THE CADILLAC THREE @O2 Institute, Birmingham 4/2/16


They’re Southern and it ain’t their fault. TC3 play their biggest show in the UK

26th February 2014: A three piece band from Tennessee who has just started making waves is right here in this building, in the small room upstairs. They are on their first UK tour, with country star Eric Church, but this night as support band to The Graveltones, they tune up on stage and get cracking, playing half an hour of brilliant countryfied rock n roll to – if we are honest – 50 people.

4th February 2016: A three piece band from Tennessee are genuine stars. Their name is on the poster at the top and with national coverage covering out of their ears, there’s thousands of people here to see their swaggering entrance. “From Nashville” says a voice over the backing track that sounds like Billy Gibbons, “will you welcome The Cadillac Three”.

The thing is though, that they are the same brilliant band as back then, with the same brilliant songs. This time, however, it’s imbued with a confidence that just wasn’t there before. Or as singer grinning Jaren Johnston puts it before he plays the first new track of the evening, “Soundtrack To A Six Pack”, “I hope you like it, but if you don’t, you can kiss my ass…..”

Before that moment there’s a lot of business to get through and it involves a record called “Tennessee Mojo”. A tour de force when it arrived, its improved since. Songs like “I’m Southern” “Back It Up” and the title track, now come at you like a wrecking ball, with grooves that could flatten whatever dared to stand up to doubt them. There’s moments of tenderness as well, as “White Lightning” proves.

It all nearly got derailed too. First, support band, Whiskey Myers (“I wouldn’t fight any of those guys” laughs the convivial Johnston) are caught up in the traffic chaos on the Midlands motorway network today and don’t get here. Then halfway through TC3’s second tune, “I’m Rockin'”, the amp blows. These boys take things in their stride, though, and as roadies beaver away Johnston merely says: “See that’s how badass that was. Don’t worry, we’ll work something out.” They would’ve too, you’d bet.

Live TC3, with Kelby Ray playing the dobro and not bass, and Neil Mason smashing his kit like it owes him money, are formidable. Johnston – who was and is a renowned songwriter away from the band – knows how to construct a song and the whole thing falls into place brilliantly on work like “Get Your Buzz On” and “Down To The River”.

There’s a new album in the works too and “Graffiti” sees them mining a kind of Springsteen-cum-Gaslight Anthem theme and finding real gold, while “Days Of Gold” sees the band really let their hair down, with a double drum solo, as Johnston and Mason both pound away and thrilling guitar histrionics.

Being rock stars now means there’s an encore too, “Party Like You” is rapturously received and the band look genuinely humbled as their anthem, “The South” is sung back to them by thousands of Midlanders thousands of miles away from the Mason Dixon line.

Cadillac Three are band that seem ready. Ready for that next step into genuine mainstream crossover. They’ll probably get tired old comparisons with the likes of Skynyrd, while even Kings Of Leon got a mention in recent dispatches. Truth is though, they are all those things, but so much more, they rock, they roll, and they wear cowboy boots. The self styled – in Johnston’s own words tonight – “drunk rednecks” are going to be the Kings of the south. But have the appeal to conquer the west, the east and the north too.

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