On Friday, June 23, 2017 the American chart topping Southern rock/Country rock group Blackberry Smoke rolled into Wilkes-Barre, PA to perform in front of a stoked up crowd at the F.M. Kirby Center in the heart of downtown Wilkes-Barre. Having toured extensively most of last summer on tour with Gov’t Mule, they released their fifth studio album Like an Arrow on October 14, 2016.
With five studio albums under their belt, including Bad Luck Ain’t No Crime (2004), Little Piece of Dixie (2009), The Whippoorwill (2012), Holding All the Roses (2015) and most current Like an Arrow, Blackberry Smoke has an enormous catalog of songs to choose from. Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, these Southern boys are no stranger to the road, touring and performing throughout the United States. Formed in 2001, Blackberry Smoke have headlined as well as opened for major artists such as Zac Brown Band, ZZ Top, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Eric Church and more. For the past sixteen years they continue to tear up the charts and road with mega hits and touring, playing on average, 250 shows a year. They have developed quite the eclectic fan base as well ranging from the classic Southern rock, country, rock and roll, grassroots and jam band fans. They have been know to frequently break into long jams, throwing covers into the mix of their music and play all night long.
Guitarist and lead singer Charlie Starr shares, “There’s so many elements to what people call rock. There’s gospel and country and swing and blues. We’re just trying to write songs that include all those different types of elements. It keeps it interesting for musicians and songwriters.” And what great musicians and songwriters these guys are. If most of the sold out crowd at the Kirby Center didn’t appreciate the classic and vintage gear these guys used live which lended to their unmistakable sound, they certainly appreciated and knew the music as they sung along, clapped and foot stomped from the beginning to the end of their epic twenty-song set. Some songs on the set were definitely epic jams such as “Sleeping Dogs” which featured a very cool rendition of the Beatles “Come Together” tossed in the mix.
You can view a clip from the show here:
Blackberry Smoke’s original lineup of Charlie Starr (lead vocals, guitar), Richard Turner (bass, vocals), Brit Turner (drums), Paul Jackson (guitar, vocals), and Brandon Still (keyboards) have been together since the beginning and are as tight knit and in the groove as any band could be. Yet they don’t stand still and settle in the pocket, musically that is. They always seem to be pushing the boundaries and digging into new territory with their music. Their diversity and growth can definitely be heard throughout their albums and setlist. Their set at the Kirby Center had a multitude and mix of great songs from their recordings.
At 8 p.m. Brooklyn, NY based Indie/Alt-country blues band The National Reserve got things started with a forty-minute set that surely set the tone for the headliners. The National Reserve were a fun, musically diverse quintet. A fun and talented bunch of guys who could be your friend, hanging out, drinking whiskey in any local pub or starting up an impromptu jam in your mom’s living room. A great group of talented musicians led by guitarist/frontman Sean Walsh.
Blackberry Smoke hit the stage at 9:15 pm and played a twenty-song set which lasted til after 11 p.m. The crowd was on their feet for the entire two hours, some even waiting for the after show VIP meet and greet. Blackberry Smoke started off the set with “Let Me Help You (Find The Door)” from 2015 Holding All the Roses, followed by “Testify” from their 2003 album Bad Luck Ain’t No Crime, and “Six Ways To Sunday” from the 2012 release The Whippoorwill. Blackberry Smoke continued throughout the night playing many hits, foot stomping tunes, acoustic tunes, jam tunes, along with a few covers including “Hey, Hey, What Can I Do” by Led Zeppelin as their first of three encores. Blackberry Smoke hit Wilkes-Barre, PA like “a freight train runnin'” and had their fans captivated “starin’ at them like a deer in the headlights” like they didn’t see this one coming. They put on a hell of a show for their fans and I am certain they made many more fans that night as well that just went along for the ride and left amazed.
Blackberry Smoke Setlist: Let Me Help You (Find The Door), Testify, Six Ways To Sunday, Good One Comin’ On, Wish In One Hand, Waiting For The Thunder, Rock And Roll Again, Let It Burn, Sleeping Dogs/Come Together, Shakin’ Hands With The, Holy Ghost, Whippoorwill, Up In Smoke, Lay It All On Me, Ain’t Got The Blues, Running Through Time, One Horse Town, Like An Arrow
Encore: Hey, Hey, What Can I do, Who Invented The Wheel, Ain’t Much Left Of Me