REVIEW: BLACK STONE CHERRY AT AUSTIN’S FUEL ROOM IN LIBERTYVILLE, IL

Black Stone Cherry were the direct support for Buckcherry at Austin’s Fuel Room in Libertyville, IL. Their 45-minute set consisted of various songs from the five studio albums they have released over the past 10 years. Much to my surprise, only two of those songs in the set were from their newest album, Kentucky. I’m guessing more songs from the new album will be played when they are the headliner, but regardless, it was a powerful set.

As the lights dimmed, the band’s intro music, Kiss by Prince, started playing through the speakers. Very quickly, some in the crowd took the opportunity to dance and sing along. After about a minute, the band finally took the stage. They wasted no time and immediately went into Me and Mary Jane (Magic Mountain, 2014). As singer/guitarist Chris Robertson sang, “Me and Mary Jane got a thing goin’ on, goin’ on, Creepin’ up slow, hangin’ ’round my back door, my back door,” once the beat kicked in, guitarist Ben Wells performed one of his trademark high kicks and the show was on. Ben continued jumping around a bit before he was on his mic for the talk box portion of the song. In between been tied to the mic, he continued full body head banging. I’d really like to know where the guy gets his energy. He and bassist Jon Lawhon traded places on stage and Jon rocked out just as much while he played a bass with a pretty cool time piece design. Before the song was over, Ben and Chris met in the middle to solo facing each other.

This lead into Blind Man (Folklore and Superstition, 2008), another energetic song to get the crowd pumped up and another one that showcased John Fred Young’s massive drumming skills and included his backing vocals. When Ben didn’t have to sing or be near his pedals, he was often at the very edge of the stage doing his best to get the crowd involved or bouncing around back and forth on stage as if he had springs in his shoes. During a brief moment, he calmed down a bit as both he and Chris met in the middle to play facing each other before Chris ripped into a guitar solo.

Prior to starting the next song, Chris asked how many people had seen Black Stone Cherry before and the crowed cheered loudly. Chris told those who had never seen them before that they were there for one thing and one thing only, which was to have a good f–king time. He asked the crowd if they felt like singing along and he got them to sing “yeah, yeah’s” in time to the music before going into In My Blood (Between The Devil & The Deep Blue Sea, 2011). In fact, the crowd could even be heard singing along to the beginning verses as well.

Up next were two songs from the newest album Kentucky. Right after Chris softly sang the opening line of In Our Dreams, “If the world fell into the sea,” the song erupted into a thunderous opening of deep fast notes. During the afternoon of the show, Black Stone Cherry played an acoustic performance at a local radio station and I remembered him talk about how they had been trying for the past two albums to get this song released. I cannot see why any of the “powers that be” wouldn’t have wanted this song on an album. Luckily, their new label wanted it to be the first single. (side note: In Our Dreams was originally written for the Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea album) To me, there’s also a pretty heavy line in the song, “If the world fell into the sea, Would you hold on and drown right here with me.” Talk about an intense visual.

For the second new song, Chris told everyone to sing along when he sang, “S-O-U-L Machine.” While the original song has horns and female backing vocals, the live version was still just as powerful. While Chris and John Fred initially started off the next song, Ben moved his fingers on the strings with his foot on his wah pedal which created an interesting tone. This was the opening for one of their oldest songs, Maybe Someday, from their first album released in 2006. “Maybe baby, maybe baby can’t live without you, Why? I just don’t know, but for now I’ve got to Rock & Roll.”

Off and on during the night, Ben would prop his foot on John Fred’s kick drum while playing and Jon would face him to make sort of a triangle as they’d rock out in front of John Fred’s kit. Ben and Jon also continued to trade places on stage during various songs, giving each side of the audience equal love. The action on stage didn’t slow down as Ben, once again, played talk box on White Trash Millionaire and the crowd was more than happy to sing along. The frantic energy Ben released on stage was, at times, almost unbelievable. The guy puts so much of himself into his playing, it’s apparent he leaves nothing on the table and gives each and every performance 100% of himself. This was followed up by, Blame it on The Boom Boom, always a crowd favorite, from Between The Devil & The Deep Blue Sea. The night eventually came closer to an end with Lonely Train, another one from their very first album. No matter how many times they play this song, the chorus speaks volumes of truth.

“But you can’t judge a book, looking at the cover
You can’t love someone, messing with another, no
You can’t win a war, fighting with your brother
You wanna have peace, gotta love one another”

They ended the night on a high note by playing the majority of Motorhead’s Ace of Spades and Jon’s bass playing during this song was fantastic. By the end of the night, I had to laugh to myself at the sight of a few broken drum sticks that could be seen on the stage around John Fred’s drum drum riser. Of course, that didnt include all of the ones that had fallen behind his kit. The man is such a hard hitter when it comes to playing, but his high energy, hair flying, and massive playing is always a fascinating sight to see. Once their set was over, the band stood center stage, arm in arm, waving and smiling at the crowd before taking a bow. While I had hoped to hear more new material, one thing was certain, after 10+ years in the game, the band has still got it. The intensity of their playing and performance on stage has not wavered and the band continue to bring their A-game. Black Stone Cherry are currently on tour through August. Find all dates here.

View the entire Black Stone Cherry photo gallery here.

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