The Ulster Hall is one of the best venues in the country and duly provided the perfect setting for Black Stone Cherry, who were bringing their mix of hard-rock-blues sound to 1400 strong in Belfast yet again.
As a one time, young, wanna-be rock n’ roller, Black Stone Cherry were the band who opened my eyes up to the power of a live gig. Considering Belfast and Dublin generally always comes towards the end of their long world tours, the energy and passion on display was always second to none, their effort and performance levels right up there with the gigs at the start of the tours.
Digging through some old ticket stubs, I realised it had been four years since I had last seen them, surely the band, now in their 30s, would be more subdued, there would be less jumping around and on stage antics? I was wrong. They are still crazy!
The source of energy and glam rock style rehearsed performance came from the bassist and guitarist whose running around and swapping of microphones put a crowd that was already excited into overdrive.
The band played a wide range of their hits from all of their albums including Me and Mary Jane, Blind Man, Lonely Train and Soul Creek. Their ability to call on over four albums worth of material proved to be a bonus for the audience who were treated to the better songs in the band’s repertoire. A highlight came in the form of Peace Is Free in which Robertson invited the audience to grab hands and sing along to the acoustic anthem in the name of world peace. The fact that someone in the crowd attempted to throw a plastic beer bottle at him during the rendition was met with surprisingly jovial mockery from the band, ‘it’s all peace and love until some dickhead throws a bottle’. He was then kicked out.
At times their sound blends into song after song, the heavy riffs and double-bass drumming indistinguishable from the previous number. Black Stone Cherry are a huge melting pot of sounds that we have heard before across many genres, sprinkled with hints of originality exemplified by the singer, Chris Robertson’s vocal range and drummer John Fred Young. The latter is a pleasure to watch live; the energy and passion he puts into the performance is something to behold. With the band leaving the stage for 10 minutes, Young broke into a drum solo, mirroring drumming greats like Keith Moon and John Bonham, even playing with his bare hands for a large part of it.
In an era when band members come and go like Spinal Tap’s drummers, it is refreshing to see a band that has kept the same lineup since their inception and more importantly, the chemistry that makes them such a tight unit. Black Stone Cherry are the perfect example of a modern rock band bridging the generational gap between music lovers; some of the audience old enough to have been around when the band were born, other young members of the audience, aspiring musicians looking to them for inspiration.
A very energetic and fun gig. Black Stone Cherry seem to love Belfast and Belfast loves them. Until the next time… Ally McKenzie, GiggingNI.com