Blackberry Smoke were one of the final bands to play on the last night of Summerfest, the world’s largest music festival, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Their hour and a half set on the Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard stage was the perfect way to close out this stage for the event, not to mention a fantastic 11-day celebration for the festival’s 50th year.
Mostly playing songs from their highly popular 2013 release, The Whippoorwill, and their most recent and fifth album, Like An Arrow, this band from Atlanta, Georgia, with the motto, “Too Rock For Country and Too Country Rock,” showed those in attendance exactly why that phrase rings true. Lead singer and guitarist Charlie Starr, with his unique sounding vocals, along with the performance from the entire band, filled the open air with sweet musical notes. Good One Coming On lead into Workin’ for a Workin’ Man and Pretty Little Lie, but Waiting For The Thunder, in my opinion, is their heaviest sounding rock song. With second guitarist Paul Jackson, it made an impression that won’t soon be forgotten.
A few songs in, Starr commented, “We got to get funky on Sunday night,” and went straight into Believe You Me. Between the super funky keyboard playing from Brandon Still and the song itself, it definitely had people movin’ and groovin’. They continued with Sleeping Dogs, with Charlie playing maracas for a bit and included a snippet of Come Together by The Beatles. This song really allowed each band member to be showcased as they all had their own time in the spot light. The title track for The Whippoorwill was followed by another snippet of a cover. This time, it was Bob Dylan’ Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 that lead into Shakin’ Hands With The Holy Ghost. At the end of the song Charlie mentioned what “a trip” it was for him that Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson were “standing over there.” [They both were part of The Outlaw Music Festival that played on a different stage that same night.]
The crowd got involved by clapping along to the beat during Ain’t Got The Blues and they ended the set with One Horse Town and title track, Like An Arrow, or so they wanted everyone to think. After a few minutes, the band returned to the stage and played a fantastic version of What Comes Naturally. Charlie thanked everyone for coming and hanging out with them before going into one of their most popular songs, Ain’t Much Left of Me. For those that know Blackberry Smoke, it’s that opening line, “Well my fall from grace was a sight to see,” that immediately puts a smile on your face. Or maybe it was just my face, but it’s a song that feels familiar and one that is always welcomed in the set. This was also the last song to include a cover snippet and Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds flowed perfectly within the song. Charlie’s final words were the perfect way to cap off not only an awesome performance but a great way to end the festival experience. “God bless you Summerfest.”
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