What: Black Country Communion
Where: High Voltage Festival, london
When; 24th april 2011
I made no bones about liking the new Black Country Communion (BCC) album recently so I was interested to see if they could transfer what they do on record into their live performance.
I caught up with BCC at London's High Voltage Festival and the band's only UK festival appearance. East London's Victoria park was rocking when I arrived and I managed to just catch a little of Thunder's set on the main stage. They certainly kept the crowd entertained and showed why they have such a committed following. The weather for Sunday's gig was glorious and the main stage was bathed in the late afternoon sun.
For those whom the BCC name is unfamiliar here's a quick run down of their heritage. On Bass and vocals is Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple & Black Sabbath), blues prodigy Joe Bonamassa on guitar/vocals, Jason Bonham (Led Zeppelin and son of original member John) on drums and Dream Theatre’s Derek Sherinian on keyboards.
I spoke briefly to Joe and Derek back-stage prior to the gig about their heavy schedules. As well as their new BCC album and the subsequent tour, both have their own solo albums out this year. The band are half way though their UK tour and this isn't just their only UK festival appearance it's also their only London show.
It's perhaps no surprise then that when BCC took to the stage it felt not only like they were the band that people had been waiting to see but also falsely that they were in fact today's headline act.
With a giant ferris wheel looming large behind the sound tent the setting felt a little surreal. This was a classic rock festival and the dainty wheel just felt so out of place. No wonder I never saw one person riding it.
From the set's storming opening bars of Black Country, BCC set the pace and the energy for their set. Hughes turns sixty next month but you'd never believe it. He not only looks youthful but his energy is the driving force behind BCC. His voice is undiminished and rates as one of the best in rock. I suspected that the studio may hide some of the imperfections of age but I couldn't be further from the truth. Hughes was in top form.
My other suspicion was that as a "super-group" BCC would not feel live a group but more a collection of great musicians playing live together. Again I am pleased to say that there is no sign of this phenomenon. Yes you have the normal dynamics of a group, some thrust themselves forward and grab most of the attention and others stay more in the shadows and hold the sound together or add depth quietly. BCC are a cohesive unit of driving rock and feel like they are a band.
With a set list drawn evenly from their two albums, fans old and new were given something to sing along to. We even had one of Joe Bonamassa's songs with The Ballad of John Henry this allowed Joe to not only prove again what people know about his guitar prowess but also to amaze the younger members of the audience with the eerie sounds of the Theremin. This is an electronic instrument popular in the psychedelic 70s where you control its pitch by proximity to an antenna. Joe also took lead vocals on the track. Whilst Glenn has a classic high and powerful rock voice, Joe's lower vocals are more soulful and reserved but none the less capture the mood of the track perfectly.
BCCs albums are very solid and their live work is of an equally high standard. As they concluded their set with Deep Purple's Burn the crowd really did want more. When they didn't get it many headed for the exits. I'm not sure if they forgot that Dream Theatre were closing the festival or just thought what they'd seen couldn't be topped.
Setlist, Track (album):
Black Country (BCC)
One Last Soul (BCC)
Crossfire (BCC 2)
Save Me (BCC 2)
Song of Yesterday (BCC)
The Outsider (BCC2)
Man in the Middle (BCC2)
The Ballad of John Henry (taken from Joe Bonamassa’s album)
Burn (taken from Deep Purple’s Burn album)
More photos from the BCC set can be found over at my gallery.