Blackberry Smoke | O2 Academy | Newcastle | 4 April 2016

Reviewed for The Northern Echo

Atlanta's Blackberry Smoke brought a taste of Southern country-rock to the Academy earlier this week bringing to mind antecedent bands such as Black Crowes, the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Their latest album, the well-received “Like An Arrow”, appeared in three different Billboard album charts (Rock, Country and Americana) despite it being their most out and out rock album, but it's on-stage where the band have a well-deserved reputation.

True road-warriors, their impressive gig count meant they sounded tight and formidable at the Academy right from the opening salvo of "Fire In The Hole", "Six Ways To Sunday" and "Like I Am".

There was no let up. Their unofficial “anthem”, “Up In Smoke” had the crowd singing along, "Good One Comin' On" found singer Charlie Starr extolling the virtues of “skinny dippin’ in the moonlight” and parties that "rocked 'til the break of dawn” while "Waiting For The Thunder" with its ominous but topical lyrics featured impressive guitar work by Paul Jackson.

The Turner brothers, Richard on bass and Brit on drums formed a solid rhythm section producing grooves that Starr and Jackson were happy to riff over, but Brandon Still, keyboards draped in a colourful tapestry, deserves special mention for the splashes of light and colour he added to the band’s guitar-heavy songs.

The dueling guitars and interwoven keyboards - not to mention the abundance of hair and beards - make comparisons inevitable, especially with Skynyrd, but Blackberry Smoke are a terrific live band in their own right and should not be missed.


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