–By Keith Brake
Southern Rock, it is hard to find nowadays isn’t it? Can’t find any new Southern Rock on mainstream radio and when you do find any at all well, it is on a “Classic” or “Oldies” station, heck you just may think it’s dead. Well, I have news for you folks, it’s not dead; in fact if you know where to look it is as alive as ever. Blackberry Smoke made a stop in Saint Louis on Thursday, February 15th and gave a Southern Rock performance as good as any I have ever seen. With them was Lukas Nelson & The Promise Of The Real offering support for this stop on the “Find A Light” tour.
Now I know some of you may have not heard of Blackberry Smoke and I understand. While this group of Georgia boys aren’t exactly underground, they certainly aren’t mainstream either, but don’t think for a second that they don’t deserve to be. And that supporting act I mentioned, you may want to keep them fresh in your memory when you want that familiar Southern Rock sound.
Lukas Nelson & POTR stepped from the darkness and took the stage for a packed house. This son of his legendary father (Willie Nelson) and his band are one of the most intriguing acts I have watched in a while. Lukas can play a guitar and he knows how to own the stage and vocally, well that’s the intriguing part. This band plays tunes that range from Southern Rock to a 70’s Brit Rock sound to Country, and Lukas has the ability to vocally roll with the punches. Watching Lukas Nelson & POTR is almost like watching a couple different bands at one time depending upon how they make their set. As for the music that is country, Lukas reminds you of who his father is.
While paying homage to Willie, Lukas sounds almost just like his dad. Lukas doesn’t have to do this, his own vocal stylings are strong enough for any critic in attendance, but it sure is something special to close your eyes and feel Willie in the room when those country tunes are played. When their set came to a close those who were not already on their feet rose to give this tremendous supporting act a standing ovation. At this point I was thinking to myself, “Blackberry Smoke better bring it tonight because Lukas Nelson & The Promise Of The Real just light this place on fire.”
The room was still a buzz when Blackberry Smoke took the stage and the crowd erupted when Charlie Starr (Guitar and Vox) and Richard Turner (Bass) led the way onto the stage. These Georgia boys have a list of great tunes that fans of all ages and backgrounds can enjoy and relate to and their friendly demeanor and smiles on stage just suck the fans right into the experience. The Blackberry Smoke set was riddled with highlights, song like “Small Town” and “Sleeping Dogs” brought ruckus ovations. Oh Yea, and smashed in the middle of what I will call the extended live version of “Sleeping Dogs” was one of the coolest and most well done covers of the Beatles‘ “Come Together”…simply awesome.
If you still have any doubts that this show was on fire, beside me in the crowd was Guns ‘N Roses guitarist and local favorite Richard Fortus, and he didn’t just show up late for the after party, he was out among the ranks of fans from the beginning of the BBS set.
Adding to the list of amazing moments for the evening, Richard joined Charlie and the boys on stage for their first encore number for a killer version of the GNR tune “I used To Love Her” where Charlie sang and Richard tore it up on guitar. Lukas also joined Blackberry Smoke family on stage to collaborate guitar stylings with Charlie and cover the vocal duties for what was an amazing cover of Neil Young’s “Cortez The Killer”. This song is mostly unknown to anyone who is not a true Neil Young fan, but for me, it was captivating and Nelson’s voice was mesmerizing on this number
This evening met every expectation that any Blackberry Smoke fan could have had and I am certain they impressed some in attendance who were seeing them for the first time. By the time the evening came to a close, Blackberry Smoke had not only kept the fire burning that Lukas Nelson had started, they poured gas on it! As I walked away I thought to myself, “Damn, what a Rock N Roll Show.”
The Tour is called the “Find A Light” tour and the upcoming album bears the same name and can be preordered as we speak. If you thirst for that old Dirty South Rock sound, you best find your way to see these Georgia boys ASAP! Information about the tour and the band can be found at www.blackberrysmoke.com
As always, thanks for your support,