BLACKBERRY SMOKE / THE QUAKER CITY NIGHTHAWKS - O2 Academy, Glasgow 03.11.18
PHOTO CREDITS: GAVIN ROSS PHOTOGRAPHY
The rain is pouring down on what some would call a typical Glasgow winters night but the crowd snaking around the 02 Academy do not seem to mind getting wet as we wait for entry to tonight’s gig.
The doors open at 7 pm promptly, although it is sometime later before I manage to gain entry to find that tonight’s support act, THE QUAKER CITY NIGHT HAWKS, are already on stage. It seems a shame that the gig started just as the doors open, as the venue is still relatively empty as they play their first few songs.
Running to the photo pit, trying to get my earplugs in and camera ready as I do so, I manage to catch some shots of the remainder of the opening couple of songs before making my way back to the crowd to enjoy what, at almost an hour, was thankfully a long set for a support band. This more than made up for the early start to the gig and the venue soon fills up with those who have been patiently waiting outside in the rain.
Hailing from Fort Worth, Texas and with a collective of facial hair that would rival that of ZZ Top this is a band who have drawn they influences from Southern rock bands and, strangely enough, sci-fi, as is demonstrated on their latest release, ‘El Astronauta’, from their home area and have honed it to perfection.
Playing tracks from their back catalogue and, also, from ‘El Astronauta’, lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Sam Anderson is dressed in black with a large Stetson-style hat and long flowing beard. His vocals are impressive on the slightly heavier tracks and equally as impressive on the softer tracks that the band are better known for. Here is a man who, besides his singing talents, plays a mean rhythm guitar and he evokes a laid-back style but is clearly in command of the crowd.
The band are obviously friends and just fit with each other. The bass of Pat Adams, who has a moustache and curly hair akin to that of an 80’s John Oates, shines through the very clear sound in the venue as drummer Arron Haynes, complete with baseball cap and what looks like hair tied in a side hanging split ponytail, keeps the pace of the set flowing.
Lead guitarist David Matsler appears to be the most studious of the band on stage as he plays with precision and clarity during his solos whilst keeping in with the southern rock style of the music.
In all this is a fine blend of music that really gets to the soul of the crowd who are exceptionally appreciative of this opening band.
Electric Bass Guitar/Vocals: Pat Adams
Vocals/Rhythm Electric Guitar: Sam Anderson
Drums: Aaron Haynes
Vocals/Lead Electric Guitar: David Matsler
BLACKBERRY SMOKE have attracted a huge following on both sides of the Atlantic with their style of blues and country-based rock and the crowd in the 02 Academy has certainly swelled to almost capacity level with barely room on the floor or in the balcony.
The smell of incense wafting through the crowd is the first clue that BLACKBERRY SMOKE are about to enter the now carpeted stage. Each band member has their own area with different design and the huge backdrop hanging behind the drums makes this feel more like a gig in your living room than a huge concert venue.
Opening their set with ‘Six Ways To Sunday’ the instantly catchy chorus, rolling guitar solos and keyboard accompaniment, immediately has us swaying and dancing along as the band move effortlessly along, moving but not really moving.
It is clear from the outset that if you like your rock music rooted in the 70’s country background then this is the gig to be at. The crowd clearly are fans, singing every word with the band who, in turn, are demanding crowd participation but in the gentlest most laid-back manner you can imagine. We all sing along obligingly.
Akin to a cross between The Allman Brothers and Skynyrd, but with little in the way of the slightly clinical sound they had, this is country, rock and Americana all rolled into one package.
Vocalist Charlie Starr is effortless in his delivery and commands the stage as if wandering around with you like a best friend. His guitar slung low; it merges perfectly with the guitar of Paul Jackson who is perhaps the most animated of the band on stage.
Bands need rock solid bass and drums and BLACKBERRY SMOKE demonstrate that they have this in spades tonight. With Richard Turner on Bass, complete with one of the best beards I have ever seen, and Brit Turner on drums, together they make it look so easy that they are out for a slow walk in the park on a summer’s day.
Progressing through their set, the band address various issues in their music and none more so than perhaps ‘Medicate My Mind’ from their latest album, ‘Find A Light’. The song has a great hook in the line ‘I'm a wreck, but everything's all right’ as the song addresses the various problems people face and their solution to their problems. The dual guitars work especially well on this as a live track and the crowd are clearly loving this one.
The mixture of softer songs in the set are mixed nicely with the more ‘jam’ based parts, the guitar solos are well thought out and keyboard solos from Brandon Still are played with feeling which the crowd clearly are appreciating.
As we reach the end of the set the first encore of ‘Flesh and Bone’ shows us again how the fusion of blues and southern rock makes for a great sound and as to why BLACKBERRY SMOKE have attracted such a large crowd on a cold wet Glasgow night.
As they play their final number and leave the stage, the crowd could clearly stay for longer and listen to this brand of music all night but, alas, all things must come to an end and the band, and the gig have finished for the evening.
Charlie Starr - Lead Vocals, Guitar
Richard Turner - Bass, Vocals
Brit Turner - Lead Drums
Paul Jackson - Guitar, Vocals
Brandon Still - Keyboards
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