The Black Country Communion juggernaut seems to gather pace with every passing moment. A stunning performance at The Glasgow Academy, where the band was backed by a resurgent Michael Schenker, reinforced their growing reputation with jaw dropping musicianship and excellent songs in abundance - and then some.
It's not that long ago that Michael Schenker was no better than a washed out has been on the verge of total collapse. However his reversal from that situation came about, the change in fortunes it has brought about are nothing short of miraculous. Having shed considerable weight, the beanie hat and grubby beard that made him look more down and out than rock star; Schenker has also re-found the deft touch and tone that marked him out as one of the true guitar gods of the seventies and eighties. What also helps is that he has surrounded himself with an excellent band that makes his future look and sound extremely promising, but also pays fitting and capable tribute to his past.
With his ex-Scorpions band mate Herman (Ze German, as his bass drum proudly announces) Rarebell hammering out the rhythms and Michael Voss (Casanova, Mad Max, Demon Drive) providing vocals straight out of the top drawer as well as a second (sometimes third) guitar, this is a line up, completed by bassist Elliot "Dean" Rubinson and guitarist/keyboard player Wayne Findlay, to be reckoned with. With a set made up of MSG and Scorpions favourites ("Armed And Ready" and "Rock You Like A Hurricane" were superb) and three excellent new tracks, Schenker looked like the cat who'd got the cream as Voss conducted the audience to clap, cheer and dance at his will.
The festivities however had only just begun with a cameo appearance from one time UFO bassist Pete Way, who got a humungous reception resulting in a stinging rendition of his and Schenker's ex-band's "Rock Bottom", before onetime MSG and Sensational Alex Harvey Band member Chris Glenn brought the bass quotient on stage to three, for a stunning run through of UFO's "Doctor Doctor"! Even with a set of only 45 minutes this show from Michael and his many friends was an absolute triumph and felt more like a victorious return than a support slot.
Any band which allows a group of seasoned veterans who can rightly claim to the word legend to open their show, must be absolutely brimming with confidence in their own ability and so it proved from the startling performance from Black Country Communion. Opening up with the band anthem "Black Country", it is not only clear that Glenn Hughes is a vocalist of unmatched prowess, but that he is also a tremendous bassist and showman.
Strutting and preening around the stage like a peacock on heat, Hughes is our master of ceremonies and what a consummate professional he is, rampaging across the stage, throwing every shape in the rock Gods handbook and hammering out the most thunderous bass riffs imaginable. All that and he manages to do it in a blue velvet coat that would make a lesser man look rather silly, whereas he is absolutely resplendent and in fact rather dapper! Hughes may be the visual show, however he is undoubtedly matched by his esteemed colleagues, with a gold suited (there's a theme building here...) and simply sizzlingly stunning Joe Bonamassa proving exactly why he's caught not just the attention of the rock brigade, but also that of the bluesmen. Every note is wrung out his myriad of beautiful guitars with floods of emotion and an immense capacity to rock out, as befitting the legend he shares the stage with. Thumping song after thumping song are met with unbridled enthusiasm both on and off the stage, with "Sista Jane", "The Outsider" and "Hadrian's Wall" illustrating that BCC really are up there with the classic rock beasts of old.
A storming version of Bonamassa's "The Ballad Of John Henry" is the only deviation from the Black Country cannon during the main set and while Joe does seem happy to take a back seat for the majority of the show, when called upon his vocals and stage craft are perfectly up to scratch. The same can also be said for the two if not under rated, most certainly under talked about members of the BCC family, Derek Sherinian and Jason Bonham, who not only hold up their end of the deal, but live go a long way further to confirming just how integral they both are to this band's sound. Bonham is a man mountain behind the kit, pounding his drums to within an inch of their lives, while laying down the base from which everything else comes to life for this band. He really is a drummer right at the top of his game and a match for anyone else out there right now. Sherinian, who for much of tonight is the most understated member of the band, is no less effective for being so. Happy to fill in the spaces left by Bonamassa's guitar work, the keyboards that he supplies give the music an expansive quality that adds that killer touch to some already potent music.
Devoid of thrills and spills the Black Country Communion experience is one which relies solely on the musicianship on stage and the songs that produces and you can rest assured that both are of a standard that can't be faulted. Closing out the set with the second non BCC number of the night, the Deep Purple classic and Glenn Hughes trademark of "Burn" brings an astounding rock master-class to a euphoric and memorable end and the huge sigh of disappointment when the house lights go up leaves no doubt that the packed venue has been enthralled for each and every second of tonight's performance.
The parting thought we are left with from the mighty Glenn Hughes is "We are Black Country Communion and we're a rock and roll band", now if ever there was an understatement.....