As the early evening darkness begins to seep in, the street outside Kentish Town’s O2 Forum goes from the odd stray flyer flapping by to having its very foundations in danger of collapse in a matter of minutes, as thousands of pumped up Airbourne fans wait to head-bang and mosh out the day’s working stresses on a brisk Tuesday evening.
Before the party can begin though, the first band on to carry the rock and roll torch into battle is Cellar Door Moon Crow, and although their band name may not be an easy one to get stuck in your head, their performance sure will. Despite being fronted by guitarist and vocalist Phil Goodwin strutting around with attitude and swagger, drummer Tom Goodwin stole the show as the end of their set saw him accidentally knocking out a tooth as he got too close to the microphone, engrossed in his back-up vocal duties. Luckily for him the white glint on a black stage made it easy to retrieve. The two brothers’ music is a modern day version of Aerosmith’s collaboration with Run DMC, mixing classic hard rock riffs with urban rough and tough rap beats. Sounds sacrilegious and might even get them a few dirty looks when they play Download 2020 wearing their branded Nike and Fila ensemble, but it works.
If you’d walked into the room without knowing who was on the bill, it would’ve been perfectly plausible to assume that the sound of sleazy southern blues emanating from Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown were the main event. Extensive touring performing alongside Guns N’ Roses, AC/DC, and Aerosmith would teach any wannabe musician how to deliver a raw refined rock show, and with those veterans as teachers the boys in the band have graduated with flying colours. Performing an array of tracks from their debut album Wild Child, Backfire and Aftershock from their self-titled record, and the single On to the Next from their latest release, TBSD were taken by surprise as they soon learnt that a huge portion of the audience knew their lyrics just as well as they did. Filling the Forum with their sound, it will take no stretch of the imagination to envisage the boys from Tennessee headlining these venues the next time they visit UK soil. Their set was ended by drummer Caleb Crosby jumping from stage to audience with his bass drum to hit out the last few beats amidst the fans, who welcomed him with open arms.
With a mix of mature classic rockers taking up refuge near the bar, and young adult metal heads filling up the front of the barriers riled up and raring to go, an average Airbourne gig is a force to be reckoned with. Not for the faint of heart, the Warrnambool natives draw their inspiration from fellow Ozzie rockers AC/DC, their ‘no ballads, no bullshit’ approach to their music matching their incessant high-octane performance. From the get go it’s a work out challenge to duck and avoid heavy biker boots to the face of overly-keen crowd surfers, the likes of which seem to be repeat offenders. The insanity begins with Raise the Flag, as front-man and guitarist Joel O’Keeffe bounds out onstage sporting ripped jeans and no shirt, foreshadowing the sticky, sweaty, steamy gig it’s going to be. With drummer Ryan O’Keffee, bassist Justin Street, and rhythm guitarist Harri Harrison delivering the pulsating suggestions of their latest single Backseat Boogie and chaotic rhythms of Breakin’ Outta Hell, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
On December 28th 2015, the death of Lemmy Kilmister left thousands of Motorhead fans and rock musicians devastated. It took a huge toll on Airbourne, having taken them under his wing in their early days and appearing in the music video for their first single Runnin’ Wild, his loss prompting the closing track on their Breakin’ Outta Hell record, It’s All For Rock N’ Roll. Rolling out a Motorhead embellished travelling bar, the late front-man’s choice of poison, Jack Daniels and Coke, was poured into cups in various lethal quantities (mainly Jack Daniels) and shared amongst the band. Perhaps one of the few professions in the world where it’s encouraged to drink on the job, the alcohol didn’t alter O’Keeffe’s depth perception too much, as drinks were flung carelessly into the crowd and, on his third attempt, managed to aim one into the seated balcony area followed by a mass of cheers.
The lights shut off and spotlights searched for Ryan O’Keeffe as he left his drumming throne to wind up the air-raid siren for the encore, his one moment in the night to be front and centre stage. His brother strummed out the opening riff to Live It Up from atop the speakers, before soloing through the crowd towards the balcony, settling on the lap of a middle aged woman who was clearly taken aback with the half naked, dripping with sweat unruly rocker before her.
Airbourne are on a bullet train to the top, the tidal wave of devil horns raised in agreement that it is and always will be, Rock N’ Roll For Life.