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Blackberry Smoke revives a Southern tradition in concert at Uptown Theater

Blackberry Smoke
Blackberry Smoke

Blackberry Smoke, one of the most popular Southern rock bands to emerge in recent years, entertained about 1,800 people Friday night at the Uptown Theater.

Performances by the evening’s two opening acts, the Ben Miller Band and the Temperance Movement, were even better than the fine outing by the headliners. Miller’s Joplin-based trio performs a frenzied form of Americana on makeshift instruments that look as if they were salvaged from a dumpster. Scott Leeper played a jerry-rigged contraption with a single string.

“Nearly all bass players have more strings than that,” Miller explained. “And none have less.”

Miller sang a selection through an analog phone, an effect that caused the song to resemble a collect call from a federal penitentiary. Doug Dicharry played drums, trombone, “electric washboard” and “electric spoons.”

A rendition of “St. James Infirmary Blues” that connected New Orleans to the Ozarks encapsulated the ensemble’s intent. Having recently toured extensively with ZZ Top, the Ben Miller Band has learned how to engage large crowds. The trio’s 30-minute set served notice that Miller may lead Missouri’s best roots-rock band.

While the Ben Miller Band is folksy to a fault, the Temperance Movement is fronted by a preening peacock. The Scottish-born Phil Campbell wore outlandish clothes and twitched like a nervous lapdog. His ridiculous antics would have been insufferable had he not possessed a tremendous voice.

Campbell’s grainy howl is uncannily similar to the voice of the late Steve Marriott, a member of the Small Faces and Humble Pie. The blustery boogie of the latter band is one of the Temperance Movement’s primary influences. The Temperance Movement may not have many new ideas, but its five members are conscientious musical recyclers.

The Atlanta-based Blackberry Smoke is touring in support “Holding All the Roses,” its fourth studio album. The release topped Billboard’s chart for country albums and debuted in the seventh slot on the rock albums chart earlier this month.

The unlikely combination reflects the band’s broad appeal. Few members of Friday’s audience would have looked out of place at a concert by country star Toby Keith, but Friday’s show ended with a straightforward reading of the Rolling Stones’ “Street Fighting Man.”

The band’s five members appear to have as much hair as the cast of television’s “Duck Dynasty.” They may not spend much time with scissors and razors, but the quintet’s members have successfully managed to trim the excesses associated with Southern rock.