THE WHITE BUFFALO with support from ALICE DRINKS THE KOOL-AID / HIGH HORSES - The O2 Institute, Birmingham 17.04.18



Bustling through the back streets of Digbeth I make my way to The O2 Institute, Birmingham, for what is set to be a fantastic night of live music. More prominently known for his music on the hit American TV Shows Sons Of Anarchy and Californication, and blazing a trail of self managed albums and sold out gigs in the states, California’s The White Buffalo has brought his live show once again to the UK shores.


After an almost 45 minute delay at the Box Office and several disgruntled conversations with management I eventually make my way into the venue. Winding my way up the stairs, the music from the upper hall is echoing loudly and it seems that the first band have already started their set. Thank you O2 Box Office for the huge delay in releasing my press pass! As I enter the hall the music comes to a close and to my dismay I find that the first band of the evening HIGH HORSES have just finished. The room explodes in cheers and applause all around me and it’s quite clear that, due to inadequacies out of my control, I’ve missed an absolutely blinder of a set by local support band High Horses. Hopefully I’ll be able to catch up with them at a later date at one of their other gigs.



Adam Heath

Simon Heath

Karl Smart

Becky Walker

Saul Hillier

Charlie Smith

Moving around the room I take in the ornately decorated high ceilings and balcony that tonight is off limits except to disabled gig goers. Queues are forming at the bars to the rear of the room and the atmosphere is charged from the set delivered from High Horses. People seem eager for the next band to begin as they take their drinks to the floor and wait patiently, the music over the PA providing ample entertainment during the interim.

It’s not long until the Chicago based 3 piece ALICE DRINKS THE KOOL AID take their place upon the stage and front man Tony Magee (vocals / guitar) addresses the audience, introducing the band and stating that they’ve supported The White Buffalo a few times back in the states, then goes on to say “[The White Buffalo] he’s going to blow your hair back and break your heart all in the same set, it’s going to be really something.”

Kicking off their set of Chicago-blues infused with a touch of indie rock music, Alice Drinks the Kool Aid make their way through a laid back set beginning with ‘Real Man’ which is a quiet blues number. ‘What Do I Do Now?’ is a more upbeat track which gets a few people at the barrier swaying slightly but the energy has noticeably dipped throughout the room from the previous high energy that seemed to permeate it only a short few moments ago. Despite this there is still a cheer at the end of the track and ‘Mojo’ starts, Magee explaining how ‘Mojo’ is essential to the playing of blues music while Alan Berliant displays his skills on the bass guitar towards the latter end of the song. There’s a gentle response from the audience with applause at the end of the track.


Throughout the rest of the set Jim Widlowski maintains the rhythm from the drums, doling out a steady beat while Tony Magee and Alan Berliant play their way through a few good songs, though not delivering any real energy with their style of blues. By the time the concluding track ‘Nick’s Song’ is played the majority of the audience are too engrossed in their conversations, a noticeable white noise of chatter hanging in the air with many people turning only to provide the customary applause as their set concludes.


Though their set wasn’t overly energetic in it’s delivery the applause was given with enthusiasm, a few whistles ensuing from a small section of the crowd.



Jim Widlowski - Drummer

Tony Magee - Vocals / Guitar

Alan Berliant - Bass


Find out more from Alice Drinks The Kool Aid at:



Surveying the crowd during the interim I notice several people wearing Sons Of Anarchy (S.O.A.) hoodies or T-shirts, Samcro badges sewn onto denim waistcoats and a small influx of people to the venue, though still not at capacity which is a pity.

20 minutes later the stage is adorned by the man himself Jake Smith, The White Buffalo, accompanied by loud cheers, whistles and applause from the expectant audience. Having been a fan of his voice since discovering him on S.O.A I can honestly say I’m looking forward to hearing if vocally he is as strong and moving in a live performance as his studio songs are.


The White Buffalo delivers an amazing set, kicking off with ‘Hide And Seek’ from his most recent album Darkest Darks, Lightest Lights released in 2017. The band delivers a strong opening performance, an obvious camaraderie between the band members is evident as they smile at each other throughout the song, something that continues throughout the whole 65 minute set. Jake addresses the audience early on saying, “Holy Shit, my voice is fucking fucked up! I’m sorry, I apologise.. But we’re gonna pull it off!” His voice sounding so rough through the songs, a vocalists nightmare when touring, yet later on when he apologises again for his gruff voice a woman from the audience calls out “You’re still good!” and Jake acknowledges her with a beaming smile. Even though Jake says his voice is fucked up he still delivers astoundingly good vocals, strong and achingly soothing despite the occasional crack in his voice.


Tony Magee (Alice Drinks The Kool Aid) wasn’t wrong when he described the effect that The White Buffalo would have on the audience tonight. Amidst the bouncy blues driven rock riffs that get the audience moving and which “blows your hair back” are the heartfelt and soul searching tracks that really do “break your heart all in the same set,” the hauntingly alluring ‘Into The Sun’, from the 2010 EP Prepare For Back and Blue, which sees Jake whistle along, creating an almost eerie yet charming quality to the track and the lyrically beautiful ‘If I lost My Eyes’ from Darkest Days, Lightest Lights. As the track begins there’s a woman who turns to her partner and says with obvious delight “I love this song!”, she turns back to the stage, her eyes locked on Jake and her hands held tightly to her chest as she stares at him, the lyrics having an obvious effect upon her as her eyes fill with tears. I witnessed such an emotional moment from a perfect stranger yet she wasn’t the only one who couldn’t stop staring at Jake throughout that song. The whole room was mesmerised, eyes transfixed upon the stage as he delivered the song, every moment pulling on the heartstrings, a spot light settled just on him throughout the performance which added to the beauty of it. No studio recording can ever replace a live performance such as the one that I saw here tonight. It was just utterly beautiful.


There’s a charisma that seems to emanate from the Jake during his performances, holding a presence that is both alluring and deeply moving, and even through the breaks in the songs there’s an admiration and quietness throughout the venue as everyone waits patiently for the next song to begin, then in turn each track is welcomed with a small cheer, some people raising their hands in obvious delight that Jake has selected that particular song, maybe it’s one of their favourites and holds particular meaning for them. Either way, the delight for each track is obvious. ‘Come Join The Murder’ from S.O.A. is a fan favourite which receives a huge cheer and a few whistles from the crowd when the opening chords strike up, the crowd singing along with every word.


The White Buffalo has a plethora of albums to choose from, and for me he selected some of his best from across his varied catalogue. Heartfelt songs ‘Oh Darlin’ What Have I Done’ (Prepare for Black and Blue, 2010), ‘The Observatory’ (Darkest Darks, Lightest Lights, 2017) and the lyrically moving ‘I Got You’ (Love and The Death of Damnation, 2015), to the more up beat tracks of ‘The Bowery’, ‘Joe and Jolene’ (Shadows, Greys and Evil Ways, 2013) that sees the crowd raising their hands and clapping along to the beat, and mid tempo brooding track ‘Stunt Driver’ (Once Upon A Time In The West, 2012), to the swaggering country blues rock gem ‘Go The Distance’ (Love and the Death of Damnation, 2015), each song in the set offering an insight into the diverse genres that The White Buffalo encapsulates in his performances. One member of the audience is adamant that Jake sings ‘The Woods’, calling it out between every song on the set, unfortunately it didn’t make the set this time and a few other audience members told him to shut up on several occasions, obviously annoyed at his consistent outbursts.


Jake looks at his bass player and friend and remarks “This song is Christopher’s favourite,” as the intro to ‘The Whistler’ begins and everyone sings every word of the song back to the band, the volume rising in the venue.


The customary departure from the stage as ‘I Got You’ concludes causes the crowd to call out for an encore, feet stamping throughout the venue, whistling ensues and shouting for more to which the band oblige and play two final tracks; ‘Wish It Was True’ which Jake delivers acoustically by himself and ‘How The West Was Won’, which sees the return of Matt Lynott (drums) and Christopher Hoffee (bass) to the stage which has the crowd jumping, clapping and moving to the fast paced rhythm.


Tonight’s performance was exceptional, despite Jake’s obvious difficulties he delivered not only amazing vocals throughout the show but amazing musicianship on the guitar, playing with acute dexterity. Matt Lynott was amazing on the drums, donning an Indiana Jones style hat as he pummelled his way through the set, Christopher Hoffee on the bass was both enigmatic with his skills while providing backing vocals throughout the set. The trio were relaxed and appeared to enjoy the show tonight as did the crowd as they showed their glowing appreciation with a huge round of applause, full of cheers and whistles.


The White Buffalo is one act that you have to experience at least once, a truly remarkable voice without doubt.


To find out more from The White Buffalo check out the following links:



Set List:

Hide And Seek

One lone Night

Go The Distance


If I lost My Eyes

Oh Darlin’ What Have I Done

Into The Sun

The Bowery

Come Join The Murder

Stunt Driver

The Observatory

Joe and Jolene

The Whistler

I Got You


Encore Tracks:

Wish It Was True

How The West Was Won



Jake Smith - Guitar/ Vox

Matt Lynott - Drums

Christopher Hoffee - Bass



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