It’s been a few years since the southern rock sixteen wheeler has rolled into Dublin and hot on the heels of Blackberry Smoke playing two weeks ago, their heavier cousins Black Stone Cherry returned to The Academy with their Magic Mountain tour featuring special guests Theory Of A Deadman.
Opening the evening, Canada’s Theory Of A Deadman who in their own right could have played this venue as headliner enter to a pretty full venue and they perform a selection of tracks featuring new songs from Savages and some older nuggets. Kicking off with “So Happy” and “Lowlife”, their sound from the main floor sounds crisp and precise. Frontman Tyler Connolly at times seems obsessed with the positioning of the microphone cable but by the third song “Bitch Came Back” he has forgotten about it and is engaging the crowd with some comical banter which covers one night stands and genital diseases. At times, they appear to be finding their feet for the upcoming tour but when they get in their groove they are on point. The title track of “Savages” is … savage (sorry!) and during the introduction to “Santa Monica”, Tyler and the boys pay respect to their heroes as they perform a short instrumental version of Alice In Chains’ “Nutshell”. The crowd’s biggest reaction is earned during “Hate My Life” and closing song “Bad Girlfriend”. More infectious than sterile for the majority of the show, Theory of a Deadman make sure that their Irish debut is a great evening for their fans.
I stumbled across Black Stone Cherry back in the MySpace bands when they were listed as a favourite band on the Shinedown official page. I instantly fell in love with their sound and have never missed an Irish show. The air of expectancy tonight is palpable in the thronged room of the sold out Academy. So many bands, “take to” or “hit” the stage with the enthusiasm of a soggy biscuit. Thankfully Black Stone Cherry are the complete opposite of this as they tear onto the stage with a frenetic fury and bellow forth the hard hitting trio of “Rain Wizard”, “Blind Man”, “Me and Mary Jane” like a prize fighter going for an early knockout. Not a second is given to the fans to catch their breath and Ben Wells in particular is like a dynamo, flinging himself atop the front stage riser from the off and banging his blonde mane with the fury of Kentucky twister. Not to be outdone, bassist Jon Lawhon complements his stage presence and throughout the evening they swap positions naturally which serves to engage the crowd even more. Front and centre is the plaid shirted and baseball capped Chris Robertson whose gravelly tones fill the room notably on “Maybe Someday”.
John Fred gets his somewhat unnecessary drum solo. For me, John Fred has always been one of the most enjoyable drummers in rock ‘n’ roll to watch play live. His larger than life gestures serve to connect him with the crowd in a way that not many drummers can from the back of the stage and doesn’t need to showcase his talent in a solo slot as he does plenty all through the show. Tonight he takes time mid-song to fling sticks to fans on the balconies. Actually, it’s not only John Fred who connects; Every member of BSC has developed a stadium persona and regardless of the size of the venue, each of them does not let up in this evenings quest for the perfect performance. This is one of the smallest venues on the UK/Ireland tour and they perform to the 850 attendees as if it was an arena show.
Ben addresses the crowd once between songs and tells them that when BSC announced the UK tour, there was no Irish date included. But due to the fans asking on social media that they contacted their booking agent to make it happen. Bands like this will always endear themselves to their fans if they continue to be more like people and less like rock stars. “Blame it on the Boom Boom” gets one of the biggest sing-alongs of the evening and for the remainder of the set, each person in front of the stage jumps, shouts, screams, sings and claps as if it was their last night on earth. Pseudo-final song “Lonely Train” is one of my highlights of the evening. For the encore Chris and Ben come out on stage to play “Peace is Free” as the 10.30 curfew looms. Ben suffers a mini guitar issue and Chris begins a Capella in a soulful, goosebump inducing moment. He is joined eventually by his three brothers as the crowd carry the chorus into the night.
Before “Lonely Train”, Chris told the crowd that it’s because of them that he and the boys get to live their dream every day. Tonight, Black Stone Cherry allowed the Dublin fans to live in their dream for 90 magical minutes. An outstanding show of blood, sweat and tears in the name of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Photos by Down The Barrel Photography[flickrapi user=”planet mosh” get=”photoset” id=”72157648593621568″ size=”z” count=”100″]