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Blackberry Smoke - O2 Forum, London - November 8 2015 (Live Review)

Friday, 13 November 2015 Written by Jon Stickler

Atlanta rockers Blackberry Smoke were quick to light up the O2 Forum on a dreary November night in Camden last Sunday. With over 10 years of relentless touring behind them, the straight-shooting quintet lived up to the foot-stompin’ and hand-clappin’ reputation they carry as one of the most popular southern rock bands to emerge in recent times.

Easily recalling the same gritty, no nonsense attitude of their legendary forefathers, Blackberry Smoke seem to have grabbed the torch without also picking up the label of being simply a Lynryd Skynyrd tribute act. They rattle through a lengthy set which covers the entire spectrum of their career and have the crowd rolling with them from the frisky opener Leave A Scar through Six Ways To Sunday, Like I Am and Pretty Little Lie. Their current album, 'Holding All The Roses', fills the lion's share of the set.

With little crowd interaction from frontman Charlie Starr, who only steps up for the odd 'thank you', Let Me Help You (Find The Door), Fire In The Hole, Rock And Roll Again, Living In The Song, Payback's a Bitch and Holding All The Roses slot in among the older cuts, the hell-raising Good One Comin' On, Black Crowes-esque Shakin' Hands With The Holy Ghost and solid groover Up In Smoke, before they brilliantly blend Sleeping Dogs with Led Zeppelin's Your Time Is Gonna Come.

Too country for a rock audience and too rock for country crowd, their signature sound - a dual guitar attack from Starr and Paul Jackson layered over Richard Turner's bass and brother Brit's thick grooves - is ever present throughout the evening as the Georgia boys keep the theatrics to a minimum and let the riffs and harmonies do the talking.

The softer ditties, The Whippoorwill, One Horse Town and Who Invented The Wheel, are reminiscent of the free form jams of the Allman Brothers, with the band returning to their most recent album for an encore of Too High and their second Zeppelin cover, The Rover, before wrapping up with the biggest singalong of the night, Ain't Much Left Of Me.

Having followed the dusty bootprints of the Marshall Tucker Band, Creedence Clearwater Revival and the Allman Brothers, Blackberry Smoke deserve all the applause they get as heirs to the southern rock throne. Anyone questioning their authenticity needs to get the hell outta Dodge.

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