June 19, 2011
Stevenson, MD USA
Review by Craig Hunter Ross
Photos by Craig Hunter Ross
Black Country Communion
The concept of a "Super-group" will invoke strong opinions from any diehard music fan. Thoughts of ASIA, Damn Yankees and The Travelling Wilburys usually come to mind; groups comprised of individual musicians with their own credentials joining forces to record new music as an ensemble. Some may even point to the old "Dick Clark All-Star Jams" that seemed to always make their way onto the finale of just about every music based awards show in the 70s and early 80s. But issues would always arise in the live performances, which tended to be a "greatest hits revue" featuring the hits of each artist's past. This is not the case with Black Country Communion.
It was a warm summer's night in the nation's capital, where the 9:30 Club played host to BCC's final show on their all too brief US tour, before heading to Europe for the next six weeks. Comprised of what many would consider four virtuosos at each of their respected musical crafts, BCC took the several hundred fans packed into the club on a riff oriented journey showcasing selections from their self titled first recording, as well as the just released "2".
Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple) led the charge on bass and lead vocals. There's a reason Hughes is a legend and on this June evening Hughes was in top form. Sporting a Fender P-Bass, Hughes is a commanding stage presence, not only through his bass playing, but also in his incredible vocal range, which has not lost an octave in the last thirty plus years. There are a lot of current "front men" and other bands/artists that would be well served in taking notice of how true soulful rock singing and musicianship is expressed in live performance. Hughes demonstrated that he indeed should be counted among the masters of the art and should be sought after by the younger touring artists of today.
Joe Bonamassa is a force in the guitar world for many reasons, too many to detail here. His incredibly rounded non-fatiguing guitar tone, his fantastic phrasing in soloing and his strong yet very complimentary voice to Hughes' lead vocals make him an ideal fit for BCC. This was quite evident in the song "Battle for Hadrian's Wall" which showcased Bonamassa's outstanding vocals and 12 string electric playing.
Derrick Sherinian (Dream Theater) brought his keyboard wizardry to the forefront during the number "Faithless". Many were probably hoping to hear more from Sherinian as he at times seemed buried in the mix throughout the night. His outro keyboard playing into a full-on synth and Hammond B3 solo section was worth the wait. The guitar influences Sherinian brought to his solo were fantastic and the crowd was awestruck by his nod to Eddie Van Halen by launching into a keyboard version of "Spanish Fly" which rounded out his amazing performance. Undoubtedly, many would have loved to hear more from him.
Jason Bonham reminded all in attendance of what a solid rock drummer does for an already solid band. His foundation is powerful and doesn't overplay. He doesn't need to, he has nothing to prove. The audience will always know where he's from and who he's graced many a stage with. That is what is great about Jason, he attacks it his way and not the way most expect him to. Though there would be no drum solo this night, the multiple extended fills in just the right spots were a treat.
One of the many musical highlights of the evening was the "The Outsider" coming out of a slower tempo of "Song of Yesterday". The number featured a very strong power vocal from Hughes and back and forth soloing between Bonamassa and Sheridian. This segued into "Cold" a Hughes song about life and death, and lessons learned along the way, showcasing that passionate R&B power ballad voice we know Hughes is so capable of. This one really highlighted his incredible dynamics.
The DC crowd was overwhelmed by Bonamassa's "Ballad of John Henry", which included a surprise nod to the unique whine of a Theremin ala Jimmy Page, in addition to a loop triggered by Jason from Led Zeppelin IV's "When the Levee Breaks".
The sets closer, "Sista Jane", a very hard rocker in E from the first album, included an unexpected homage to The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" ending pre-encore with an enthusiastic audience begging for more.
More they would receive with BCC's latest single "Man in the Middle" from the "2" album, followed by the much anticipated Deep Purple classic "Burn". Hughes hit notes in "Burn" with such power one could close their eyes and think they were part of the mass of humanity at the California Jam in 1974. Nothing has changed...except maybe this author's definition of "Super Group". Hughes continually stressed that BCC is "building a foundation". With this firm a foundation, the future for Black Country Communion looks as though they can't be stopped and no one at this show wants them to. Get ready Europe, you're in for a treat!
* Vinnie Simonette contributed to this review.