Words and Photos: David Thrower
The last time I had seen the Newcastle O2 Academy so full was, well, when Blackberry Smoke was last in town. It may be the lack of southern rock making it to these shores that bring out the crowd ‘en masse’ or it may just be the well-crafted songs and superlative musicianship but whatever the reason Newcastle is always ready to congregate for a good time.
Biters, hailing from that musical Mecca Atlanta, Georgia certainly live up to their name by taking a bite out of many classic rock bands and form a sound that pulses with old-school vibrancy. Lead vocalist and guitarist Tuk Smith struts in commanding form sporting his Flying V on a setlist that oozes with glam-meets-punk energy on songs such as the wonderful ‘1975′ or the Thin Lizzy harmonies of ‘So Many Nights’ that should see the band continue to ascend once new album ‘The Future Ain’t What It Used to Be’ hits the stores in fact, it was a real pity their set was relatively short. Or maybe they were just that good it only felt too short.
Since I first saw Blackberry Smoke play their electrifying UK debut at The Barfly in Camden the band has traveled this fine land more times than Wainwright and while the only variations to each show may be the setlist and the length of Charlie’s facial hair they still knock it out of the park when it comes to country-tinged southern rock. Never a band to indulge the crowd in small-talk, and touring on the back of their excellent album ‘Like an Arrow’, they ran through a set that rocked the heaving room, from the barroom swagger of ‘Good One Comin’ On’ to the rollicking ‘Up in Smoke’ while turned down the tone and mood with the jaunty ‘Ain’t Got the Blues’ and the singalong ‘One Horse Town’.
While all eyes may fall on Charlie Starr, he is the only truly mobile member in the band, he is backed by a bunch of talented individuals such as the long-haired guitarist Paul Jackson and the baby-faced Brandon Still whose keys underpin their entire catalog. Whether the band needed to take a slight detour down Meandering Alley to perform Zeppelin’s ‘Your Time is Gonna Come’ along with a jam that was as exciting as a recently painted wall is up for debate but there was no doubting their class. Throw in a cover of the Muddy Water’s classic ‘Rollin’ Stone’, it was the man’s birthday after all, and it was an evening dedicated to music played by a bunch of guys who let the music do their talking. However, despite the lack of interaction with the thronged masses they did appear in good spirits which, when you’ve got the likes of ‘Six Ways to Sunday’ in your arsenal, is hardly surprising.
If you missed the band this time around have no fear – they’ll be back before too long. Charlie may not address the crowd in nothing more than snatched sentences but if the adage about leaving the crowd wanting more is correct then he’s playing it just right as I’ll be back next time along with everyone else, wanting more. Now, if only the Academy would open the balcony allowing for even more to enjoy the party.
Fire in the Hole
Six Ways to Sunday
Let Me Help You (Find the Door)
Good One Comin’ On
Waiting for the Thunder
Rock and Roll Again
Pretty Little Lie
Let it Burn
Sleeping Dogs/Your Time is Gonna Come/Mountain Jam/Be Good to Yourself
Shakin’ Hands with the Holy Ghost
Up in Smoke
Lay it All on Me
Ain’t got the Blues
Free on the Wing
One Horse Town
Shake Your Magnolia
Ain’t Much Left of Me