Airbourne + Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown
@ O2 Forum Kentish Town, London
November 26th 2019
Review by Jack Merry
Photography by Miguel de Melo
It was a cold, wet and miserable Tuesday evening in London town when Australian rockers Airbourne crashed through the O2 Forum Kentish Town in Camden, in support of their new album Boneshaker.
Formed in Victoria, Australia in 2003 by brothers Joel (lead vocals / lead guitar) and Ryan O’Keeffe (drums) along with Justin Street (bass guitar) and David Roads (rhythm guitar), the band have had an incredible rise in popularity due to near-constant rigorous touring and high quality studio releases. David Roads left the band in April 2017 to focus on his family business and was replaced by ex-Palace of the King member Matt ‘Harri’ Harrison shortly after.
The Boneshaker tour would be my fourth time seeing the band live; the first being the ‘No Guts, No Glory’ tour in 2010 on my first ever live concert experience. The band have made a name for themselves over the years through their energetic live shows and hard rock sound; endlessly compared with the likes of AC/DC and Rose Tattoo, with a dash of Motörhead’s speed for good measure. This is sometimes viewed as a bad thing, however, with critics of the band saying they lack originality, but what’s so bad about sounding like three of the greatest hard rock bands to ever walk the earth? Absolutely nothing.
Airbourne play their material (both live and on record) with such conviction that it’s impossible to see this as a fault, and this is most evident on new album Boneshaker. Every song has me grinning from ear to ear; bringing out the air guitars, moving my feet to the four-to-the-floor drum beats. It’s impossible to sit still.
Joining them on the Boneshaker UK tour are two bands, Sheffield-based Cellar Door Moon Crow and up-and-coming Nashville blues rockers Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown. Due to a train mishap, I unfortunately missed Cellar Door Moon Crow so I am unable to give an accurate score, but once I had arrived during the interval the crowd around me had nothing but good things to say about the duo; praising the songcraft, playing ability and overall sound. I hope to catch them on their next UK shows, whenever they may be.
After the break, Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown (5/5) were up. Having seen the band before supporting both AC/DC and Guns N’ Roses, I knew exactly what I was in for. Their incredible style of blues rock packs one hell of a punch, and each member of the band is hugely talented. Lead singer, lead guitarist and band namesake Tyler Bryant sported a pinstripe black and silver suit jacket, shoulder length black hair and a road-worn, battered pink Fender Stratocaster.
It’s an effective, sleek look for the young rocker, but the attention is soon switched onto his guitar playing as he lays down more thick bluesy riffs and soulful solos throughout the entire set. It’s very apparent he’s a prodigy, a rock star in the making before our very eyes. Fresh off of the release of new studio album Truth & Lies, the band’s set leans heavy into the album with openers ‘Drive Me Mad’ and ‘On to the Next’, and they breeze through older tracks like the powerful ‘Weak and Weepin” and the melodic, creeping ‘Aftershock’ with absolute ease and confidence.
Drummer Caleb Crosby is a machine and it’s always a pleasure seeing him perform, especially when he brings part of his kit up front to play a solo. With one of the best up-and-coming drummers alongside the next generation of guitar hero in the form of Tyler Bryant, that’s a recipe for greatness. The guys continuously go from stride to stride with each performance, and this is no exception. I also found out guitarist Graham Whitford is the son of Aerosmith’s very own rhythm guitar hero, Brad Whitford. Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown have once again proved that rock n’ roll is here to stay, and its future is in very safe hands. A fantastic all-round performance, and it’s the best I’ve ever seen them.
TYLER BRYANT & THE SHAKEDOWN SETLIST:
Drive Me Mad / On to the Next / House on Fire / Weak and Weepin’ / Aftershock / Eye to Eye / That’s All Right (cover) / Lipstick Wonder Woman
After a short break, it was time for Airbourne (5/5) to tear the venue apart. As the house lights go down, Brad Feidel’s immortal theme from Terminator 2: Judgement Day bleeds out of the venue’s speakers and an almighty cheer erupts from the crowd. The band have used that intro music since I saw them in 2010, maybe even earlier, and it never gets old hearing it.
As the curtain falls, the band leap into action and open with No Guts, No Glory cut ‘Raise The Flag,’ an incredible heavy metal call-to-arms as frontman Joel O’Keeffe shrieks like a man possessed. “We’re stoking the flame with high octane, we’ll never weaken or fall, now is the time for you and I, to answer the call,” sings O’Keeffe; and you know he’s serious. An Airbourne show is akin to a serious shot of adrenaline, and right from the get-go the audience lose any and all inhibitions as they jump and sing along.
There are a few mainstays in the set from the band’s brilliant debut album Runnin’ Wild, with ‘Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast’ being the first of these tracks. It’s great to hear this mid-tempo song still being played live, as it’s got one of my many favourite Airbourne guitar solos and it has a highly infectious chorus. Boneshaker track ‘Burnout the Nitro’ is up next with its sublime slide guitar intro and its tale of a driver speeding along a highway. “You can hear my engine comin’, from a million miles away, so Mr State Trooper, I ain’t worth the chase” speaks volumes for the band’s ridiculously energetic performance. Joel says during the song’s outro, “Anybody got a match? I got gasoline in my veins”, and you believe him.
‘Girls in Black’ is a mammoth stomp through an ode to leather-clad women from the band’s debut, with a thick grinding riff, and ‘Bottom of the Well’ is a triumphant middle finger to depression, and any tough moment in life that any of us are going through. “I gotta get out, I gotta break free, ain’t gonna live in misery, my mind’s made up; I’m leaving today, come hell or high water I will break these chains” screams a determined Joel O’Keeffe. It’s a life-affirming song, written and performed the only way Airbourne know how: loudly and aggressively. If this doesn’t beat away your blues, at least temporarily, then I’ll be very surprised.
The title track of the band’s 2015 album Breakin’ Outta Hell is a full-throttle storming track and there is no sign of the band slowing down just yet. You can imagine driving down a highway, top down, blasting this track and just gunning it. The song is an absolute blast, and around this time I noticed a few Airbourne t-shirts in the audience adorned with the slogan “NO BALLADS, NO BULLSHIT” which is very clearly the band’s mission statement. For the entire run-time of the set, roughly an hour and a half, Airbourne do not slow down for anybody.
‘It’s All For Rock n’ Roll’ is a tribute to Motörhead’s own Lemmy Kilmister, who passed away nearly four years ago in December 2015. Airbourne had worked with him back in 2008, as he featured in the band’s music video for Runnin’ Wild, playing a truck driver taking the band (who were playing in the trailer) away from the cops that had been chasing them. It’s a great video, and seeing Airbourne pay tribute to him like this is truly special. “He did it all, enough for you and me, played rock n’ roll hard fast and free” howls Joel, before bringing a drinks cabinet on stage during a breakdown and pouring shots of Lemmy’s favourite drink Jack Daniels into the audience. Chants of “ALL FOR ONE, ONE FOR ALL, ALL FOR ONE, FOR ROCK N ROLL” filled the venue, as the band continued the song. It’s an awesome moment and a highlight of the night.
Boneshaker’s excellent title track gets an airing, as the evening reaches peak rock n’ roll perfection. A shirtless Joel O’Keeffe is as energetic as they come, and drenched in sweat, with the rest of the band not far behind him. Clutching his trusted white Gibson Explorer for most (if not all) of the night, Joel handles the majority of the lead guitar work; his solos are loose, fast and down-right astounding. He has a history of climbing stage rigging and moving around venues to play certain lead parts, and he travels to the balcony of the Forum to play one solo, dangling himself over the edge and treating everybody upstairs to an up-close and personal performance. This never gets any less jaw-dropping, and it’s always a riot.
‘Live It Up’ is one of the best songs from 2013’s Black Dog Barking album, with its sublime mixture of double-stopped guitar intro on top of air raid sirens and plane engines as it slowly crescendos into a heady, balls-to-the-wall hard rock riff as the ‘plane’ engine noise increases and ‘crashes’. The riff explodes with pure adrenaline and I can’t fathom how the band are still performing with the vast, endless amount of energy they seem to have. They show no signs of slowing down, as Joel sings “Rather alive, sleep when I die, don’t you ever tell me to stop, you gotta live it up!” and witness him performing this exact lyric with such vigour, you believe him once more.
It’s a testament to the band that they can power through a set like this, and only get faster. ‘Stand Up for Rock n’ Roll’ is a propulsive end to the main set with its simple, self-explanatory message: stand up for rock n’ roll. Drink that beer. Go to the show. Rock out to your heart’s content, and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. Its picked guitar introduction is the equivalent of a drop in drum and bass music, as it builds and builds to the point it just erupts and the song cannot be contained. It’s the opening track from the band’s debut album, and it’s no less important today. Thunderous applause bursts out from the audience as the band walk off stage; chants of “AIRBOURNE!” can be heard, begging the band to return for an encore.
Thankfully, they do just that with the opening track from Black Dog Barking, ‘Ready to Rock’. After a short gang-vocal style intro, the song roars into life with its rumbling rhythm section and open-chord main riff and thunders along at a breakneck pace. “Are you ready? You better get ready, once we start, we never stop, get ready to rock” is sung with such force, getting the audience riled up once more, combined with its extended harmony lead guitar parts towards the end.
The last song of the evening is the purely brilliant ‘Runnin’ Wild,’ a song I will never tire of seeing performed live. Airbourne always turn the track into an eight minute lesson in rock n’ roll, where the band extend the breakdown featured in the original song, add a multitude of guitar solos and licks, and as it wraps up a wave of euphoria hit me; a revelation that these guys are one of the bands leading the way for hard rock in 2019. The future of rock is in very safe hands here.
The one complaint I do have, and it’s more of a nitpick really, is that the band seem to keep to roughly the same songs each tour, only sprinkling in a handful of new songs to support any new album they have at the time. I’d personally love to hear some album deep-cuts, such as ‘Hungry’ from Black Dog Barking, or ‘Bombshell’ from Breakin’ Outta Hell. Like I said, it’s nitpicking but I can’t help but think how incredible it’d be to hear some of those for the first time as opposed to similar songs every tour.
Joel O’Keeffe and company gave us a night brimming with jaw-dropping solos, shrieking vocals, unadulterated power and just pure, unfiltered, no bullshit rock n’ roll. It’s always a great time when these boys roll into town, and I will continue to attend these shows until I am unable to do so. Airbourne rocked London to its knees and tore the roof off of the Forum, all the while giving us conclusive proof that rock is definitely not dead, and it won’t be for a long time.
Main Theme from Terminator 2 (entrance music) / Raise the Flag / Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast / Burnout the Nitro / Girls in Black / Bottom of the Well / Breakin’ Outta Hell / It’s All For Rock n’ Roll / Boneshaker / Live It Up / Stand Up for Rock n’ Roll // ENCORE: Ready to Rock / Runnin’ Wild