Blackberry Smoke and The Holy Ghosts at The Liquid Rooms, Edinburgh (12/06)

Words: Justin Hulford.

blackberry smoke

It’s a bit odd – this is the second band that I’ve seen in a few days that I also saw last autumn and that hasn’t got a newly released album to push. It’s maybe proving where the money is in music these days as they both get ready for festivals.

The ‘smoke were fine the first time I saw them and then cranked up the heaviness the second time for an all-round much more satisfying experience. So given this was in the confines of the Liquid Room I was looking forward to proceedings.

Up first were Edinburgh’s The Holy Ghosts. There was a real strut to front man Jack Sandison as he posed, pouted and cavorted in a space slightly bigger than my bathroom. I actually preferred the vocals of occasional lead singer Jon Mackenzie but they appear to be a lively and solid outfit. In short they are very good at what they do it just didn’t really captivate me. I’m sure they weren’t but a couple of the band actually looked a little bored so it was a bit at odds with Sandison’s moves!

By the time Blackberry Smoke came on the venue was packed. It had been surprising to see tickets available on the door as they are regularly playing bigger venues but no shock to see people standing on anything they could to get a better view. Their small rugs were laid out on the stage, a lovely deer tapestry hung off the keys and a night of blues laden hard rock was off.

They fired out of the blocks and it felt like they were really warming up their forthcoming, and undoubtedly shorter, festival sets. It was “hit” after hit with the audience captivated from the first note. For a second time out there was a lot more youth to the crowd and I think that is linked to their heavier take on their bluesy vibe.

Again there was plenty of show from Charlie Starr as he changed guitars frequently and delivered delicious vocals, most lead starts to the songs and plenty of solos. This band seems to be tightening up their sound constantly but still maintain a great balance between polished sound and fresh live performance.

There was also less of the slower and self-indulgent material so no loss of momentum at all. Their sharp set just flew by with excellent contributions from every part with the focus on Starr and I was left interested that my favourite song of the night was actually the slower “One Horse Town”.

They go onto Aberdeen then Download before immediately heading back to the States for a world tour of the Southern US in support of ZZ Top. But they’ll be back in the UK this autumn (no Scotland, Newcastle is the nearest) and I can only recommend them to any lovers of well played heavy blues rock.


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