There was a time when southern rock ruled, thanks to the widespread and simultaneous success of the Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Marshall Tucker Band, .38 Special, the Outlaws, Molly Hatchet, Wet Willie, and many similar bands. After its 1970s heyday, however, southern rock became a fringe market in the music industry. Five decades later, Blackberry Smoke is now the new leader in the field, forming in 2001 and releasing seven studio albums, two live albums, and five extended plays since 2003. The band’s most recent studio album, You Hear Georgia, was released on May 28.
The lights lower, the crowd begins to yell in anticipation, I could see from my position in the photo pit the band walking out onto the unlit stage and my heart was running. My excitement was only fuelled by the cheers from the audience, it was go time.
An actual blackberry haze seeped in across the stage, and with a pulsing flash of lights, and psychedelia uncommon to the west of Scotland, the band revved in with a loud and groovy rendition of “I’m Gonna Love you Six Ways to Sunday”.
There are so many things that can go into what would be considered a good concert experience. It can be the venue. It can be the company that you attend with. One major factor in a good concert experience is the set list. I would have to say that the guys nailed it with this one. They covered songs old and new. The ninety minute plus show was infectious as the crowd sang the words to every song the band threw at them
The band still sounds tack sharp and tight yet still maintains that relaxed vibe that southern rock has. As ‘You Hear Georgia’ is the band’s latest album, they gave the fans a healthy dose of songs from it. Of course, their latest singles “Hey Delilah” and the title track “You Hear Georgia” were played. Charlie Starr was clearly the front person, he performed the bulk of the vocals and, similarly, even with three guitarists on the stage, he played most of the lead guitar. He did well as the band’s centre of attention, singing, playing, and connecting with the audience.
Their Southern rock songs, led by the often squealing guitar of Paul Jackson, mull over the finer points of cars, hillbillies, rednecks, shotgun shacks, open highways, being burned and generally embrace the idea of hanging tough.
The band themselves sound phenomenal. Charlie Starr and Paul Jackson’s riffs sound massive, anchored by Richard Turner’s prominent bass grooves and the added flourish of Brandon Still’s keyboard just makes the sound sublime.
Blackberry Smoke are an incredibly fun band to watch perform. Charlie, as his surname attests, is a consummate showman, exuding a sense of swagger and soul to every movement and behind every syllable sung.
Tonight was a perfect example of why Blackberry Smoke shows are always packed. They play their music with a relaxed precision that few bands dare to try and emulate. Blackberry Smoke gave a perfect example of how they can change things up in a heartbeat and provide a great performance every time you see them whether you have caught them ten times or this will be your very first show, no matter the case you will be guaranteed to have a great night.
Blackberry Smoke Set List:
Six Ways To Sunday
Good One Coming On
Workin’ For A Workin’ Man
Live It Down, Let It Burn
You Hear Georgia
Pretty Little Lie
Medicate My Mind
Ain’t The Same
No Way Back To Eden
What Comes Naturally
Waiting For The Thunder
Ain’t Got The Blues
Run Away From It All
Sunrise In Texas
One Horse Town
Shakin’ Hands With The Holy Ghost
Ain’t Much Left Of Me.
THE READ SOUTHALL BAND
Read Southall says he grew up on a tractor in rural Altus, Oklahoma. Raised on a farm, he learned how to irrigate cotton early in life. Riding that tractor alone gave him lots of contemplative time. Reflecting on the nineties country and the gospel he heard on his grandmother’s radio, he was inspired to learn to play a guitar and compose melodies and harmonies. As a youth, he joined choirs and local bands and began performing solo at age 22. He soon formed an acoustic band, started playing some shows locally, and before long, these country boys learned that they liked to rock and roll.
Heavy on drums and punishing guitar, the combination of Read Southall (lead vocals/guitar), John Tyler Perry (lead, rhythm guitar), Zac Copeland (rhythm, lead guitar) and Jeremee Knipp (bass) create a southern rock feel paired with penetrating lyrics while Reid Barber (drums) keeps everyone in line, in addition to creating some powerful openings.
In the O2 tonight, the Read Southall Band brought various country sounds to the city. Southall’s passionate vocals and confessional lyrics drove the music. His gritty delivery opened a window to his soul, articulating well his vulnerability and heartache as well as his confident optimism and joy-filled celebrations. Southall’s guitar-centric band supported him by lacing traces of traditional country and Americana with southern rock and even a sprinkling of hard-hitting alt-rock grunge. It all flowed fairly freely, feeling like contemporary rock rooted in classic rock. This is a band I certainly want to see and hear a lot more of.