Blackberry Smoke & Aaron Keylock @ Manchester Ritz 17/10/2014


aaron keylockAt only sixteen years of age, one could be forgiven for being slightly skeptical of just what Aaron Keylock might be able to do. However, once he starts playing, there’s no doubt left in anybody’s minds that this guy is something special. The crowd lapped up every second of his set, and the cheers that he garnered as he left the stage show that he well and truly won everybody in attendance over with his stunning performance. He’s going to be at HRH Festival later this year, and he’s top of my ‘must watch there’ list.

Blackberry Smoke came to my attention last year, and I was rather annoyed that I was so late to the party. They’re a Southern Rock band which basically encompasses everything that’s good about the genre, and tonight’s gig at the Ritz had been a highlight of my calendar for quite some time. The Ritz was packed, the crowd were in high spirits and Blackberry Smoke strolled onstage to huge cheers and launched straight into ‘Like I Am’. This set the tone for the rest of the night, and every song built on the feeling created by the last one.

Blackberry1Utter favourites ‘Six Ways to Sunday’ and ‘Good One Coming On’ created a massive party atmosphere in the room with everybody singing along, and when Blackberry Smoke dropped it down to ‘Pretty Little Lie’ they dropped the pace but upped the quality, and Charlie showed just what he was capable of vocally. Another upbeat followed with ‘Everybody Knows She’s Mine’, then went straight back down to ‘The Whipoorwill’. While Blackberry Smoke absolutely know how to make everybody feel good, there’s no denying that their ability to bring out a good ballad is unrivalled by most. Their ability to switch between styles on a song-by-song basis while still keeping the audience utterly enthralled really shows that the audience weren’t just there for the odd song, they knew each and every number that Blackberry Smoke played, and they appreciated them all.

Blackberry2‘Payback’s a Bitch’ brought out the dirtier, grittier side of Blackberry Smoke, with Charlie spitting the words down the microphone to the adoring crowd. ‘One Horse Town’ and ‘Aint Much Left of Me’ finished their main set on an utter high, and the enraptured crowd kept calling out for more. Of course they returned – who wouldn’t, with that kind of reaction – and their encore of ‘Man of Constant Sorrow’, but with duelling banjos at the beginning was the perfect end to a night of pure quality southern rock.

Blackberry3There’s nothing to me that’s quite like this style of rock n roll – it reminds me of growing up and discovering the greats like Lynyrd Skynyrd, and it’s beautiful to see bands that bring back this kind of music but also drag it kicking and screaming into today’s day and age. The growing popularity of Blackberry Smoke and a whole host of other bands doing similar things says to me that it’s something that Britain is crying out for, and after the performance at The Ritz it’s understandable why. An incredible night, and a band whose next tour and album I can’t wait for already.

Review: Felicity Hall

Photos: Craig Hutton

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