘Girls In Black’ where frontman Joel O’Keeffe proceeded to play guitar on a techs shoulders as he carried him to the soundstage to play a solo then carry him back to the stage. Ending on ‘Runnin’ Wild’, Airbourne showed that they are not just a festival band and that they are simply tons of fun to see live.
There were some questions being raised before the concert on whether Black Stone Cherry [9/10] could sell out a venue this size, especially since they have played the UK a couple of times on this album run already, however the fact that nearly every seat was taken and there was barely room to breathe in the standing area, answered those questions with a resounding yes. With the band recording the show for a live DVD there was a ton of pressure on them, however they delivered one of the finest performances that fans have seen them play.
Opening with ‘Rain Wizard’, off of their debut self-titled album, quickly followed by ‘Blind Man’, from Folklore and Superstition, the band showed that this setlist was going to feature all of their best work. With the stage covered in green lighting, the riff from ‘Me And Mary Jane’ seemed to fill the arena to the rafters while Chris Roberson’s unique vocals just managed to sound even more badass live than on record. One of the highlights of the night, let alone any gig this year, was the ballad ‘Things My Father Said’. Without Robertson singing a note, he proceeded to lead 8,000 voices into singing every word of the song with phones and lighters in the area, thus creating a truly beautiful spectacle.
While Black Stone Cherry certainly have the tracks to fill venues this size, their stage show was lacking slightly. With no fire, a very simple stage set up, this set up would have been more fitting for the O2 Academy or The Institute rather than an arena. Closing the main part of the show with the singles off of Between The Devil and The Deep Blue Sea, in the form of ‘White Trash Millionaire’ and ‘Blame It Boom Boom’, the crowd was on the edge of frenzy while braced for an encore. With a parting shot of two older cuts in ‘Peace Is Free’ then ‘Lonely Train’, Robertson has the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand for the entirety of the set, there was a big feeling that Black Stone Cherry are still a band still on the rise.
This is a band, along with possibly a handful of others, which have the ability to be festival headliners in the not too distant future. The next album will be a massive test, however so was tonight playing a show of this size, and Black Stone Cherry showed they are a band in top form currently and will pass any test with flying colours.