at O2 Academy, Newcastle, U.K., July 27, 2011

It’s been quite a few days up in Northern England with a frantic Metalfest of a week featuring gigs by Judas Priest/Queensrÿche, Dream Theater, Iron Maiden, Slash and topping off an incredible time was Black Country Communion backed by the enigmatic Michael Schenker.


You’re never quite sure what you are going to get with Michael Schenker, whether the guitar hero will turn up or his shambolic alter ego.  Backed with a fine band including legendary skinsman Herman Rarebell from the Scorpions, Shenker was in explosive form.  Looking younger and fitter than he has done in years Schenker picked through the highlights of his own MSG material (“Into The Arena”, “Armed and Ready”) and threw in Scorpions classics “Another Piece of Meat” and “Rock You Like A Hurricane”, which was a strange choice as Schenker was long gone when the Scorpions unleashed  this on the world.  Oh, well at least Rarebell had fun leading the crowd on the sing-a-long.

The highlight of the show was when UFO’s Pete Way joined the fray for “Rock Bottom” and Doctor Doctor” where Schenker delivered an absolute guitar masterclass showing why he was lauded as one of the finest players of his generation.  Seeing Schenker and Way back on stage together was a great moment and hopefully this is the first step for Way getting back to what he does best.  The all too brief set was also included a couple of new songs “Hangin’ On” and “Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead”, a real epic that hints at a real return to form for the German axe master.  A Schenker in full flow set the bar high for a great evening’s entertainment.


Black Country may have two albums under their belt but this string of UK shows were their first together as a band.  In the space of 12 short months or so Black Country Communion have released more new music in the space of time that it takes Axl Rose to polish his microphone and the fact that both albums are of such a high standard is a testament to the talent on display within the band and solidifies their reputation as a bona fide band rather than just a collection of jobbing musicians.

A band featuring Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple, Trapeze), Joe Bonamassa (solo artist), Jason Bonham (UFO, Foreigner and occasional Led Zeppelin) and Derek Sherinian (ex-Dream Theater) is always going to be saddled with that awful “Supergroup” tag however, Black Country Communion have managed to avoid the pitfalls that many others have fallen into by actually living up to the hype and delivering the goods.


Glenn Hughes is one of the few singers from the 1970’s who, along with Paul Rodgers, can still sing as well as they could as young men which is more than can be said for many of his peers.  Hughes does on occasion over embellish his vocals when a more straight forward approach could be just as effective but then if you’ve got a voice like that, why not flaunt it!! Hughes is also a master showman from the old school who knows exactly how to work an audience.


Joe Bonamassa was clearly relishing his new role in a Rock band away from his more Bluesey roots and he certainly let rip with some screaming fretwork to the delight of the crowd. Schenker and Bonamassa on the same stage on the same night was certainly a real treat for guitar aficionados out there.

Jason Bonham kept the driving groove deep and hard throughout the night, evoking memories of his Dad at his finest.  It certainly shows that he learnt well from the grand master of drumming.


Derek Sherinian added the colour to the proceedings with some effective keyboard work and his interplay with Bonamassa was great to watch particularly on “The Outsider” where Bonamassa and Sherinian traded licks for fun.

Drawing primarily on the two Black Country Communion albums, the likes of “Black Country” and “Faithless” sounded powerful and vibrant in the live setting with a real cutting edge proving beyond doubt that this is no A&R creation.  The band demonstrated that they wanted to stand on their own reputation although they did tip their hats towards their past with an energetic run through Bonamassa’s very own “The Ballad of John Henry”, featuring a drum sample from Zeppelin’s “When The Levee Breaks”, and the set closer, Deep Purple’s “Burn”.  Yet it was Black Country Communions own material that stole the show with the beautiful “Cold” featuring a shimmering guitar refrain from Bonamassa that ached with emotion.  “Sista Jane” showed the harder edge of the band while “Man in the Middle” rocked with a cool deep groove and the cast iron, eastern tinged riffage of the epic “Save Me” was utterly breathtaking.


Black Country Communion are a rare beast indeed.  A super group that can actually deliver on their promise. Their first two albums Rock hard yet retain a soulful edge and they can cut it on stage too.

Hopefully this will be a long term band rather than a side project as Black Country Communion have so much to offer. Judging by their performance here, their third album should be well worth it.  Perhaps they could have out it before the end of the year?


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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