LIVE REVIEW: Black Stone Cherry @ First Direct Arena, Leeds (13/12/2018)

Credit: Emma Stone

Date: December 13th 2018
Venue: First Direct Arena, Leeds
Support: Monster Truck / The Cadillac Three


Tour line-ups can be a tricky one. Sometimes, the powers that be get it right, and others, well, they get it oh so wrong. Thankfully, Black Stone Cherry‘s bill for their ‘Family Tree’ tour falls comfortably into the former, and is one hell of a hard rock party.

It’s up to Ontario’s Monster Truck [8] to take to the stage and get the ball rolling. Launching straight into ‘True Rocker’, the title track of their latest album, the Canadian four-piece work their way through a set that’s far too short, but perfectly sweet. It’d be all too easy for a band to give a lacklustre performance so early in the night, but Monster Truck know that it’s up to them to bring the party to the arena, and bring the party they do.

It’s safe to say that anyone who’s lucky enough to make it to the arena early enough to catch these boys blasting their way through ‘Sweet Mountain River’, ‘She’s A Witch’, and ‘Evolution’ will be joining them at any local show they can get to for even more of the same.

Next up is The Cadillac Three [7], and their whisky soaked, southern fried country rock provides the perfect warm up for the main event. With Neil Mason and Kelby Ray spaced far apart on the stage playing drums and lap steel respectively, it’s up to frontman Jaren Johnston to gee up the crowd. Starting off with ‘Peace, Love & Dixie’, Johnston croons his way through a catalogue of their hits with his trademark redneck drawl, mixing party tunes like ‘Slide’ with the slower, more poignant ‘Bury Me In My Boots’ and ‘White Lightening’, all the while holding the arena in the palm of his hand.

Finishing up with ‘The South’, one of the many songs that pays homage to their southern roots, these Tennessee natives almost make you feel as though you’re watching them on their own stomping ground, turning Leeds into their home state for one night only.

Kicking off with ‘Burnin” and ‘Me And Mary Jane’, Black Stone Cherry [7] smash through over an hour of tried and tested favourites and newer material. As ever, guitarist Ben Wells tears around the stage with the energy of a springbok on speed, with bassist Jon Lawhon not far behind him, both of them churning out thundering riffs to accompany frontman Chris Robertson on vocals.

There’s barely a dry eye in the house for ‘Things My Father Said’ which takes pride of place in the middle of their set, with Robertson‘s powerful vocals setting a sombre tone before they kick things up a notch with the sexy and sleazy ‘Ain’t Nobody’.

These seasoned professionals know how to work the crowd; their light show is on point, their sound is just about perfect, and an impromptu drum and harmonica solo from John Fred Young leaves the room open mouthed as he perfectly performs the two simultaneously, not once missing a beat. After a quick break to let Young do his thing, the rest of the guys join him back onstage for a rendition of Willie Nelson‘s ‘I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man’.

Time flies when you’re having fun, and before you know it, Black Stone Cherry start to wrap things up with a triple whammy of ‘Lonely Train’, ‘Blame It On The Boom Boom’, and ‘White Trash Millionaire’, taking things up another gear and leading the crowd into a dancing frenzy.

It’s almost a shame that they didn’t end it there on a high, and one could almost say that choosing to follow these high octane hits with an encore of ‘Peace Is Free’ could be seen as somewhat of an anti-climax, but if ever there was a band that could rouse an entire room full of people into singing along word for word to a soaring ballad of this ilk, it’s Black Stone Cherry.