Photos by Ryan Swerdlin, Recap by Max Stewart
Atlanta’s own Blackberry Smoke brought every ounce of energy for their hometown show this past Saturday. Dubbed the ‘Spirit of the South’ tour, the premise of the tour was to have a stack of bands carrying the torch of Southern Rock ‘n’ Roll play full sets, starting with The Wild Feathers, followed by The Allman Betts Band, with Blackberry Smoke closing things out. The night would then end with an encore with members of each band returning to the stage for some covers of formative Southern Rock tunes.
And, daggum, it did not disappoint.
To start the evening, Nashville’s The Wild Feathers were a refreshing band on the rise with a homegrown influence. They got things kicked off with some of their tunes “The Ceiling,” “Quittin’ Time,” and a new song “Ain’t Lookin.” The Allman Betts Band is probably most recognized as featuring three sons of founding members of the Allman Brothers Band: Devon Allman (son of Gregg Allman), Duane Betts (son of Dickey Betts), and Berry Duane Oakley (son of Berry Oakley). The band also has a very impressive string of original tunes which they played intermixed with covers of some ABB greats such as “Dreams.” They ended their set with a fiery rendition of their original “Pale Horse Rider,” off of their most recent album Bless Your Heart (a phrase Southerners know oh so well). The respects paid to ABB were widespread throughout the night, and attendees could even check out a traveling exhibit from Macon’s Allman Brothers Band museum The Big House Museum, which will be featured at every show with ABB memorabilia on display.
Blackberry Smoke took the stage with a crowd fully-primed and ready to rock. The setlist was hard-hitting with a good mix of singalongs and ballads so the crowd could catch their breath. “Six Ways to Sunday” into “Live It Down” got Charlie Starr and the band started on a ferocious tear, with the audience totally engaged and ready to belt every word to “Good One Comin’ On.” It was cool seeing the double drum set-up by Brit Turner and Preston Holcomb, which feels like another nod to ABB. The background video screens with retro shots were a great touch as well, with some incredible old footage of The Ramblin’ Raft Races on the Chattahoochee River in Georgia in the 70s (the bass drum heads also featured a logo from the old Memorial Day weekend event). The new record You Hear Georgia was understandably well-represented, and the new songs “You Hear Georgia,” “Hey Delilah,” and “Old Enough to Know” all got very warm receptions like they have been in the setlist for years. The fan’s knowing all the words to the new songs is just a testament to how much strong material Blackberry Smoke continues to release on each record.
It was a joy seeing Sherie and Sherita Murphy of The Black Bettys holding down the background vocals and generally elevating the vibe on every tune. You could tell it was a hometown show when the crowd shined their phone lights during “The Whipoorwill,” lighting up the Alpharetta night sky. The band ended with the always electric “Ain’t Much Left of Me,” with the audience knowing full well there was some pecan pie dessert left to top things off of the night.
The encore featured a cover of Atlanta Rhythm Section‘s “Champagne Jam,” followed by an impressive cover of Atlanta’s own Georgia Satellites’ “Keep Your Hands to Yourself.” Members of the Wild Feathers joined in for an top-notch rendition of Lynyrd Skynyrd‘s “Tuesday’s Gone,” before Wet Willie‘s singer Jimmy Hall came to the stage to sing “That’s How Strong My Love Is” and “Keep on Smilin.” The night ended on a peachy note with Allman Betts Band members returning to the stage for Allman Brothers Band’s “Ain’t Wasting Time No More” and “Midnight Rider.”
Overall, the wide-ranging show could not have been more of a joy for attendees who have been desperate for the euphoria of live music for many months. In fact, my wife and I attended the show with a married couple who were not overly familiar with the band’s catalog and it was amazing to see our friends become instant fans. “I feel like I have stepped back in time… I did not realize how much we needed this,” my buddy said as he and his wife have been home with their newborn over the last few months and like so many others have not had the opportunity to get out of the house and see a show.
Live music is necessary and good for the soul. Get you a second helping with Blackberry Smoke on tour.
Full gallery from Ryan Swerdlin below!