@Newcastle O2 Academy, November 5 2015
Put that in your pipe and (Blackberry) Smoke it!
Those suffering from a nasty bout of rock and roll cynicism should check out YouTube footage of this incendiary show for a healthy dose of reality.
Not since Micky Quinn bagged four goals against Leeds United has Newcastle witnessed such a stunning debut. Blackberry Smoke might have taken 15 years to visit the Toon but this sizzling show was well worth the wait.
Digging deep into breakthrough British release The Whippoorwill and top 20 follow-up Holding All The Roses, the breathtaking quintet delivered a set rich in substance and understated style. It was a show that will go down in the annals of Newcastle rock history – at times achingly simplistic and yet benefitting from genuine depth and authenticity evoking Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers, Blackfoot et al.
Whether teasing his way through the cheeky Six Ways To Sunday, holding back the tears on the reflective One Horse Town or delivering the cheerful boast of Everybody Knows She’s Mine, frontman Charlie Starr proved himself the consummate storyteller.
Bright-eyed and busy, Blackberry Smoke’s singer is the glue that binds this brilliant collective together – his knowing glances and authoritative nods sparking intuitive creativity and old-school jams.
Just why it’s taken the new flag bearers for Southern Rock so long to pitch up on Tyneside is a mystery. But Starr’s blink-and-you-missed-it line from Humble Pie’s 30 Days In The Hole – ‘Newcastle Brown, I’m tellin’ you, it can sure smack you down’ – was the mark of a musician who knows how to forge a lasting bond.
Canny without being self-confident, Blackberry Smoke’s main man is a glorious throwback to an era when casual cool trumped arrogance and angst. Transfixing the masses, his lesson in unflashy showmanship proved compelling.
Complemented by the most relaxed rhythm section in rock, Brandon Still’s brilliant tinkling and the ever-jovial Paul Jackson, Starr marshalled a band on a mission to fire the imagination and fuel ambition.
As a Smoke-filled room rose in unison to hail the Blackberry boys this felt like Rock And Roll Again.