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BLACKBERRY SMOKE at CERGY PONTOISE, the 13th of February 2010.
(photos Jeff Lescene)

Less than two monthes after their acoustic performance the 20th of December 2009 in Reims, BLACKBERRY SMOKE is back in France, this time at the Country and Western Festival setting at the "Hall des Expositions" in Cergy-Pontoise. On an almost siberian cold (less than minus 5°C -23°F- outside), walking to the concert (that's hell to park a car on completely stormed and covered by frozen solid snow undersized parkings), we have the good surprise to see Charlie Starr just behind us with a guitar in the hand. Charlie confide us then two informations, that is to say the planed release of a DVD about the band and the reissue of its last album "Little Piece Of Dixie", with two previously unreleased bonus tracks in order to be more played on the radios and to reissue the first albums.

The planed release of a DVD seems indeed to take shape, because, according to the band's Facebook, the concert that has to be the support of the project was recently recorded.

Cergy-Pontoise's gig, 90 minutes live, confirmed us, this time from an electric point of view, how well we think of them, and showed us a booming band, thanks to Charlie Starr's stage presence and to a keyboard player's contribution, Brandon, in spite of a set where a lot of titles are in the same style, without a great tempo break. This point should well suit the on-line dancers imperturbably keeping practicing their favourite hobby on the concert's songs, their dancing floor being just a few steps from the stage. Believe us when we are saying that there is more than links between country and southern rock!

On stage, the Black Crowes's influence is still present, but the band seems to have found his own way, and little by little its own sound after the first country and bluegrass albums. Charlie did not hesitate to introduce some band's songs with small extracts of blues, country and bluegrass standards, gaining of course by this stratagem the notable approuval of a part of the audience. Is it an habit during an electric performance, or was it because they played in a country festival? One word about the sound : just in front of the stage, it wasn't so easy to hear Charlie's voice, and "General Lee" the drums were a bit too much ahead in the mix. Anyway, the place doesn't seem to be easy to install a sound system. That gave the fact that the sound's balance and rendition fluctuated a lot according to the place where someone was trying to listen to the concert. Without the moment where it was necessary to use an open tuning (no other guitar tuned in a different way, the musicians have to manage with doing all on stage with the same gear), we could notice that the guitars and the bass required frequent retunings (consequence of the temperature's contrast between a very cold outside and well warmed inside ?). Otherwise, that's fine and the titles impeccably pass by, hold up by a sound setting up. In the end of this persuasive performance, the band didn't have to be asked twice to grand a won over audience some more songs, showing there some commendables qualities of unpretentiousness and good temper.

Some words to salute the bravery of M. Capdeville, that organised the show and had the guts to invite a southern rock band in a "line dancers' world". Let's hope that the 2011 edition will allow us to see another southern rock band.

For the BLACKBERRY SMOKE's fans (and for those that were missing the boat of the band's two first concerts in France), we can already announce that the band will be back in June CHEZ PAULETTE, with NATCHEZ opening. Might as well say that, in the offing, a good evening gets ready here for the southern rockers.

Archi & Y. Philippot-Degand



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