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Shepherd's Bush Empire, London, 30 December 2010
derided supergroup is in danger of getting a good name. Hot on the heels
of Chickenfoot's success last year, one of the classic rock highlights
of the year has been the all-star Black Country Communion collaboration
between Glenn Hughes, Joe Bonamassa, Derek Sherinian and Jason Bonham.
Somewhat surprisingly they chose to make their live debut with two
relatively small shows, one in the black country heartland at
Wolverhampton and this packed London show, which in spite of excessive
ticket prices (£75 for the first floor balcony) could have sold several
An all too
short 25 minute set from the sassy Joanne Shaw Taylor opened
proceedings- and her smoky vocals and angular extended guitar solos on
the likes of Kiss the Ground Goodbye and Lord Have Mercy suggest that
this rising star's 2011 headline tour is not one to be missed, as she
promises to break into the big league, Bonamassa style.
Beginning with Glenn's rumbling bass intro to the storming Black
Country, BCC's set fairly closely mirrored their debut album, with the
powerful riffs and grandiose arrangements that recapture the excitement
of early seventies heavy rock so well.
relatively short, commercial numbers like One Last Soul, as the set wore
on the longer epics held sway such as Too Late for the Sun and Song of
Yesterday, ending with a brief segue into Sly Stone's Higher and an
It was great to see Joe turn his hand to the heavier rock, that his
choice of covers always hints where his passion lies. At times he and
Glenn traded lead vocal lines, while he was also allowed to deliver one
of his own songs in the Ballad of John Henry, complete with messing
around with a theremin. Derek was somewhat hidden high to the left of
the stage, and his Hammond organ was only occasionally prominent but
really enriched some of the tunes while the much-travelled Jason is a
solid powerhouse of a drummer.
He may have
a smaller and more cult following than Joe's mainstream acceptance, but
Glenn came over very much as band leader and focal point. Cutting an
idiosyncratic figure with an artfully sculpted mod hairstyle and his
trademark prance, his vocals were superb throughout, but his trademark
screams were wisely used more sparingly than in some of his solo shows I
have seen. His rendition of Medusa, the old epic from Trapeze days which
BCC re-recorded, was a highlight, notably the way the band built to a
If I had
reservations, they were around the fact that their stage act was quite
plain, for example falling short of the sense of exuberance and fun that
Chickenfoot had brought to their show here last year.
Combined with the songs fairly closely mirroring the album, the
experience was a bit too close to staying at home listening to the CD.
Nevertheless a superb version of Led Zeppelin's No Quarter gave them
full scope to improvise and jam, before a drawn out Sista Jane - with
its AC/DC inspired riff - and a reprise of Black Country closed out the
Speculation as to whether Glenn would dip into his Deep Purple past was
confirmed during the encore as he screamed his way through Burn, with
the instrumental passages giving Joe and Derek ample opportunity to
shine. I must admit this was my most enjoyable moment of the set, but
then I have lived with and loved that song for over a quarter of a
century compared to a matter of weeks for their originals.
Incredibly songs have already mainly been written for a second album, so
this appears to be only the start of something special. Expect many
more, including summer festival goers to be partaking in Communion in
Black Country/ One Last Soul/ Beggarman/ The Revolution in Me/ Down
Again/ Too Late for the Sun/ Song of Yesterday/ The Ballad of John
Henry/ The Great Divide/ Medusa/ No Quarter/ Sista Jane/ Black Country
Alternate view by Pete
Wolverhampton, 29 December
and photo gallery
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