airbourne new@ Newcastle O2 Academy, December 4 2013

At a time when the global recession and the changing face of the music industry is threatening to forever alter the face of rock as we know it, a genre under fire responded by bringing it’s A-Team in 2013. 

Avenged Sevenfold unleashed their career-defining opus to top album charts across the globe, Airbourne slayed the Download crowd on the back of their most assured long player to date and Alter Bridge’s ascendancy into the big leagues was complete. Even Aerosmith got in the act by confirming they’d be headlining in Donington next summer.

Of those four A-star acts Airbourne have the widest appeal and greatest potential. Whether you’re a metal head raised on Maiden, a punk partial to P.I.L., a classic rocker tuned into AC/DC or even a sleaze kid making a bee-line for the Motley Crue rack, these four Aussies have the attitude, swagger and chorus-driven anthems to transcend genres.

The ubiquitous charm of their beer-fuelled party anthems was reflected in a crowd fit to bursting with fans of all ages and tastes. After a series of disappointing turn outs at venues across the North East it was heartening to witness a place packed to the rafters with fist-pumping rockers ready for an early Christmas party.

Airbourne obliged by bringing the Academy to boiling point – but not before openers The Treatment and Orange Goblin had started the ear drums ringing. Two great British bands on the rise have emerged as standard bearers for the UK’s next generation even if the former’s climb to the top continues to be an arduous journey almost two decades down the line.

Airbourne – buoyed by a hat-trick of hard rocking albums par excellence – continue to outpace the opposition. Opener Ready To Rock was more of a statement than a question but within seconds it was clear band and audience were as one where the intention to have a blast was concerned.

The brilliant Back In The Game, from 2013’s Black Dog Barking, will go on to become an Airbourne classic while Diamond In The Rough had them rolling in the aisles. Stand Up For Rock N Roll closed the main set just 60 minutes after Joel O’Keeffe and co. had bounded onto stage but the band that ruled Download 2013 are all about short, sharp bursts of adrenaline-fuelled ecstasy.

Twenty minutes later a buoyant encore was just about done. Live It Up, Raise The Flag and Runnin’ Wild will never win Grammys for songwriting excellence but on a windy Wednesday night in December they were just what the doctor ordered. Three perfect tunes to set the seal on a superb night of no-holds-barred entertainment – including TWO O’Keeffe tours of the venue – with just enough cheeky banter to boot.

Airbourne’s charistmatic frontman couldn’t resist a jibe at his English fans’ expense by dropping in a quick comment about cricket. It was hardly sledging on a Michael Clarke scale and drew well-intentioned boos from the smiling masses. All part of the act. O’keefe lapped it up. Airbourne brought their A-game to Newcastle and confirmed that they’ll be rocking for as long as they’re alive and well. It was the message everyone wanted to hear.

Simon Rushworth