Despite the fact that it's only early February, in many people's minds Airbourne have already released what is surely destined to be 2008's Album of the Year. It should come as little surprise therefore, that this, the Australian heavy rockers' first UK date, has been upgraded to a larger venue; not once, but twice!
Initially booked to play the 180 capacity Jericho Tavern, ticket sales soon outstripped expectations, and the gig was moved to the 400 capacity downstairs hall at the recently refurbished Carling Academy (formerly the Oxford Zodiac), before finally being moved upstairs to the still-larger 1,000 capacity venue to accommodate the ever-growing demand. And rightly so; Airbourne are the hottest ticket in rock this year, and in years to come there will be thousands of fans telling lies about having seen this, their first UK tour!
First up though, you have two support acts for the price of your £6 ticket. This is serious value for money; particularly considering the growing draw of the headliners. Unfortunately, Oxford's very own Mondo Cada just don't do it for me though, and with cited influences including Bad Brains, Black Flag and Winnebago Deal this should come as no surprise. It's all just a bit too sluggish and ponderous for my ear, and the dull hammering on my senses sent me scurrying for the rear bar and the aural shelter it provided. That said, there were elements of the fast growing audience that were clearly getting the Mondo Cada sound, although this may have simply been down to local loyalty.
Buckinghamshire hard rockers Skirtbox are an entirely different proposition however, and have me working my way through the now dense crowd as soon as they hit the stage. Their blend of 80s hard rock (Bon Jovi and Def Leppard) and heavy metal (Iron Maiden and Helloween) comes across live a lot heavier than their recorded output to-date, but with a new album on the way, it could be that they've finally found their sound. This is seriously rocking stuff, and with three great singers sharing vocal duties up front, things never get boring or predictable. Definitely one to keep an eye on, and an album I shall definitely be checking out later this year!
There ought to be a law that says you have to drink like a Viking at an Airbourne gig. A sub-clause of the same law should further stipulate that any review of such a gig should be strewn with profanity aplenty. This, after all, is rock 'n' roll played the way the gods intended it to be played: loud as fuck; sweaty as a porn-star's ball-bag; skinny as a school-boy's cock; and hairier than your German girlfriend's armpit!!!
It would be wrong though to describe Airbourne's sound as 'contemporary' or 'original'. Comparisons to fellow-countrymen AC/DC and Rose Tattoo litter the rock and more mainstream press, but, in the case of Airbourne, this is no bad thing - not when it's done this bastard good! And any fan of truly classic rock from the 70s and 80s will see past such hollow criticisms and appreciate Airbourne for what they really are: balls to the wall, fists in the air, Devil's horns and air guitars, head banging FUN!!! If Airbourne don't get you moving, forget calling a doctor; he's too fucking late! Get yourself down the morgue for a nice lie down.
Vocalist / guitarist Joel O'Keeffe is surely one of the best new front men in rock, and knows how to work a crowd up to fever-pitch like only a handful before him - at one point leaving the stage mid-song, still playing his guitar, making his way through the boisterous crowd, still playing his guitar, pouring himself a drink at the bar, still playing his guitar, returning to the stage, glass in hand, still playing his guitar! Not only did he hit every chord there and back, but far more important than that, he didn't spill a drop! This man knows how to rock 'n' roll!
He's not the only one either. Kid brother Ryan hits his drums harder than any I've seen of late and David Roads (guitar) and Justin Smith (bass) complete the sound and look of the band - all long hair, skin-tight denim and amps turned up past eleven! In fact, it would be several days before my ears stopped ringing after one of the loudest gigs I've ever attended.
With only an EP and one album to their name, it's a wonder they manage to fill the hour and ten minutes slot allotted before the eleven o'clock curfew, but the fact that they do this without letting the pace slow once is a credit to the versatility of their songs and their skills as entertainers, and when the final chords finally die, there isn't a single member of the crowd who wouldn't happily see the same gig again right away.
To say that Airbourne's long-term success is assured would be hasty in the extreme - many is the band of their ilk that has come from out of nowhere, seemingly conquered the world, only to fall flat on their faces once the darkness has fallen on their year in the spotlight, but on the strength of this performance and on the back of their current album, it would take some serious fucking up to derail these boys.
Gig of the year, and no mistake!
Visit the Airbourne Website
Visit the Skirtbox Website
Visit the Mondo Cada Website