Proving that the newer generation of bands are keeping classic rock alive and well, the Forum was packed to the rafters for this excellent value, if very diverse, three band bill, headlined by the larger than life Australians who fill the void in the long gaps between AC/DC tours.
The Treatment opened proceedings, squeezing in a half hour set which was effectively a taster for their early 2014 tour. The Cambridgeshire youngsters have had something of an image makeover, with shorter hair and leather jackets that gave them a passing resemblance to the Ramones, and their stage craft showed the benefits of touring with Kiss and Motley Crue last year.
While some of their more straight ahead songs such as opener ‘Drink F@ck Fight’ and ‘I Bleed Rock n Roll’ owe much to AC/DC, they take on a broad range of influences from classic hard rock and a couple of new songs ‘Running with the Dogs’ and ‘Emergency’, in particular, showed their song writing has significantly moved forward. There was a healthy contingent of fists in the air to what have become old favourites like ‘The Doctor’ and ‘Shake the Mountain’.
Next up were Orange Goblin who seem to have been ploughing their furrow persistently for ages, although this was the first time I had managed to see them. I always had them marked down as a Sabbath type stoner band and the playing was faster than I had imagined. However, and this is no criticism of their ability, they were simply not to my taste at all, especially Ben Ward’s growling vocals. That said they went down very well and indeed there were friends of mine there specifically to see them with Airbourne an afterthought.
Airbourne hit the stage at 9.30pm, opening with ‘Ready to Rock’ from the new album Black Dog Barking, but very little had changed from the first time I saw them when they exploded onto the scene in 2008. Joel O’Keeffe is one of rock’s great characters and, as the AC/DC comparisons are inescapable, he takes Bon Scott’s unruly Aussie larrikin persona and merges it with Angus Young’s guitar riffs and general whirling dervishness.
However, the rest of the band are utterly anonymous bar their synchronised hair flailing, and as a friend remarked, the lights are spotlighted only on him. It was one of many ways in which I was reminded of Justin Hawkins’ role in the Darkness.
The favourites from their debut album continue to delight live, ‘Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast’, ‘Diamond In The Rough’, ‘Cheap Wine and Cheaper Women’ and ‘Stand Up for Rock n Roll’ being simple pleasures that induced a huge moshpit and do what they say on the tin, or more specifically the sticker on my CD which described it as ‘sweat soaked, fist punching rock n roll’.
I was also glad ‘No Way But The Hard Way’ stayed in the set as there is a long history of bands second albums being neglected in favour of the tracks that shot a band to prominence in the first place, plus their latest product.
However as the gig wore on I found myself being rather critical. A few new songs were dropped in, but the likes of the title track and ‘Hungry’, perhaps the most metallic track in the set, were retreading familiar ground, almost a copy of a copy. Moreover the stage show was exactly the same – down to the throwing beer cans with an Ashes reference to ‘drop catches, lose matches’ – and the songs were rather padded out pointlessly. The proof was that the ten songs in the main set, all short and punchy on record, stretched to 55 minutes.
The encores indulged Joel’s larger than life persona to the fore, as he cracked beer cans open with his head and the audience was smothered in balloons during ‘Live it Up’, while the rather dull ‘Raise the Flag’ was just a backdrop to him charging Angus style into the crowd and up the staircases to the Forum’s balcony, before ending with ‘Running Wild’, the moshpit beneath me at its craziest.
Don’t get me wrong, Airbourne will always be an entertaining night out, especially when paired with other bands. But I worry this may be as good as it gets for them as they lack the wit and variety to broaden their act and take it to the next level.
Review by Andy Nathan
Photos by Iain Scott
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 30 August 2020.
UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 8 September 2020.
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