A sold out show and as I walked down the street at 7.15, the queue for the 02 was still a few hundred strong. Not sure if these guys would get in for the start of Kris Barras in 30 minutes time, I suppose the extra security measures and covid test checks were holding up matters. Knowing what a packed 02 is like on ground level, I took to the balcony for a better view.
KRIS BARRAS – The new single ‘Dead Horses’ has only been out a few days, but it’s already a worthy addition to the set and it appears the Birmingham crowd like it, judging by their cheers. The man from Torquay has come a long way since he turned his back on his Martial arts career and formed a band in 2014. Playing support to such a major outfit as Black Stone Cherry and recently appearing at numerous festivals, his heavy style of blues fits in perfectly to many a line up. A new album in the pipeline which will be a successor to the incredible ‘Light It up’ and we hear both old and new tonight. Old being ‘Ignite (Light It Up) and ‘What You Get’ followed by the new ‘Who Needs Enemies’ and ‘My Parade’ a blissful shower of energising numbers. Kris gets the audience participating early on and the room bounces with the heady rhythm of his brilliant guitar playing. This is sublime stuff and a display of genius, the cover of the Don Nix classic ‘Going Down’ is well received. Hard to believe that song is from 1969, although Kris does make it his own. Joining in with all the chanting and ‘Whoas’ the 2018 stormer ’Hail Mary’ brings the performance to a crushing finale and he deserves all the applause being thrown at him. Look out for the new album after this tour finishes at the end of September and then Kris embarks on a headline UK tour in March.
BLACK STONE CHERRY – Although these guys have been around since 2001, this is my first encounter with them live would you believe. It’s only taken 20 years and around seven albums, for me to finally get into the same venue, as one of the biggest names in US mainstream rock ! The 02 is now truly heaving and the crowd are in good spirits, well it’s a Friday night and they’ve managed to get tickets for BSC. Who have such a wide appeal, as I can see people of all ages, rammed in here.
The band from Edmonton, Kentucky are fronted by Chris Robertson on guitar and vocals, who has the most striking of deliveries, that is evident from the very start, as they open with ‘Me And Mary Jane’. Already the mass of fans are bouncing and it’s easy to see why, the song has an amazing hook and after we have sung our hearts out to ‘Burnin’, ‘Again’ and ‘Yeah Man’ the sweat is beginning to pour. There are quieter moments like the subtle ‘In My Blood’ and ‘Like I Roll’ and I take in that air of Southern state hospitality that seems to be floating around the room. My eyes drift to drummer John Fred Young, (son of Richard Young from the ‘Kentucky Headhunters’). He throws his sticks so high and spins them around, never dropping them once and his high spirited character shines from the back. Also at the back is the bongo player, I don’t know his name, but he deserves a mention, not only for his faultless percussion playing, but he also steps up as stage hand, to fix a loose mic of John Fred’s, that man has gained my respect.
Then there is more from the current album, ‘Human Condition’, with the splendid ‘Ringing In My Head’ and ‘In Love With The Pain’. I have managed to sit next to a lady who is their biggest fan, as she dances and sings to every syllable, she’s on her third pint, so I help her take a selfie with her mates, all good fun. We step back to the 2008 album ‘Folklore And Superstition’ for ‘Blind Man’, ‘Soul Creek’ and ‘Devil’s Queen’ reminding me what a decent piece of work that was. These are more gutsy and raucous numbers, as the levels are turned up. Rhythm guitarist Ben Wells hasn’t stopped leaping around all night, kicking his long legs about and those blond locks of his are now dripping wet from all the head banging he’s managed. Chris takes time out to offer thanks and to introduce Steve Jewell who’s stepping in for long term bassist Jon Lawhon, Jon has decided to take an indefinite time out. We enjoy a drum solo, which is something I haven’t seen for a while, before Chris performs ‘Things My Father Said’ on his own, this is dedicated to his Dad who sadly died in June. As the camera lights flicker in the darkness, he stands there in solitude and puts his heart and soul into that song. The amount of grief is obvious and he breaks down shortly afterwards, to be consoled by the others. That’s a moment none of us will forget. They quickly resume with ‘Hell and High Water’, the uplifting hits ‘Blame It On The Boom Boom’ and ‘White Trash Millionaire’ both from the popular ‘Between The Devil & The Deep Blue Sea’ release of 2011. Choosing ‘Peace Is Free’ as an encore is so poignant for todays world and the adulation from everyone in the venue is virtually overwhelming.
Tonight the Kentucky boys proved why they are selling out every gig on this tour. The performance was rounded and executed with so much feeling. They’ve been in existence for nearly twenty years now and they have grown immensely over that time, today they are first class entertainers and I urge you to try and get a ticket for one of the nights if you can.
Photo Credit – Alexandra Peace of ProZac Photography
More Photos by Alexandra of the event – HERE