A little month to go before their official return to the UK, Aussie hellraisers Airbourne picked the best possible place outside their homeland to do what they do best, and that is raise the aforesaid hell… with plenty of merriment thrown in, as they stopped off for almost a full week of traditional Belfast hospitality before embarking on their current Euro trek. So, after several days of imbibement and general shenanigans, would the Melbourne quartet in any fit state to actually play a gig? Well, we’ll answer that in a moment…
Tasked with opening proceedings were the perennial support act, Black Spiders (who had fulfilled the same role Airbourne previously here in Belfast) got the party started in fine style. With the vast majority of the audience still filing (very slowly) in the venue, and the strains of Ennio Morricone having set the scene, the five Spiders strut and swagger their way onto the stage, guitars slung low like true rock ‘n’ roll outlaws, and proceed to deliver a set filed with plenty of the aforesaid swagger, a dash of bravura and a healthy swig of middle finger attitude. The latter is shown when frontman Pete Spiby cajoles steadily growing crowd into a round of “Fuck You Black Spiders” send and return, before sympathizing (not!) with those present unfortunate to have day jobs at the beginning of the rambunctious punkiness of ‘Stick It To The Man’.
The triple guitar line-up adds a massive depth to their sound, which is also surprisingly well mixed, as they rip through a rowdy collection of good old-fashioned sleazy, blooze infused rawk ‘n’f’n’ roll meshed together with tightness, precision and a innate understanding of each other’s actions. Drummer Si Atkinson is in particularly good form, taking his inner fury out on his high set cymbals, while rhythm partner Adam ‘Fox’ Irwin displays the sort of laidback languor but explosive angst that reminds instantly of Duff McKagan in his prime. Frontman Spiby certainly knows how to work a crowd, and the ladies therein especially, as shown when he intros ‘Just Like A (Belfast) Woman’ – but Gawd help him if he ever gets too up close and personal to one in the alley at the back of the venue…
Airbourne admittedly are not everyone’s proverbial mug of char, and they’re one of those bands you either love or loathe… there is no middle ground. But, you most certainly cannot deny that they are one of the most energetic live acts around, and tonight they most definitely have their batteries fully charged – especially Joel (O’Keeffe), who bounds onto the stage stripped to the waist and ready to party!
“Are you Ready To Rock?” he asks enthusiastically, and the response is most definitely in the affirmative. Of course, the frontman is known for not confining his energy to the stage, and it’s not long before he’s in the middle of the crowd and heading for a bar top solo spot. “We arrived four days ago and we’ve drank so much Guinness we’re all pissing black” he tells his adoring fans, whipping them up even more to match his own non-stop energy levels: girls freely answer his calls to jump up on their fellas’ shoulders, while fists pump, T-shirts and plastic cups fly across the room and the pit doesn’t stop moving all night.
Set wise, it’s solid and somewhat predictable: ‘Too Much Too Young’, ‘Chewin The Fat’ (complete with beer showers for the front rows), ‘Back In The Game’, ‘No Way But The Hard Way’… it’s all good stuff and eagerly lapped up by the rapid fans who don’t need invited twice to ‘Stand Up For Rock N Roll’! The three song encore of ‘Live It Up’, ‘Raise The Flag’ and an extended ‘Runnin Wild’ (complete with interjections of ‘Paranoid’ and ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’) leave the audience as breathless and exhausted as the four Melbourne lads who have given them their all for the last 80 minutes or so.
Yes, close your eyes and it could be Bon Scott-era ‘DC you hear – but is that really such a bad thing, especially when the likes of Airbourne are flying the flag for rock ‘n’ roll with such gusto and pride? I think not…
To order either ‘This Savage Land’ by Black Spiders (out now on Double Cross Records) or ‘Black Dog’ by Airbourne (Roadrunner Records) click on the Amazon banner above.
Airbourne return to the UK (with Orange Goblin and The Treatment) for the following dates:
Thursday November 28th – Portsmouth, Pyramids
Saturday November 30th – Hard Rock Hell
Monday December 2nd – Leeds, O2 Academy
Tuesday December 3rd – Nottingham, Rock City
Wednesday December 4th – Newcastle, O2 Academy
Friday December 6th – Glasgow, O2 ABC
Saturday December 7th – Manchester, Ritz
Monday December 9th – Birmingham, Institute
Tuesday December 10th – Bristol, O2 Academy
Wednesday December 11th – Oxford, O2 Academy
Friday December 13th – London, Forum
Photographs by Marc Leach. See more photographs in our gallery: https://planetmosh.com/airbourne-belfast-photo-2013/