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Shepherd's Bush Empire, London, 30 December 2010

Photos by Noel Buckley

Black Country Communion, photo by Noel Buckley

Black Country Communion's second ever show, excluding their unveiling at John Henry's studio, was a conceptual and musical triumph born of the classic rock roots of The Black Country (The West Midlands), the home of messieurs Hughes and Bonham and the area the band filched part of their name from.

With the pair of English rockers doting on their classic rock heritage and the two American's reliving hard rock history, Black Country Communion turned out to be the impressive sum of its disparate parts, a crucial link in an enduring musical lineage.

The Empire's expectant full house was treated to a rousing hour and 40 minute set that just about conjured up a coherent whole. Let's face it: any band with Glenn Hughes at the helm will be hard pushed not to get caught up in the maelstrom of his stage performance. He is a one man, bass playing dynamo who explored the full contours of the Empire stage by exaggerating his every nuance with a series of calisthenics and the kind of reverb drenched high pitched scream that recalls Gillan in his pomp.

Black Country Communion, photo by Noel Buckley

On the other side of the stage was the supremely talented guitarist Bonamassa, who via a series bended knee stress positions, musically matched every one of Hughes' postures. The two occasionally met as Glenn pranced over to the right hand side of the stage positioning himself face to face with Joe to demand an extra drop of intensity from his front line partner.

And in those grand stage gestures lay the very reason why this thrilling band worked so well. For all the intuitive dexterity of keyboard player Derek Sherinian and the powerhouse drumming of Jason Bonham, they both find their creative context in a band that pushes the thin dividing line between hard rock and rock blues to the max. The end result was an exhilarating excursion into what in contemporary parlance is termed Heritage Rock.

So while Glenn hit the audience hard on the opening 'Black Country' and the mighty groove of 'One Last Soul', he raised the bar on the muscular 'Beggarman', which derives its sense of contemporaneity from the Muse like riff.

It was also the number on which his effervescent trajectory nearly sent his bass flying over his head. And after an impossible electrifying start BCC subtly shifted gears on the band composition 'Too Late For The Sun' on which they stretched out with keyboard player Derek Sherinian interplaying beautifully with Bonamassa on guitar.

Black Country Communion, photo by Noel Buckley

Joe finally stepped up to the front receiving warm recognition for the opening notes of 'Song of Yesterday'. The song shifted from a delicate introduction to some Zeppelin style coruscating riffs, and some very effective shared vocals, before a searing solo and a tub thumping crescendo.

Joe added a tough rendition of his own 'Ballad of John Henry' complete with additional tonal inflections from a theremin. But any suggestion that his talent would overawe the band were immediately quelled by the heavy descending chords of the mighty Hughes/Bonamassa co-write 'The Great Divide', a song that emphasized the enduring vocal brilliance of Glenn Hughes.

Black Country Communion, photo by Noel Buckley

And while Glenn made the most of his old Trapeze favourite 'Medusa', the band reverted to their Classic Rock sticking plaster on a rapturously received cover of Zeppelin's 'No Quarter', complete with a with a 'Sloe Gin' sounding introductory keyboard figure. For good measure Hughes and Bonamassa shared vocals on the epic 'Sista Jane' which climaxed with the riff from The Who's 'Won't Get Fooled Again'.

And so the deserved encore, with a ripping version of Glenn's piece de resistance 'Burn'. As the band took their inevitable bow at the lip of the stage, you'd wager there wasn't one disappointed fan in the room.

While Joe earlier joked that he had played the venue before 'when I was bigger', BCC's second album will doubtless decide what the future holds for an outfit that derives its thrilling existence from being delicately perched on the cusp of a weighty musical past and sparkling potential future.

Review by Pete Feenstra

Photos by Noel Buckley


Alternate view by Andy Nathan

Wolverhampton, 29 December and photo gallery

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