Tonight sees the return of good ol’ Southern rockers Blackberry Smoke, on their ‘You Hear Georgia’ U.K. / Europe Tour ’23, to Belfast. They head into town with Oklahoma-based Rock/Blues outfit the Read Southall Band in support.
Tonight’s openers are new to me but after what I have just witnessed tonight they have a new fan. They wasted no time in getting the Belfast audience warmed up.
With three albums in the bag they kick off with ‘For The Birds’ the title track from 2021. Its southern vibe and Georgia Satellites infused guitar tones got everyone’s foot stomping inside the Telegraph Building. ‘Stickin’ n’ Movin’’ rolled next also delivering a similar punch.
Not stopping they head back to 2017 to the single ‘Don’t Tell Me.’ The interaction with John Tyler Perry on guitar and Ryan Wellman, is mesmerizing to watch; their sound is so damn good for a young band. Up next was new song ‘Sacred Money’; delivered pin-point perfectly their musical influences can be clearly heard in this song.
Next up was ‘Why’ from the album ‘Borrowed Time’; then ‘Out of My Mind’ from ‘For the Birds.’ The crowd were warming up nicely, feeling the energy as they played ‘High – Speed Feed’ with lots of electric guitar and thumping rhythms.
The set came to an end with ‘Damn’ and ‘DLTGYD.’ Did the Read Southall Band win new fans? Judging by the noise from the Belfast audience they sure did.
It was the moment that this sold-out Belfast audience had waited for. After a number of cancellations over the last couple of years, Blackberry Smoke finally return to a packed to the rafters Telegraph Building.
Tonight’s set was mainly made up of choice cuts from their latest album ‘You Hear Georgia’ and 2012 studio offering ‘The Whippoorwill.’ Kicking off proceedings was ‘All Over The Road’ then followed by ‘Let It Burn.’ Frontman Charlie Starr notes “it’s been too long Belfast since we last played. We will be back sooner!”
The whole band were in good form, Charlie never stops smiling. With his cool shades and distinctive sideburns his southern tones were as brilliant as ever. Next up two new songs, ‘Live It Down’ and the title track from the album ‘You Hear Georgia.’ The cheers from the Belfast audience showed their appreciation for the song.
The two guitarists Paul Jackson and Benji Shanks owned the stage, as did the rest of the band. In total command of the crowd, who are dancing and singing along to every song, they move seamlessly through ‘Lucky Seven’, ‘Hey Delilah’ and ‘Ain’t Gonna Wait’ and straight into ‘Ain’t The Same.’ The Belfast audience wanted more, and they delivered.
A stirring cover of Ewan MacColl’s classic ‘Dirty Old Town’ was next, followed by ‘Ain’t Got the Blues’, then Starr introducing the band, which give us an update on permanent drummer Brit Turner who was taken ill during the European leg of the tour and replaced by Kent Aberle who looks like a seasoned member of the band.
‘All Rise Again’ follows, then into ‘Run Away From It All’ before a sing-along during ‘Who Invented The Wheel.’ The atmosphere inside the venue was filled with loud screams and clapping and stomping of feet. The band then rolling into ‘One Horse Town’ and ‘Like an Arrow.’ It’s a sure-fire bet that the Belfast audience don’t want this to end.
End it does however with the set winding up with fan favourites ‘Old Scarecrow’ and ‘Ain’t Much Left of Me’. A befitting way to end a great night of Southern Blues Rock at its best. Come Back soon Blackberry Smoke.
Photography by MPM