Blackberry Smoke / Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real @ the Pageant, St. Louis, MO

Words and photos by Duane Clawson
Sipping on a glass of bourbon and writing about the reigning kings of Southern rock, Blackberry Smoke, seems like a good combination!

I’m gonna start by saying I’ve seen both bands in the past. My take away from seeing them, I felt both bands could have given more. Tonight, like I had somehow sent this message subliminally, these bands gave more than I could have asked for!

We’ll start with Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real.

When I saw Lukas Nelson some ten odd years ago, he was cutting his teeth, opening for the old man. But somewhere along the way, Lukas began to pave his own road. I could go on about the voice similarities between him and his famous pops, but I think you can figure that one out. What sends Lukas down a different path is his induction of rock into a country heavy background. Willie has had his moments of dabbling in all genres, as does the younger Nelson, but this is different. There’s a heaviness that makes it all Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real. Some of the guitar licks are noticeably taken from you know who, but these vintage riffs have been electrified! Needless to say, the kid impressed me. Proving he was a suitable opener and highly capable of holding his own. The proof of this statement came in the form of a standing ovation at the end of his set!

With an appropriate warm up in place and the scent of blackberry smoke (or some type of smoke) in the air, it was time for the main event!

"Fire in the Hole" is a warning that an explosive detonation in a confined space is imminent. And an appropriate opening song title, from what maybe America’s last great rock band, Blackberry Smoke! From the onset, it was clear that this band had matured into a tight unit, that did not miss a lick for nearly two hours. If you come to a Smoke show just to hear Southern rock, you’re going to be disappointed. The band’s frontman, Charlie Starr, appears to be having the time of his life while onstage, one thing that appeared to be lacking when I first saw the band in 2014. The sound of the band overall seemed so much tighter and has evolved into an undefeatable beast.

Blackberry Smoke's setlist covers a majority of the band’s 17+ year career. Blowing the dust off of songs like “Sanctified Woman” and “Good One Coming On” from their first and second albums was some welcomed ear candy. But the real dessert was a mid-set cover of The Beatles, “Come Together”! A real curveball if you were trying to label this band as a Southern rock band. Like a good magician, this band had plenty of more tricks up their sleeves. A preview of the new album, Find A Light, came in the form of the song, “Flesh and Bone”. If I were to judge this new album based off of this song, I’m gonna say it’s gonna rock!

Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real were summoned to the stage to help out with this next magic trick, a cover of Neil Young’s, “Cortez the Killer”. Two words, just incredible! With the vocal help of those in attendance, Blackberry Smoke wound down the main set with, “One Horse Town” and “Like an Arrow”. Near the end of the main set, I noticed a familiar face standing in front of me, Richard Fortus. Richard plays guitar in this band you may have heard, Guns N' Roses. Hmmmmm, this could be interesting! “Would you please welcome, Richard Fortus, from Guns N' Roses” were the words Charlie Starr spoke when the band reemerged for the encore. This of course was met with and roar of approval. Mr. Fortus and Blackberry Smoke performed a rousing version of GNR’s, “Used to Love Her”, once again giving the Pageant audience all they could have asked for and more! An equally impressive, “Ain’t Much Left of Me” closed out this trick bag of an evening. Thanks to both bands for keeping me guessing and doing your part to keep rock and roll alive!

Photos of the show are below:

Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real
Blackberry Smoke
Contributed by Duane Clawson
Blackberry Smoke / Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real @ the Pageant, St. Louis, MO Blackberry Smoke / Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real @ the Pageant, St. Louis, MO Reviewed by Scott Rowe, Editor on 12:30:00 PM Rating: 5

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