Review & Photography by Manny Manson for MPM
After a frantic but scenic drive around the streets of Nottingham I finally get to park up in time to visit my favourite venue, my old friend, Rock City! Getting out of the car on level 8 of the multi storey, you can hear the excitement below.
In the 18 months I’ve been away, my muscle memory route to Rock City has physically changed. Roads gone, or replaced by routes for buses, land marks changed for ever, this is fun, not! Seeing where you need to be but having to drive around a maze of back streets to get there only increases the anxiety levels, I’m now waiting for that golden prize that is a ‘fine’ for going were I shouldn’t have, arrive through the post, yet again!
Walking down Talbot street to the box office, it was reassuring to see so many people still queuing to get inside this Mecca of a music venue. Clad with various tour tee shirts and back patched cut offs the noise from the collected fans was, in itself music to my ears. Live Music is back and for tonight we have a treat in store with Kris and the boys and the undeniably frenetic Black Stone Cherry all the way from the other side of the pond. Yes! they have the kohuna’s to make the journey to delight their fans, and boy have the fans turned out.
The Kris Barras Band are first on, and if you’ve seen Kris before you know he packs a mean punch. This time he’s hitting us squarely in the jaw with Dead Horse’s, his new single and a great opening song to his sadly too short a set. The house is full and appreciative, and join in, some have learnt the words it would seem, a challenge thrown down by Kris himself.
Next we have ‘Rock n Roll Running Through My Veins’, then the banger that is Ignite (light it up). Despite an issue with his in-ear monitors, he can’t hear himself, they carry on playing, superbly while they sort him out. Ever the professional the show goes on. A guitar change to a nice Silver, glittery Baritone and we have ‘What you Get’, ‘Who Needs Enemies’ and ‘My Parade’.
What a great set of tunes. Kris, clad in his now trade mark loose vest is playing the room, engaged with the crowd he stands at the edge of the stage as he makes that plank of wood in his hands scream and howl like a demented soul. Never over playing, the strings are tortured as he wrings the hell out of his guitar of choice. God help his guitar tech!
A further guitar change, but this time back to that lovely blue Baccus, and we have another great tune, this time a cover by The Alabama State Troupers, ‘Goin’ Down’ is given the KBB treatment, and this quickly followed by ‘These Voices’, ‘Lovers or Losers’ although on the set list sadly didn’t get played due to timing issues.
No KBB set would be complete without Divine and Dirty’s ‘Hail Mary’, tonight being no exception. Complete with a round of ‘whoa’s’ with the crowd to start, it was to be the climactic set closer and what a tune to finish on. A huge crowd pleaser.
With hints to his headline tour in March 2022, Kris and the band left the stage to tumultuous applause and cheering, and rightly so. Was this really only a support set?
After a quick turnaround, the RC boys are slick! We are ready and waiting for the main event. The KBB have thrown down the gauntlet. The crowd have been fully ‘ignited’ by a stunning support set.
Armed with my cameras I’m sat in the pit as first ‘Tribute’ plays and the crowd engage by singing along, then Maiden’s ‘Run to the Hills’, followed by the Darkness and ‘I Believe in a thing Called Love’ and finally Queens very own ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is interrupted as the place erupts when Ben Wells runs on stage followed by the rest of the band.
Blimey, I’ve shot lots of bands here in Rock City, but that must have registered off the chart, an overwhelming response from the crowd. The band have got to be hyped even more by that.
‘Me and Mary Jane’ starts us off, and already Ben Wells is darting around like an over charged Duracell bunny. First one side of the stage then running to the other, foot in the air, splits head down rockin’ hard, I’m out of breath just watching. The energy on stage from this player is off the scale, no wonder he has the build of a racing snake.
The crowd are loving it and show it by singing along on mass. This is the narrative for the rest of the night.
‘Yeah Man’, ‘Ringin’ in My Head’ follow, followed by a rapturous intro from Ben Wells when he says in that slow Kentucky drawl, that he’s found during the pandemic it’s ‘Cheaper to Drink Alone’, which is the great Segway into the song by the same name.
After ‘Devils Queen’ from Folklore and Superstition we see most of the band leave the stage apart, John Fred Young who then proceeds to beat the living hell out of his drum kit, not that he hasn’t been doing so already, whilst the band change batteries… A great show of percussive excellence, complete with stick tricks, cowbell (to big cheers, ya can never ‘ave to much Cowbell) and standing up drumming amidst a barrage of coloured lighting, a photographers dream, and with a frenzied attack on the cymbals a last smash of the crash, he walks off, if it was me it would be for oxygen, a shot of Sanatogen and a lay down.
On his own, front man, Chris Robertson, has now taken centre stage, bathed in Pink and Blue light he explains that he wasn’t sure about adding the next song to the set. He asks for the crowd to turn on their cell phone lights to replicate stars in the sky, a fitting nod towards lost souls.
Someone said that it was only the second time it had been played this tour, looking it up I can’t see it listed previously anywhere. And judging by the emotional connection to the song it was understandable why it hasn’t been played so far. With help from the crowd, Chris nailed this epic lament to his father, ‘Things My Father Said’ again from Folklore and Superstition, is certainly a firm fan favourite, one that so many can relate to, and now one of mine. I dare anyone to read the lyrics and not have a lump in their throat or a tear in their eye. For that emotional connection and the fact, it’s a damn fine song, it’s my stand out song of the night.
This is followed by ‘In Love With The Pain’ (sic) and then a huge crowd pleaser that took no introducing, ‘Blind Man’ this see’s the atmosphere back at its stratospheric level, this bouncy tune see’s the temperature soar as yet again the energy on stage from Ben Wells is sky high as he races around like a Scalextric slot car, quality, he must have worn a race track into the carpets laid down for them, as he runs not walks in their shoes as said in the song..
Ok so it’s that time, they slip effortlessly into that anthemic anthem that is ‘Blame it on the BOOM! BOOM!’ and in doing so the whole of Rock City is bouncing as if on a trampoline in a kiddie’s play park, as this stable of any BSC show rocks out and lifts the roof of the place.
We then round the set up with ‘White Trash Millionaire’ and ‘Lonely Train’ a great thrashin rock solid finish to the set, complete with crowd ‘Hey Hey Hey’s during the chorus.
Obviously the crowd want more, and more they get albeit in the form of ‘Peace Is Free’ a slower paced anthem yet again showcasing this bands great songwriting ability, Robertson’s voice is sublime as the emotion is evident once again as the crowd join in during the chorus, there are nods and smiles of approval from the stage. The crowd are a sea of cell phones as they capture this last great song of the night.
What a night!
The Kris Barras Band lifted the crowd to a great level, previously one I’ve not seen in Rock City from a support band. Black Stone Cherry came on and took that level and destroyed it. An arena band in a small venue is always going to be a massive face melting experience and this was no exception.
What can only be described as a greatest hits set list, I can bet that all the fan favourites were played, except maybe the one shout out for ‘Rain Wizard’ that got a gentle rebuttle, they played ‘Hell and High Water’ instead, but it’s off the same album.
If you’ve not seen Black Stone Cherry and or the Kris Barras Band, get tickets while you can, and fast, this has been a sell-out tour so tickets will be in short supply. I can’t tell you just how next level good it is unless you were there, but you can bet your life you can blame it on the Boom Boom!
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: http://blackstonecherry.com