This was billed as Airbourne’s ‘Mayfair’ moment, their Toon date with destiny, the gig that could seal their reputation as true heirs to the kings of rock. Thirty years ago, AC/DC played their last-ever Newcastle concert with Bon Scott as lead singer at the now-demolished Newgate Street venue. Though no-one could have predicted that within weeks, Scott would be dead, everybody there that night headed home knowing this was a defining period in the career of the Aussie band.
Megastardom beckoned and AC/DC had outgrown venues like The Mayfair forever. Comparisons with their Aussie descendants were inevitable at the Carling Academy last night and when Joel O’Keefe and the band came on stage at 9.53pm (!!) before crashing into a bombastic Stand Up for Rock n’ Roll, I couldn’t have been the only one at the sell-out gig transported back in time to the night Riff Raff was ringing in my ears.
So did Airbourne seize their moment? Well, yes and er, no.
Personally, O’Keefe’s throaty, occasionally helium-filled voice, is more reminsiscent of Angry Anderson from Rose Tattoo than Scott’s. And while so many of their anthemic songs could have been penned by the Young brothers themselves, Airbourne aren’t quite the band I expected them to be.
Maybe it’s an age thing.
Certainly the pups in the mosh pit loved every minute of their 56-minute set – and no, that’s not a misprint – 47 minutes plus encore. But Airbourne’s incredible energy is as much a weakness as a strength. The aforementioned opener, Runnin’ Wild and Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast are the stand-out songs on their stunning debut album and are received by an audience with all the enthusiasm reserved for bands with a back catalogue stretching back decades.
Yet Joel and the boys need to learn that less is sometimes more (and I’m not talking about the gig’s duration). One of AC/DC’s great strengths was to slow down the tempo without losing any power _ examples The Jack, Rock n’ Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution, Night Prowler and on the latest album, Rock n’ Roll Dream.
There’s no light and shade, little time to breathe and an absence of smoulder in this set and Airbourne are poorer for it. Perhaps they’re not interested in appealing to the 40-something crowd and are quite happy keeping the spotty-faced moshers happy. That would be a pity because as the crowd demonstrated last night, these Aussie newcomers have captured the devotion of rock fans aged between 10 and 70.
Will I buy their next album? Without a doubt. Will I attend their next gig? Only if it provides evidence that Airbourne can rock without driving 100 miles per hour down the fast lane.
The Stone Gods will have won many converts with their rousing set despite being cursed by an inadequate sound system. Richie Edwards revels in his frontman duties and shows an impressive vocal range in songs such as Burn The Witch and Don’t Drink the Water – the latter as catchy as anything The Darkness played.
Though no longer in his brother’s shadow, lead guitarist Dan Hawkins isn’t one of life’s showmen, preferring to let his strings to the talking. With a rhythm section as tight as Mike Ashley’s purse-strings, The Stone Gods just about managed to overcome the problems thrown at them as a support act.
Expect them back at the Carling as a headline act before too long. And before that with Black Stome Cherry next month…
Self Made Man