It was entirely fitting that this Anglo-American supergroup should choose to play its debut gig right in the very heart of the area of the English Midlands that gave the band its name. With both Glenn Hughes and Jason Bonham hailing from the Black Country the 3000 fans packed into Wolverhampton's Civic Hall gave them a hero's homecoming as, together with Derek Sherinian and Joe Bonamassa, they delivered an incredibly powerful and emotional performance. With the debut album riding high in many of the end of year lists expectations were certainly high and they more than delivered with a 100 minute set that encompassed almost the entire album together with one or two surprises along the way.
Glenn Hughes has spoken recently of wanting to reclaim "The Voice of Rock" tag and on this evidence he most certainly has; this was a Rock Show of the highest standard. The lengthy intro of "Ride of the Valkyries" built the anticipation as the band waited in the wings before bursting on with the call to arms of "Black Country" itself. BCC's declaration of intent this, as Hughes points out in the interview elsewhere on the site, is their "Immigrant Song" or "Highway Star" and sets the standard for what else is still to come. With legendary producer Kevin Shirley watching side of stage BCC blew away any post-Christmas hangovers; "One Last Soul", "Beggerman" and "Down Again" provide early highlights as Bonamassa excels away from his day job as the saviour of Blues Rock. Some astonishing guitar work that had fire and passion leaves the audience in no doubt that we are watching a master of his craft. Taking lead vocals for "Song of Yesterday" and his own "The Ballad of John Henry" the on stage camaraderie between Bonamassa and Hughes is all too evident and this is a combination that simply works on all levels.
Hughes, clearly revelling in the adoration of his much loved home crowd, found time to pay tribute to his friend John Bonham prior to an astonishing version of "No Quarter" that was a showcase both for Jason Bonham's powerhouse drumming and Sherinian's sparkling keyboard touches. Bonham is simply amazing throughout and after effectively being a drummer for hire for many years it is refreshing that he is now genuine member of a band. The soaring riffing of "Sista Jane" leads into a reprise of "Black Country" itself that closes the main set before a blistering encore of "Burn". A staple of Hughes solo shows it is nevertheless given a new lease of life as Bonamassa offers his own take on Blackmore's classic riff.
There is the promise of "much more music" to come over the next few years from BCC and it is to be hoped that was simply the start. Hughes, Bonamassa, Sherinian and Bonham have raised the bar for any future band that chooses to use the term Supergroup - Black Country Communion are simply the real deal and I left feeling privileged to have witnessed such an amazing show.
Dean Pedley with thanks to Ian Harvey at www.rocktasticpix.com
One Last Soul
Too Late For The Sun
Song Of Yesterday
Ballad Of John Henry
Black Country (Reprise)