LIVE: Black Stone Cherry @ O2 Empire, Shepherds Bush

By Christopher Lee

It hasn’t been long since Kentucky rockers, Black Stone Cherry, were last on U.K. soil. Having toured back at the start of the year, they played some of the biggest arenas up and down the country, but this time around they’ve opted for a somewhat more intimate set of shows. And what’s better than a Black Stone Cherry set?Ā Black Stone Cherry twice in the sameĀ evening.

This tour findsĀ them opening for themselves each night with a stripped down acoustic set. Acoustic guitars in hand, Chris & co take their seats in front of a backdrop of hundreds of fairy lights, setting Ā the mood perfectly. The crowd welcome them with a thunderous applause, asĀ Chris asks, “We all ready? Nah! Y’all ain’t ready for this,” before opening with ‘In Our Dreams’ to get the evening started. Up next is ‘Hell & High Water’, Ā a track which according to front man Chris was actually written as an acoustic song.

The songs certainly have a different affect when played in this way, and everyone in the venue is having a wonderful time.’The Rambler’ and ‘Things My Father Said’ are the highlights of the set, the latter of which has everyone getting their lighters/phones up to create a wonderful spectacle. “It’s not every day you get to open for yourselves,” explains Chris, before asking the crowd if they’re about ready to rock. “Last nights set list was so hot it melted faces,” he says, before letting loose with ‘All I’m Dreamin’ of’ which midway through, Chris gives an inspirational speech about some of the difficulties he’s had to deal with personally. He asksĀ the crowd to promise that they’ll speak to someone if they’re ever in need, declaring his love for everyone in attendance.

With that, the band leave us for a ‘small intermission’ which sees the stage set up adjusted and made ready for them to return, fully dressed in leathers and with an energy few bands can muster. Any fears that the laid back atmosphere of the acoustic set might hinder the night are quickly put to rest. The band power through an opening salvo of ‘Devil’s Queen’, ‘Soul Machine’ and a cover of George Thorogood’s classic, ‘Bad to the Bone.’

“Who likes the heavy shit we do?” Asks Chris to cheers from the room, leading to aĀ rendition of ‘Darkest Secret’ from the bands newest release, ‘Kentucky’, and the crowd almost tear the roof off when ‘White Trash Millionaire’ gets its moment. This is topped, however, Ā when the band throw in a cover of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Whole Lotta Love, which gets every single person in the venue singing alon. It’s not nearly as loud as when the band launch into ‘Me and Mary Jane’ ,all the while John Fred is throwing his drum sticks high in the air, with Ben & Jon running laps around the stage and Chris treating us to a tasty guitar solo.

We then get yet another cover in the form of Willie Dixon’s blues classic, ‘Built for Comfort.’ Heading towards the conclusion of the set, Ā Ben gives us a face melting guitar solo mid way through ‘In my Blood’. Followed by ‘Blind Man’, it provides possibly the best drum solo ever seen, as John Ā not only nails it, but does so whilst playing a harmonica suspended above him. According to Chris, the loudest crowd to date has been in Sheffield, but he wants to know if London can top it. They do just that as the band power through ‘Shakin’ My Cage’ and ‘Blame it on the Boom Boom.’

Chris then explains that Black Stone Cherry have been a band for over 15 years, with the same 4 guys on stage every night and the only thing he can say is, “thank you from the bottom of my heart.” They end with a blistering rendition of ‘Lonely Train’, before closing the night off with an instrumental of the great Jimi Hendrix classic, ‘Voodoo Child (Slight Return)’

The band leaves the stage to a thunderous appaulse,Ā and it’s easy to see why. Black Stone Cherry aren’t just a band to their huge fan base, but are more of an institution. Tonight has shown that they have an incredible energy and passion for their music, which they share live, but also have incredible technical ability and a softer side.