The Carnival of Madness Tour @ Barclaycard Arena, 2nd February 2016

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The Carnival of Madness tour has been a frequent touring vehicle around the US for a number of years, however tonight sees it grace Birmingham for the first time consisting of Highly Suspect, Halestorm, Shinedown and Black Stone Cherry.

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First up this evening are hard rock trio Highly Suspect hailing from Cape Cod, Massachusetts who deliver a raw and garage like sound not too far thrown from early Kings of Leon and Queens of the Stone Age. The set highlighted debut Grammy nominated album ‘Mister Asylum’ which included the Grammy nominated ‘Lydia’. It must be commented that whoever is sound/drum technician for Highly Suspect this evening is owed an award as the drum tone is one of the best you can expect to hear at any concert in the near future. A short but strong set from a band who’re clearly making waves over the pond and only time will tell whether that will translate to these fine waters.

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Next up are Halestorm, fronted by the ever charismatic Lzzy Hale, however it’s drummer sibling Arejay Hale who possible steals the limelight throughout their set tonight. His passion and charisma exude from behind the kit, from his star jump type movements to impressive stick skills during tracks such as Love Bites (So Do I) and I Miss The Misery. Any material from their debut self-titled record is absent tonight which is probably down to the fact that this is a short support set.

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Shinedown in a live environment are a very strange beast. In the minutes before they take to the stage the audience is treated to meditation techniques before the band take to the stage to Bowie’s ‘I’m Afraid of Americans’. Lead vocalist Brent Smith’s onstage persona is one that feels very rehearsed and sometimes insincere whilst at the same time remaining a great showman and performer. His vocals on cover of ‘Simple Man’ are something to behold in a live environment, whilst the full band experience on tracks such as ‘Enemies’ and ‘Sound Of Madness’ prove why the band are still thriving after so many years.

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Black Stone Cherry have a big affiliation with Birmingham it would seem, deciding to film their concert DVD ‘Thank You: Livin’ Live’ in our fine city. And it’s clear from the amount of fans that have flooded to fill the floor of the Barclaycard Arena that the appreciation works both ways. From opening with ‘Me And Mary Jane’, revisiting old classics in ‘Blind Man’ and ‘Lonely Train’ to moving acoustic renditions such as ‘Things My Father Said’ the band deliver a career spanning set fronted by four musicians at the top of the game.

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There are moments tonight that things don’t feel to be flowing as well as usual, which is addressed by the band towards the end of the evening, however it doesn’t take away from how enjoyable a live act Black Stone Cherry are.

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An unexpected airing of ‘Rollin On’ and new songs ‘In Our Dreams’ and the acoustic ‘The Rambler’ add a different dynamic to the set with Lzzy Hale joining the band for a performance of ‘Peace Is Free’. Ending with a cover of Motorhead’s ‘Ace Of Spades’ it’s more than clear that the band has earner their right to headline a venue of this size. How long they can stay there for can only remain to be seen.

Review – Dan Earl
Photographs – Dave Musson


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