Airbourne, Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown, Cellar Door Moon Crow @Newcastle O2 Academy, November 17 2019

It’s almost 11 years to the day that Airbourne made their O2 Academy debut.

And it’s startling just how far these daft-as-a-brush Aussies have come.

Back in 2008, Rushonrock’s unimpressed reviewer criticised the Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast quartet…for playing too little, too late.

Five albums down the line and it’s no surprise that an all too brief 56-minute set has been fleshed out to an hour and a half.

And if the headliners could have played so many more boneshaking anthems on their triumphant return to Tyneside, then the length of a footy match must be optimum Airbourne.

Any more and rabid frontman Joel O’Keeffe would surely suffer a cardiac arrest. 

But any less and it’s fair to say die-hard fans of Warrnambool’s finest would have fresh cause for complaint.

The Duracell-charged (other battery brands are available) O’Keeffe barely pauses for breath.

Never has done, never will.

It’s only when he’s astride the shoulders of his designated ‘ride’ that he gets the chance to take a seat.

And even then a sweat-soaked O’Keeffe is furiously bashing away on his long-suffering fretboard – up close and personal with the band’s noisiest acolytes.

Those famous forays into the eye of the storm – aka the mosh pit – have become the stuff of legend where O’Keeffe is concerned.

Alongside the mobile Motörhead bar, ear-piercing crank siren and beer-tossing competition, the frontman’s trips into the unknown are a familiar staple of a relentless show.

And these days Airbourne know how to stretch things out, sustain the mood and create tiny pockets of space within the tightest of sets.

O’Keefe cannily cajoled the hometown crowd with regular references to Newcastle – focusing on each syllable to crank up the suffocating sense of mutual appreciation.

And if there were no obvious breaks then a series of carefully planned pauses at least allowed the Aussie party-starters to towel down and ramp things up.

New tunes from Boneshaker – including the brutal title track – made their presence felt. 

But it was the new life breathed into old classics that made the most lasting impression.

A visceral version of Cheap Wine & Even Cheaper Women was a stirring standout.

But Bottom Of The Well, from 2010’s No Guts No Glory, was the pick of a passionate bunch.

A setlist built on seamless transitions reinforced the view that Airbourne rarely deviate from the norm.

In 16 years the Victorian rock and rollers have tirelessly fought against any faux reinvention.

Airbourne Ozmosis? Not a chance. 

If It Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix It should be the title of the next Airbourne album. 

Sweaty Bastards Blasting Out A Bloody Racket would be an acceptable alternative.

Unless Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown get there first.

In fact there’s an argument for handing Airbourne’s special guests the ‘band of the night’ award given the Nashville collective’s truly inspiring set.

There is no antidote to TB (as he likes to be known). His sheer presence is infectious and complete submission is the only cure.

Raised on the blues and inspired by rock and roll, The Shakedown’s main man is a whirling dervish of riff-fuelled mayhem.

Touted as a heady mix of Southern rock and outlaw country, this is a band that’s as much punk and post-grunge as it is pure Music City.

And there’s no doubt a stint recording the band’s new album in New York injected fresh impetus into a quartet yet to determine its predominant DNA.

On To The Next, from 2019’s critically acclaimed Truth And Lies, is a compelling scatter gun of an anthem with an ear-worm of a chorus backed by a gritty riff.

But Aftershock, from 2017’s self-titled sophomore release, is signature Shakedown: immersive, implosive and seriously impressive.

So to openers Cellar Door Moon Crow.

Quizzical looks and audible laughs greeted bullish brothers Phil and Tommy Goodwin.

And for a while the majority of Airbourne’s early birds didn’t know what to make of the ‘Crow.

But when all is said and done did a typically diverse set devoid of any genre classification do the trick?

Yes and no.

Rock fans love energy, courage and humour. CDMC have all three in spades. 

But Airbourne devotees tend to favour the verse-chorus-verse blueprint of traditional rock and roll.

And there’s nothing traditional about one of the least predictable duos on the live scene. 

That’s not a criticism by the way. It’s cause for Cellarbration.

Images By Adam Kennedy