They just love the UK, don’t they Airbourne? Two UK festivals in Download and Hard Rock Hell this year and now a full blown tour as well to round things off. They’re also a band that draw in a wide range of ages; from the older rockers in their leather jackets to the young punters with fresh faces, Bristol Academy is a real unification of the generations this evening, something which is wonderful to see; as frontman Joel O’Keefe says ‘As long as you are alive and we are alive then rock and roll will never, ever die!’ and that message couldn’t be truer tonight.
The Treatment (8) open things up tonight and do so with drive and energy; they struggled to win over the fans at Hard Rock Hell which was a real shame, but tonight opening track Drink, F**k, Fight threatens to blow the roof off. They might not have much of a stage to play with but they use it to the max and it’s like they’re in front of a good few thousand people in an arena as opposed to an Academy; certainly, their brand of hard rock which sounds like KISS crossed with AC/DC is perfect for this environment and whilst there isn’t any major participation from the pit during their all too brief stage time (it doesn’t stop vocalist Matt Jones trying his damndest to get things started), the heads are definitely nodding and the cheers get louder as the set goes on. By the time they’ve closed with Shake the Mountain, it looks very much like their show at Thekla on Valentine’s Day will be strongly attended.
Now they might both be fantasy adventures but there’s very little in common between Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. So when Orange Goblin (8) thunder into Saruman’s Wish when frontman Ben Ward looks like a real life Hagrid, the two marry in one of the most bizarre and yet satisfying ways possible. They’re definitely the more out of place of the support tonight but they still go down an absolute storm. Doom metal in places and fast paced rock in others, they continue where The Treatment left off and get heads banging harder and bodies moving more. Some You Win, Some You Lose and Quincy the Pigboy also go down very well and Ward is just a massive presence; literally in some cases given that the man is about 9 foot 3 in height, but he’s eager to get hands clapping at every opportunity and his smile is infectious. It doesn’t always suit the music being played but he’s clearly enjoying himself and that’s the main thing. No wonder they leave to raptures after their set has finished with a superb Red Tide Rising.
Given the turmoil that the England cricket team are going through down under right now, tensions between Australia and our fair country have been in better shape to say the least. But for ninety glorious minutes Airbourne (9) break down the boundaries (no pun intended) and turn the place into a mass of jumping and anarchy. From the moment they burst into Ready to Rock the pit begins and does not stop going for the entire 14 song set. You know what you’re going to get with Airbourne: balls out rock and roll, lots of beer, Joel O’Keefe pulling a stunt or two and a really good time. This evening is no different. Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast is followed by Girls in Black and things get faster, if that’s even possible. Diamond in the Rough is quickly becoming one of the bands cornerstone songs and Cheap Wine and Cheaper Women is going down that same path too – in fact, EVERY one of their songs could be in that position…God knows what they’ll drop in favour of new songs when they release a fourth album but it won’t be pretty, that’s for sure! Joel takes the time to run through the audience (as per usual given that there’s no stage supports for him to climb up) and this includes the balconies as well before almost going through an entire 8-pack of Red Stripe lager trying to get people to catch cans thrown at them; cue more Ashes banter and quips about catchers from the UK. Cue the entire O2 Academy booing immediately afterwards. When one is eventually held the woman in question comes away with a cut somewhere on her person, but does it stop her from diving into the next pit? Does it heck. There’s even a wall of death, which in a venue of this size is quite an achievement. A three song encore of Live It Up, Raise the Flag and Running Wild, the latter including a small snippet from Black Sabbath’s ‘Paranoid’ caps off a triumphant night for the quartet who probably deserve to be headlining bigger places than this. For now though, they’ll take any venue that will have them and tear them all apart one by one. Come back whenever you want lads, we’ll gladly take you on!
Joel O’Keefe – lead vocals, lead guitar
Ryan O’ Keefe – drums, percussion
David Roads – rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Justin Street – bass guiutar, backing vocals
Ready to Rock
Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast
Girls In Black
Back in the Game
Diamond in the Rough
Black Dog Barking
Cheap Wine and Cheaper Women
Blonde, Bad and Beautiful
No Way But the Hard Way
Stand Up for Rock ‘N’ Roll
Live It Up
Raise the Flag
Pictures by Sean Larkin. Taken at the concert on 5th December at Rock City, Nottingham.