Black Stone Cherry and The Darkness in Manchester – February 2nd 2023

Danko Jones seems to act like his job is that of a frontman of a rock band as well as an announcer at a wrestling show and that is intended as a massive compliment, the man is oozing with energy and charisma as he declares “I’m in a rock n roll band and I love it” much to the adoration of practically everyone in the arena. The band ended their unfortunately short set with My Little RnR, a song made up of slamming blues riffs and inimitable vocals which did most of the lifting in assuring everyone in the venue remembers the name Danko Jones.

Armed with all the arena rock pomp and circumstance you’d expect, The Darkness began their set accompanied by Arrival by ABBA before springing into Growing on Me.

There’s two arena rock party tricks that The Darkness particularly love and they will make every effort to do them, the first is the big rock ending. It seemed almost impossible for them to end a song without making it seem like the most monumental rock event you have ever seen or heard and they mostly are, classic tracks like One Way Ticket to Hell sound absolutely massive in this arena setting.

The Darkness have some surprisingly heavy songs that would fit into the back catalogues of some metal bands, the best example of this is Japanese Prisoner of Love, outside of its hilarious title it showcases Rufus Tiger Taylor’s thunderous ability behind the kit. It’s at this point that Justin runs off stage to don his classic iconic leotard that he made part of his image back in the 2000s and to see him keep it as part of his act is commendable.

The other trick is the call and response bit most commonly attributed to Freddie Mercury. This bit has been attempted by so many frontman but very few of them have the raw aggressive charisma and talent that Freddie did but Justin Hawkins is really damn close. This section was the lead to their biggest track, I Believe in a Thing Called Love which is still as massive and memorable as the day it came out, it truly is one of the great rock songs of the 21st century and to see it live is an absolute spectacle to behold.

Justin loudly proclaimed “this is our last song and it’s gonna take fuckin’ ages” and just like he said, it took fuckin’ ages. It made use of almost every arena rock trick in their arsenal, wild flailing guitar solos, pyrotechnics, earth shattering falsettos and Softy, who placed Justin on his shoulders as they walked through the crowd playing blistering guitar solos.

Black Stone Cherry finally made their way to the stage accompanied by Unholy by Sam Smith and Kim Petras for some reason, not that it particularly mattered because once they stormed the stage and the curtain came down it was all about the voracious assault of drums and guitars from rock club classic, Me and Mary Jane.

They continued with Again which at times sounded similar to a Molly Hatchet song due to its melodic harmonised guitar work working in tandem with vocalist’s Southern drawl powering through every lyric he managed to belt. Every single member of Black Stone Cherry was full of energy that bled into every single song and was infectious to be around.

The Southern Rock swagger of tracks like Blind Man and Like I Roll invoked the spirit of Lynyrd Skynyrd while still keeping true to a modern sound and without sounding dated or ridiculous like so many bands in this genre have.

Cheaper to Drink Alone was interrupted by a drum solo from John Fred Young, who had demonstrated numerous that he could go absolutely feral and play some monstrous fills and this solo featured moments of that virtuosity but also his ability to maintain an accessible groove and rhythm

Vocalist Chris Robertson slowed down the show to perform the heartfelt and incredibly moving tribute to his father, Things my Father Said, and it was an incredibly heartfelt section of the show that was carried by an incredibly enthusiastic audience that knew the words just as well as the vocalist.

Black Stone Cherry ended the show with their biggest track, the aggressive stomping rock club anthem, Lonely Train. This song sounds absolutely gigantic even through small in-ear headphones, to hear it live through arena speakers is absolutely transformative and all other iterations of the song will feel obsolete once you’ve heard it this way.

This lineup was a stellar showcase of rock talent throughout the world and it will likely be discussed for years to come as one of the best co-headline packages to tour the UK in a very long time and hopefully all of these bands will return very soon.

Words by Dale Unsworth 

Photos by Philip Goddard 



Philip Goddard

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