Black Stone Cherry + Duff McKagan’s Loaded + The Parlor Mob @ Birmingham Academy – 10th October 2009

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It’s not been long since Black Stone Cherry’s last visit to these shores, but that doesn’t stop the Academy being full of rock fans of all ages tonight. We do love our classic rock here in the Midlands, and with Black Stone Cherry’s retro-fused modern rock appealing to both lads and dads (and girls and mums of course, but that doesn’t rhyme very well) there’s a family-friendly relaxed atmosphere here, no doubt helped by the traditional Saturday night early finish.

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Opening things up are New Jersey’s The Parlor Mob, who waste no time in launching into some huge, Sabbath-influenced riffs and belting out a wall of noise. They are one of Duff McKagan’s favourite bands of the year and on this form it’s easy to see why. Their sound blends stoner groove with doom atmospherics perfectly and the result is one hell of a din — a wholly awesome and wonderful one, but still a din!

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Duff McKagan and his troops in Loaded are next up, easing into their brand of sleazy, punky rock that fans here in the UK seem to welcome with arms open. Duff looks healthy and, crucially, very happy to be playing with Loaded, and given how good a bunch musicians he has assembled it’s easy to see why. Their own material such as ‘Sleaze Factory’ and ‘Sick’ are good enough to win the crowd over, while covers of ‘Attitude’, ‘New Rose’ and, in particular, ‘It’s So Easy’ ensure that this gig is another victory for the Guns n Roses/Velvet Revolver legend.

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Black Stone Cherry have been a big draw in this country for a couple of years now, and any doubts about that position were blown away the moment the entire joined Chris Robertson’s chant of “Here comes the rain!” to kick off their set. If you’ve heard either of their albums, you’ll know BSC can write a great song, but watching them live takes their material to another level. They ooze confidence and clearly enjoy themselves up on stage. Robertson is a classy guitar player who makes soloing look a doddle, while the big haired John-Fred Young on drums shows himself to be something of a skin-bashing god in the making, carrying the band through with pace, power and fury.
All their hits are here, with songs like ‘Hell and High Water’, ‘Lonely Train’, ‘Blindman’, ‘Soulcreek’, ‘Peace is Free’ and ‘Shooting Star’ still sounding as fresh and as important as they always did.

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The band also use tonight as a chance to air a couple of songs from the re-packaged version of the Folklore and Superstition album, with ‘Cowboys’ and ‘Yeah Man’ getting an outing; despite being somewhat rare, these songs are still sung back at the band in full by almost all of the crowd. BSC’s ability to entertain makes a mockery of the fact they’ve only been around for a couple of years, and they have the raw materials to become a truly special band. It all depends on the next record of course, but if that hits the spot then the next time they visit the UK it could well be in much bigger venues than the Academy.

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Review and photos – Dave Musson

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