BLACKBERRY SMOKE – Live at the Roundhouse in London
What can push a French bloke to go outside his comfort zone and book tickets for a concert in London when he knows he’s gonna see the same show in Paris a few days before? TWO WORDS: Blackberry Smoke.
One thing you need to know about this French boy is that I lived in Atlanta for a couple of years, fell in love with southern music at a young age via the Black Crowes and can brew sweet tea as well as any southerner. Blackberry Smoke is right up my alley.
“Too rock for country, too country for rock”
But tonight we’re talking about London, home of the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin; two major influences on Blackberry Smoke’s Georgia country soul that shaped their southern rock ‘n’ roll. It’s worth noting that the last time they played London, it was in a small bar across the street from the venue they’re playing tonight – the legendary Roundhouse.
Throughout its long history, the Roundhouse has hosted a who’s-who of iconic artists – Jimi Hendrix, The Clash and The Ramones to name but a few. It’s a serious part of London history and no doubt our boys from across the pond knew very well what it represented in the arc of their career. And so does the audience…
Forget about the hippy deadhead vibe of The Tabernacle in Atlanta. This is England. Bikers are cheering with proper gentlemen, punks let the ladies get their beer first and sixties throwbacks play ping pong in front of the merch booth.
Blackberry Smoke opens their set with an appropriate tune – “Fire in the Hole”. If rock ‘n’ roll was born in Memphis but perfected and resold by the Brits, Blackberry Smoke was here to reclaim some Southern pride.
What followed was non-stop action – the humor of “Six Ways To Sunday”, the instant fun of “Good One Comin’ On”, the slap in the face of “Waiting For The Thunder” – everything screams that Blackberry Smoke is the next big thing and the London crowd couldn’t agree more.
Effortlessly sliding into jam mode, “Sleeping Dogs” morphed into covers of Zeppelin’s “Your Time is Gonna Come”, Yes’s “Starship Trooper” and The Allman Brothers’ epic “Mountain Jam” before a raw version of “Up In Smoke” caused a young woman in the front to faint (seriously – I saw it happen). Blackberry Smoke simply owned the place.
At this point I knew I needed another drink, so to the bar I went – and ran headlong into Chip Z’Nuff from Enuff Z’Nuff. He was here to support opening act the Biters – a rather efficient, Atlanta-based sleaze/classic rock band who did a pretty good job warming up the audience. After a few tears and a couple of hugs from the man who wrote “Fly High Michelle”, “New Thing” and “Baby Loves You”, I’m back in front of the stage to see Blackberry Smoke finish off the London crowd.
And they go out swinging with the Stones classic “Street Fighting Man”. In the context of the terrorist attack that took place only a few days before, the words of Jagger and Richards take a whole new meaning. London is not sleepy anymore and its people are willing to stay in the streets, without fear. The palace revolution already took place, now’s the time for a peaceful one.
Tonight in London, Blackberry Smoke reached a new level in their career. The cool little band from Georgia is no longer a local sensation – they’re a bonafide rock ‘n’ roll juggernaut. Do not miss this band when they come to your town.