Live Review: The Cadillac Three (O2 Academy, Birmingham)

Steve Headlines, Live Review, Live!

We all love a bit of categorisation, don’t we? Plato started it in his Socratic dialogue, Statesman, two and a half millennia ago and it’s as popular today. It imposes a natural order. It is safe and comforting.

And so it was that Friday evening started really well. We had two categories to choose from: a queue for the bands on tour over from Nashville and a queue for Pearl Jam UK, a tribute act. Simple, check shirts and cowboy boots to the left and black t-shirts and Dr Martens to the right….

Annoying – some of these old grungers are in the wrong queue. Excuse me, I think you’re meant to be in the other queue. (Nothing). We talk loudly about how about how great Old Dominion were here last Saturday. (Whoosh. Over their heads). Did you see the opening act tonight at Country 2 Country last year? (Still there). What a week it’s been for COUNTRY MUSIC in the UK eh? (Oh, come on people). They must be deaf from years of Metal, whispered, as they’re quite scary looking. Oh well, we’re in now. They’ll soon realise.

Front and centre. Four rows back. Nice. Wow, those two mike stands look really high. We must be in the right place. Two microphones for two brothers: they make them big in Maryland. And surely there’s only one Eddie Vedder? Even for tribute purposes.

Cheers. On come John and TJ aka The Brothers Osborne. And they’re on fire as they blister through a set of sweet sibling harmonies, laden with guitar riffs from their amazing 2016 debut album Pawn Shop – “Down Home”, “Rum”, “Greener Pastures”. Shouldn’t this crowd be thinning out? This guy is singing about county lines, praying and wells running dry.

“Shoot Me Straight”. A new single that suggests we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg from this duo. “Loving Me Back”. You see, country music singers sing, they don’t screech their lyrics.

A tingling of John’s guitar as “Stay A Little Longer” opens. The rockers in the crowd erupt. Has Slash has walked on stage? There’s a surge from behind us. Two (slightly beyond) middle-aged men pogo past us with pints, bee-lining for a mosh pit that doesn’t exist. Alice Cooper and White Snake tour dates from the 90’s emblazoned on their backs.

The song builds, and builds. John has the crowd hanging on every note. Hang, some people are starting to head bang in here. Roar from the crowd as John finishes the warm-up riff. He’s off again.

What is he doing? Doesn’t he know this is a country gig? You can’t do a second guitar riff in one song. Can you? Oh no, I’m remembering how much I used to love the real Pearl Jam. But this is more like Stone Temple Pilots, isn’t it? Confused. Category melt-down….

TJ knows his brother has seriously messed up here. He tries to distance himself from John. “It Ain’t My Fault”, he pleads. Sorry, but it’s a bit late for that. Look, you’ve even got the crowd chanting the “Doo, Doo, Doo, Doo, Dahs” now. No, we are not “bad ass”. We are a respectable, British country music crowd. Argh, beer down my back. I shouldn’t have pushed forward.

Silence. Wow. That was, erm, awesome. Quite rocky though. I guess it’s almost a fusion of Country and Southern Rock. Like Tom Petty. But it’s mostly country. Yes, it’s country. They probably just had a problem with their amps. They’ll need to sort that out though. They’re back again in May next year for a headline tour.

It will be okay. Jaren, Kelby and Neil are up next. They’re from Nashville. Home of the Hall of Fame. They’ve been touring the UK since 2013. They know what us country music loving Brits like. And six weeks in to a sell-out European tour, they’ll probably be exhausted by now. I wonder if they’ll do it as a “round”? Like at The Bluebird. That would be nice.

Hang on, is that smoke coming off those three Marshall amps they’ve just set up? Ah, it’s probably josh sticks to cleanse the stage. Good thinking. And the Tennessee Tri-Star on the middle speaker will help too. Ward off any lingering evil spirits.

Here they come. Wrap us in a blanket of country, Jaren. Make us safe again. “Peace, Love and Dixie”. Ah, the sneaky bast… is that a Gibson Flying V guitar?! We’re all doomed.

A review of the setlists drummer Neil helpfully provides the TC3 Drinking Club fan-site shows that this is not a band that follows a particular order. They go where the mood takes them. They react to the audience, and each other. No show will be the same. Which is why, having seen them in London on Tuesday, we were only too happy to see them again in Birmingham. (Sorry Maren!)

Tonight, we get a 21 song show from the trio who know what their crowd want. To rock. And rock, we shall. As we move through “Tennessee Mojo” onto “Back It Up”, the noise intensifies. Is that a “keep it down” from the crowd next door, being interrupted as they sing along to Teddy Fedder’s rendition of Jeremy? Sorry, but long hair don’t care and you’ll have to bury us in our boots to stop us now. (Or do what “may have” happened to Danny from the Broken Witt Rebels in Egypt…)

Jaren lets the West Midlands crowd warm up our vocal chords with the paired back “Runnin’ Red Lights”. Then Neil stands to orchestrate a rockers choir with his drumstick for “Whisky Soaked Redemption”. Pray silence, congregation, as Kelby ascends us to Valhalla with a lap steel solo.

TC3’s third studio LP has added more weight and balance to their live sets, with “Take Me To The Bottom”, “Tennessee” and “Hank & Jesus” showcasing Jaren at his song-writing best, with Neil also getting in on the act with his self-penned “Graffiti”.

And these down-to-earth Tennesseans are not above requests. They close their set with “White Lightning”, dedicated to Bebe, their first UK promoter’s young daughter. Proud that this is now her favourite song, above Taylor Swift. Don’t worry, we’re obviously going to play that, Jaren reassures when someone screams “The South” as come back on for the encore. Before closing with their anthem, as promised, we are treated to the eponymous “Legacy” and a confessional-sounding “American Slang”.

My mind turns back to Plato and his categories as they bridge “The South” with a verse of their unreleased “Country Metal”. I wonder about Jaren’s Legacy and his reference to the Hall of Fame in that song. I have no doubt he will get there. I just couldn’t tell you which one it will be.

The Cadillac Three and Brothers Osborne defy categorisation. Looking on social media, a lot of people seem to feel uncomfortable with that. To assist, we’ve made a new one up for them: Bad-ass Country. From chaos, order.

  Setlist
    1. Peace Love & Dixie
    2. Slide
    3. Hank & Jesus
    4. Tennessee Mojo
    5. Back It Up
    6. Long Hair Don’t Care
    7. Bury Me In My Boots
    8. Drunk Like You
    9. Graffiti
    10. Runnin’ Red Lights
    11. Southern
    12. Rockin’
    13. Whiskey Soaked Redemption
    14. Take Me to the Bottom
    15. Tennessee
    16. Dang if we Didn’t
    17. White Lightening
    18. Days of Gold

Encore

  1. Legacy
  2. American Slang
  3. The South (with Country Metal)


About the Author

Steve

Growing up, provided it had guitars, I’d listen to it. Rock, metal, grunge, Brit Pop, folk, blues, R&B. I was at gigs most weeks, 2-3 festivals each summer and it was an amazing time.
But gradually all the artists, like me, started getting older. They stopped releasing new material and they toured less frequently. Weekly gigs turned to monthly gigs. Monthly gigs turned to 2-3 gigs a year. I started ranting about Glastonbury and V Festival headliners. If it hadn’t been for the Foo Fighters, Green Day, Springsteen and Divine Comedy still touring, I may have given up on life altogether!
Then, driving down interstates visiting friends in the US, I found country radio and my wife revealed a childhood past I didn’t know about. We found Nashville together and a couple of years later Nashville found the UK. And now I’m back to weekly gigs and 2-3 festivals. It’s my happy place.