Last night (4th February, 2016) I went to the ‘Carnival of Madness’ at Wembley Arena. Black Stone Cherry return to headline the venue for the first time since 2014 and they brought some pretty special guests; Shinedown, Halestorm and Highly Suspect. That’s a pretty awesome line up! I’d seen Shinedown twice before, but I’d been wanting to see Black Stone Cherry for a very long time. I’ve been a big fan of them since their first album so I was pretty excited to get to see them.
The show started kind of early with doors opening at 5pm and Highly Suspect kicking things off at 6:15. With four bands to get through and a strict 11pm curfew I can understand why it had an early start, but as a result it did take a while for the building to fill up.
Highly Suspect receive a rather humorous introduction from a man doing his best Triple H impression “Are you ready?!” That’s a WWE reference for those of you who don’t know. It slowly morphs into more of a pirate voice, which is equally hilarious. Though probably unintended. Yarrrrhhhhh Matey!
I’ll admit that I’ve never listened to Highly Suspect before, actually I’ll admit that I’d never heard of them. If that’s the same for you I’ll give you a quick run down of the facts. Originally founded in 2009 on Cape Cod, Massachusetts by twins Rich and Ryan Meyer with their cousin Johnny Stevens. They later relocated to Brooklyn, New York. Together they’ve played over 800 live shows and in 2015 they were nominated for two Grammy Awards. Mister Asylum and Lydia were nominated for Best Rock Album and Best Rock Song respectively. Pretty impressive.
The trio made a great first impression. Previously their sound has been compared to Queens of the Stone Age and Kings of Leon. You can hear that comparison when they played through their set, but they’re definitely creating their own sound as well. I may have not listen to Highly Suspect before, but I will certainly give them a try now.
I only recently started listening to Halestorm. I’d known about them for a while but never really got around to actually giving them a try. Once I knew that I’d be seeing them at this show I thought I should probably get around to do just that. My initial review of them is that they’re okay, but nothing really grabbed me about them.
However, know that I’ve seen them live what I can tell you is this. Firstly singer Lzzy Hale has a fantastic voice, it’s incredibly powerful. If you aren’t impressed by her singing chops then the only explanation is that you’re actually deaf.
Secondly Lzzy brother Arejay is an absolutely insane drummer! Stick tricks and flips galore. This guy gives 100%, 100% of the time. There is no off switch. Arejay does a hilarious drum solo, which while undeniably impressive, the main highlight was him literally jumping out of his seat all the while continuing to play. Amazing.
I wasn’t sure about Halestorm before hand, but they impressed me last night. They were tight, sounded great and hand bucket loads of energy. I will no doubt be giving them another shot.
As I mentioned earlier this was my third time seeing Shinedown. Previously I had seen them at Rock City in Nottingham on their Sound of Madness tour and once before at Wembley Arena when they supported Alter Bridge.
The last time I saw them at Wembley they very much suffered from support act poor mixing. All you could here was the drums, specifically kick and snare, and the vocals. It was quite frustrating not being able to hear everything properly. That’s how their set started at this show as well and I thought we’d be doomed not to get a proper representation of Shinedown once more. Luckily this got sorted out after the first few songs and we got a more even mix so crisis averted!
I love Shindown. I think Brent Smith might have surpassed Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge in becoming my favourite vocalist of all time. He has a fantastic voice which just exudes power. I’m also a big fan of his lyrics as well. I think they’re new album is fantastic. To be honest I would have been happy with them just playing that from start to finish, but with four other albums there is a lot of other good material to get through.
Which leads me nicely to my point. When you’ve got five albums worth of material to get through, less talking and more music please! Shinedown love doing these drawn out, crowd interaction sections during their sets and it’s good stuff don’t get me wrong. However, after seeing them for a third time and they’re still doing the same shtick they were back in 2008 it’s a little bit annoying. I’ve paid money to see you play your music because I love it and I’d much prefer three more songs being played in quick succession rather than 10 minutes plus of the set being wasted on repetitive gimmicks.
I’m only complaining because of how much I love Shinedown. They’re a great live band and they have an awesome presence on stage, but more music please!
Black Stone Cherry
Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s time for your main event!
Okay let’s get the nitpicking out of the way first. Considering the name of this tour is the ‘Carnival of Madness’ I was a little bit disappointed with the stage design. It didn’t represent a carnival…or madness for that matter in anyway! Like I say, this is minor but I just think it would have been really cool to see a circus design. I’m thinking jugglers, fire eaters and clowns. How great would that have been?!
I love Black Stone Cherry and I’m delighted that I finally got to see them. I loved the show and the crowd sang along loudly for every song. Like the rest of the bands tonight, they’re great live. Which is always brilliant to see from your favourite bands. We got a great set, I would have loved a few more tracks from their most recent album though. I’m thinking specifically about Fiesta Del Fuego! What a tune.
I’ve already mentioned that Shinedown’s Brent Smith is one of my favourite vocalists, Chris Robertson is another. There’s something about his southern American accent that just works for me. It’s a perfect fit for Black Stone Cherry’s hard rock style. We are treated to a duet version of ‘Peace is Free‘ with Lzzy Hale returning from earlier in the night. They’re voices worked really well together. Loved it.
This show did confirm something to me that I’d been thinking for a while now. John Fred Young is one of the best drummers in rock today. He is phenomenal. Everything about his style I love. He’s got the technical chops to match the best of them but he just dominates the kit. Young’s style is pure non stop intensity just beating the hell out of his drums. It’s really impressive to see. He has his own drum solo, with is simply amazing complete with a harmonica section. He’s a talented dude.
The show closes with a cover of Motorshead’s Ace of Spades. A fitting tribute to the late, great Lemmy and an excellent sing a long to end the night.
Here is a video recorded by Black Stone Cherry and posted onto their facebook page from the show. The song called is ‘Blind Man‘ and is from their second studio album ‘Folklore and Superstition’. Enjoy.