@ Newcastle Carling Academy, December 6 2008

Dave the former merch man summed it up best when he said ‘I love Black Stone Cherry but after watching Sevendust and Stone Gods I’d go out and buy their stuff tomorrow’.

This really was a heavyweight triple bill guaranteed to keep rock fans happy until the other side of Christmas. And where the two willing and able supports set the frenzied tone, the headliners took their sensational set to a spine-tingling new level.

After watching brief snippets of BSC in Glasgow and Newcastle earlier this year, during their successful stint on the double headline Whtesnake/Def Leppard trek, I had been literally begging for more. Few new bands boast the sonic power of these southern rock giants and they’re the best thing out of Kentucky since the Colonel’s secret recipe. 

In fact a night of KFC and BSC would be just about the perfect evening and next time the boys are in town I’ll be sure to bag a bargain bucket en route. Imagine waving a drumstick in time to John-Fred’s solo or sucking on a zinger tower burger to the tune of Rain Wizard…but as I try and snap out of that heavenly scenario what about tonight’s Academy show.

Well poor old Chris Roberston was particularly apologetic about the lack of an encore but by the time he’d said sorry most bands would have squeezed in at least two more numbers. Then again we could forgive the most polite man in rock his verbosity given the blistering set which had just gone before us.

A band with only two albums to their name, BSC played just about everything which we wanted to hear. Whether blasting through Reverend Wrinkle or mellowing out on Maybe Someday there was never a dull moment. Well, apart from John Fred’s elongated drum solo.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t begrudge one of the best new drummers in rock his moment in the spotlight but it did drag on. And on. And on. It was very Tommy Alrdidge and very good for the first few minutes but in the end it overshadowed his stint as BSC’s harmonica-tooting frontman – in a bad way.

And that’s a shame. Because when Chris and JF swapped roles midway through a jam-tastic version of The Key the audience genuinely felt privy to a special moment in rock. With Ben Wells’ bandana-wearing guitar tech moving up to the plate and Chris proving himself a mean tub thumper it was almost as if we’d been given two headline acts for the price of one.

When The Weight Comes Down, Hell And High Water and The Bitter End will all be marked out for special praise when the band’s back catalogue is reviewed in future years and all three moved the Academy crowd to mania. But as a sucker for sentiment I just can’t look past the phenomenal version of Peace Is Free when picking a single highlight.

Chris might have gone all Preacher Man on his congregation at that point but you do feel the man means what he says. There’s a fine line between pure cheese and heartfelt passion in the world of rock and BSC tread carefully on the side of the latter. For now.

This was a night for the Cherries to blossom and they did just that. The promise of a two-hour set in 2009 should have the crowds flocking back for more – just as long as the quite brilliant John-Fred doesn’t overdo it next time around. Not that you’d say that to his face…

Simon Rushworth