Review by Nicola K
A dreich February night in Glasgow, the kind you’d normally want to stay indoors, shut the curtains, crank the heating up and watch whatever crap is on TV. But this isn’t an ordinary night, this is the night that Black Stone Cherry are playing the iconic Barrowlands and if there’s any band worth braving the Scottish elements for, it’s this one.
Glasgow, Scotland is a long way from Glasgow, Kentucky, but the guys have always had a very warm relationship with Scotland, and this was borne out by the sold out venue as they arrived to play their first gig for a couple of years. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, most notably Chris Robertson’s well publicised battle with addiction and depression. This gig was one of only 4 in the UK, to say “thank you” to their UK fans, and of course, to promote their new album: Magic Mountain.
The band erupted onto stage (I’ve never seen as energetic a band as BSC – Ben Wells in particular bounces around like a bumble bee in a jar) with their new single Me and Mary Jane – a grinding, sleazy anthem with attitude and a punch-the-air chorus. A brave choice to open a gig with a brand new track, but such was the confidence of the band in the quality of the song and in a good reception from the crowd. Pleasing the crowd was most definitely the aim of the band, and the set list was littered with tracks like: Ghost of Floyd Collins, Devil’s Queen, Blind Man and so on. And the crowd were pleased – delighted even, belting back the songs with all the gusto of a Hampden crowd, most notably on Peace is Free, when Chris let the crowd carry the song and seemed genuinely overcome. As he said at one point – the last time he played Glasgow, he was in a very dark place, and he was overwhelmed at the support from the fans at that time. Hearing that support vocalised again through the fans’ singing back to him, was very very special and just re-emphasised the connection the band feel with Scotland.
The band played hit after hit – for a short while – and then stopped. For a question and answer session. This, though publicised, still came as a bit of a surprise when they actually did it. It’s one thing to watch “An Audience With…” TV which takes place in the setting of a small and intimate studio, with has-beens returning to revisit former glories and try and re-generate careers, it’s another to be part of a amped-up crowd of a few hundred at the Barrowlands with some in-their-prime southern rockers.
The first question was met with bafflement, bellowed as it was in pissed broad-Glasgwegian. You could see the band politely trying to figure out what language it was before answering just as politely. I looked around and people were looking bemused.
After a couple of questions it was clear that this was not going to be an easy thing to keep going with, but the band gamely carried on. After about 5 mins or so they restarted the music. Fantastic. Jump around, shout out the words, punch the air, do that kind of not-quite-head-bang-nodding thing – and then stop.
The questions were insightful – (to Ben) what hair product do you use? (Nothing special, if you’re interested).
It was starting to become more than a bit awkward. Eventually the band kicked off again, more jumping, shouting, punching, head-bang/shimmy, and stop. Guy asking question doesn’t have quite the volume necessary for the band to hear him so we’re asked to all hush up so he can be heard. Chris acting as convenor to ensure that everyone in the band gets a shot at picking someone to hear their question and much discussion on stage about who to pick. Someone wanted to know can they go up on stage and sing with them? Get their shirt signed? Oh sure – come up – shirt gets signed, pics taken with the band (which I’m sure must have made the guy’s day), and then – a raffle. A great prize, admittedly, but, still, a raffle.
In the middle of a rock concert.
No bingo or home baking though – maybe next time.
Photos though – what a great idea! The band should totally get their pic taken with all the audience in the background – so a roadie is brought onto the stage to wield the camera. The band turn their backs on us and we all obligingly make the horns and smile. In a very rock way, obviously. Then – check the camera, how did the pic come out – no, not quite, let’s try again. This time slightly fewer horns from the audience but a damn sight more fidgeting. People around me rolling their eyes.
Thankfully the band start playing again and we all start jumping around again. But – alas – not for long – another (blessedly final) Q&A session is required. This time people are definitely starting to get a bit impatient – it’s become less “engage with the fans” and more self-indulgent. There are a couple of hecklers who are quickly admonished by the band for not letting them just have some fun.
Eventually the band pick up and start again, but for me and my companions the momentum has been well and truly lost. The band finish up in a blaze of Lonely Train and the lights go up. There’s no encore – guess the Q&A’s took up all the time. Pity. We’re left feeling like we’ve been short-changed – the gig was like the curate’s egg: good in parts. Not just good, great actually, a tantalising glimpse of what they could really do if they’d only just stuck to what we wanted them to do: play songs.