@ The Forum, London, UK
13th December 2013
Review by Kirsty Birkett-Stubbs
Photos by Inty Malcolm
“I’d rather see Airbourne than AC/DC nowadays,” says one old-timer. “Yeah AC/DC are past it,” returns his pal. There’s a lot of shit being talked tonight. Either that or someone hasn’t been attending AC/DC gigs of late. What we can agree with though is that we really want to see Airbourne. A lot of people really want to see Airbourne. So much so that they’ve brought out The Forum. And some say Friday 13th is unlucky. Seems like a good omen down under.
It doesn’t look like this crowd is exactly illing, but then a little bit of The Treatment (3.5/5) shouldn’t do any harm. That’s if rock n roll is your cure. One of a number of bands gently pilfering from rock’s heady mid-years (or a homage as they say in polite circles), with The Treatment it’s like some guy asked for Guns ‘n’ Roses, when he meant Aerosmith, and ended up being presented with an un-named punk album. All trussed up in leather jackets.
It’s an enthusiastic show no doubt from the Cambridge kids, but the thing with The Treatment is that it feels like a really long time since their first, and only, full-length ‘This Might Hurt’ came out and so the set has the thudding inevitability of a career track listing. The thing is no matter how good your songs are, over-repetition gets a little dull. Still, they do throw in a new number which freshens thing up a little. Diagnosis: In good health but get eight or nine new songs down you, and come and see me again.
I don’t think Orange Goblin (4/5) have a second fiddle. If they do they haven’t brought it tonight. But then they’re not a ‘support’ band. One of those ones that are wheeled out time and again to fill up slots on the bill. The ones you rely on to warm up the crowd, but don’t trust to lead them. It’s not like that with Orange Goblin. Especially on their home turf.
Melding stoner, doom, and any number of other influences, Orange Goblin mellow hard and rock harder. See ‘Some You Win, Some You Lose’ and ‘Time Travelling Blues’, which come out particularly strong. Ben Ward rumbles into the microphone like a young Lemmy, before getting right down the front in the thick of it. He seems to be revelling in tonight’s crowd, as much as they are in him. Closing with ‘Red Tide Rising’, Orange Goblin ride out on the crest of a gig bloody well done.
“Are you ready, ready to rock,” bawls Joel O’Keeffe. It’s a question that doesn’t need to be asked. This crowd couldn’t get more ready. Not because the Marshall’s are stacked. Not because the light show is going, or the dry ice blasting. It’s not the stageshow that’s got this place packed, it’s the ‘show’ that is to come. It’s the four guys that make up Airbourne (5/5).
Whoever first coined it can’t claim to have made any great leap of imagination, but Airbourne are the natural successors to AC/DC. Straight off it’s like early years DC when during an extended version of ‘Girls In Black’ O’Keeffe dons a crew member’s shoulders to do a run through the crowd.
With a more balanced set list than some, Airbourne pull equally from all releases storming through ‘Back In The Game’ and ‘Diamond In The Rough’. By ‘Black Dog Barking’ O’Keeffe practically foams at the teeth as he howls “It’s not the size of the fight in the dog.”
Whilst one man undoubtedly draws your attention, it’s not a one man show. O’Keeffe can only do what he does because of the faultless groundwork put in by those who don’t clamour for the spotlight. Which includes his brother. In the midst of ‘Cheap Wine and Cheaper Women’, O’Keeffe enquires “Can you catch” bookended with a mention of the Ashes. Insinuation is abound but it’s a good catch from the crowd for the British.
‘Hungry’, ‘No Way But The Hard Way’, ‘Stand Up For Rock ‘n’ Roll’ – every song is a bit more raucous, bit more rowdy, a bit more rock n roll. And throughout Airbourne don’t need to ask the crowd to sing along, they already are; there’s no need to ask them to clap because they’re already doing it. Chants are taken up, fists are raised, horns are formed. Gigs don’t get much better than this.
The airplane drone of ‘Live It Up’ ushers the encore in with a bang. The only thing wrong is that it’s the sound of a plane going down, when Airbourne are only flying high. It’s one of the strongest songs from the band’s latest long-un, but it pales under the might of O’Keeffe’s solo. Rather than scaling the facilities in his usual way, he bowls through the crowd, fighting up to the balcony to hang over the side, guitar still going. He’s like a young Angus – same manic grin, uncontrollably nodding head, sweaty and shirtless. An extended version of ‘Running Wild’ ensures the house is brought down. Send the cheque please. Actually we’ll cover it Australia – it’s our pleasure.
What was it that AC/DC said – “rock and roll will survive”. It’s a sentiment that’s alive and well today, in part because of bands like Airbourne. They’ll never have done it first, they may lean so heavily on what came before that you’re not sure they’d exist without, but for continuing to revel in the sheer joy of rock n roll, without gimmicks or an agenda, we can’t fault them. Showing that joined up thinking O’Keeffe ends simply with the words “as long as we’re alive, as long as you’re alive, rock n roll will never die”. We’re inclined to agree.
Main Title from “Terminator 2”
(Brad Fiedel song)
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 & Cheaper Women
No Way But the Hard Way
Stand Up for Rock ‘N’ Roll
Live It Up
Raise the Flag