As rock bands go, they don’t come much more hospitable than Black Stone Cherry. These four young men are the humble torch bearers for Southern rock today and have been taken to the hearts of the UK rock fraternity. All 6,144 tickets for the four special shows sold out within 45 minutes of going on sale, leaving many fans wishing lady luck had been on their side. I was one of three (that I know of) extremely lucky people who got to see all four shows and I want to bring those shows and my journey to you, the fans, as best I can through my words and photographs.
Having managed to secure a ticket just a few days before, a frantic search for a cheap hotel and transport were made, so that I could make the concert in Wolverhampton and by the power of National Express coaches a very sleepy me (I had photographed a club night until 3am after the London show) was whisked to the rather dated, but cheap and centrally located Britannia hotel ahead of the fourth and final show on the ‘Southern Hospitality Tour’.
Past Black Stone Cherry concerts in the Midlands have been some of my favourite, so the odds were looking good for Wolverhampton.
Tonight’s Grade II listed building is not as old as those of the previous nights and has its own unique architectural style. The Wulfrun Hall is the smaller of the two rooms at the Civic and I think my friend described it best when she said that inside it looks a bit like a school gym! As the night progressed, we also got as sweaty as we might in a gym!
The Wolverhampton crowd filtered in thick and fast grabbing some merch and a drink on the way, it was Saturday night after all.
Down in the photo pit there were several of us about, although obviously not as many as in London. Much to my surprise the lighting in the venue was fantastic. Black Stone Cherry have a great lighting guy Joe McKinney and if there is a good lighting rig, you can be sure he will use it and use it he did in Wolverhampton, as he did at KOKO the previous evening. There were some extremely happy photographers in the pit.
Our allocated three songs over, I went to join my gigging buddies, brothers Dave (who was enjoying the two pint glasses they had on sale) and Mike (who was rocking out with all his might for a second night) to rock the hell out of this fourth and final night. Everyone around us was having a blast.
Much to my delight Black Stone Cherry had opened up the show again with Rain Wizard and this Midlands crowd sung those opening three words as well as I have ever heard them do so. Truly nothing beats this as an opening song for any show that I have been to, there is something truly kick ass about it. I’ll be honest, Mary Jane and Ghost of Floyd Collins which followed, rather passed me by as I was snapping away in the photo pit. I sometimes find myself going into a bit of a zone.
The first of the three Q&A’s followed and some of the questions were similar to those of the previous nights and also included the rather seedy “Are English or American breasts better?” to which guitarist Ben Wells replied “We are all good Southern boys, maybe you should ask our merch guy!” It sounds like there is a story to be had there!
When they play the beautiful Soulcreek it always casts me back to Black Stone Cherry’s video for this song, of a lovely outdoor party in the early evening summer sunshine, with all their friends and family around them. There was certainly a rock’n’roll party in the Wulfrun, it was warm and the beer was flowing, all that was missing was the late evening midsummer sunshine and the nearby creek.
I am not aware of the origin of the story of Shame, but it is a tale of a girl who dies tragically, having found herself on the wrong side of the tracks. The driving chords are played with purpose by Black Stone Cherry. Chris Robertson belts out the high notes with a tilt of the head as he pulls back slightly from the microphone. With bassist Jon Lawhon and Ben supporting him with haunting one word backing vocals, the song is as moving live as it is on CD.
The track that Black Stone Cherry played in Wolverhampton that wasn’t featured at other shows was Maybe Someday. This is such classic old school Black Stone Cherry and goes down a storm with the crowd. It had Jon and Ben playing licks on each other’s instruments during the bridge and John Fred covering his drum kit from left to right and top to bottom, as only he can. I feel very lucky to have been able to hear all the one off songs that they did at the four shows and it is great to see that there is variety amongst the songs that the fans like in the different cities.
Maybe Someday was followed by a trusty John Fred drum solo (does the guy ever sit still?) and then another debut album track Hell and High Water. As he himself admitted at each of the shows Chris on his previous tour of the UK had not been in a good place and sadly does not remember much of that tour. He has been through his own hell and high water, but has come out the other side and is on the mend. He has good friends and family around him who have helped him and I do not doubt that his open talking with fans about his problems will most likely have helped others too.
This song being the favourite of my gigging buddy Mike left him head bobbing like a weeble wobble, but with a thumping rock fist punching the air with every movement. For the band it is a more sedate number due to the amount of backing vocals, there is less leaping around the stage by Ben and adds a different feel to the show. One of the wonderful things about Black Stone Cherry is their live show. It is exactly that, a show and the amount of energy they exert on stage is infectious, particularly from Ben and John Fred who between them could practically power the backline. The great thing to see in Wolverhampton too was Chris come to the forefront more, moving around the stage and even taking to one of the risers for a solo. It was brilliant to see his re-found confidence on stage.
“D’y’all want to hear another new song?” asks Chris, which is responded to with a mild cheer “That did not sound like a bunch of people that want to hear a new song! I said d’y’all want to hear another new song off of ‘Magic Mountain’ right here, right now?” the place erupts! “This one’s called Fiesta Del Fuego” and in kicks a phat bass line from Jon, which is met with some “Coorrrr!”’s from the audience, before a volcanic sized musical cascade from Chris, Ben and then John Fred. During the song Ben is seen leaping between his riser and John Fred’s as Chris takes to a short wah wah pedal filled solo. Fiesta Del Fuego is full of so many different sounds; it is such a brilliant take on a new direction of sorts, but yet retaining at its heart a distinctly Black Stone Cherry feel.
Black Stone Cherry wind up this fourth and final night of this never to be repeated set of shows as they have the other three nights with White Trash Millionaire, Blame It on the Boom Boom which raises the roof off the Wulfrun and finally Lonely Train. Lonely Train is my own personal favourite and I allow myself this moment to do my best Ben Wells head spinning impersonation (for which I suffer considerably the following day) and to let all the fun and excitement of these four shows spill out of me in one epic moment!
As I head away from the venue, I have had the same line from Fiesta Del Fuego going round and round in my head “whatcha got I gotta have some more”, thank goodness I do not have to wait too long, as there is a new album and tour on the way because you really never can have enough Black Stone Cherry.
Photos by: February Photography – www.februaryphotography.com