After a blistering 25 date tour across Europe, it is only fitting that the Southern Rock legends Black Stone Cherry should return to SSE Arena in London for their final show before a well-earned break. And whilst this BSC fan only last saw them in June at Download, we couldn’t wait to see them back in a stadium setting like in 2016 and many times before.
Before the eagerly anticipated headline act however, we were treated to support performances from Monster Truck (N/A) and The Cadillac Three (8). Frustratingly we missed Monster Truck, but having seen them before I know they would have warmed the crowd up nicely- and this was certainly the impression we got, as SSE was full from front to back for The Cadillac Three. We have all been to gigs where there is a rush of people trying to get in just before the headliner leaving the support bands playing to a half empty venue, so it was a delight to see the footfall support shown to the warm up acts.
TC3 certainly responded- for just three guys on a big stage playing to a 12,500 capacity venue, my first surprise of the night was how they absolutely filled it to the rafters with a sassy and bold performance. They kept well connected with each other across the stage, whilst engaging with the crowd and whipping those at the barrier into a frenzy. Having never seen the band before, it would be good to drag them back to the UK again next year- preferably headlining a smaller venue where their energy can really tear the roof off. Certainly from the exultant poses from the band as they took a photo with the crowd and a Tennessee flag they enjoyed playing to us too! #NoSleepTilLondon
We weren’t kept waiting long to catch a glimpse of Black Stone Cherry (9) with their video intros, making us feel like we were sat down in the living room with them. I really wish I had actually been sat down having a brewski with them- but having them come out and open with Burnin’ was a damn close second. Having sauntered out in their usual non-assuming way, they moved straight into classic Me and Mary Jane, with those in the standing section rapturously singing back to the band for that memorable chorus.
In this was my second surprise of the night; with those in the main body of the crowd being so engaged, many of those seated (certainly in our area) were doing exactly that: remaining seated. Not only that, there wasn’t so much as a head nod or a foot tap from quite a few of them- even when BSC launched into Rain Wizard, one of the few tracks from their first album making it onto the set list. I found my urge to sing along, dance and generally enjoy the show as BSC would want me to being dampened by the lack of engagement from the crowd around me.
But as the guys whisked through a set that pulled gems from their entire back catalogue, I decided not to let it ruin the experience of seeing this band. I’m glad I did – the undulations in the pace of the set list was perfect. There were truly heartfelt and poignant moments; like during Things My Father Said, which holds a special place in my heart despite not being able to listen to the opening keys without crying. In My Blood visibly resonated with much of the crowd, as Chris let loose those incredible vocals to make us all wish we could hug all of those people we miss the most. But in between these moments of absolute pure emotion, we were tossed back up to full groove with those growling riffs with songs like Lonely Train and White Trash Millionaire that make you want to be drinking neat bourbon in a dark bar in the southern states wearing leathers. Singing along and air guitaring to Blame it on the Boom Boom, I was encouraged to see just a few more people were getting out of their seats and truly embracing the BSC spirit.
In the classic Black Stone Cherry style, we were not kept waiting long after they apparently closed their set with Family Tree for the encore of Peace is Free. Arrogant this band is not. As the gentle strumming of the opening chords resonated through the crowd, the whole of the SSE was lit up into the brilliant white light of thousands of mobile phones in the most dramatic fashion. Arms were wrapped around friends, and the sound of the crowd singing the words “Don’t you bring your sadness down on me, when peace is free” right back to the band gave me goose bumps. Promising to see us again soon, the boys left the stage to deafening applause with the crowd pumped despite the emotional rollercoaster BSC never fails to take you on.
I’m delighted to say that we will get our Black Stone Cherry fix in the UK again soon, as they have just been announced as special guests for the Alice Cooper tour in autumn 2019. They will also be playing at the incredible Caerphilly Castle in July 2019- make the trip to Wales if you can, there won’t be a seat in sight.
PS: I hasten to add that my brief melancholy during the set was not, by any stretch of the imagination, down Black Stone Cherry in terms of their performance. They nailed the set, driving the main body of the crowd to rapturous delights with their blues soaked strain of good old fashioned rock. Instead, many of those who just sit there are probably enjoying the performance very much but feel restrained by being seated. With it being standard procedure for standing tickets to sell out considerably quicker than seated tickets, shouldn’t more be done to cut down the amount of seat structures in these arenas to create more space, even if they are up on a balcony? Of course there needs to be seated tickets to cater for those who can’t or do not want to stand for long periods of time in a crowd- but I challenge you to name one rock gig you have been to where the seated tickets sell out first.
Oh, and if you were wondering what the third surprise of the night was- it’s that neat Jack Daniels gives you a headache. Not that it should have been a surprise, now I think about it.
Black Stone Cherry Set list
- Me and Mary Jane
- Rain Wizard
- Bad Habit
- Like I Roll
- My Last Breath
- Cheaper to Drink Alone
- James Brown
- Things My Father Said
- Ain’t Nobody
- In My Blood
- Blind Man
- I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man (Cover)
- Lonely Train
- Blame it on the Boom Boom
- White Trash Millionaire
- Family Tree
- Peace is Free (Encore)