Black Stone Cherry @O2 Academy, Newcastle September 20 2021

For Black Stone Cherry, family is everything. 

A more loyal, close-knit group of musicians and crew you couldn’t hope to meet.

Hell, they even named their 2018 album Family Tree.

The band’s roots — musically and socially — have always been in forging new friendships and strengthening bonds. 

And this long-awaited tour shines a welcome light on a sense of community, belonging and brotherhood.

These are the shows we never thought would happen.

The gigs that got lost in the sands of time.

And the concerts that Covid threatened to kill.

But the faithful Cherry bomb’s finally exploded any lingering doubts.

This heady night in Newcastle was an absolute blast.

It was one for the fans. Aka the extended family.

Image: Gordon Armstrong @G’s Gig Shots

Chris Robertson Bears His Soul Creek

Chris Robertson has always been an emotional man.

On stage and off stage he’s an open book when it comes to bearing his soul and speaking from the heart.

A compassionate advocate for openness around mental health, his private battles have become a very public inspiration.

And at a time when everyone who lives and breathes live music needs an almighty shot in the arm, who better to inject the optimism?

Robertson loved and lived every minute of a life-affirming return to Tyneside.

Pacing a greatest hits set to perfection, the face of Kentucky’s finest never wavered.

And when Robertson’s on top form it’s difficult to imagine a more compelling frontman.

But the adrenaline courses through every member of this brilliant blue collar band.

Guitarist Ben Wells is the Angus Young of his generation: a firecracker of a musician with a pathological fear of standing still.

Talking of Youngs and John Fred is — and always has been — a giant of a man, doling out night after night of unrelenting punishment on his trembling kit.

In fact, earplugs are pointless in the face of the demonic drummer’s full-on assault on the senses.

Of course, this was the first time Newcastle had witnessed BSC without bass player John Lawhon.

A big miss? Yes.

Irreplaceable? Not so much. Steve Jewell delivered another sparkling audition for the full-time role and it must be his…if he wants it?

Twenty years down the line and Southern rock’s modern-day flag bearers remain as eye-catching live as they are consistently powerful on record.

It’s Cheaper To Drink Alone. But it’s better to raise a glass with Black Stone Cherry.

Image: Mick Burgess

The Human Condition Cured

Had this tour gone ahead as planned it’s likely ‘new’ album The Human Condition would have featured more prominently.

But 13 months after BSC’s seventh long player dropped it seems the moment might have passed.

Ringin’ In My Head, Again and the superior In Love With The Pain brought the band’s setlist bang up to date.

And yet given the nature of the last 18 months, a celebratory romp through a bulging back catalogue proved to be the perfect move.

Fans who’ve been fortunate to witness BSC’s glorious evolution since the release of 2006’s self-titled debut might hanker after even more deeper cuts.

But let’s face it — this is a band that’s always been big on quality control.

And a three-hour show still couldn’t Cherry pick all of those steepling career highlights.

Not for the first time Things My Father Said jostled for position as standout track.

Robertson always reaches another level as he immerses himself in an achingly personal tribute.

Lonely Train signalled BSC as a band on track for greatness back in the day.

And it still sends shivers down the spine 15 years down the line.

Peace Is Free brought the BSC family back together one last time as the clock ticked towards curfew.

Fingers crossed it won’t be another two years before the next, uplifting reunion.

Image: Mick Burgess

Review By John Evans

Main image: Mick Burgess