Black Country Communion Return to Wolverhampton
Words: Phil Weller | Photos: Christie Goodwin
The saga behind 2012’s third album, Afterglow, was one well documented at the time by Glenn Hughes. Bemoaning the lack of contributions from the band’s three other star studded members – Joe Bonamassa, Jason Bonham and Derek Sherinian – he said the album took six months to write, as opposed to the six whirlwind weeks that gave birth to their debut album two years earlier. Hughes blamed Bonamassa’s extensive solo touring schedule and a public spat lead to Hughes declaring the death of the band in March 2013.
Fast forward nearly five years and a packed out Wolverhampton Civic Hall stands before the band’s live reunion, with past differences swept aside as the band delivered a near two hour performance of enormous, swaggering rock n’ roll. Opener Sway, from the band’s recently released fourth album, is a razor sharp and blistering return to the stage and it sets the tone for one hell of an evening.
When you’ve got the son of John Bonham behind the kit, a man very much carrying his father’s legacy with precious and grace, your songs are going to sound bigger than Gene Simmons’ ego – a mean feat indeed – but this band sparkles from all four corners of the stage, not just one. Hughes’ bass tone thunders and rattles like a freight train, his impeccable shriek tastefully adorning their song’s more explosive moments whilst Sherinian blankets their music with walls of keyboards which pepper extra spice into the mix. Bonamassa meanwhile, who seems to change guitar for every song, is typically sensational. When not harmonising vocals with Hughes on the foot-stomping grooves of Save Me, or locking in tight with the Bonham’s ferocious beats is soaring atop the rest of the band unleashing solos of technical ecstasy, draped in emotion and purring with personality.
“We are humble servants to rock music,” Hughes at one point declares, and while that could be deemed a little cliché or contrived, watching this band perform accentuates his point. Here are four musicians cranking up and smashing out the staunch and powerful rock music they all love so dearly. From Deep Purple flourishes to plenty of Zeppelin inspired moments, to The Outsider’s, which tonight churns with a Mötorhead fashioned speed and aggression, there is a great deal of homage being made to the music which has made them who they are.
Bonamassa takes the lead on a gorgeous and winding version of The Battle of Hadrian’s Wall, his voice oozing with a smooth, velvety blues, whilst Sherinian’s driving piano tangles with lead guitar and Hughes’ heartfelt voice on Wanderlust. Hughes claims to have written Over My Head in his sleep and it is a song, through its damnably infectious chorus and typically bolshie bass riff, bound to haunt your dreams.
As Kevin Shirley, the producer responsible for bringing this band together, watches on from the side of the stage, “the heavy metal fiddler” Gerry O'Connor juggled mandolin and violin as he guested on the uplifting yet morbid Song From My Resting Place. It is moments like this that made Hughes so eager for his other band members to contribute to Afterglow. A song glittered with Bonamassa’s signature sound, ignited by Sherinian’s textural atmospheres and polished by Hughes’ presence, the track is fast becoming a fan favourite; it enveloped the crowd tonight.
They leave the final word to a rendition of Mistreated, lifted from Hughes’ time in Deep Purple and while it gets the crowd moving, it is their own material and not this nostalgic final flourish that really steals the show. Four musicians of astounding quality simply let loose and had fun tonight, and it was a joy to behold.