Review + Photos by Frank Ralph

Their t-shirts say ‘Too Country for Rock, Too Rock for Country’ which may be true about Blackberry Smoke on record and may be the reason I have never properly given them an opportunity further than listening to an odd track now and then. Live though they are much closer to one of my favourite ever bands, fellow Atlantians the Black Crowes.

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The blues-infused 20-song set list offered everything a fan of southern rock could ask for. From the basslines of the grizzly Richard Turner who just oozes cool from every pore, to the twin guitars of Charlie Starr and Paul Jackson that meld together to create the signature sound and the 3-part southern harmonies that just warm the soul.

All that combined with the sheer amount of facial hair and denim on show along with the unmistakable odour of incense set the tone for the night. That smell by the way instantly transports me to any one of the dozens of Black Crowes shows I’ve been to and made me feel right at home.

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Kicking things off with Nobody Gives a Damn and A Good One Comin’ On they quickly raised the roof. Waiting for the Thunder and Let it Burn followed but it was an excellent extended version of Sleeping Dogs that morphed into The Allman Brothers Midnight Rider and back that was a highlight of the show, and after an earlier tease of Sweet Home Alabama that never happened, was great to hear.

The groove laden anthems came thick and fast all night with the band looking like they were enjoying every moment. With this show being the last one of a 7-week tour the vibe on stage was a celebratory one leading to a raucous reaction from the audience – and I’m betting a spike in sales of JD too.

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They were at their best when they locked into the groove and extended songs with some spectacular guitar work that glided over some luscious Hammond style keys. You could just close your eyes and get lost in the music. That, for me is the greatest thing about this genre of music and it’s just good for the soul. Uplifting and joyous it makes you feel like you haven’t a care in the world.

Charlie Starr’s claim that this was ‘the BEST Saturday night in the history of Saturday nights was a bold claim but for everyone in the Apollo it probably wasn’t too far off the mark.

See the full photoset from tonight’s gig here.

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