Airbourne with Black Spiders
@ Limelight, Belfast
21st October 2013
Review by Melanie Brehaut
Photography by Paul Verner
If you look in the dictionary under the term ‘rock n roll’ there’s a pretty good chance that there will be a picture of either of tonight’s acts. Sheffield’s Black Spiders and Melbourne, Australia’s Airbourne have both recently released new albums (‘This Savage Land’ from BS in September of this year, while Airbourne revealed ‘Black Dog Barking’ in May), so pairing up to tour again was a bit of a no-brainer, particularly as their previous tour was so successful.
With quite a hefty crowd beginning to file into the Limelight, Black Spiders take to the stage to deliciously eerie ‘horror movie organ’ music.Complete with three – count em, three! – guitars (as well as bass), their sound is predictably huge and pummelling as they launch into tunes from both of their albums. They sound like an exhilarating mix of Sabbath, AC/DC and Motorhead, but with a modern sound similar to QOTSA or Eagles of Death Metal.
Vocalist/guitarist Pete Spiby indulges in some wickedly witty banter (including cajoling the audience into a chorus of ‘fuck you Black Spiders!’, which is followed by ‘fuck you Belfast!’, to everyone’s delight).
Their set is filled with meaty tracks such as ‘Stay Down’, ‘Kiss Tried to Kill Me’ and ‘Trouble’, with a handful of groovy bass-driven riffs throughout. Spiby dedicates ‘Just Like a (Belfast) Woman’ to the ladies in the crowd. The ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’-esque ‘Balls’ and set closer ‘Teenage Knife Gang’ are the highlights of the set – although special mention must go to sticksman Si Atkinson’s unhinged drumming, absurdly high-standing cymbals and facial contortions! Although the vocals are occasionally a bit reedy and plaintive and get lost in the mix sometimes, this is a ballsy (ha) and beefy set, displaying BS’s talents perfectly.
1. Knock You Out
2. Stay Down
3. Stick It To the Man
4. Kiss Tried To Kill Me
7. Just Like a Woman
8. Teenage Knife Gang
With the anticipation of the crowd growing to fever pitch during the long break between bands (amply demonstrated by the boisterous singalong when ‘Run to the Hills’ was played over the soundsystem), Airbourne need to bring their ‘A’ game along tonight. When the house lights drop the roar is deafening! The ‘Terminator’ intro and dazzling lights set the scene for a party. Ready, set…
The band burst onstage as the excitement in the room reaches fever pitch and they simply explode. Singer Joel O’Keeffe is a half-naked whirling dervish of energy; the man literally never stops all night. He is is astonishingly fine voice as the band launch into ‘Ready to Rock’, managing to sound like both Bon Scott and Brian Johnson but still like, well, himself. The stage is constantly abuzz with lights, movement and energy. The crowd responds almost involuntarily by going mental: they just can’t help but to dance, move, headbang, something!
‘Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast’ is next, which prompts more fist pumps and flailing hair. “Good to be back!” beams O’Keeffe before they slam into ‘Girls In Black’. The obligatory but never old ‘travelling O’Keeffe’ trick follows as the singer gets a shoulder ride through the crowd whilst still playing his guitar; when he reaches the bar he is met with roars of approval. Once he is safely back onstage he gleefully informs the adoring crowd that the band arrived in Belfast five days prior in order to avail themselves of the local hospitality: “we thought we’d enjoy a few Guinnesses…so we did!”
A plethora of hits follows, including ‘Chewin’ the Fat’, latest single ‘Back in the Game’ and ‘Diamond in the Rough’; all loud, proud and balls-out – what this band does best. At times it can seem a bit like the ‘Joel O’Keeffe show’, but his bandmates seem content to let Joel (and the music) be the star. One can’t help worry about the man sometimes though, such as when he opens several beer cans by bashing them on his head, or necks an entire bottle of shiraz!
They finish this part of their set with ‘No Way But the Hard Way’ and the ‘Johnny B Goode’ crossed with ‘It’s a Long Way to the Top’ sound of ‘Stand Up For Rock N Roll’ – the latter a definite set highlight. They exit in a blaze of glory while the ecstatic crowd wait for the inevitable encore. When it arrives it is preceded by an air raid siren being cranked onstage, which segues into recent single ‘Live It Up’, followed by ‘Raise the Flag’. The band show no signs of (ahem) flagging as they pour the last ounces of their energy into these last few songs. “That’s what we love about Belfast: no-bullshit rock n roll!” roars O’Keeffe.
Final song of the evening ‘Runnin’ Wild’ is played with a trace of ‘Paranoid’ and ‘Dirty Deeds’ contained, as well as an extended guitar solo; an homage if there ever was one. When they finally leave the stage (to the strains of Rose Tattoo’s triumphant ‘We Can’t Be Beaten’) Airbourne have well and truly cemented their reputation in Belfast as an outstanding live act and a brilliant rock band.
The beauty of Airbourne is in their simplicity. Yes, they may be a bit of a one-trick pony, but WHAT a trick! They are unashamedly and unabashedly fans of straight up rock such as AC/DC, Rose Tattoo, Cold Chisel and so on. They embody the pub rock scene of Seventies and Eighties Australia, distilled down to its purest essence. O’Keeffe is the cheeky chappy in Bon Scott, the balls-out screech in Brian Johnson, and the defiant booze-soaked screamer in Jimmy Barnes. They are bogans and proud of it (it’s an Aussie thing, google it mate!). In fact they are, as previously stated, the dictionary definition of a rock n roll band – and tonight will categorically be remembered as a textbook rock n roll gig.
1. Ready To Rock
2. Too Much Too Young Too Fast
3. Girls In Black
4. Chewin’ The Fat
5. Back In the Game
6. Diamond In the Rough
7. Black Dog Barking
8. Cheap Wine and Cheaper Women
9. No Way But The Hard Way
10. Stand Up For Rock N Roll
1. Live It Up
2. Raise the Flag
3. Runnin’ Wild