Black Stone Cherry have become Download Festival staples since their blazing debut a decade ago and the band is edging ever closer to that coveted main stage headliner slot. HRH Mag reacts to the key comments surrounding Kentucky’s finest.
Black Stone Cherry just aren’t big enough to headline Download
Agreed. At least not this year. But it would be foolish to bet against Chris Robertson and co, returning to the hallowed turf of Castle Donington for the eighth time…and rocking up as the main event. Nobody can accuse the Kentucky quartet of failing to pay their dues and four Download sets in six years represents a sustained campaign to get these good old Southern boys on top of the bill. Every set since 2008 has been bigger, better and ballsier than before – bar one misstep on the second stage when Robertson was clearly struggling – and Saturday’s pre-Guns N Roses show had the look of a band who clearly believe they’re headliners in waiting. After so many classic Download appearances it seems inconceivable that the band won’t become the Cherry on the top sometime soon.
Just because they’re familiar faces doesn’t make Black Stone Cherry headline material
Well what makes a Download headliner? Songs? Six albums in and it’s not as if the band lacks the material to pull together a catalogue spanning set worthy of Donington’s biggest stage. BSC can already draw from 12 years’ worth of killer anthems and heart-wrenching ballads and by the time they’re taking a tilt at the headline slot it’s likely album number seven will already be embedded in rock and roll culture. What about stage presence? Robertson can connect with any crowd, anywhere, anytime and if it’s taken wingman Ben Wells just a little longer to find his on-stage confidence, the red-hot guitarist is in the form of his life. So don’t worry about BSC when it comes to whipping a festival crowd into a febrile frenzy. Ok…but what about the fans? Are there enough people out there prepared to pay for the tickets necessary to propel Robertson and co. to the Download Festival pinnacle? Perhaps. Three successive top 10 UK albums suggest their British fan base is holding firm but this winter’s arena tour could provide the answer. Shift 80% of their tickets the length and breadth of Britain and that call from Andy Copping could be just around the corner.
Black Stone Cherry are no Guns N Roses
No, they’re not. And that could be a good thing. Unlike the fractious GnR camp, Black Stone Cherry enjoy a seemingly unbreakable bond. With long-time friends and extended family surrounding the key quartet on the road there’s a sense of loyalty and community at the heart of an incredibly likeable band. In 17 years there have been no line-up changes – and none rumoured – and no suggestion that BSC is anything more than a bunch of mates having the time of their lives. In a tough climate for rising rock and roll stars, Robertson and co. might not have enjoyed the soaring sales and chart success of Saturday’s Download headliners but that’s not to say the very best of their songwriting can’t stand toe to toe with the Gunners. A varied Donington set included the brilliant Blind Man and Rain Wizard alongside festival favourites Blame It On The Boom Boom and White Trash Millionaire – in a different era all four would have enjoyed saturation airplay and made BSC millions. Wells will never match Slash as an iconic axeman but who could? Robertson’s voice knock’s Axl Rose’s out of the park and in drummer John Fred Young the young pretenders boast the ace in the pack. BSC will never be bigger than GnR. But don’t bet against them being better.
The band’s Download show proved Black Stone Cherry are already past their best
Latest long player Family Tree failed to hit the top five in the UK and charted 66 places lower than 2016’s Kentucky in the US. The band’s new album could – and probably should – have done better back home but it’s been welcomed with open arms by European fans and critics alike. Black Stone Cherry almost broke the top 10 in Germany for the first time and Family Tree peaked at number seven in the UK. Significantly, the three new songs added to Saturday’s Download set went down a storm and slotted seamlessly into a killer show: Bad Habit, Burnin’ and set closer Family Tree were the sound of a band that’s never sounded more comfortable in its own Southern-fried, blues-soaked skin. Expect more fresh material to be added to this year’s UK arena run including the party-starting James Brown and evocative My Last Breath– both would have enhanced BSC’s Donington show. Pst their best? More like approaching their peak.