@Ramblin’ Man Fair 2016, Mote Park, July 24 2016
It gave the ‘live and unplugged’ format a whole new meaning. But it was impossible to watch poor Ben Wells struggle to make himself heard during what was supposed to be a spine-tingling acoustic moment and not feel genuine sympathy.
This was the live debut of new BSC single The Rambler. The perfect choice to kick off the encore to the band’s first appearance as UK festival headliners. And the ideal opportunity for Wells and Chris Robertson to get up close and personal with their most devoted fans.
When Wells’ guitar failed to make a sound mouths dropped and hearts sank. Probably none quite as far or deep as Robertson’s. It could have been an unmitigated disaster and a dreadful end to what had been a difficult day for Wells and his buddies. But this is Black Stone Cherry: a band that’s frequently laughed in the face of adversity, bounced back from the brink and battled on.
Robertson’s reaction to a terribly unlucky technical glitch provided a timely snapshot of just why this bullish Kentucky crew has risen through the ranks and, within a decade, gone from supporting classic rock behemoths Whitesnake to sharing headline status with David Coverdale and co.
No guitar? No problem. As Wells and his tech struggled on manfully, Robertson simply went all a cappella on the Mote Park crowd – snatching an emotive victory from the jaws of defeat and demonstrating why BSC have built such a loyal British fan base. It could have been four minutes to forget. Instead the image of Robertson singing solo to his people is a glorious picture that will never be forgotten.
This was a night when the Sunday headliners never had it all their own way. Their backdrop failed to arrive – leaving drummer John Fred Young alone in the darkness for long periods – and neither did various pieces of essential kit. Losing Wells’ guitar right at the death simply compounded the sense that BSC would have to be at their determined best to pull off their biggest ever British show.
And they were. A volcanic set – with the frenzied Wells at the forefront of every fresh burst of febrile rock and roll energy – featured the greatest hits (and they never sounded greater) and more. Me And Mary Jane set the breakneck pace from minute one and it wasn’t until BSC rolled out the reflective Things My Father Said that a wrapt crowd was finally afforded the opportunity to draw breath.
Perhaps the best ballad Robertson and co. will ever write, TMFS offered a moment of reflection and provided a visible emotional connection between frontman and fans. Lighters/phones held aloft and voices projected with heartfelt passion, the Rambin’ Man choir answered their preacher’s call for a a fitting tribute to loved ones lost.
There’s no doubt BSC are creating a spectacular canon of modern rock classics with new long player Kentucky serving up a slew of hot new tunes to shoehorn into an already congested setlist. Soul Machine needs some work before it becomes a bona fide live classic, Robertson fluffed his lines during the intro. to Rescue Me and we’ve covered The Rambler. But In Our Dreams was a standout anthem on a night when BSC lived theirs.
Robertson admitted that this bunch of childhood pals almost called it quits following the singer’s well-publicised bout of depression: a sensational show of strength reminded us all of what we’d be missing had mental illness got the better of BSC’s endearing driving force.