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Black Country Communion @ Civic Hall, Wolverhampton (29/12/10)

posted 25 Jul 2011, 15:17 by Paul Woodward
Review by Woody
Photo's by Rob Stanley
So it’s finally here Black Country Communion’s debut (pay for) UK gig, here in Wolvo at the Civic in the heart of the Black Country – the area after which the band were named. Both Glenn Hughes & Jason Bonham were born and raised in the Black Country and it was their desire to play their debut UK show here, especially given the name of the band and they got their wish.
There’s been a lot of hype surrounding this “supergroup” and sometimes that can kill a band but BCC’s debut album has rode high in the chart’s since its release and getting shining reviews amongst the press. Add that to tonight’s sell out crowd and you can see the hype is justified and a new kick-ass band has been born that is definitely here for the long run and WILL deliver the goods on all fronts.

I’ve been really excited about this gig since it was announced and being born and bred in the Black Country, I’m happier than a drunk in a brewery who’s just been given the job of chief taster in quality control! The album which has been one of my favourites of the year also came out as the top album overall amongst my team mates at Midlands Rocks, so this gig was like an extra Christmas present!

In support tonight was another local lass, Joanne Shaw Taylor a blues guitarist who has really been making a name for herself amongst the live scene up and down the country and also gathering respect amongst the blues community and its fans. Among Joanne’s band tonight was Virgil McMahon from Virgil & The Accelerators another Midlands blues guitarist doing well on the scene. Now normally I steer clear of Blues as on the whole it doesn’t suit my musical tastes and to add the phrase ‘guitar virtuoso’ is definite turn off for myself - usually.

I hadn’t checked out JST’s work prior to the gig, fully expecting to not like her music purely based on the little I’d heard about her in the press and on the ol’ tinternet. I always like to give everyone a chance in the live environment as many times in the past bands have won me over on stage, so I listened to Joanne’s set with neutral ears.

I have to say I was gobsmacked at the quality of the material and actually really enjoyed her short but energetic set of bluesy swaggering rock. It was a lot heavier and groove laden than I was expecting and the guitar playing wasn’t self indulgent or widdle-crazy. I was immensely impressed by the guitar playing skill on show. I think the only real downside to the set was the three piece seemed a little lost on the large Civic stage, but given that the band are far more used to playing smaller venues this was no surprise – but I think big things await these guys.

The band got huge cheers from a impressed crowd, with many in tonight already familiar and fans of JST and she seemed to be really pleased with the reaction to her music. It was the more melodic track “Diamond in The Dirt” that really stuck out for me and during this song JST’s vocals put me in mind of Bonnie Raitt who I’m a fan of (see I do the blues sometimes!). Overall I was pleasantly surprised and will be definitely giving her albums some ear time.

I have to admit I was already a fan of three of the members of  Black Country Communion which is why I was so interested in the band to start off with and I wasn’t disappointed by the outcome. Hughesy is the Voice of Rock and has plied his trade in various musical styles but in the most part has kept me entertained especially the melodic rock stuff  and I thoroughly enjoyed his solo show at The Robin in September.

I’m of course a fan off Derek Sherinian, keyboard wiz, in no least part due to his involvement with Kiss and of course melodic rock era Alice Cooper in the late 80’s and early 90’s ; both Trash  and Hey Stoopid are cracking albums. Of course Jason Bonham will always be in the shadow of his father legendary Black Country drummer John Bonham of  Led Zeppelin but he is a damn fine drummer in his own right and I’m huge fan of some of his work over the years especially AOR-sters Virgina Wolf (god these guys need to reform).

Joe Bonamassa was the wildcard for me, a lot like Joanne Shaw Taylor he has fallen foul of the blues and guitar virtuoso tags which meant I’ve never checked his solo albums out. Maybe like JST I need to give him a chance. He is obviously a well respected blues guitarist who has built an amazing fan base in a very small amount of time, I can remember him playing the Robin in Bilston next he’s playing the NEC in Brum! I love the guitar work Joe does on the BCC album but I’ve not heard much by him prior to it, but I’m sure many people here tonight are here for Joe!

The band bounce on to the stage following the intro tape of “Ride Of The Valkyries” and kick into a full-on no frill’s pure rock n roll show with a one-two punch of aural delight of  ‘Black Country’ and the insanely catchy ‘One Last Soul’ which just sets the Civic on fire and the crowd show their appreciation with loud shouts and applause. The chorus on “Black Country” got the old hairs on the back of the neck going with its shout-a-long feel – “I am a Messenger. This is my prophecy.  I’m going back to the Black Country”.

There is a real retro style to the band’s sound, which pays homage to the 70’s era of rock and in particular Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. Looking at the fans around the venue you could tell there was a fair few who were kids back then, but also the large number of  younger rock fans floating about also indicated that this style of blues infused groove laden rock n roll is timeless and will always find an appreciative audience. Obviously this style of rock is and always has been at its finest in the live arena and all those BCC songs come to life with real zest and power tonight, leaving everyone thrilled.

It didn’t take Glenn much to get the crowd involved when asking to make some noise and clap their hands; the band were obviously hitting all the right notes with the crowd and the band’s musical performance was near faultless and the band seemed well prepared to make tonight’s gig a killer performance. Even Jason got the crowd wound up from behind his drums, claiming he couldn’t hear anything which lead to a very noisy cheer and left Jason tapping his chest and thanking everyone.

Everyone in the band seems to be very respectful of the other’s work with Glenn in particular praising his fellow musicians, including that Joe is one of the best current blues rock guitarists about. Glen also mentions it’s a pleasure to play with another fantastic vocalist, which indeed Joe is. Joe even sings lead vocals on some BCC tunes as well as a few duets with Glenn. Joe’s voice is very different to Glenn so therefore adds a great contrast to the songs. I’m sure having two top notch vocalists in the band will be something the band will continue to exploit and make the most of in the future.

Glenn also announces to us that this is the first proper BCC UK gig and it’s where all the band wanted it to start here in the heart of the Black Country – which was met by resounding cheers and whoops, I think the local crowd are liking this attitude! Glenn tells us that the band are a homage to the area and it’s people and although he has lost the accent he still holds the area dear to him – which of course, is warmly received by the crowd.

The band play through most the album including “Beggar man”, “Down Again”, “Revolution In Me”, “The Great Divide”, “Song Of Yesterday” & “Too Late For The Sun”. Glenn introduces his old Trapeze song “Medusa” which also features on the BCC album, as being a song he had the pleasure of playing on with Jason’s father John, who he states was a great family man and one of the greatest drummers of all time and now he gets to play with his son too! The song goes down amazing well, there were definitely a few Trapeze fans in the house tonight.

Glenn was his usual exuberant self and his voice was top notch and I agree with a friend of mine who believes Hughesy is getting better with age! Jason was awesome on the drums, definitely one of the best I’ve ever seen and his sound gives the band real drive. Derek Sherinians keyboard work may be more secondary in many people’s ears, but for me he’s the unsung hero of the band who is able to capture that 70’s vibe especially when he’s on the Hammond organ and really gives BCC that edge. Joe really takes to the rock star role, striking rock poses in all the right places for all the right riffs with his slick and immaculate guitar playing – I was well impressed with his guitar skills, which never fall off the ledge into self indulgence and just bring the rock riffs and solos to die for!

Just before the last song of the set Glenn says that there is more to come from BCC in the very near future, I believe album number two is being recorded as soon as the band get back to America. He states that it’s great to be part of the Black Country heritage and he’s proud to be Black Country, cue more huge cheers from the fans, and that when it’s all over he’ll probably return to the dirt where it all began.

My highlight of the set probably came with the last song – shout if you love rock n roll – “Sista Jane”! A fantastic full on rock n roll number to round off an epic night of old school rock! The band gets a rapturous applause and a standing ovation from those seated in the balcony – this band is truly loved.

The band exit for a short while, causing the crowd stomp their way through to Australia whilst calling for an encore. The band come back to perform a Hughesy classic from back in his Deep Purple days, “Burn”, which just sent the crowd wild – Joe pulling off that riff of perfection and delivering some damn fine guitar work overall and Hughesy always delivers on this tune. Again the band is met with a wall of applause and appreciation before leaving the stage. Glenn shouts “See you in the summer” and I say bring it on! Hopefully the tour organisers will remember Birmingham is NOT part of the Black Country and obviously this band can’t tour the UK and miss us out? All in all an epic night which totally fulfilled all my expectations and judging by the audience reaction tonight I ain’t on me tod in feeling tonight’s gig was the dog’s danglies!