Belfast found itself in the grip of a Southern Invasion on Wednesday night, in the form of Kentucky, USA rockers Black Stone Cherry; even their support act were from the south – of Ireland, that is. The rather gorgeously balmy evening saw thousands of fans choose to spend a few hours in the dark confines of the Telegraph building to catch their heroes put on a proper rock and roll show.
Dublin duo New Valley Wolves arrive onstage as unobtrusively as a couple of roadies – until they take to their instruments, that is, and blast out an impressively solid sound which surprises and delights the growing crowd in equal measure. Their dirty, bluesy, ‘Friday night in a dingy pub’ brand of rock soon has butts shaking and heads nodding in appreciation. By the time their meaty, riff-filled set has finished the room is all but full and they receive loud, warm applause as they leave the stage.
With the crowd thoroughly warmed up, it takes mere seconds for headliners Black Stone Cherry to be almost deafened by the roar as they take to the brilliantly lit stage. The energy level in the room ratchets up several notches as they begin their ninety minute set with the one-two punch of ‘Blame It On the Boom Boom’ and ‘White Trash Millionaire’, note perfect and all but drowned out by the crowd singing along; at times vocalist Chris Robertson could have almost stepped back and let the crowd do his job for him.
Luckily he didn’t, as he is in fine form tonight both vocally and instrumentally, playing his guitar with confidence and thrilling flair. He chats to the enraptured audience often, asking if they’re having a good time (and almost getting his hat blown off by the response), informing them that it is “time to party in this room right now”, and nailing every song with that ‘Jack Daniels and honey’ Southern-accented voice of his.
Guitarist Ben Wells pipes up occasionally too, thanking the fans for so persistently asking them to come back to Belfast, and asking “y’all feel like doing a bit of dancing?” before they launch into ‘Ain’t Nobody’; where he gets the energy to talk in between leaping around the stage like a kid hopped up on E numbers is anyone’s guess.
The award for the most high-octane award simply has to go to drummer John Fred Young, however: battering his drums with such force that broken and missed sticks go flying, all the while playing like a brown-haired Animal from the Muppet Show, he is energy personified and hugely entertaining to watch as he is clearly having a ball.
It’s plainly obvious, in fact, that all four band members are here to play music for the sheer fun of it. There are no airs and graces, no diva-like behaviours, no sense of feeling superior to anyone in the audience; just a bunch of blokes having a great time. They possess a charm that never feels forced or hokey – this ain’t no Nickelback show, folks – and it’s clearly infectious, judging by the crowd’s jubilant response to them.
Amongst the hits and tracks off new album Family Tree, they throw in a few covers, often segueing into their own songs midway through. The crowd are therefore treated to their version of The Wallers’ ‘Stir It Up’, ‘Midnight Rider’ by the Allman Brothers, Willie Dixon’s ‘I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man’ and, most memorably, ‘Foxy Lady’ by Jimi Hendrix, which sees Robertson pull a hell of a guitar solo out of his hat.
An hour and a half later, Robertson announces that “it’s been a privilege to play some rock and roll [for you] this evening”, and they end their set with a heartfelt version of the title track from their latest album; no encore, as is their tradition, just a humble thanks. As fans stream out into the pleasantly cool night, sweaty-faced and beaming, it’s almost certain that many of them are already eagerly anticipating the next time BSC visit these shores; undoubtedly, the next Southern invasion won’t disappoint, either.[ngg_images source=”galleries” container_ids=”4″ display_type=”photocrati-nextgen_basic_thumbnails” override_thumbnail_settings=”0″ thumbnail_width=”240″ thumbnail_height=”160″ thumbnail_crop=”1″ images_per_page=”20″ number_of_columns=”3″ ajax_pagination=”0″ show_all_in_lightbox=”0″ use_imagebrowser_effect=”0″ show_slideshow_link=”1″ slideshow_link_text=”[Show slideshow]” order_by=”sortorder” order_direction=”ASC” returns=”included” maximum_entity_count=”500″]
- Blame It On the Boom Boom
- White Trash Millionaire
- Reverend Wrinkle
- Stir It Up (The Wallers cover)
- Me and Mary Jane
- Blind Man
- Midnight Rider (Allman Brothers cover)
- In My Blood
- Foxy Lady (Jimi Hendrix cover)
- Bad Habit
- Cheaper to Drink Alone
- New Kinda Feelin’
- Maybe Someday
- I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man (Willie Dixon cover)
- Lonely Train
- Ain’t Nobody
- Like I Roll
- Family Tree
- 7 June 2018
Review by Melanie Brehaut
Photos by Darren McVeigh