Black Country Communion
Live @ Shepherds Bush Empire
gig date: 30 Dec 2010
reviewer: Andy Snipper
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Crowd expectant and buzzing with questions – this is BCC’s second official gig, the first being last night in The Black Country (Wolverhampton).
Can this latest ‘supergroup’ cut it as a band instead of being a collection of supremely talented individuals and egos? Can ‘The Voice of Rock’ (Glenn Hughes) really share the limelight with Joe Bonamassa, the saviour of Blues Rock and a band leader in his own right? Will Derek Sherinian actually be able to make himself heard over the power and the fire of the other three?
The lights diim and the strains of ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ begin over a darkened stage. 2 minutes, the crowd leans forward: 4 minutes, the tension is palpable: the last notes die away and the unmistakable bass notes of ‘Black Country’ start to chug away and as the stage explodes with light the roar from the audience can probably be heard in Hammersmith.
Hughes is resplendent in shades and a lame jacket, posturing and belting out the words. Bonamassa, normally besuited and slightly aloof, is actually in a jacket and jeans and throwing shapes while his guitar rips out the riff, speedy and with massive impact. Bonham behind his kit and driving the band along with a sledgehammer bass drum and whiplash cymbals and Derek Sherinian prowling behind his keyboards and building the sound with a massive Hammond rill and roar.
Hughes hits the break and the entire packed Empire audience sing back to him “I AM YOUR MESSENGER AND THIS IS YOUR PROPHECY …. I’M GOING BAAAAAAAACK TO THE BLACK COUNTRY”. Frankly when the rock is this good it simply lifts you and makes a mockery of anyone who questioned the commitment of the band or the audience.
Anyone who was expecting a clash of egos will have been very disappointed – these guys were having fun from the off and they looked as though they had been playing together for years, tight and powerpacked and over the next hour and a half the band put out a set of massive power and remarkable finesse. They did just about every track from the album with standouts being a brilliant ‘Beggarman’, an impassioned ‘Revolution In Me’ and a simply brilliant ‘Great Divide’ with glorious keyboards from Sherinian.
Bonamassa donated a powerful and complex ‘Ballad Of John Henry’ and you got the sense that this is absolutely a band – sharing the responsibility, allowing each other space to shine and creating a sound where all the elements are as important as each other.
Live even more than on the record I began to hear the importance of Derek Sherinian to the band with his keyboards adding textures that lifted the straight ahead hard rock to new heights and also creating a platform that allows Jason Bonham to show his talents to the full – I was always a fan of his father but he may even be better than the legendary ‘Bonzo’.
They closed with a vicious ‘Sweet Sista Jane’ and encored with a blistering ‘Burn’, the crowd reaction getting more impassioned by the moment.
One of the biggest cheers of the evening was the announcement that the band are due back in the studio in January – on this showing the album is likely to be one of the monsters of 2011 but for me the final gig of 2010 was one of the absolute highlights of the year.