Wine, women, whiskey and a heapin helpin' of Allman Brothers worship

BlackBerry Smoke: Birmingham Academy, Birmingham UK April 7th 2017

Hey Kids! Ever wished you could travel back in time to a world where it was OK to sing songs about Wine, Women and Whiskey and not give a good goddamn about the consequences? Well ladies and gentlemen, I give you…BlackBerry Smoke.

BBS live in a world, where The Allman Brothers are worshipped as gods and hand tooled leather and natural fibres are the order of the day. Loud American guitars are played through loud American amps. But here’s the thing – they do it with such panache, dexterity and a total lack of artifice, that it’s hard to dislike them.

What you get for your blue-collar dollars is a show that’s the product of thousands of gigs in hundreds of bars in dozens of states across the US, with the kind of easy stage presence and tight-but-looseness you only get by paying your dues. Frontman Charlie Starr is the total package – he may look like Trevor Bolder’s kid brother thanks to his diminutive stature and luxurious sideburns, but his nicely gravely vocals and righteous guitar playing were on point tonight. Beards? You got ‘em. It seems that only bassist Richard Turner has seen a razor recently – either that or he lost his beard in a card game…

For a band that looks like a Saturday Night Live parody of a Suthun Rawk group, BBS can deliver. Unlike some of their heroes, they have a good sense of economy, so great little three minute tunes aren’t pulled beyond breaking point by endless guitar noodling. The first part of the set is exemplary – starting off with “Fire in the Hole”, they play four or five songs before they pause for breath. All short, sharp blasts of chicken fried, nicely greasy, top drawer rock and roll. There’s even a little Funk in places, which keeps the caboose nice and loose. Throw in an unexpected cover of Led Zep’s “You’re Time is Gonna Come” and finish it with “Shakin’ Hands With the Holy Ghost” and you’ve got yourself a great evening away from the TV. Oh yeah, support act The Biters were none too shabby either. Imagine a band that dresses like the Black Crowes, playing tunes from the first two Kiss albums. Then thank God that it’s not the other way around. And the coup-de-grace is that, as the venue turns into a Nite Klub for young folks at 22.00, we’re all on our way home at a sensible hour. Yay!

No new ground is broken. Brian Eno is not threatened. That Kanye collaboration is still a long way away. But for one night only, the world was a simpler, brighter and slightly tipsier place. Long may they keep the faith.

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