Black Country Communion at Hammersmith Eventim ApolloSupport:
January 4, 2018 at Hammersmith Eventim Apollo
The odds of any further Black Country Communion activity looked very slim back in 2012–13 after a very public social-media fallout between Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple, Trapeze, California Breed, Hughes/Thrall) and solo blues-guitar maestro Joe Bonamassa. It set in motion a hiatus which ended in 2017 with the release of BCCIV album. A band – Jason Bonham (son of Led Zeppelin’s John) and Derek Sherinian (formerly of Dream Theater) complete the line-up – to which the overused term “Super Group” can be fittingly applied, these very talented musicians have fulfilled their on-paper potential with a strong four albums’ worth of back-catalogue material. With only a few shows confirmed for 2018, two of these are in Wolverhampton and London’s Hammersmith Eventim Apollo, though Glenn isn’t the only one who still lovingly refers to it as the Hammersmith Odeon, as it was once named.
Coming on to the sound of an ‘Air Raid’/Big Train’ introduction, and generous amounts of dry ice, the visual focus quickly attunes to Glenn Hughes who looks like he has just stepped off a private jet from the 1970s – he is every inch the rock star. Joe Bonamassa, dressed in a black suit, shades and sporting red-and-white trainers soon divides your attention. It becomes apparent BCC is a fantastic outlet for him to unleash his inner rock god inspired riffage: ‘Sway’, ‘Outsider’, ‘Collide’, and the kick-like-a-mule-on-steroids ‘Man in the Middle’ are gold-standard, riffy rock-ragers. When Joe and Glenn bounce and trade-off with each other in their emblematic anthem ‘Black Country’, Glenn’s thunderous bass lines and Joe’s jaw-dropping solos, it is ample proof why producer Kevin Shirley saw the potential after viewing the duo partake in an impromptu jam.
The past grievances are tackled head-on as both Glenn and Joe don’t waste any opportunities to declare their friendship. Joe being rather forthright and honest in his self-assessment of the situation, ”I woke up one day and was an asshole”. But it was with the little visual touches, like a touch of hands and a hug at the end of ‘Black Country’, which confirms the current climate is reassuringly harmonious.
Which might explain why only ‘Big Train’ and ‘This is Your Time’ are the only two representatives from the least collaboratively written third album, Afterglow. The remaining three albums are well served: from the poignant bluesy swoon and grace of ‘Cold’, enhanced by Glenn’s introduction of having to accept the loss of friends and family loved ones, through to the mandolin/violin-led epic grandeur of ‘The Last Song for My Resting Place’. But it is when they roar with all the pomp of Led Zeppelin at their most majestic as on ‘The Crow’, ‘Sway’, ‘The Outsider’ and ‘The battle for Hadrian’s Wall’ that BCC prove to indispensable epic-rock flagbearers.
It would be remiss of me not to mention the big-hitting thumping grooves of the woolly-hatted Jason Bonham; and the added dexterous melodic gloss of Derek’s keyboards, which are also capable of switching your visual and aural attention. And while Glenn may have the reputation as a vocal screamer, it is his ability as a singer which shines like a Mediterranean early-morning sun.
After a two-and-a-quarter-hour set, ending with a memorable version of Deep Purple’s ‘Mistreated’ (that left this reviewer still wanting more), the response is a standing ovation from the upper tier, which confirms BCC’s huge classic-rock is ideal to let the music do the talking. Album number five now seems more secure in its possibility. And as for more shows. . . time will tell. But for now, a triumphant return.