Black Stone Cherry, Download Main Stage, June 10 2011

Black Stone Cherry have been rock’s next big thing for a number of years now. But, after paying their dues playing their arses off for the best part of a decade, 2011 could finally be when Chris Robertson and co. break the big leagues.

Latest record Between The Devil And the Deep Blue Sea’s highest Billboard chart position of 29 – a place lower than previous album Folklore & Superstition managed – suggests BSC is a band standing still rather than moving forward. 

But the second half of this hugely significant Download set proved that all that time spent opening up for Def Leppard, Whitesnake, Nickelback et al had more than paid off. Initially looking like a band that had been off the live circuit for some time, the Roadrunner Records darlings required little time to regain their stride and get the crowd on their side.

BSC are now more at home occupying the big stages in front of the bumper crowds than they ever were packing little clubs and playing sweaty theatres. The quality of their music, coupled with the craft of their performances, makes for a heady mix and it’s a case of the more, the merrier where this band is concerned.

Unlike fellow main stagers The Darkness, BSC already boast a back catalogue bursting with brilliant tunes and the trick is finding the right fit for the festival masses. Sadly the decision to play Killing Floor and Blame It On The Boom Boom – the weakest tracks on the otherwise magnificent BTDATDBS – was skewed from the start.

Even when both songs become familiar to BSC die-hards it’s a good bet neither will be grouped in the same class as Such A Shame, Things My Father Said, Please Come In, Rain Wizard or Lonely Train. These are the highlights of the BSC canon and the aforementioned newies just don’t come up to scratch.

Thankfully the remainder of the band’s Donington set was brimful of singalong splendour. And the rendition of Lonely Train left just about every other song for dead on the opening day of Download 2011 – and we’re not just talking every other BSC song.

Robertson and his merry Southern rock men deserve to make it big this time around. Opening up for label mates Alter Bridge in the UK this autumn doesn’t look like the best step on the road to glory but one thing’s for sure – Myles Kennedy and co. will have to up their game every night to avoid being outshone by one of the best live bands on the planet.

Simon Rushworth