Saturday, 3 December 2016

Whiskey Myers - O2 Institute, Birmingham. Friday 2nd December 2016

Mud is the title of the new Whiskey Myers album and deep down on terra firma is also where they take their live show. Raw energy and a powerful punch ruled the evening as this Texas combo, steeped in the lore of Southern Rock, continued their current UK tour with a sold out show at Birmingham’s O2 Institute. The venue had called time on ticket sales for its second room just prior to the gig and fans flocked from a multitude of angles to view a band subject to serious press in recent times.

Two possible routes into Whiskey Myers are from their association with country music, albeit on a distant right field edge, and a far more straightforward rock perspective. Traditionally the latter has been an easier sell in the UK and it is more convenient to define the live show from that angle. However the near two hours on stage could not be wholly described as a full-on rock show as the band was not afraid to bring the fiddle to the forefront and frequently intersperse ballads heavily reliant on the acoustic guitar.

One clear assertion on this show was that the refinements of the latest album, produced by in-vogue country fringe steering man Dave Cobb, were left in the studio and there was a significantly different feel to the band live than on record. Of course these two mediums for listening to music are, and should be, different beasts with the live element probably best served in the moment and far more face value centric. On that note, Whiskey Myers led by frontman Cody Cannon and flanked by his stalwart guitarists John Jeffers and Cody Tate, delivered ferociously to this packed gathering. Maybe a different sound environment could have served the band better, but this was not going to detract from what this seven piece line up intended to do.

On the set list front, an older song in ‘Early Morning Shakes’ started things off on the stroke of nine and the venue’s curfew was getting close when the impressive ‘Stone’ from the new album acted as the pre-encore finale. Early in the gig, parts of the audience participated passionately in ‘Bar, Guitar and a Honky Tonk Crowd’ and midway through there was widespread approval for an emotive version of The White Stripes standard ‘Seven Nation Army’. Perhaps summing up the flexibility of the show, apart from frequent bursts of fiddle, keys and brass, was a top live version of ‘Trailer We Call Home’, and a slight hint of sensibility.

The evening’s entertainment began with an acoustic set by John David Kent who later doubled up as Whiskey Myers bass player. This was followed by the support band in the guise of Birmingham’s own Broken Witt Rebels who far from held back in exuding their brand of blues rock. Both acts were synonymous with the tone of the evening and ready to strip down a sound before building it back up in an organic way, whether acoustically or in full amplification.

Maybe Whiskey Myers will remain a conundrum for those who engage in overt analysis, but they are far from complicated when strutting their stuff on stage led by the charismatic posturing of Cody Cannon complete with archetypal bruised rock vocals. Few would argue that Whiskey Myers is a market leader of what we refer to as contemporary Southern Rock in 2016, and an exporting one as well. Many in this sold out Birmingham crowd would testify to the justification of their standing. 

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