With their first stint to the UK shores since the release of their 5th studio album, ‘Like An Arrow’, Blackberry Smoke are not alone, bringing along fellow Georgia natives Biters for the ride.

Inside the venue, creating ambience with the house lights dropping to the sound of ‘Spirit In The Sky’ filling the academy.

Ostentatiously storming the stage, Atlanta rock n roll upstarts Biters may not have been dealt the easy card. In both sound and visuals the band are a far cry from Blackberry Smoke’s brand of southern rock, nevertheless after the initial few tracks the audience had certainly accepted the band. The thundering, bubblegum addictive ‘Hallucination Generation’ demonstrates perfectly the amalgamation of sounds and influences in their style, sounding far more raw and punk in a live setting.

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Ensuring not to alienate the audience front man Tuk recollected various anecdotes from their debut EU headline tour; namely drink related episodes leading to difficulties with custom officials on their way back home introducing a track written at that time.

‘Goin Back To Georgia’, certainly a highlight of their 9 track set; with the house lights dimmed, and acoustic guitar in tow the band proceeded to deliver nothing short of magic with spotlight on Tuks candid vocals.

Kicking back with fan favourites ‘So Many Nights’ and ‘Stone Cold Love’ the band encountered disruption in the crowd during the anthemic ‘Heart Fulla Rock N Roll’ with Tuk stopping the performance to address the culprits, taunting and mocking a member for fighting and not enjoying the show. It’s only rock n roll but I like it, right?
Finishing the set with their ode to glam rock n roll, ‘1975’ was the topping for their impeccable performance. For a relatively young band they have certainly earned their stripes, raising the bar high for headliners Blackberry Smoke.

Biters’ Set List

Restless Heart
Low Lives In Hi Definition
Gypsy Rose
Hallucination Generation
Goin’ Back To Georgia
So Many Nights
Stone Cold Love
Heart Fulla Rock N Roll
1975

Blackberry Smoke leave many plenty of evidence that they don’t conform to please mainstream, or mask their identity. Same goes for when onstage; appearing before the packed to the rafters sold out crowd in the most humble way. No huge entrance, no suspense purposely created, just keeping it real.

Leaving no time wasted, opener ‘Fire In The Hole’ immediately kicked off proceedings. Towards the mid section of the song the majestic wandering sounds of the keyboard seemed to have been slightly drowned out in the mix, fortunately front man Charlie Starr carried the weight delivering a great vocal performance.

Soldiering through the next handful of songs in quick succession, including the colourful, full bodied, hip shaking ‘Six Ways To Sunday’. Thankfully whatever previous issue had occurred with the sound was soon rectified allowing keyboardist Brandon Still to play what’s one the most focal elements of the song.

In the relatively short 17 year span of the band they’ve undoubtedly honed their master class musicianship.
Throwing out curve balls throughout the set, juggling the politically brash, ballsy ‘Waiting For The Thunder’ followed directly by the mellow, country leaning ‘Rock & Roll Again’ with an overwhelming reaction of synchronised hand clapping proving that Blackberry Smoke do things on their terms, by their book and it works. They don’t offer up a “ballad/stripped down” section surrounded by hard hitting, pulsating rock n roll tracks.

It’s apparent Starr is the leader of the pack, on occasion addressing the audience, when discussing his appreciation for the support in getting their newest release ‘Like An Arrow’ to #1 on the UK rock & metal chart.

Fellow members Brit & Richard Turner, Paul Jackson and Brandon Still adopt a far more laid back, reserved approach to crowd interactions. This isn’t to say they weren’t engaged or fully committed to the performance, but for a band like Blackberry Smoke music is first and foremost the focus.

Fans of the band will know they’re prone to adding a cover or two to the mix. ‘Sleeping Dogs’ taken from ‘The Whippoorwill’, with its free spirited, loose jam disposition enabled Starr to lead suit, perpetuating a blues solo blossoming into a full band jam affair. With Jackson and Still in equal parts feeding off each others’ energy, seemingly naturally leading into the Led Zeppelin penned ‘Your Time Is Gonna Come’.

One of the highlights of the set was the anthemic fan favourite ‘Up In Smoke’, with a stellar rendition that had what seemed everyone in attendance singing every word in unison.

Packing the punches the band rolled out ‘One Horse Town’ & ‘Freedom Song’ before abruptly leaving the stage, without a word to be said. Everybody knows the score, the band leaves to return almost immediately after for an encore. Not quite. The house lights came up with crew patrolling the stage and moving equipment, maybe there was no encore? It was evident nobody was leaving, a mass sea of booing ensued until the lights once again went down for the last time. With the band reappearing and straight away delving into a fine cover of The Allman Brothers’ Blue Sky followed by the aptly titled ‘Aint Much Left Of Me’ closing the lid on the evenings performance.

Coinciding with the tour announcement frontman Charlie Starr went on to say “We’re extremely excited to bring the Georgia boogie to everyone in the UK and Europe with our brethren, Biters. This will most likely be a tour to remember!!” and remember that night we will!

Blackberry Smoke’s Set List

Fire In The Hole
Six Ways To Sunday
Good One Comin’ On
Let Me Help You (Find The Door)
Waiting For The Thunder
Rock N Roll Again
Ought To Know
Let It Burn
Sleeping Dogs/Your Time Is Gonna Come (Led Zep cover)
Shakin’ Hands With The Holy Ghost
The Good Life
Up In Smoke
Lay It All On Me
Ain’t Got The Blues
Payback’s A Bitch
Sunrise In Texas
Restless
One Horse Town
Freedom Song
ENCORE
Blue Sky (Allman Brothers cover)
Ain’t Much Left Of Me

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