at O2 Academy Newcastle, Newcastle, U.K., November 2, 2018

BLACKBERRY SMOKE (Live at O2 Academy Newcastle, Newcastle, U.K., November 2, 2018)
Photo: Mick Burgess

It’s certainly a rare occasion when strolling into a venue that the opening band has you immediately transfixed. The deep Bluesy groove, tight harmonies and smouldering vocals of the wonderfully name Quaker City Night Hawks were intoxicating to the extent that a prompt trip to the merchandise stall was required to grab a copy of their album. What were these unearthly, siren-like powers that they possessed. Great music and great songs in the likes of Rattlesnake Boogie and Fox In The Hen House mark these down as ones to watch.

LA Rockers, Junkyard were up next. Personally, selected by Blackberry Smoke’s Charlie Starr as being one of his favourite bands growing up in school and these LA biker Rock veterans didn’t disappoint. Their no frills, in your face denim and leather clad Hard Rock was always out of place with the Hair Metal spandex and lipstick environment of the late ’80s but they sounded all the better for it. Lead singer David Roach and drummer Patrick Muzingo remain from the original line up together with long time bassist Todd Muscat and they didn’t half rattle up a storm with classics from their ’89 debut Hands Off, Simple Man and Hollywood leaving the audience nicely warmed up for the main event.

The rise and rise of Blackberry Smoke has been one of the big success stories of recent years. Consistently releasing high quality albums and regular touring evokes memories of the great bands of the ’70s. A sure-fire tried and trusted way of building up and loyal and devoted fanbase who will follow the band for years and this certainly seems to be working so well for Blackberry Smoke judging by the packed O2 Academy on a Friday night.

Nobody Gives A Damn and the up-tempo Leave A Scar see Blackberry Smoke out of the blocks and off to a flying start. There’s no gimmicks here, no flaming dragons, no space station lighting rigs, just great, down to earth, honest hard rocking songs.

Blackberry Smoke have those songs by the bucket load from the more Country tinged Good One Comin’ On and Let It Burn, the Blues heavy Payback’s A Bitch, Southern Rock anthems like Workin’ For A Workin’ Man and the glorious Aerosmith-like riffage of Shakin’ Hands With The Holy Ghost. Every one’s a winner as they say.

What they also have are the big songs that can unite a crowd as one and One Horse Town does just that with the whole crowd singing every word at the top of their voices creating quite a stirring moment.

The mark of a great band is how they handle the downs as well as the ups. Following a rampant take on The Beatles Come Together, Britt Turner suffered a drum malfunction so Charlie Starr delivered a timely Blues cover to fill the gap. Quality stuff.

Ain’t Much Left of Me brought the two-hour show to a fitting close and really summed up the pure class of Blackberry Smoke in one song. It Rocked hard, grooved deep with a melody to hang your hat on. Job done.

Review and Photo By Mick Burgess


  • 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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