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

Hayseed Dixie @ The Garage

15th March 2019

It was party and singalong night in Islington this evening as the bluegrass cover legends returned for their almost annual outing to the London stage.

Before though we had to endure ‘Just Tom & Pete’ whose original tracks were tongue in cheek and little more than a few bedroom penned ditties. Comedy relies on timing and delivery, unfortunately this set had little of either. To make matters worse the song craft was basic and bland, only saved by the bias towards covers, including the spice girls.

Hayseed Dixies arrival was greeted with rapturous adoration as their rock acolytes readied their vocal chords for a workout. It proved such that their set was a fantastic highlights reel of banjo based classic rockgrass hits. Clearly stage confident, their comedy banter was on point all night with beer fuelled quips and set pieces which showed their experience of soundtracking a great party night.

I’ll be honest band go so far to say the Banjo is clearly an underrated instrument. Associated with roots and country acts, when played at almost 100sps (strums per second) it gave each song a unique groove, which inherently made your body bob and sway.

Fast and furious was also the ‘lead’ guitarist Hippy Joe Hymas’ motto as he exhilarated the crowd with his showboating virtuoso antic on his…….MANDOLIN! It was truly fantastic to watch as this little crazy demon of whirling hair and sweat attacked this tiny instrument with flare and fury.

The set list was rammed with covers all withtheir unique spin, either slowed, sped or spiced it was different enough to be a Hayseed Dixie song, but familiar enough for everyone to sing along. Even the cheesy ballads raised a smile and many beer ‘glasses’. Even the odd original song sounded pretty good, ‘I’m keeping your poop’ being the best of the bunch.

Overall these guys know their audience, carry their instruments with pride and by gosh they can throw one hell of a rockin’ party,

Heaven’s Basement @ The Electric Ballroom

27th March 2014

Heaven’s Basement finally have found a rich vein of success and their headline show at The Electric Ballroom way back in March underlines their new found popularity. Their support came from a mix of sleaze glam hard rockers The Dirty Youth, who impressed with their melodic guitar work and big vocal hooks in the short time they were around.

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Glamour of the Kill, post-hardcore noiseniks did plenty to upset the hard rock theme and brought the metal edged nastiness. Razor sharp riffing and abundance of electro backings they surely entertained, but sadly lost marks for fairly average vocal efforts. At their best when straddling the line between metal and melody.

Heaven’s Basement were as impressive as ever. I liked their staging whereby their relatively short singer/lead guitarist were up on pedestals for all to see, adding that extra bit of pro-polish and entertainment value.

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Playing a mix of titanium edged guitars with a increasingly heavy outlook they truly rocked out. Combining their fast and heavy elements with their knack for Pop melodies and huge hard rock riff brings out their best.

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Vocalist Aaron has grown in confidence and is now a true front man with a great stage presence.

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Let’s hope they continue on their climb up the rock ladder. But as we all know, “It’s a long way to the top…if you want to rock and roll!”

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Airbourne @ The Forum

13th December 2013

The final show of 2013 was a real riot, a line-up packed with stars future and present mixing up the sub-genre’s but providing their own slant on high octane rock.

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The Treatment

First to stake out their claim, was the brash and rising young hard rockers The Treatment. Their set was a blast of power, guitar licks and melody flashing nifty moments of soloing prowess in a mix of big chorus’, thumping rhythms and a driving tempo. Their new material was ok, I Bleed Rock & Roll being the pick of the bunch, while the rest was difficult to connect with seeing this was the first airing. Melodies seemed to be there but they lacked the familiarity of the older repertoire which brought many more fist pumps from the sizable early crowd. Their stage act is slick, enthused and engaging which cannot be faulted (except for the stature of their bassist which seemed to irrationally irk fellow DiR man The Docktor). I wait with baited breath to see what the album has in store.

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Orange Goblin

Orange Goblin were next out, they wasted absolutely no time is obliterating any chance of being able to hear anything the next day. Their muscular and lolloping Stoner Rock cut huge swathes of gigantic riffage out of the mire of fuzz and astounding aural plunder. With sweat, dropped tuned guitars and long hair as standard they came, they saw and the conquered with their mega-sound. Having been about for a long time, many tracks were unfamiliar, but their blues based guitar licks never failed to impress. Vocals however (as with many live rock leviathans), were drowned and pulled helplessly into the whirlpool of noise. Hypnotic repetition failed to interest The Docktor, who was still reeling from the strength of his opinion on the first act. A defiantly different approach, but no less entertaining.

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Airbourne

Finally we arrived at the headline act, Airbourne, who have climbed to the upper echelons of Rock Mountain with effortless ease. A task made much easier by their standing on the shoulders of Rock Giants Ac/Dc. Tight and powerful rhythm guitars with a packed arsenal of dangerous riffs fronted by an equally perilous leader who seriously put his body on the line each and every night, tonight was no exception. From cracking open beer cans on his head (both macho and stupid), riding around on shoulders in the crowd and climbing to the balcony (both while continuing to blast out captivating guitar solos) the Joel O’Keeffe circus has an abundance of tricks.

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Joel O’Keeffe

Showmanship of the highest order keeps the crowd fixated throughout despite when songs seem to start merging together with their similar melodies. No questions asked, Airbourne were born to rock, as they ride each huge track from their pulsating opening riffs through rollicking and romping tempo’s to their cataclysmic crescendo’s. Simple and loud, their beer swelling party ethos and daredevil antics are the kind of rallying cry for all men to join and party, beers and fists aloft.

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Standout tunes were mainly the slower grooves which sparked huge sing and bounce-a-longs (yes, the elder crowd were jumpin’ too) such as No Way But The Hard WayBack In The Game and Too Much Too Young Too Fast fitting this particular billing. New album material went down well, mainly because it rather similar to all their previous records. While variety was in short supply, you cannot fault Airbourne for doing what they do best, putting on the best rock and roll show the world has ever seen! Tonight, they did just that!

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Black Spiders @ The Electric Ballroom

I’ll be honest, a get together of the DoesItRock motley crew for ages took precedence this evening, resulting in a later than planned entry to the Electric Ballroom this eve. Forgetting about the ridiculously early kick out times of venues with Friday night club nights, we were instantly greeted to the swell of anticipation at the arrival of the Black Spiders.

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Black Spiders

After being the only high ranking band in my top listen charts that I haven’t seen live, It’s fair to say I was excited. So they came, like hard rock behemoths they swooped and plundered riff after riff and terrorizing the audience with their macho Marshall/Gibson combo rock sound.

It was a shame then that after the release of a new album that they stuck to this material like glue, never venturing 2 or 3 song from its track list before coming running back again I guess after years of touring the same material they wanted to get their new stuff out there. 

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The new songs were flooded with guitars and quite often drowned out the vocals, whilst the chorus’s didn’t quite have the sing-a-long nature or immediacy of album one tunes. The highlights including the super heavy Motorhead style thrasher Teenage Knife Gang their ode to a late night stroll in Croydon Trouble and the power punching opener Knock You Out.

When the past beckoned it was clearly a cut above the rest on the sedate but infectious run through of “KISS Tried To Kill Me, the romper stomping mammoth sing-a-long of St. Peter and the carnage causing wind up and release of What Goods A Rock Without A Roll.

On the whole though it was the slower groovier sluggers which took most of the DiR praise, mostly because of the big chorus lines which gnawed into your head until you were singing like everybody else. I’m glad to have finally seen them, but given the pedestal I’d put them on before they struck a chord, it was going to be tough to match.

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Torche @ The Garage

19th August 2013

Stoner Rock Floridians Torche made the trip across the pond to bring their refreshingly pop-centric brand of heaviness to London. Some UK support band were up first, it was a mixed bag.

The Jerks were a simple duo who eminated a sense of normality, right down to the attire and jam style interplay. They really just seemed to be having a great time, which in itself is a crowd pleaser. They played a ramdon brand of fuzzy rock with spasmodic time signatures and tempos. Never the same for more than a minute they were tricky to keep track of, as they bounded on giddying gallops one moment to laborious plunders the next. A surprise package which was a early treat.

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The Jerks

If The Jerks were a bit random, then the Dundee based sub-headliners Fat Goth had to fight out of their strait jackets to get here tonight. They played a combo of deep chugging noise riffs all with undercurrents of very technical mathy fret runs and off-kilter melodies. They were mesmeric and hard to ignore, no matter which angle they decided to take. However when the vocalist opened his mouth it fell apart. Comical (and creepy) voices such as cowboy, falsetto’s, girly yelps and spoken words meant I felt embarrassed for the guy. Entertaining, yes…but in the way that’s really cringe worthy. Totally random and superbly enthralling, although not sure if its for the right reasons though.

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Fat Goth

With the main event imminent, Torche lined up with a towering statue. With the lights set to darkly and mysterious with flashes of ambient they begun the onslaught of the senses (I say senses, I mean hearing). Unfortunately the sound stampeding from their Orange amps was really awful. Whether it was a poor sound check we’ll never know, but the first 3-4 songs were blur of amp buzz and slurred riffs which have no bite or distinguishing melodies.

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Torche

This was never truly rectified and it was only on their more uplifting singles did the crowd really start to get behind them. Set highlights which did match expectations were the boulder thumping riffs of Kicking and the frenetic energies of Walk It Off restoring my faith in their sound.

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Rarely am I as disappointed as tonight, but when technical issues take a firm hold it’s hard to wrestle back control.