Volbeat @ Brixton Academy

26th September 2019

A night of heavyweight Hard Rock was ahead as vast swathes of revellers swelled the Brixton Academy bars early this evening. Why? Because it was almost time for Danko Jones.

Being first up didn’t seem to matter to Danko Jones, who was his usual chatty self who lives, breathes and eats rock and roll. The size of the crowd wasn’t a surprise, as after 20+ years, the band have built a loyal (if still mainly underground) following. To their credit, dwarfed by the huge stage they attacked each riff, shot every rapid fire lyric and fired every solo like they were headliners.

Showcasing classics from the back catalogue and newbies from ‘A Rock Supreme’, they mostly up to the big arena test. However you did fell their ambition and short punchy songs about rock, girls and partying somewhat restrictive. Soaring in the basement doesn’t always equal raising the roof. Despite this it was a very positive high energy from this amazing hard rock trio that set us off strong.

Lack of scale is not something you could attribute to the next band up. Baroness came storming out the blocks with their dreamy yet heavy, proggy offerings. What shone was their melodic phrasing which interlaced between their mammoth soundscapes. Never straying into pop but also unifying bind for their Stoner Metal keeping them on a common trajectory.

Yet despite the ambition and optimism the set largely fell flat as the crowd struggled to engage with these long epics with barely a recognisable vocal hook. Vocals overall were low and inaudible which put up barriers too high for the casual onlooker. Neither did their riffs shine, too often being expansive and arty as opposed to catchy and direct. Clearly dividing, but definitively different!

As the lights centred for the headline slot, Volbeat quickly and purposefully strutted into the spotlight. Opening with a new track from their latest album ‘Rewind, Replay, Rebound’ this clearly set the direction of their set. Tonight, a lot of the album got a spin and the hard and heavy pop first approach had plenty of voices raised and fists high. There was no doubting though this was a true rock show with endless thundering riffs, metallic shredding and head thumping melodies.

To their credit, there was a surprising amount of variety packed in. From the out and out old school thrash metal of ‘Slayton’, to the radio pop of ‘When We Were Kids’, through to rollicking boogie blues of ‘Let It Burn’, rockabilly metal “Sad Man’s Tongue ” and anthemic hard rocker ”Let It Burn”.

Band leader Michael Poulsen was as indecryptible as ever despite perfectly forming his words, all channeling through his smooth Elvis(y) vocals chords. None of this mattered though as whatever he was singing, it sounded great!

He was even joined by some special guests, Clutch’s Neil Fallon (via sample) and none other than Danko Jones himself to spit lyrics on Black Rose. It was a winning combination and one of the highlights of an evening full of top class hard rock class.

Crobot @ Underworld

26th July 2019

One of the best hard rock bands to emerge in recent years were in town. In fact they were worldwide as tonight’s headliners were being broadcast live over the interweb.

It was an odd start to the support act. I was sure I’d never heard of Wolf Jaw before, yet I was sure I recognised their opening song. A quick bit of mid song googling led me to the realisation that I was infact watching the band formerly known as “The Bad Flowers”. These ‘Planet Rock’ pushed rock trio were very tight and played a decent set of mid tempo riff rock that clipped along nicely. Lots of nifty melodies but a lack of real headline singles left this feeling a little flat.

With the cameras rolling and the stream online, out stepped Crobot‘s glamtastic frontman Brandon Yeagley with amazing sparkly bejewelled waistcoat and launched us straight into what was to be an exhilarating and exciting evening of hard rock. His highlight statement outfit was only matched in flamboyance by his dancing was a curiously engaging and visually magnetic. He didn’t stop all night, his long sleek locks were endlessly swirled round at hypersonic speeds, his legs were wobbling to the groove and his vocals supercharged.

The heart and soul of the band is their guitar tone. It’s rugged brutality, smooth mid-range and warm crunch really rampages out of their multitude of Orange amps. Their guitar rig was simple and barely a change was made throughout, showing their commitment to perfecting their riffing craft. Those riffs were bulldozer driven and vibrant in the dynamism, as was their signature rising warping effect which is as simple as it is bloody brilliant!

One thing did bug me though. Whilst I appreciate that bands like/need to play their new material in order to sell records. At least play these songs once the album is released and don’t play them a month before its release…as was the case tonight! Bar a few singles already out, much of their set was unidentifiable even if it still sounded fantastic.

The set itself was skewered between their astounding debut and their new record, somewhat absent mindedly skipping 2013’s Welcome to Fat City. Set highlights included the crushing power of ‘Cloud Spiller’ with its headsplitting skyscraping riff, a rockin’ ramble through fantasy pop land on singalong ‘Nowhere to Hide’ and the elephantine plodding menace of ‘Plague Of The Mammoths’.

There was little in the way of stage banter, with interaction from the stage fairly brief. With a clear time limit and a global outreach you did feel thy is was an all out attack set which whilst flying at 200% effort, inherently suffered with a lack of intimacy that you can usually guarantee in The Underworld. More like a concert dvd, which I guess is expected given it was recorded!

On reflection it was an outstanding showcase performance from an outstanding and exciting hard rock band.

Finally…for once you can experience yourself rather than take my word for it…stream available here Live Stream Recorded