Hard work, dedication and professionalism don’t sit so easily with the image of a hedonistic rock n roll lifestyle but that’s exactly why Black Stone Cherry’s latest UK tour is sold out across the board.
This clean-living quartet might eschew drink, drugs and groupies (most of the time) in favour of commitment to the cause but it makes them no less endearing as modern-day hard rock heroes.
And once they’re on stage, belting out some of the coolest choruses and riotous riffs on the live music circuit, there are few more mad, bad and dangerous bands on the planet.
Yet one concern for a Newcastle crowd that has always kept BSC close to its heart must have been the Jekyll and Hyde performance of frontman Chris Robertson.
His voice, when he used it, was as powerful and emotive as ever and yet the enduring look in his eyes screamed fatigue. Forced to miss a couple of dates in Germany earlier this month, these are clearly testing times for the glue that holds BSC together and the normally ebullient and abrasive Robertson was a worryingly subdued shadow of his normal self.
It is, however, testimony to one of the finest US imports seen on these shores for a decade that their singer’s atypically reserved display didn’t diminish another barnstorming show.
Robertson can afford to concentrate on hitting the right notes and little else when the whirling dervish that is John Fred Young and crackerjack guitar hero Ben Wells explode with such intoxicating energy. Drum solos are so often a cue to queue for the toilets but Young’s vibrant work demands attention and plaudits in equal measure. Wells, as always, looks like one crazy dude simply loving life.
Only three albums in and BSC’s setlist already sounds like a well-honed romp through decades of gut-wrenching Greatest Hits. Blind Man, Hell & High Water and Maybe Someday already wear the ‘classic’ tag while Blame It On The Boom Boom has morphed from album filler to floor filler in less than a year.
Things My Father Said is BSC at their brilliant best and the encore of Peace Is Free and Lonely Train trump anything else you’ll hear in 2012. Roberston looked a relieved man to get another sold-out show under his belt but there was only joy on the faces of those privileged to witness yet another exercise in rock n roll excellence from the peerless Kentucky crew.
In truth BSC needed to be at their very best playing hot on the heels of the rapidly-rising Rival Sons. Singer songwriter Jay Buchanan is from the Cormac Neeson/David Coverdale school of charismatic frontmen and took the chance to play in front of another huge Tyneside posse with both hands.
A vocal range wider than the Pennines, coupled with an easy manner in between tunes, ensured an instantaneous connection with the BSC-heavy crowd. Far removed from the headliner’s post-grunge heavy rock, the Sons mix 70s-soaked classic rock with West Coast cool to create a sound tailor-made made for the UK’s more discerning music followers.
The rhythmic lure of Pressure & Time, the title track from their re-released debut long player, will draw in new fans for years to come and cannily allows each member of a multi-talented band to prove their live credentials.
Delivered with an off-the-cuff charm in the style of a garage jam there is, nevertheless, a steely determination underpinning everything Rival Sons do right now. Like BSC before them these all-American heroes will only get better and you’d be mad to miss out on the ride.