Words: Justin Hulford.
I’ve seen the headliners before (in their slightly odd Q&A tour earlier this year) and this night’s main support (supporting Maiden on the AMOLAD tour) so it was just the openers that would be new territory.
I have occasionally listened to their studio material and new territory might be a little ambitious as they do strike me as a bit of a generic Canadian rock act, and just a little too similar to countrymen Nickelback.
Forgetting their songs, which don’t get me going really, their sound was a little off too. Firstly their set was just a little too loud for the pa. More importantly was the vocal that was really up and down, way too often distant and a little weak. That is no doubt due to equipment but it didn’t do them a lot of favours. This lot are okay for a half hour opening slot but I’d really had my fill by the time the closing notes of their big number “Bad Girlfriend” drifted away.
Next came Airbourne who didn’t waste any time in delivering another parody of a band from their own country, in this case Australia’s AC/DC. It is impossible not to draw very direct comparisons with instead of a giant schoolboy on guitar they have a bare chested ripped jeans singer/guitarist in Joel O’Keeffe. They’ve even managed to have a set of brothers in the band too!
What you see is what you get and it is difficult not to smile when Airbourne play. It’s basic hard rock that is well played, vocals screamed over the top and always a lively performance. Joel went crowd surfing for one song and celebrated Glasgow life with a swig of some Buckie, contemplating it as a tipple of choice to go with haggis.
Fortunately his music is more convincing than his culinary expertise and for a second time Airbourne delivered a great support set. I’m never going to buy one of their albums but they are good support (or festival) fun.
And onto the headliners. Last time out at the Barrowlands they experimented with running a number of question and answer sessions through the gig and it worked with varying degrees of success, especially when they just couldn’t penetrate the Glaswegian accent. They can’t have found it too bad as for the second time they have started a tour in the city. Chris Robertson contemplated their rise from The Cathouse via the Academy and Barrowlands to the Hydro. The latter wasn’t full (although looked it due to some clever curtaining) and the very reasonable ticket price must have helped, but it still is a notable rise.
It’s simple. They deliver. They supply a near endless feed of big songs and are just a few short of what could be called a “hits” set. This tour sees the production ramped up, quite literally as four ramps allow the band access to the stage rear. Two platforms allow the guitarists to stand tall at the front and the drum riser appears to be a giant wedding cake. It’s a little over the top but forgivable.
One thing though that is wearing a little thin after two shows is Robertson’s constant references to how overwhelmed he is by the support from the fans. After a while it all starts to sound a little insincere, and I have no doubt that it is rather very genuine. Bring it out in an interview and maybe say it a couple of times in a gig, but at Glasgow he mentioned it at least six times.
That’s my one moan out of the way. Black Stone Cherry deliver the musical goods and throw in a superb performance at the same time. Wells and Lawhon never seemed to stand still, the former’s guitar deliberately slung a little low to allow him to take up impossible poses. Drummer Young, the epitome of Animal from The Muppets, just keeps it all going and for the second time delivered a superb drum solo, something that me as a player of such an instrument does love to see if it is done well. In terms of all round octopus drumming skills I would put him up there for me with Dave Lombardo, Nicko McBrain, Johanne James, Clive Burr or John Bonham.
Another album under their belt and this lot will have a fully rounded set that will rival anyone. It’s hard rock of the heaviest kind with a big dollop of the Southern US, and that’s a heady mix.