March 18, 2018
Remember back in the day when you were excited to see your favorite band and you wanted to get there early and take it all in? You got there and you waited in line for the venue to open the doors and you went right to the front of the venue to claim your spot if it was General Admission, or you checked out the t-shirts and other merch and maybe grabbed a beverage before you headed to your seat, hoping to run into some of your friends.
This was exactly the feeling I got when I approached The Kent Stage and saw a line of fans wrapped around the building, waiting to get in to hear Blackberry Smoke.
Upon entering the venue, fans saw a stage filled with candles, tables and lamps with tie-dyed sheets draped over them. There was also a smell of incense wafting throughout the theater giving it a more intimate feel for this acoustic show.
After the first song, “Deep Elem Blues,” lead singer Charlie Starr said “Welcome to the living room! We’re taking it easy and we’re not in any hurry. This tour is about the music and telling stories of how these songs came to be.”
The sold-out crowd then settled in for the next two hours and witnessed one of the best concerts of the year.
A variety of deep cuts, hits and incredible cover songs throughout the evening. Charlie Starr also told some stories between songs and he, Paul Jackson and new touring member Benji Shanks would show off their handiwork on their six-string acoustic guitars. After one extended solo Starr quipped, “Since we’re sittin’ in the living room, we’re gonna do some pickin’!”
The band knew exactly where they were as they launched into “Ohio” before seguaying into “No Way Back To Eden.”
Starr mentioned that the past couple of years have been pretty rough for the music business as we have lost several musicians, noting that Dick Dale passed away that day. He and Jackson tried to play a little bit of “Misirlou” but after a few seconds, Starr laughed and said, “I can’t do it!” He then said that the next song “Listen To Her Heart” was for “Brother, Tom Petty.”
After a few other tunes were played, an overzealous fan shouted out, “Skynyrd!” Which Starr responded, “We didn’t come here to play Skynyrd, we came here to play Blackberry Smoke songs. However, we’ve been known to play songs from bands we love, and we happen to love Skynyrd. But this song is from The Band!” and the band went into “It Makes No Difference.”
Other covers played included Zeppelin’s “Hey, Hey, What Can I Do,” Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away” which included a snippet of “Bo Diddley” and Little Feat’s “Willin’.”
The first set ended with a spirited version of “Ain’t Got The Blues” which included a sing-a-long from the audience.
The band came back to encore with “One Horse Town” and “Ain’t Much Left Of Me” which got the crowd on its feet as they got to rock out a bit with the band before they exited the stage.
Ida Mae, a young husband and wife duo from England, came out and easily won the audience over with their brand of Delta Blues with an updated sound.
Leave it to the Brits to take American blues and sell it back to us once again.
Whatever this band is selling, I’m buying.
Armed with a steel dobro and a slide, Chris Turpin laid down some taste blues licks while singing with a soulful voice that had no hint of his British accent. His voice blended nicely with his partner, Steph who also played the tambourine and some shakers.
The duo will be celebrating the release of their first album titled Chasing Light which will be released in June.
If you enjoy the blues, I suggest you check out Ida Mae. They are the real deal.
Photos and review by Greg Drugan