Review and photos by Peter Coates
Support act, the Adam Eckersley Band from the NSW Central Coast, took to the stage fresh from their CMC Rocks appearance and delivered a set of country-style folk-rock, full of Aussie attitude with a mean twin-acoustic guitar attack.
The band is pretty laid-back with lovely, easy harmonies with some raw emotion in the vocals and gave us a highlight set of ‘The First Album’ and the more recently released ‘The Second Album’. The crowd particularly enjoyed the acoustic solo from Adam in ‘Wheels’ and the set-closer featured some great interplay between the various band members, featuring drums, keyboards and bass. A terrific warm-up set from a great local outfit.
Blackberry Smoke are from Atlanta, Georgia, and have been linked to the stable of The Zac Brown Band for some of their earlier releases. They have been recording and touring for over 10 years, since the release of first album ‘Bad Luck Ain’t No Crime’ in 2004.
The lineup consists of Charlie Starr (lead vocals, guitar), Richard Turner (bass, vocals), Brit Turner (drums), Paul Jackson (guitar, vocals), and Brandon Still (keyboards). While the band is one tight country-rock outfit, there is no doubting the talent and sheer presence of front-man Charlie Starr, with a powerful vocal delivery, sharp moves and great guitar playing.
This is the band’s first visit to Australia for the Bluesfest in Byron Bay, so an early show in Sydney is a great way to see this critically-acclaimed southern country-rock band in an intimate setting. This will be the first and last time we will get to see the band play to 250 people in this country!
‘Holding All The Roses’ is the latest and fourth full-length album from early 2015, but their set was drawn from all four studio albums opeing up with ‘Six Ways’, ‘Let Me help You’ and ‘Like I Am’, before really warming the place up with ‘Pretty Lil Lie’. The crowd knew most of the songs and Charlie Starr was delighted with the response and the frequent singalongs!
The Turner boys on bass and drums must be the most laconic rhythm section doing the rounds, but rock solid with it. Lots of keyboards give some of the songs an atmospheric jazz-fusion feel with some great Hammond organ and honky-tonk piano from Brandon Still, particularly in the extended workout of ‘Sleeping Dogs’ and ‘Holy Ghost’ – but the band never strays far from the electric guitar-based core of the music.
The set rolled on with two cracking tracks in ‘Wish In One Hand’ and my favourite from the latest album, ‘Payback’ which is just a great rock song with a cool story. Title track of the previous record, ‘Whippoorwill’ almost felt like early Pink Floyd in the beginning but rolled into some great guitar work from both Paul Jackson and Starr with a glorious piano and organ solo from Stills.
The songs kept coming, with the simplest of ballads written about Manette, Alabama, One Horse Town, and then a retreat into 1980’s classic rock with ‘Up In Smoke’, contrasting the ballad with rumbling riffs and a wailing solo. The energy started building through ‘Ain’t Got The Blues’ and the enormous-sounding ‘Holding All The Roses’ with more killer riffs and a false ending before the raucous close.
‘Shake Your Magnolia’ closed the set as another upbeat piano and guitar-driven track before the encores brought the band back out, Starr in a tasteful hat, for ‘Too High’, new song ‘Let It Burn’, and the signature southern rock anthem of ‘Ain’t Much Left’.
Good luck Bluesfest – these guys are going to bring the deep south all the way to Bryon Bay this weekend – Do Not Miss Blackberry Smoke!
Headliner: Blackberry Smoke – www.blackberrysmoke.com
Support: Adam Eckersley Band – www.adameckersleyband.com
Venue: The Basement, Sydney Australia
Date: March 23, 2016
Photographer: Peter Coates – www.facebook.com/InsideEdgePhotography