Strutting on stage to Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger, opening band Taking Dawn a four piece from LA, give all the impressions of a promising prospect; yet as they leap into ‘Like a Revolution’ it becomes clear there is a serious problem with the sound. Something is way off engineering-wise as all I can discern is a tinny, clashing noise radiating from the stage with just tiny glimmers of glitter by way of lead guitars breaking through the din periodically during each song.
The band seem oblivious to the issue and march on with ‘Endlessly’ and a number bearing similarities to Bon Jovi’s Runaway which I could not truly make out due to the already discussed distortion – a point only reinforced when vocalist Chris Babbitt tried chatting to the crowd which resulted in a classic wedding DJ situation with the usual outcome — no bugger could make out one syllable of what was being said!
Taking Dawn round off with a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain which as far as I can tell was not half bad. From what little else I could glean these guys are definitely harking back to the glam era at times — so think Skid Row and Motley Crue with a slight twist of modern edge – they might just appeal to you.
Black Spiders on the other hand are a completely different kettle of fish, emerging from the ether to the delights of a Morricone masterpiece (the chilling melody chime which emanates from El Indio’s pocket watch in For a Few Dollars More) before bursting forth with an unyielding and formidably solid set. Not having heard them before tonight, they were instantly reminiscent of a cool mishmash of Sabbath, Led Zep and QOTSA all blended into one fabulous rock smoothie…and in my opinion it was a winning formula!
Truly an assortment of able musicians exhibiting copious amounts of talent beautifully showcased within tracks such as ‘Stay Down’ and ‘Woman’. Fabulous frontman Pete Spiby displays vibrant and versatile vocals throughout, particularly on ‘St. Peter’ which is a shining example of everything that is good about Black Spiders. Rarely do I like a band on first contact and I admit I loved them! I would recommend catching up with them if you get a chance when they come back to Wolverhampton on 26th April on their headlining tour.
With the Civic Hall almost full and grown men limbering up as if about to take part in an Olympic event, the theme to Terminator 2 blaring out from the trademark wall of Marshall amp stacks signified the arrival of Airbourne. With immensely intense energy they erupt onstage to ‘Raise The Flag’ with frontman Joel O’Keeffe prancing around like a man possessed.
A relentless onslaught ensues with the likes of ‘Hellfire’, ‘Diamond in the Rough’ and ‘Back on the Bottle’ propelling the set on while the whole band bounds around. It doesn’t take long for the effervescent exuberance to spill over and affect the punters with scores of people suddenly demonstrating some sort of infectious head-bobbing, toe-tapping, pogo-inducing groove.
Anyone who has seen Airbourne live before would be expecting some sort of acrobatic antics and tonight is no exception as Joel clambers up the right side of the stage onto the balcony overhead with guitar firmly slung over his shoulder during ‘Girls in Black’, does a slow circuit of the balcony area whilst playing and abseils back down on-stage from the left side – which thrills the crowd no end! Back on Terra Firma, Joel screams at the top of his lungs “It’s Saturday night, are we going to tear this place apart or what?” as they hurtle into ‘Heartbreaker’ and onto ‘Born to Kill’ before later performing a piercing guitar solo at the start of ‘Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast’.
Airbourne are a genuinely superb slick cohesive unit, there is no questioning their abilities — the usual criticism of them being a similar style to another legendary Aussie band and it’s true I do seem to be swimming in a sea of people wearing AC/DC t-shirts tonight. When I hear ‘No Way but the Hard Way’ it is difficult not to run with that parallel; however, I am pretty sure there are few bands around with even an ounce of the energy and raw showmanship that these guys have – they are so much more than a parody of another band, their aptitude and flair means they are an entertaining entity in their own right. Where else would each and every song be treated like a fabulous finale? Who else could provide such an intoxicating high octane encounter? And undoubtedly, as their set drew to a close with ‘Runnin’ Wild’ and ‘Stand Up for Rock ‘n’ Roll’ I couldn’t help but think we had experienced an exemplary evening of good, old fashioned, solid rock and roll at its best.
Review – Amanda Jones
Photos — John Bentley