Blackberry Smoke at The Academy – Review
Blackberry Smoke, The Academy – 15 October 2014
Blackberry Smoke swept into the Academy to bring a bit of southern sunshine to a dreary Wednesday night in Dublin. Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, they are a down and dirty five piece southern rock act following in the fine tradition of bands like the Allman Brothers, ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Watching this band is like taking a step back in time…bell bottoms, sideburns, and good ole 70s country rock…you name it, they supplied it, even a whiff of weed permeated the air at one stage. Consisting of band members, Charlie Starr on vocals and lead guitar, Brandon Still on Keyboards, Paul Jackson on Guitar and brothers Richard Turner and Brit Turner on bass and drums respectively, Blackberry Smoke are into their fourteenth year as a touring band and those years on the road are telling… a fine-tuned, well oiled outfit who know how to entertain. 3 albums into their career, this ‘Fire in the Hole’ tour sees them supporting their latest release, ‘The Whippoorwill’, their finest to date. Musically speaking, Blackberry Smokes’ closest relations are probably the Black Crowes, hailing from the same state, it’s no surprise to see a musical kinship between these bands. Their hard work has paid off in dividends as they have built a strong passionate following, which was in evidence tonight with a reasonably big crowd who were extremely familiar with the songs, and in fine voice for the singalong parts.
The show kicked off with ‘Like I Am’ from the ‘Little Piece of Dixie’ album and slowly gathered a head of steam. Charlie Starr added some snappy guitar playing to the songs, but was short on banter with the crowd…not that the crowd seemed to mind. Keeping the show moving along, they offered up a good mixture of tunes from their back catalogue, with Starr’s voice being a highlight of the night. They toned it down a notch with the Floydesque ‘Whippoorwill’ which was a notable highlight, a beautiful melancholic ballad that had the crowd in a trance. Then they kicked it up a notch again with the raucous ‘Up in Smoke’ and a fine rendition of one of my favourites on the night, ‘One Horse Town’, surely a hit if there ever was one? The set closer ‘Ain’t much left’ was cracking also with a doff of the cap to another of their influences, when they launched into ‘When the Levee Breaks’ mid-song (a song the Mighty Zep rarely played live themselves). They returned for an encore of the lively rocker ‘Shake your Magnolia’, sending the punters home with a smile on their faces and a warm southern glow in their souls!
Starr thanked Irish radio for playing their songs, while remarking that they can’t get on the radio in their homeland, which is remarkable considering the radio friendly vibe to their music. Hopefully, there will be more recognition for Blackberry Smoke in the near future…they certainly deserve it!
Review by Tony Martin