The Cadillac Three @Newcastle O2 City Hall, August 30 2022

Rushonrock first clapped eyes on The Cadillac Three from a baking hot vantage point on the hallowed turf of Castle Donington in 2015.

It was the set that almost didn’t happen after Jaren Johnston, Kelby Ray and Neil Mason arrived in the UK only to discover their gear had disappeared.

Disaster was averted that day when Black Stone Cherry stepped in to loan their fellow countrymen the necessary equipment.

And the rest is history.

The Cadillac Three wasted little time in convincing the Download faithful that they deserved closer scrutiny.

In fact, they’ve never looked back.

Just six months later the band blazed a trail across the UK alongside Whiskey Myers in what would become the must-see double header of 2016.

Back then we suggested that the talented trio already boasted ‘the songs, the swagger and the Southern Rock cool’ to leave the UK’s club circuit behind.

But let’s face it — it was hardly the boldest of claims.

You didn’t need to be the North East’s answer to Nostradamus to predict a neon bright future for these fun-loving Southern boys.

And sure enough that future is now.

Fast forward six-and-a-half years and The Cadillac Three swapped Newcastle University’s modest Students’ Union for a revamped venue synonymous with rock royalty.

These days, the historic City Hall is where Nashville’s finest truly belong. 

Country City Fuzz

Looking right at home in the main dressing room previously occupied by luminaries including Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and Whitesnake, Johnston, Ray and Mason oozed pre-show confidence.

A lazy, hazy 24 hours in the Toon had simply served to double down on their special bond with a rock city that’s backed this endearing trio from day one.

And if a long-awaited tour had taken a touristy twist on the banks of the Tyne (Johnston still couldn’t quite come to terms with the mind-bending Millennium Bridge) then nothing was going to distract a crack band from the job in hand.

Come show time The Cadillac Three couldn’t wait to reconnect with a crowd that had begun to fear the thrice-postponed Hillbilly Hypnotized tour might never happen.

Working from a fluid — and apparently improvised — setlist, three musicians at the top of their game gave the illusion that this theatre-sized gig was, in fact, a fireside jam.

In spite of the flashy lights, steepling backdrop and bellowing sound, a reassuring sense of intimacy prevailed.

In 2022 The Cadillac Three might tread the boards of more grandiose venues but the band’s failsafe authenticity remains.

And if the dream is still to be buried in their boots, then they’ll never bury their roots.

Sure, there was plenty of room for ‘new’ tunes culled from 2020 records Country Fuzz and funky surprise package Tabasco And Sweet Tea.

In fact Head Over Wheels — featuring ‘fourth member’ Lindsay Ell — was one of the night’s standout highlights.

But The Cadillac Three forged their reputation on the back of slow-burning groovers White Lightning, The South and I’m Southern.

The band’s Covid-era double album drop revealed a remarkable appetite for bold reinvention but the canny juxtaposition between past and present underpinned a marvellous, meandering show.

Striking the balance between old and new is the bane of every band determined to celebrate an every-expanding back catalogue.

But The Cadillac Three get it right…night after night.

One Ell Of A Show

And talking of smart moves, the decision to enlist Ell as main support was inspired.

The host of Canada’s Got Talent is a genuinely engaging triple threat.

Songwriter, vocalist and guitarist supreme, Ell looks and sounds like the real deal.

And she grasped the opportunity to seduce the City Hall faithful with both hands.

Those naively expecting a sugar-coated set of pop-lite country were left choking on their two-pinters as the Calgary native let rip.

Wrapping the highlights of latest long player Heart Theory in layers of White Stripes-esque garage rock, Ell thundered through her hits barely pausing for breath.

Right On Time is the right song for right now — continuing to resonate with the FOMO generation.

And on What Happens In A Small Town, Ell’s hugely successful collab with Brantley Gilbert, one of country music’s rising stars never sounded better.

The mid-set Just A Girl/Bohemian Rhapsody jam jolted any remaining doubters and reiterated the obvious: Ell ain’t a bad place to be. 

Images by Adam Kennedy