On paper, this gig had ‘awesome’ written all over it. Black Stone Cherry, one of the most energetic rock bands out there, matched with the majesty of one of the best venues the UK has to offer in The Barras. It could ONLY be awesome. In reality, it went beyond the hype that had been bubbling away prior to the gig and I’m surprised the roof is still attached to the famous old building this morning.
BSC had stated that their 4-date UK tour was going to be a special one, with the fans given the opportunity to vote for the set list and that the format would be a little different to the norm. In all honesty, that’s about as much as I knew about it before I arrived at The Barras. There were rumblings on Twitter about there being no support on the bill and some form of Q&A session built-in to what was going to be a 2 hour set. We were unsure of how that was going to work. Would they do it before or after the show? How will they get the questions up to the band? It was a bit of a weird prospect but I was excited to see how it would unfold.
So, BSC emerged to rapturous applause from the crowd and opened with new single ‘Me and Mary Jane’, which didn’t exactly set the place alight. Only fair considering it was the first Live electric performance in front of a crowd of around 2000 people. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad song, but I wasn’t blown away.
The new track was followed by a few from the regular catalogue, ‘Rain Wizard’, ‘Ghost of Floyd Collins’ and ‘In My Blood’ which really got everyone in the mood. What happened next must have taken some balls. Frontman Chris stepped up to the mic and pronounced his newfound sobriety after admitting that he didn’t really remember much of the last UK tour due to some form of substance abuse. Fair play to the guy, he’s only human and many have been there before him but at least he’s seen the error of his ways and taken measures to correct it. He then invited the audience to ask the band some questions. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a two-thousand-capacity venue fall so quiet. At first, Chris found it difficult to understand the local dialect but once that barrier had fallen we were treated to some cool banter between the happy crowd and the band. Chris was asked if he was drinking tonight to which he responded “You know what I don’t drink, but we fuckin’ rock and that’s all that matters”. He wasn’t wrong!!
I’d never heard of another band using this format on, what was essentially, a headline tour to promote their upcoming album but it really was refreshing. The band took several more opportunities to interact with the crowd throughout the remainder of the set and it never once felt overly contrived or boring. Everyone around was enjoying the little breaks in play to hear some cool questions and answers amongst other ‘requests’ from fans who’d snapped up tickets in almost record-breaking time upon their release.
The set was packed with classics as well as the lesser known, fan-favourites as you would expect considering the fact it was picked by the fans. It also included another new track from the album Magic Mountain, ‘Fiesta del Fuego’ which was getting its first live outing. Duracell Bunny on crack – Ben, legs akimbo, belting out a sick riff that got the crowd jumping. I wasn’t warming to the pre-chorus lead guitar but out with that, it’s a beast of a track with a touch of metal to it that got the crowd turned up to eleven. If the rest of the album is anything like the couple of tracks we heard here, it’ll be worth the wait until May for its release.
You could see the connection between the band and the crowd, who were moving and signing as one pretty much the whole way through. There were a few moments where Chris would look up and a big grin would take over his face, not forced either, it was a sign of his appreciation. The fact that Glasgow had sold out quicker than anywhere else on the tour speaks volumes of the mutual respect between the two. Vocals for ‘Things My Father Said’ and ‘Peace Is Free’ were pretty much performed by the crowd. With the mic turned towards the heaving mass under the famous ballroom ceiling, not that a mic was required tonight. At one point, during ‘Soulcreek’ the “Yeaaaaah. yeaaaaah” part would’ve been audible in the West End of Glasgow such was the crowd’s vehement participation.
All in all, this was a magical night shared between a very vocal and passionate crowd from Glasgow and a band who made it clear that they love coming back here. In a week where the likes of The Strypes and Beyoncé were taken in, I can safely say that neither was a match for Black Stone Cherry, a band that continues to amaze me with energy, soul, aggression and most of all, a lot of heart. Roll on May when we can fire up Magic Mountain in full.