Tag Archives: Black Crowes

Like An Arrow Tour

Time for a word or three about the latest gig attended by myself and my good lady wife. Thursday 6 April saw the pair of us setting off for Bristol to see southern rockers Blackberry Smoke at the O2 Academy.

We left home just after 4pm, keen to avoid the issues that we’d had on our last concert trip to the city, when heavy traffic on the M32 had caused us to miss all but one song by the opening band when we went to see Dutch metallers Epica at the O2 Academy.

Taking the alternative route from the Severn Crossing meant that we travelled south briefly on the M5 before heading into the city via The Downs. The result of this was time for a visit to Pizza Hut before the show and still left enough time (just!) to make it to the O2 before the doors opened at 7:00pm.

From From The Access Area At The Bristol O2 Academy

As before, the venue staff were very good and soon had us in the access area for disabled customers and carers. Sadly this was where we encountered the low point of the evening. This show was clearly a popular one and the access area filled up very quickly. Unfortunately, however, it was obvious that a number of the seats were being taken by the able-bodied carers which meant that some of those with access needs were unable to get into the area. I appreciate that it is a help for the disabled person and carer to be close to one another – I stand behind my wife’s chair if room permits – and have no problem with the carers sitting if space allows, but on this occasion there were one or two who were clearly oblivious to the needs of others, whether this was by being unaware or just simply ignorant… well, only they will know for sure but I wonder if there is a better way for these areas to be allocated to customers so that those with genuine need get the seats first?

Biters – The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be

Anyway, on with the show… First up, from the same American town as the headliners – Atlanta, Georgia – were Biters. A rather different proposition than the headliners, Biters offer hard rock with a definite Seventies vibe. You can hear echoes of bands like Cheap Trick in their sound and a few of the songs, such as “Heart Fulla Rock ‘N’ Roll” were very reminiscent of Marc Bolan’s T. Rex. This is not a bad thing, as the band’s songs are original yet instantly kind of familiar.

Tuk Smith At The Bristol O2 Academy

Fronted by singer / guitarist Tuk Smith (“he looks like Noel Fielding”, said my wife, who’s probably not the first person to make the comparison), Biters are the kind of band that remind you why rock music can be such fun and make you want to pick up an instrument and play. To be honest I don’t think their records to date have really done the band justice in terms of getting their sound across and tracks like “Low Lives In Hi Definition” and the excellent closer “1975” hit far harder in the live arena. Songs were aired from their debut album as well as a few from their upcoming second full length release “The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be”.

Matt Gabs & Tuk Smith At The Bristol O2 Academy

Smith was an engaging front man and told a couple of funny road stories which I’m sure helped the audience warm to the band. Ably assisted by seriously impressive guitarist Matt Gabs – how could he see to play those great solos with his face almost constantly obscured by hair?! – bassist Philip Anthony and rock solid drummer Joey O’Brien, Smith’s band got the night’s entertainment off to a great start and went down very well with the Bristol crowd.

Setlist:

1. Restless Hearts / 2. Low Lives In Hi Definition / 3. Gypsy Rose / 4. Hallucination Generation / 5. So Many Nights / 6. Going Back To Georgia / 7. Stone Cold Love / 8. Heart Fulla Rock ‘N’ Roll / 9. 1975

1, 2, 8 and 9 originally from “Electric Blood” (2015) / 4 and 5 originally from “Last Of A Dying Breed” (2012) / 3, 6 and 7 originally from “The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be” (2017)

Blackberry Smoke At The O2 Academy

Once Biters and their small crew had cleared their gear from the stage and we’d had an interval it was time for the lights to go down again as singer / lead guitarist Charlie Starr led his band Blackberry Smoke into a storming rendition of “Fire In The Hole”. If you thought Biters had gone down well – and I did – then the response to Blackberry Smoke was nothing short of ecstatic.

Charlie Starr At The Bristol O2 Academy

Starr comes across a little like he’s part-rock star and part-evangelist preacher, which is no huge surprise when you realise that he comes from a very musical family with his dad being a guitar player and singer and his paternal grandmother teaching him all about gospel singing and harmony. The latter shines through on Blackberry Smoke material where every song is catchy and memorable, whether it’s one of their acoustic tunes like the hillbilly country of “I Ain’t Got The Blues”, the harder rocking stuff like “Up In Smoke” or the likes of “Pretty Little Lie” which sits somewhere in between. Large sections of the crowd seemed to know practically every word and sang along with great gusto!

Paul Jackson At The Bristol O2 Academy

Completing the line-up of the band are the ever-smiling Paul Jackson (guitar / vocals), Brandon Still (keyboards) and the hat-wearing duo of Brit Turner (drums) and steady-as-a-rock Richard Turner (bass, vocals).

Blackberry Smoke’s music evokes the spirit of bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Black Crowes (whose Chris Robinson gave Starr’s group their name), Blackfoot and The Allman Brothers Band.

Richard Turner At The Bristol O2 Academy

In fact the latter are given a nod during the extended rendition of “Sleeping Dogs” with a snippet of their “Mountain Jam” in the jam section that also features a blast of Led Zeppelin’s “Your Time Is Gonna Come”. I was slightly concerned that this lengthy workout would fall on deaf ears with my wife, as she doesn’t always enjoy that aspect, preferring the more country music elements at play. I needn’t have worried though. Shortly before the band left the stage prior to returning for a well deserved encore she leaned back in her chair and looked back to me asking what time the band had first come on stage. When I told her she looked at her watch and declared that she’d slept through about an hour of the group’s set – her pain medication taking effect as it had done during our previous visit to the venue, but for rather longer this time!

Brandon Still At The Bristol O2 Academy

In a setlist heavy with tunes from the group’s breakthrough album “The Whippoorwill” and last year’s release “Like An Arrow”, my personal highlights from the show, which didn’t have a duff moment in it, would be the superb one-two of “Six Ways To Sunday” and “Good One Comin’ On”, the aforementioned “Sleeping Dogs”, the simply brilliant “Pretty Little Lie” and an energetic cover of The Move’s “California Man”.

Blackberry Smoke

A mate of mine has seen Blackberry Smoke a number of times and been regularly enthusing about their performances. Although I’ve enjoyed their records before the show I hadn’t appreciated quite how good a band they are and will certainly look out for them on tour in future.

Jessica Simpson In The Dukes Of Hazzard

This was a top quality Southern-flavoured show that meant I just had to get my guitar out the next day and attempt to jam along to 2012’s “The Whippoorwill” album and also inspired me to dig out the “Dukes Of Hazzard” movie remake (nothing to do with Jessica Simpson’s greatest hits, honest guv!) and see if I can track down the original TV series too.

Blackberry Smoke – a great band giving us a great soundtrack on a great night out…

Setlist:  (I’m not 100% sure that this is right. The list on www.setlist.fm has changed a few times since the first person uploaded it and I’m positive it’s still missing one song that was definitely played, “Ain’t Got The Blues”, which I’ve used an educated guess to place at track 14!)

1. Fire In The Hole / 2. Six Ways To Sunday / 3. Good One Comin’ On / 4. Waiting For The Thunder / 5. Scare The Devil / 6. Like An Arrow / 7. Leave A Scar / 8. Rock And Roll Again / 9. Sleeping Dogs / Your Time Is Gonna Come / Mountain Jam / Sleeping Dogs 10. Shakin’ Hands With The Holy Ghost / 11. Pretty Little Lie / 12. Up In Smoke / 13. Let It Burn / 14. Ain’t Got The Blues / 15. Payback’s A Bitch / 16. Sunrise In Texas / 17. California Man / 18. One Horse Town / 19. Ain’t Much Left Of Me

1, 8 and 15 originally from “Holding All The Roses” (2015) / 2, 7, 10, 11, 14, 18, and 19 originally from “The Whippoorwill” (2012) / 3 and 12 originally from “Little Piece Of Dixie” (2009) / 4, 6, 13 and 16 originally from “Like An Arrow” (2016) / 5 originally from “Bad Luck Ain’t No Crime” (2004) / 9 originally from “The Whippoorwill” (2012) / cover of Led Zeppelin song from “Led Zeppelin” (1969) / cover of The Allman Brothers Band song from “Eat A Peach” (1972) / 17 cover of The Move single (1972)

 

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2010 – My Top Ten Albums Of The Year

It’s been a while, but welcome to the third in my occasional series of posts on the subject of my favourite top ten albums from a particular year. This time I’m not looking back quite so far, only five years.

2010 was easier to choose a top ten from than for my previous posts, 1995 and 1987, perhaps because it’s that much more recent so there is less nostalgia for, or emotional attachment to, certain records? In any event, here we go – my top ten albums of 2010, in alphabetical order…

1. Alter Bridge “AB III”

Alter Bridge - AB III
Alter Bridge – AB III

The third album from the American hard rock band Alter Bridge, formed by singer Myles Kennedy (also known for his work with Slash) and three former members of Creed. This record has a loose lyrical concept dealing with struggles with faith and, to quote Kennedy, “touches on the thoughts and emotions of someone who has come to question everything that was once regarded as an absolute truth”.

Both Kennedy and Mark Tremonti provide some stunning guitar playing, and Tremonti also provides some quality vocals to support Kennedy’s as always superb delivery, sharing lead vocals on “Words Darker Than Their Wings”.

Standout tracks include lead single “Isolation”, “Ghost Of Days Gone By”, “Slip To The Void” and the wonderful, emotional “Wonderful Life”, a song that truly shows what a brilliant singer Kennedy is.

2. Black Country Communion “Black Country Communion”

Black Country Communion - Black Country Communion
Black Country Communion – Black Country Communion

The debut album from a short-lived bluesy hard rock supergroup which included former Deep Purple singer/bassist Glenn Hughes, blues guitar superstar Joe Bonamassa, former Dream Theater keyboardist Derek Sherinian and drummer Jason Bonham, son of the late Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, and a really good drummer in his own right.

A 1970s style hard rock record, with similarities to the likes of Deep Purple, this is a great showcase for the individual talents in the band, with some really good material too. Bonamassa’s playing is heavier than normal heard on his solo material, and the vocal performance from Hughes is also far noticeably more hard rock than is often the case.

The best tracks are “Black Country”, “Song Of Yesterday” (with Bonamassa taking lead vocals), “Stand (At The Burning Tree)” and the epic eleven minute closing track”Too Late For The Sun”. They may not have lasted long, partly due to Bonamassa’s decision not to tour as his solo career remains his priority, but all three Black Country Communion albums are certainly worthwhile investments.

3. The Black Crowes “Croweology”

The Black Crowes - Croweology
The Black Crowes – Croweology

Released just before the band went onto their second hiatus (with a third break to follow earlier this year), this 20 track double album featured mainly acoustic re-workings of tunes from the Black Crowes’ back catalogue.

There is more space on this record than to be found on the original source albums, and some of the numbers such as “Ballad In Urgency”, “Wiser Time” and “Thorn In My Pride” are several minutes longer than their original versions, and definitely benefit from the extra room to breathe. Even if you have the original versions of these songs, this collection of re-recordings is a valuable addition, showing once more just how good Chris Robinson and Rich Robinson can be when they are able to work together!

4. Cathedral “The Guessing Game”

Cathedral - The Guessing Game
Cathedral – The Guessing Game

Arguably the heaviest album on this list, “The Guessing Game” is British doom metal band Cathedral at their best. Coming five years after their previous album, the brilliant “The Garden Of Unearthly Delights”, this release was the band’s only double studio album.

Amongst the doomy guitar motifs there are numerous musical styles to be found, including progressive rock, folk and psychedelia, and sounds like it could well have originated in the 1970s, whilst still being recognisably a Cathedral album.

“Funeral Of Dreams”, “Cats, Incense, Candles & Wine” and “Requiem For The Voiceless” are amongst the inventive highlights of this album, and the quality only really dips a little for closing track “Journeys Into Jade” which lyrically is a look back over the band’s history and a bit pedestrian musically. Still, up to that point this is a near flawless progressive doomy folky psychedelic trip…

5. Grace Potter & The Nocturnals “Grace Potter & The Nocturnals”

Grace Potter & The Nocturnals - Grace Potter & The Nocturnals
Grace Potter & The Nocturnals – Grace Potter & The Nocturnals

Grace Potter and her Nocturnals first introduced themselves to my conciousness via their cover version of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” which was featured on the soundtrack album “Almost Alice” in 2010.

This was followed by the sassy “Paris (Ooh La La)”, the video for which demonstrated that not only does Grace possess a great voice and instrumental ability (keyboards and guitars) but also a great pair of legs.

Fortunately, there sounds more than hold their own without the visuals, and this is a great album from start to finish. My favourite tracks include the aforementioned “Paris (Ooh La La)”, “Medicine”, “Tiny Light” and “Hot Summer Night”

6. Imelda May “Mayhem”

Imelda May - Mayhem
Imelda May – Mayhem

“Mayhem” is the third album from Dublin-born rockabilly singer Imelda May. Reputedly recorded in just two weeks, the album features Imelda with her usual band – Imelda’s guitarist husband Darrel Higham, bassist Al Gare, drummer Steve Rushton and Dave Prismeman on trumpet, flugelhorn and percussion.

The album produced five singles, “Psycho”, “Mayhem”, “Kentish Town Waltz”, “Sneaky Freak” and a remixed version of “Inside Out”, in addition to which this album features live favourite “Proud And Humble”, “Eternity” (a track written by Darrel that channels the Everly Brothers), the slinky and sensuous “All For You” and a spirited cover of the classic “Tainted Love”. A simply excellent album.

7. Iron Maiden “The Final Frontier”

Iron Maiden - The Final Frontier
Iron Maiden – The Final Frontier

Coming four years after “A Matter Of Life And Death”, this is, to date, the longest Iron Maiden album, clocking in at a little over 76 minutes, and became the band’s fourth UK number 1 album.

The record also continued Maiden’s run of strong album releases since vocalist Bruce Dickinson and guitarist Adrian Smith had returned to the line-up in 1999.

Containing mainly lengthy, somewhat progressive, tracks, the highlights of the album for me are “Satellite 15… The Final Frontier”, “El Dorado”, “Coming Home”, “The Talisman” and “When The Wild Wind Blows”.

8. Joe Bonamassa “Black Rock”

Joe Bonamassa - Black Rock
Joe Bonamassa – Black Rock

“Black Rock” was Bonamassa’s 8th studio album, his 12th release (including live albums) in just ten years. Despite the regularity with which he tours and releases music, there is no drop in standards to be found here. In fact, both his singing and guitar playing seem to keep on improving.

As is often the case, this album is a mixture of Bonamassa originals and tastefully done cover versions. Of the former, my favourites are “Blue And Evil”, “Quarryman’s Lament” and the acoustic piece “Athens To Athens”.

Of the covers, “Steal Your Heart Away”, “Spanish Boots”, “Three Times A Fool”, “Night Life” (featuring the legendary B.B. King) and the atmospheric “Bird On A Wire” are standouts.

9. Mostly Autumn “Go Well Diamond Heart”

Mostly Autumn - Go Well Diamond Heart
Mostly Autumn – Go Well Diamond Heart

The ninth studio album from British progressive rock band Mostly Autumn, “Go Well Diamond Heart” was the first album released since original vocalist Heather Findlay had left the band in early 2010 and backing vocalist Olivia Sparnenn had taken over lead vocal duties.

The album was released in two versions – initially a double album version only available from the band’s website, which was followed by a single disc version available through retailers.

Although Heather had been an integral part of the Mostly Autumn sound, Olivia’s pure, yet sensual vocals helped the band develop their sound still further, and although this could be considered a transitional album it is nonetheless a very solid record with some great material from the band’s founder, guitarist/vocalist Bryan Josh.

The strongest of the tracks are “For All We Shared”, “Go Well Diamond Heart”, “Back To Life”, “Hold The Sun” ,”And When The War Is Over…” and “Ice”.

10. Saint Jude “Diary Of A Soul Fiend”

Saint Jude - Diary Of A Soul Fiend
Saint Jude – Diary Of A Soul Fiend

“Diary Of A Soul Fiend” is the debut, and to date only, album by British rock band Saint Jude. Since the release of the record, guitarist Adam Green has died, and the bassist and keyboard player featured on it have left the band. This may go some way to explaining why, although all three were replaced, there seems to be little in the way of activity from the band.

The album, though, is a corker. Soulful vocals from Lynne Jackaman over the top of some great bluesy instrumentation from drummer Lee Cook and the aforementioned trio make a potent combination.

“Down And Out” is the absolute highlight of the record without a doubt, but “Soul On Fire”, “Rivers And Streams”, “Parallel Life” and “Southern Belles” all keep up the high quality of this album

So, there you have it – my top ten albums of 2010. The year in which the David Cameron was became British Prime Minister in a coalition between the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties, Chelsea replaced Manchester United as Premier League champions, Matt Smith made his debut as the 11th Dr, Who, and top film releases included “Toy Story 3”, “Inception”, “Despicable Me” and “Iron Man 2″…