“We’re going to need a bigger tent…”
Or at least, that must have been what the backstage bods at the Pepsi Max Stage thought as Black Stone Cherry arrived this afternoon. The Cherry weren’t on the original Download line-up, you see, but word’s got by that they’ve dropped in for a surprise jaunt. Quite a few words, it seems, to a shit tonne of people - the excited throng spilling out of the big blue tent is massive.
The Kentucky gang (and recent Classic Rock cover stars) aren’t of the ‘arrogant bastard’ rockstar variety, striding smilingly onstage to an ecstatic reception. But when it comes to rocking, they’re all bold, badass flourishes and triumphant southern tunes. Accordingly, Me And Mary Jane makes an emphatic opening statement of intent - BSC aren’t in for a long set, but while they are here they will rock you. They will rock you most comprehensively.
And so we have much fun, albeit rather squashed fun (seriously, there were a lot of people). White Trash Millionaire is a cracking demonstration of their dirty, foot-stomping but soulful songsmithery. Got a problem with that? You can always Blame It On The Boom Boom [falls off chair paralysed with laughter…]. But no, …Boom Boom is great. Of course it’s great. It’s practically a foolproof recipe for cute but fist-pumping singalongs with delighted crowds.
Less than half an hour later it’s finished - a short n’ sweet one, then, but with choice sweet cuts like theirs, this is hardly a bad thing. (8) (PG)
Never has a man displayed his influences on his as sleeve as clearly as Volbeat singer Michael Poulson, even if it’s on a sleeveless denim cut-off. This garment is adorned by cloth patches from the likes of Motorhead, Johnny cash, The Misfits, Queen, Dio, Napalm Death, Death (the florida band, not the end-of-life experience), Memphis (for geographical inspiration) and Mercyful Fate (for local colour, one presumes).
It all comes together onstage, with death metal riffs aligned to pop-punk anthems, and the occasional bit of country thrown in. To confuse matters further, the pop-punk numbers sound as if they were originally written as country and western tunes: you can imagine them working just as well stripped of the aggression on show here and backed instead by pedal steel. Sometimes, it’s more obvious: the brutal Sad Man’s Tongue is prefaced by Poulson on acoustic guitar singing Johnny Cash’s Ring Of Fire. Other Highlights include the thundering, demonic Pool Of Booze, Booze, Booze, and 16 Dollars, which starts with a riff reminiscent of the Hawkwind/Motorhead classic Motorhead before swaggering into Aerosmith’s Walk This Way territory, even referencing the same song in its lyrics, while Still Counting starts all punky reggae party before a crunching riff turns it into something else altogether.
There’s plenty of “Oi! Oi!” and “Whoah-oh-oh-oh!” bits to join in on as the breathless set passes, and former Anthrax guitarist Rob Caggiano looks like he’s having the time of his life. It’s enormous fun, and while it might not quite add up to the sum of its constituent parts, it’s a pretty sweet equation nonetheless. (7) (FL)