REVIEW – AIRBOURNE

@Newcastle O2 Academy, November 23 2016

Breathless, boisterous, brilliant. Airbourne have bottled the perfect formula for a full throttle rock and roll show and one of the most compelling live acts on the planet continue to set the standard for the new generation of guitar slinging heroes.

Very little has changed since the band first tore up the Toon on their debut headline show at the same venue in 2008. There’s still the same furious approach to feisty Aussie Rock and the same steadfast refusal to reinvent the wheel.

But the subtle differences bring out the best in this ear-bleeding quartet: a slick light show, ever expanding Marshall stack and bulging back catalogue make Airbourne mightier than ever. This is gonzo rock that never grates.

There are many, many bands who make more cerebral music. Many acts who pepper their trademark tunes with opaque lyrics and meandering solos. And many musicians who would mock Airbourne’s simplistic approach to AC/DC-styled entertainment. But few come close to matching Melbourne’s finest in terms of energy, attitude and addictive positivity.

Most – if not all – of what you see at an Airbourne show has been done before. The riffs have been rearranged and the words might have changed but this is, in essence, a throwback to when Bon Scott and Angus Young injected the X-Factor into DIY rock. And as a result it’s the most reassuring live show you’ll see all year.

There’s no posturing, no pretence and no sense of ego-fuelled self-importance. Airbourne’s mantra is simple: play with passion and play to win. A packed house suggested the fans are with them every step of the way – there were no dissenting voices as frontman Joel O’Keeffe ripped through a back catalogue that now includes the typically brash Breakin’ Outta Hell. The band’s new album is much the same as the previous three: familiar themes include drinking, fighting and partying (often concurrently) and it does the same job in terms of tearing a strip off the opposition.

Those new to Airbourne may be surprised that bands like this still exist. Even more surprising, maybe, is that an act built on little more than a blind devotion to riff-fuelled mayhem can comfortably sell out Newcastle’s O2 Academy. However, there’s no substitute for intoxicating rock and roll in its rawest form: the only criticism is that O’Keeffe and co. could have stretched out the main set for a few more minutes. This gig could have been longer but it couldn’t have been louder. And for Airbourne that’s the ultimate compliment.

I’m a journalist specialising in sport and rock music. Can’t play either so I write about them instead.

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