@ Newcastle o2 Academy, October 19 2009
According to Black Stone Cherry frontman Chris Robertson the Kentucky, Edmonton crew didn’t get into rock n roll to drink beer and ‘meet’ women.
That might seem a little crazy to all you spotty kids out there convinced a band is the only way to guarantee four packs and foreplay but it means the best emerging rock band on the planet is fully focused on the music. And when the music’s this good you just don’t want pints and groupies to spoil the party.
Sobriety might not be the natural direction for a gang of hard gigging heroes but if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. And right now BSC just don’t need the sex and drugs because they’ve got so much damn fine rock n roll. Only two albums in to a career in its infancy, it already seems like they’ve been around forever and selling out the o2 Academy with ease is the least this likeable quartet can expect on the back of wonderful songs and an unflinching work ethic.
It’s an approach label mates The Parlor Mob would do well to replicate and if the understated retro rockers don’t exude the same boundless energy synonymous with BSC then the quality of their music is clearly on a par. Whoever is responsible for spotting the new breed of Roadrunner Records acts is doing an incredible job and it’s little wonder Duff McKagan is harping on about his fellow countrymen as the best new band he’s heard in the past six months.
The dual guitar sound and vocalist Mark Melicia’s Plant-esque style make for a heady mix of classic rock steeped in 70s tradition. A little grungier than they come across on CD, it’s clear that guitarist David Rosen really does worship at the altar of Kurt Cobain when given the right opportunity. And yet the next moment he’s padding away at the keyboard to present The Parlor Mob as a modern-day Doors. If variety is the spice of life then this band is capable of oxygenating rock for years to come.
So Duff’s favourite new band made way for Duff and a set rich in posturing but short on substance. Loaded are a garage band boasting a Rolls Royce frontman but for all their stripped down tunes and punk rock attitude there’s something just not right about the college buddies turned serious contenders. Tracks like Sick just don’t transfer well to the live stage and there’s a nagging feeling that this part-time project has already run its course.
Hearing McKagan rifle through the staple GNR track It’s So Easy might have been worth the admission money alone but there’s only so much faux aggression you can take from a legendary performer who used to do this for real as a member of the most dangerous band in the world. Ultimately this so-so set served to remind those present just how much the rock world is missing Velvet Revolver.
But of course you can always rely on BSC to raise the bar and the most polite men in rock don’t need F-words and vitriol to whip a crowd into a frenzy. Their immense sound and supreme confidence – which has never yet morphed into arrogance – captures the hearts and minds of crowds everywhere and even when you’ve seen these boys in action six times in 18 months there’s no danger of the attention waning.
Roberston’s voice is already threatening to go down in history as one of the finest that rock music has ever spawned. He hates labels but if these pipes weren’t made to deliver classic rock with a Southern flavour then Rain Wizard is a duff song (or a Duff song). And it isn’t. In fact BSC don’t do average – just about everything which poured forth from their latest Newcastle set oozed passion and panache, pride and power. Peace Is Free and Things My Father Said, from the peerless Folklore & Superstition, are two of the finest examples of carefully crafted power ballads this side of 1987 and yet there’s nothing toe-curlingly commercial or contrived about either. Heartfelt is the word.
Blind Man and Please Come In have also swiftly become key crowd pleasers in a set still leaning heavily on material hewn from the band’s brilliant self-titled debut. Neither quite matched the roof-raising rendition of Hell & High Water and it’s incredible to think this anthemic bruiser was written by a band with no track record and no record deal. Yet it’s that ability to write classic songs way beyond their tender years which make BSC the band to watch heading into 2010.
Tossing donuts into the crowd might seem cheap compared to Nickelback’s big budget arena T-shirt guns. But there’s a need for a sugar hit when Robertson and his buddies are relentlessly squeezing every last ounce of energy out of their wilting devotees. You know you’ll come away from a BSC gig exhausted and exhilarated, excited and even expectant – wondering just what this band will bring to the table next. It’s an emotional rollercoaster and right now this band guarantees the rock ride of your life.