Since the start of the pandemic, the sighting of an American band on Tyneside has been rarer than a glimpse of a Geordie wearing a coat. That is until Monday evening when Kentucky based quartet Black Stone Cherry rolled into the O2 Academy Newcastle.
Tonight’s show is the group’s first appearance in this venue since 2012 and their most intimate appearance in the region for some time. It is of no surprise that the venue is packed to the proverbial rafters. The sound of the group’s repertoire of hard-hitting anthems fills the hall almost as much as the audience. From the opening notes of “Me and Mary Jane” and “Burnin'”, the crowd are locked in and raring to go.
Jammed out renditions of “In My Blood” and “Cheaper To Drink Alone” allows the band to spread out. Subsequently, the four-piece turn back the clocks with the inclusion of “Hell and High Water”, “Soul Creek” and “Devil’s Queen”, whilst powerhouse drummer John Fred Young takes the spotlight with a thunderous drum solo.
Of course, there have been some changes in the BSC camp since their last visit to the UK, with Steve Jewell currently assuming the bass player spot left by the recently departed Jon Lawhon. And the immediate observation is how seamlessly Jewell has filled that role. The adrenaline-fuelled chemistry between the latter and Ben Wells makes him the perfect foil for the high kicking guitarist. The pair frequently and hastily switching sides of the stage. Without a doubt, Wells is one of the most electrifying guitarists in the game. With over a year and a half of downtime from performing live, the high-flying axeman has a lot of energy to burn off, and he does just that this evening.
An emotive cell phone illuminated rendition of “Things My Father Said” from frontman Chris Robertson ushers the group into the final stages of the show. From that point forth, Black Stone Cherry don’t take their foot off the accelerator for one moment, with a run of back-to-back classics culminating in their anthemic set closer “Lonely Train”.
It might have been eighteen months since most of those present have witnessed a live show, but upon the sound of loud guitars and the roar of the crowd, both Black Stone Cherry and the North East’s music fraternity picked up where they had left off before the world shut down. It almost felt like no time had passed, and both those on and off stage were back doing what they loved best. Tonight’s show is a cathartic release for all in attendance.
Labelmate Kris Barras opened the evening to great effect. A full house was in attendance as the Supersonic Blues Machine frontman took to the stage. With a new album in the pipeline, the versatile artist isn’t afraid to showcase what is to come, and what can we say Barras’ fans are in for a treat. Kris’ new single “Dead Horses” kicked off the set to great effect. Barras has a knack for writing singalong rock anthems, and his new tracks certainly fit that bill.
An up-tempo rendition of Freddie King’s “Going Down” highlights the artist’s ability to switch gears between blues and hard rock with ease. Whilst fan favourite’s such as “Ignite (Light It Up)” and set closer “Hail Mary” have the fans singing at the tops of their voices. Tonight’s opening set from the Kris Barras Band is the ‘Cherry’ on the top of an evening that cements the return of big stage, hard rock music to the North East of England.
Live Review by Adam Kennedy