Words and pictures by Duane Clawson
From the first time I heard the southern rock sounds of Lynyrd Skynyrd way back in 19-whatever, I have been a fan of that style of music. It’s all encompassing, honest, hardworking feel is what keeps me coming back time and time again. So as you could imagine, when the opportunity came to review Blackberry Smoke at The Pageant in St. Louis, I was smiling like a possum eating peach seeds! Six degrees is what the thermometer read as I found my way in to this nearly iconic 2000-seat venue. A nice showing of roughly 1500 braved the ultra-cool temps to take in this show. Always in search of what’s good in the world, I was most impressed with the opening act, The Delta Saints. The Saints are currently calling Nashville home but have roots in the Deep South. The roots of this band are hard to deny when hearing songs from their new EP, Dink It Slow. This EP has a little something for everyone: funk, delta blues, jam band, are all ingredients in this musical smoothie! The Saints appeared to be on their game and well received by the appreciative music fans of St. Louis. As the Saints' equipment was being carted off the stage, an uneasy anticipation hovered around the room. This anticipation was fueled by those that were seeing Blackberry Smoke for the first time, while attempting to figure it all out through the chosen set up music. My anticipation was fueled as James Brown was telling me to get on up, at an increased volume, through The Pageant’s tremendous house PA system. Then a sweet aroma, of what I considered to be, Blackberry Smoke, began to fill the air surrounding the stage.
As Blackberry Smoke takes the stage, right away one senses a no-bullshit, take it or leave it attitude, that is a continual theme in the band’s music and stage presence. Lead singer and guitarist, Charlie Starr, is sporting over grown, mutton chop beard that reaffirms the above statement. If you are looking for a show that is a big budget Hollywood production, this show is not for you. But if you’re looking to hear some damn fine musicians and music that comes from the heart, this is your band. For the past ten years, Blackberry Smoke has been sharpening and shaping their act, tonight St. Louis was lucky enough to see the end result of musicians that continually practice their craft. The show opened with the powerful “Leave a Scar”, the chorus of this song should be the band’s mission statement: “I may not change the world but I’m gonna leave a scar”. As powerful as this opening song was, the band seemed to lose its pace for just a second during next two songs but recovered nicely and performed flawlessly from here on out. The band paid homage throughout their show to those that have influenced their sound over the years. Covers of songs by The Allman Brothers and Led Zeppelin were present in tonight’s set. They also found it fitting to recognize one of rock and roll’s founding fathers, St. Louis’ own Chuck Berry, with a loose version of “Promised Land”. Blackberry took time out to slow it down and tug at the audience’s heartstrings with “Prayer for the Little Man”, a song that visits the ugliness of a divorced parent’s inability to be there for their child and the torn emotions that go with the territory (thanks for including this song tonight). I had the opportunity to see Blackberry Smoke last year in Ft. Wayne, Indiana at a 20,000 venue. I can say without a doubt these were two completely different shows. Blackberry Smoke appears to truly be in their element in theater-styled venues such as The Pageant. You may not get much flash or flare with this band but with Blackberry Smoke you do get is something that is diminishing rapidly: honest, hardworking, hard living music that can’t be found on American Idol. Thanks to Blackberry Smoke and their management for allowing MTC access to this show. And I might add that MTC exclusively covered this show ;-). Pictures of the show are below:
The Delta Saints
Contributed by Duane Clawson
Blackberry Smoke / The Delta Saints @ The Pageant, St.Louis, MO Reviewed by Scott Rowe, Editor on 1:51:00 PM Rating: