Tonight it’s Black Stone Cherry live. This was probably going to be our inaugural gig at York’s newest venue – The Duchess – but a delay in opening means that it was switched to Fibbers. Would it be another mid-week night akin to when about thirty of us saw the Mexicolas there? After all, I’d never heard of BSC until fairly recently.
Au contraire… As I walked towards Fibbers, alongside the lesser-spotted Strensall-based member of our little group (in steak terms, if I rarely go out, he’s still munching grass in the field), it became apparent that the large number of people standing outside weren’t, in fact, enjoying their last smoke before the gig but were queuing to get in. There’s a first time to see everything, I guess.
We joined the queue and, after a few minutes, and a brief chat with the third member of tonight’s party (who decided against queue-jumping to join us and went to the back) we reached the front to be greeted by a friendly ShowSec (yes, they even had proper security on) guy. Now, most of the people queuing were wearing rock T-shirts – Whitesnake, Black Sabbath, even BSC (obviously some people had heard of them) – while I had on a black T-shirt which at a quick glance could have been from a tour. As I stood there, arms folded across my chest, the ShowSec guy asked me, “What’s the band?” Thinking he meant on the T-shirt, I started to say it wasn’t a band. “No, the wristband,” he says, pointing to the blue one I’m currently sporting.
You know when you say something and immediately realise it’s the wrong time/place/queue to have done so…?
“Oh, this is from the Sea-Life Centre,” I replied. The result was much chucklement and a cry of, “Rock on!” from the attractive, vaguely gothic rock-chick standing behind me. Thankfully, at this point, we were allowed in.
The first act on was Sons of Albion, from London (although two of them are originally from Portugal – they must be adopted sons). It was hard to tell how good they were, partly because we were so far back, partly because so many people were talking and partly because the sound was so muddy. I’ll reserve comment on them until such time as I get to hear them a bit more clearly.
After quite a long break, it was the turn of Black Stone Cherry and we decided to surge forward to about the place where we normally stand for the support band. It turns out that I was wrong about BSC finding time to fit in some smaller venues in-between their support gigs in arenas. The only small venue they were playing was York. Last night Newcastle, tomorrow Wembley. It must have been as much of a culture shock for them playing such a small crowd as it was for us to see so many people in Fibbers.
There was an awful lot of hair flying around the stage as the band head-banged their way through a set comprised of songs from their first album (reviewed in my last entry), some new stuff which will be on the second album (due to be released in Autumn) and a couple of other tracks. I described the album as hard and heavy. The live performance adds fast and furious to the list of adjectives and is, if anything, even heavier than the recorded stuff. Surprisingly, though, the sound was about as clear as it gets at Fibbers and you could hear pretty much every word, note and drumbeat. In some ways, the Led Zeppelin influence was even more apparent than on the CD. About halfway through the set guitarist Ben Wells introduced a Mississippi Blues inspired song which reminded me a lot of Led Zep’s The Lemon Song. Another influence is, apparently, Hendrix. I’m told the final song of the set was Voodoo Chile, unfortunately I can’t confirm that as I haven’t really heard much Hendrix (something I must put right one day…) I can confirm that it was brilliantly played, including one section where all three guitarists played their instruments behind their heads. Now that’s just showing off!
All the members of the band appeared to be having a genuinely good time and seemed to appreciate that people had actually turned out to see them, even offering to mingle with the fans after the gig had finished. While lead guitarist/vocalist Chris Robertson (looking like a younger, slightly more bewildered Meatloaf) did the majority of the audience banter, both Wells and bassist Jon Lawhon both took turns at the microphone, while drummer John Fred Young, making the Muppets Animal look tame, made himself appear larger than life by playing parts of the gig standing up. As a whole, this reminded me of my first gigs – the likes of Ozzy, Dio and Whitesnake, singing along to the anthems, head-banging, devil’s horns and bleeding good music.
Between the intricate guitar wizardry of Chantel McGregor last Friday and the ear-splitting, screaming solos of tonight (I’m sure that both styles are just as technically difficult but, really, would you compare Clapton and Slash…?) it has been a top week for live music in York. Long may it continue.