Blackberry Smoke Ignite Sold-out Academy with Southern Rock Anthems

A night of good ol’ Southern Rock at a sold-out Academy in Birmingham with Read Southall Band and the wonderful Blackberry Smoke who rode into Birmingham on their You Hear Georgia U.K. / Europe Tour ’23.

Blackberry Smoke – Read Southall Band

O2 Academy Birmingham – 26 March 2023

Words and Photography: Andy Shaw

Blackberry Smoke

Blackberry Smoke - Birmingham Academy 26 March 2023
Blackberry Smoke – Birmingham Academy 26 March 2023. Photo: Andy Shaw/MetalTalk

It was the moment the sold-out Academy crowd had waited for. After a number of postponements over the last couple of years, this night was finally here, and the guys looked delighted to be there.

The Blackberry Smoke set was mainly made up of their new album You Hear Georgia and 2012 album The Whippoorwill, kicking off from the latter with Leave A Scar. Good One Comin’ On followed, and they were into their stride right from the start, moving into Little Pieces Of Dixie.

Blackberry Smoke - Birmingham Academy 26 March 2023
Blackberry Smoke – Birmingham Academy 26 March 2023. Photo: Andy Shaw/MetalTalk

Frontman Charlie Starr was in imperious form. With shades and trademark sideburns, he was a bundle of energy, and his unique voice was as brilliant as ever. Next were two new songs, Live It Down and the title track from the album You Hear Georgia.

Blackberry Smoke - Birmingham Academy 26 March 2023
Blackberry Smoke – Birmingham Academy 26 March 2023. Photo: Andy Shaw/MetalTalk

Fellow guitarists Paul Jackson and Benji Shanks looked like they loved every minute on stage, as did the sold-out audience. In total command of the crowd, who are jigging and singing along, they move seamlessly through Pretty Little Lie, Payback’s A Bitch and Hey Delilah.

Then a couple more from The Whippoorwill – Lucky Seven and a brilliant version of Sleeping Dogs that included a snippet of Tom Petty’s Don’t Come Around Here No More plus lots of slide guitar and guitar solos. This, for me, was a real highlight of the evening.

Blackberry Smoke - Birmingham Academy 26 March 2023
Blackberry Smoke – Birmingham Academy 26 March 2023. Photo: Andy Shaw/MetalTalk

Ain’t The Same from You Hear Georgia was next, followed by Starr introducing the band, which included an update on drummer Brit Turner who was taken ill during the European leg of the tour and replaced by Kent Aberle.

Ain’t Gonna Wait follows, then into Everybody Knows She’s Mine, before a sing-along during Waiting For The Thunder. The atmosphere inside the Academy was that of pure joy when they performed an abridged acoustic fan request of Livin’ Hell.

Blackberry Smoke - Birmingham Academy 26 March 2023
Blackberry Smoke – Birmingham Academy 26 March 2023. Photo: Andy Shaw/MetalTalk

The set ended with fan favourites One Horse Town and Old Scarecrow before they left the stage. They were soon to return with an encore of two tracks from The Whippoorwill, starting with a blockbusting version of Shakin’ Hands With The Holy Ghost.

Blackberry Smoke - Birmingham Academy 26 March 2023
Blackberry Smoke – Birmingham Academy 26 March 2023. Photo: Andy Shaw/MetalTalk

Finishing with Ain’t Much Left of Me, including a snippet of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Mississippi Kid, was a fitting way to end a great night of Southern Blues Rock.

Blackberry Smoke - Birmingham Academy 26 March 2023
Blackberry Smoke – Birmingham Academy 26 March 2023. Photo: Andy Shaw/MetalTalk

Read Southall Band

Read Southall Band - Birmingham Academy 26 March 2023
Read Southall Band – Birmingham Academy 26 March 2023. Photo: Andy Shaw/MetalTalk

The night kicked off with Oklahoma-based Country/Blues outfit the Read Southall Band, who started with Stickin’ n Movin’ from their latest For The Birds album. Read Southall’s voice had the archetypal Southern blues twang and was just what the crowd wanted as they warmed to them immediately.

Read Southall Band - Birmingham Academy 26 March 2023
Read Southall Band – Birmingham Academy 26 March 2023. Photo: Andy Shaw/MetalTalk

Next up was Don’t Tell Me from their Borrowed Time album before Read introduced the new song Scared Money. John Tyler Perry on lead guitar was brilliant. Next were two more from Borrowed Time – Why and Out Of My Mind.

Read Southall Band - Birmingham Academy 26 March 2023
Read Southall Band – Birmingham Academy 26 March 2023. Photo: Andy Shaw/MetalTalk

The crowd were warming up nicely, feeling the vibe as they played High – Speed Feed with lots of slide guitar and thumping rhythms. The set ended with Damn and DLTGYD. They left to a massive ovation from an appreciative crowd.

Read Southall Band - Birmingham Academy 26 March 2023
Read Southall Band – Birmingham Academy 26 March 2023. Photo: Andy Shaw/MetalTalk
Read Southall Band - Birmingham Academy 26 March 2023
Read Southall Band – Birmingham Academy 26 March 2023. Photo: Andy Shaw/MetalTalk
Blackberry Smoke - Birmingham Academy 26 March 2023
Blackberry Smoke – Birmingham Academy 26 March 2023. Photo: Andy Shaw/MetalTalk
Blackberry Smoke - Birmingham Academy 26 March 2023
Blackberry Smoke – Birmingham Academy 26 March 2023. Photo: Andy Shaw/MetalTalk

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