Please Come In - you've been waiting for this

On any given day, I’d be first down the front at this gig, but owing to an unfortunate mixture of bad timing and an exceptional turnout, I ended up standing at the top of the first flight of stairs down to floor level. Which turned out to be the best place, and not just because it was almost within arms reach of the bar and some lovely chatty people. The place was seriously packed by the time Cherry arrive onstage.

First up are Sevendust, playing to an amiable enough crowd. There are a decent smattering of fans who know enough of the lyrics to make singing along less embarrassing. But I can’t help thinking that there’s something about them that goes down better in America than it does here. When Lajon Witherspoon entreats us to start some sort of relationship with him and the boys, it’s really tough not to ask him if it’s possible to keep that relationship musical. Which would have been a great deal easier if the gremlins hadn’t been at work on the equipment. Shame they didn’t continue with the tongue-in-cheek Maiden riffing, it got the best response.

OK, I admit it. I would have loved to see The Answer, who were meant to be playing. But if I was going to choose a replacement, Stone Gods would be it. Which is really lucky, cos that’s what we got. If the crowd was rather lacking in their fans before, it wasn’t after. It starts with ‘Burn The Witch’ ringing out, and ends with our ears ringing after the volume-up-to-11 assault (more of a physical assault on one poor fan). So why aren’t these guys headliners yet? Good as they are, even they suffer (slightly) in comparison to what’s coming next.

All the way from Edmonton, Kentucky, Black Stone Cherry certainly travel well. Being on the stairs, and having seen (and felt) the hardcore fans of the support acts leave, it’s still packed to the light-strewn rafters. There are more people in the Academy, so Cherry tell us, than there are in their home town. So when Chris Robertson (in fine voice this evening) tells us, at the end of the show, how pleased they were that we loved them (and we do, we do), we believe him wholeheartedly. It’s an easy thing for a band to say, but not necessarily to mean, so the fact that this bloke damn-near reduces me to a sobbing wreck who wants to go on stage and give him a big hug is pretty good going. ‘Folklore and Superstition’ already has crowd singalong favourites in ‘Blind Man’, ‘Please Come In’ and ‘Peace Is Free’. The highlight for me would have to be the jam based around ‘Chain Of Fools’ which included the guitarist from Sevendust and Chris taking to the drums while John Fred played harmonica. Just watching these guys is an experience - the band generate enough energy and electricity to power their own amps. And they don’t do that walk-off-stage-before-the-encore nonsense, right til the curfew they keep playing. Which is no mean feat for drummer John Fred Young, who delivered an astounding drum solo, didn’t take a break from the high-energy performance, and celebrated his birthday too. If I could have followed this tour, I’d have been there (maybe not at the front) every night.