People say they like them just because they “do it in that good-old way.” They keep it simple: no synthesizers, no games with lights—just simple, Southern, long-bearded rock ‘n’ roll. This seems to be Blackberry Smoke’s recipe for its Fire in the Hole Tour.
Folks in the crowd like their songs because they remind them of that relaxed, Southern countryside where each one of us at least once has dreamt of migrating during the cold winter. And yes, they definitely did bring some Southern-warmth Friday night at the Majestic Theatre after an energetic opening performance by the talented band The Delta Saints. However, there is a but, and it’s not due to the incense the band used to bless the stage before the show.
It’s 10 p.m. and, drumroll, the smoky quintet comes on stage. Blackberry Smoke lost some points with the opening, maybe because of the acoustics, or maybe because of the band’s bored-looking bass player Richard Turner. Maybe it was because of too much beer (or not enough) in the crowd, or maybe because of the band’s strategic choices on the opener. The gig wasn’t a blast at first.
Luckily enough, however, after a bit of warming up the true nature of the shy Blackberries came out. They didn’t disappoint the Madisonian public that has been there for them since their last tour in 2002. With their great ballads and easy-going attitude, they finally did connect with the crowd as any lingering doubts about their performance faded away.
With a decade of experience, 250 concerts a year and several collaborations with big names such as ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd, these blue collar dudes earned their fan base one-by-one. One of the band’s best qualities is its skills in making a mix out of different styles of music (from gospel to country with a squeeze of bluegrass and some arena rock on the side), yet keeping it simple and homemade.
And they surely did have fun at the Majestic. The jingling frontman Charlie Starr and a sparkling Brandon Still at the keyboard engaged more than one lady in the crowd in free-spirited dancing. In the end, also grumpy Mr. Turner at the bass guitar showed a big 32-teeth smile. Finally!
It seems like living on the open road and playing in the most remote parts of the U.S. for years hasn’t been a big deal for these country boys. Even though there have been highs and lows throughout the years, rocking out and getting a straight job has never been in their repertory.
They would probably agree with that; after all, the show must go on.