Southern Rockers Blackberry Smoke were let loose on Belfast’s Telegraph Building last night for what was to be a high-octane show, fuelled by the bands need to give their fans the best show possible. Looking around the beard clad crowd you could feel the anticipation from everyone present. Having seen them in Dublin last year on April 1st, I was ecstatic that they were finally playing Belfast!
First to take to the stage were the Quaker City Night Hawks a southern band described as “equally influenced by ZZ Top and science fiction”. Being a support band is always difficult as you’re coming out and playing to crowd that you must assume has never heard your music. So, when the band started with the songs ‘The Last Ride of Miguel the Sacred’ and ‘Cold Blues’ the audience knew they were in for a treat. Continuing with my personal highlight of the set ‘Rattlesnake Boogie’ a real groovy, heavy and bluesy song. They flew through a set of ten songs stretching from their first album ¡ Torquila Torquila ! to songs not yet released. The Quaker City Nighthawks captured the ears of the crowd with their sludgy southern blues, certainly a fitting warmup for Blackberry Smoke.
There was no messing about with the guys as they appeared to rapturous applause and launched into ‘Fire in the Hole’ from Holding All the Roses and ‘Nobody Gives a Damn’ from their new album Find a Light, this would be the first of many to be featured on the night. Setting the tone for the night was ‘Good One Comin’ On’ a real feel-good song that got everyone in the mood for more! The thundering riff that was ‘Waiting for the Thunder’ was up next and already within the first few songs you could already see Smoke’s versatility as a band.
The crowd then started shouting happy birthday to Brandon Still, the keyboard player, and the crowd was treated to Charlie Starr’s rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’. ‘Pretty Little Lie’ was next which was greeted to a generous singalong from the crowd. ‘Rock and Roll Again’ came up next and ended with what could only be described as pure filth as Charlie was let loose on the guitar and produced some filthy notes. ‘Lucky Seven’ and ‘Medicate my Mind’ followed. Charlie interrupted the set to say “I don’t think we’ve ever played Belfast before, thank you for having us in the beautiful city”. I just hope it’s not the last time either!
Charlie started the next song with what sounded like a Duane Allman slide solo and jumped straight into ‘Sleeping Dogs’ which incorporated a cover of Herbie Hancock’s ‘Chameleon’ and ‘Come Together’ by The Beatles, both of which were excellent, moving to a call and response between Charlie and the crowd and then reprising ‘Sleeping Dogs’ which felt like ten minutes later. The night continued with hits such as ‘Shaking Hands with the Holy Ghost’, ‘Payback’s a Bitch’, ‘Up in Smoke’ and ‘Six Ways to Sunday’ plus many more including a cover of ‘Dirty Old Town’.
The encore brought an enormous applause from the audience as they finished their 29-song strong set with a ‘Free on the Wing’ jam and finally ‘Ain’t Much Left Of Me’ which featured a cover of ‘Mississippi Kid’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Belfast was left stunned as the guys put on a show many will remember for years to come. A night filled with bikers, beards, and booze. The Telegraph Building turned into a hillbilly hoedown on Tuesday 6th November!