Black Stone Cherry, Kris Barras Band

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One can always rely on the Kentucky quartet to deliver the goods in the live environment

BLACK STONE CHERRY, KRIS BARRAS BAND
Manchester : Academy - 21st September 2021

It is almost 19 months since I last attended a gig and, though by no means reclusive during that period of time, I have kept myself pretty much to myself. Music has been a great source of comfort and, thankfully, some artists have still managed to create something new whilst in lockdown. It is also almost nineteen months since my last drink in a pub so sitting outside the bar just round the corner from the venue, surrounded by like-minded music fans, I'm in danger of succumbing to sensory overload. It now feels as though the world is returning to something close to normal.

I have seen Black Stone Cherry many times during the last fifteen or so years and though I have not been wholly convinced by the most recent recorded output, one can always rely on the Kentucky quartet to deliver the goods in the live environment. I was a little nervous about how the live scene would be this early into "normal" but I needn't have worried as the room was close to full around fifteen minutes before the Kris Barras Band were due to take to the stage.

Barras is someone I am not that familiar with, though I have seen him once before, at the Rock & Blues Custom Show a few years back. His energetic hard-edge Blues style is perfect for a partisan BSC crowd and the nine song fourty-five minute set is very well received. Opening with 'Dead Horses', a no-nonsense dose of in-your-face Rock, it is easy to see why he has become so popular over the course of three full-length albums. When crowd favourite 'Hail Mary' brings things to a close I think many were encouraged to check out his shirts and CDs at the merchandise stall.

 

Black Stone Cherry recently lost long-time bass player Jon Lawhon, who decided to take an indefinite hiatus from music and touring. If his replacement, Steve Jewell Jr, had any doubts about being the "new guy" they would have been quickly banished, as he was welcomed by everyone, and I'm sure this has been and will be the case at all the band's sixteen shows in the UK during this tour. The most recent 'The Human Condition' album, released in 2020, was a bit of a mixed bag for me. Some great songs mixed in with some average ones meant it was played three or four times before being resigned to the collection. I decided to re-visit on the day of the show and though my initial thoughts had not changed much, I was hoping the great songs would make the set and take on even more of an identity. 'Me And Mary Jane' gets things under way and from the photo pit I found myself singing along without really knowing whilst trying to remain professional and get some decent shots. Guitarist Ben Wells is his usually "Energiser Bunny" self and every inch of the stage is covered during the course of just one song. Jewell is a little more reserved, but I'm sure as he becomes more comfortable in his role the stage persona will get more animated. Drummer John Fred Young still has the "Animal" mannerisms and though seated at the rear he is still good to watch. Singer/lead guitarist Chris Robertson, though never overly showy, is a classy frontman with a fantastic voice and some great six-string skills.

'Again', 'Ringin' In My Head' and 'In Love With The Pain' are the 'Human Condition' songs given an airing and they sit comfortably amongst the more established 'In My Blood', 'Like I Roll', 'Hell & High Water' and 'Soulcreek'. 'Things My Father Said' is a big sing-a-long and by the time we get to 'Blind Man', 'Blame It On The Boom Boom', 'White Trash Millionaire' and 'Lonely Train' the temperature levels in the Academy are approaching boiling point and there is singing and dancing everywhere you turn. Whilst 'Folklore & Superstition' and 'Between The Devil & The Deep Blue Sea' are still my favourite BSC albums in a live setting they are a force to be reckoned with. Out in the fresh air and walking to the train station I seem to recall doing all this kind of thing before. It's good to be back.

Dave Bott

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