Black Stone Cherry

support Bullet Train Blast
author PP date 01/10/09 venue Loppen, Copenhagen, DEN

Prior to this show, I only knew Black Stone Cherry by name plus a brief Myspace listening session that I had approximately a day before the show, so my first impression on the band had to be drawn according to what people were wearing upon my entrance to Loppen, one of the most intimate venues in Copenhagen. Around 150 or so people had gathered to watch the bands tonight, most wearing band shirts for groovy rock'n'roll bands like Black Label Society etc, leading me to shake my head in disbelief over ending up at a generic rock show tonight instead of doing something else. A quick look at the available merchandise seemed to confirm my fears...but I couldn't have been more wrong. You know it is, the best shows are always those you have no expectations for, and that was certainly the case tonight. But before we get onto why Black Stone Cherry blew me away, we have the small matter of dealing with local support act Bullet Train Blast.

Bullet Train Blast

While the first impression Bullet Train Blast was akin to my introductory paragraph description, they quickly dissimilated such a notion with a positively surprisingly energetic and convincing rock 'n' roll performance, perhaps one of the best I've seen by a Danish band to date in this genre in a live environment. Forget about Highway Child, these guys are where it's at. Most of my good impression can be accredited for vocalist Larsen's extroverted performance, as he tramped across the stage displaying a tremendous amount of direct eye contact with individuals in the crowd, often leaning in and screaming to the mic only inches from the faces of those daring to stand right in front of the stage. After only a couple of songs, he ditched his shirt and continued to dance from side to side on the stage, displaying loads of confidence especially during his prolonged YEAAAAAAAAAH screams, which demonstrated just how amazing this guy's pipes are. I've seldom heard screams this extended delivered as spot on as they were tonight - back chills certainly weren't a seldom event during their performance. The same applies for headbanging, as the rest of the band's instrumentals are perfect for some beer-induced head-banging, for sure. All in all, the band weren't exactly mind blowing, but they sure as hell were great and a band I'll be seeing again many times in the near future, I hope.


Black Stone Cherry

So if you thought Bullet Train Blast were good, then Black Stone Cherry most likely blew you away from the first three seconds of their show, when their calm, enthralling entrance transformed into an explosive display of jumps, solid headbanging and some of the most convincing southern fried rock'n'roll / hard rock / mainstream rock I've experienced to date. These guys may look generic as fuck with their flannel shirt sleeves rolled up, a silver cross on the lead singer, and their huge curly hair do's, but god damn they can play. They could've so easily adhered to all stereotypes to the mainstream rock genre, with the lead singer only giving 80% while the rest of the band would've been nailed to the ground, and still satisfied some (*cough*Gaffa*cough*) expectations, but instead the band chose to be ALL over the place, all the fucking time. When the guitarist wasn't busy headbanging, jumping or thrashing around, you'd find him in an Iron Maiden inspired triple formation with the singer and the bassist. When the latter wasn't firing out smooth licks, he'd be exchanging positions with the guitarist, storming from one side of the stage to the other. It's amazing to see a band put on this much positive kick-ass attitude in front of just 150 people, considering only a few months ago they played in front of thousands of kids at Download Festival.

Instrumentally, these guys were breathtaking. And I don't just mean that in the amazing complexity sort of way like Dream Theater, I mean it purely in a sense of originality. Almost every song may have had a solo, but every solo sounded like you'd never heard anything like it before, even though you could sense every note that was coming a millisecond before it entered your consciousness. Sometimes you can tell that a guitarist is truly living the riffs/solos he is playing from his facial expression, but Chris Robertson wasn't just living his dream, he honestly looked like he was just climaxing in a threesome with Megan Fox and Jessica Alba every time he played a solo. Yeah, I'm talking about eyes closed, mouth open, body seismically shaking type of thing each and every time he performed one. And I can't blame him. If I could play like that, Ms Alba would be begging for a permission to sleep in my bed.

I once saw Joey Jordison (Slipknot) perform a drum solo, and it was great. Then I saw the drummer from Incubus do one, and it was fucking amazing. But this dude from Black Stone Cherry....I've never seen a drummer move that fast in the 500+ shows I've attended. His sticks seemed to literally bend time and space as he bashed the shit out of his kit - occasionally standing up to give his hits an extra bit of power. No matter how closely your eyes tried to follow, the sticks seemed to have ceased moving because he was smashing the kit so fast. Some talk about lightning speed, but this dude makes that expression comparable to UK's Royal Mail. And as if five minutes of continuous transition from quiet tribal drumming to otherworldly domination of the kit wasn't enough, the dude suddenly threw both his sticks away and continued to hit the drums at an unbelievable speed - with his bare hands! Everywhere you looked in the crowd, people's eyes were watering, mouths were open, heads were shaking in unbelief... there's only so much you can describe on paper, you really had to be there to believe it. Un-fucking-believable drum solo, why isn't this guy regarded as one of the best drummers in the world, as was suggested by the lead singer straight after!? Later on, this dude would switch with the lead singer and sing a song by himself - rather well if I may add - displaying his talent in everything music. Geez, why can't we all be like these guys?

Straight after, the band continued with "Peace Is Free", featuring only singer/guitarist Robertson and the second guitarist, a soft song that made everyone standing close by the stage feel like they were singing and sitting around a cozy campfire at scout camp. While the transition from a mindblowing drum solo to a quiet sing along may sound anti-climatic on paper, the execution was so seamless that nobody could've accused it of being out of place. The same applies to the smooth morph into yet another bombastic display of hair-all-over-the-place, jumps and endless headbanging straight after. How do these guys do it? Next up was another medium tempo song, and this time I could've sworn that Robertson is the lost offspring of an orgy between Scott Stapp (Creed), Chad Kroeger (Nickelback), and Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam) because of the way his voice shadowed trends from post-grunge, hard rock, alternative rock and mainstream rock - all at the same time. And you can say what you want about some of those bands, but all of their frontmen are/were amazing singers. Those of you who are familiar with Denmark's Highway Child and think that they appear so fuckin' rock'n'roll, well, meet their ancestors in terms of experience, conviction, and showmanship. The best show I've seen since Poison The Well guested this country early this year.


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