In recent years, even before becoming a journalist of sorts, I’ve had multiple opportunities to catch Aussie rockers Airbourne in venues across Ireland and at festivals in the UK. Why hadn’t I taken the opportunity until now you might be asking? Unfortunately, that is a question I don’t have a proper answer for. I was very much aware of who they were and what they did. Their videos conquered music stations like Kerrang! or MTV Rocks at a time when I was a regular viewer (way before The Kooks and reality TV took over their schedules). However, I still walked the other way reducing what they did to a poor man’s AC/DC in both song and style. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, I’m quite fond of AC/DC and their bulletproof rock n’ roll formula, it just didn’t do much for me at the time.
On this occasion, I took the bait and I received an incredibly swift (metaphorical) punch to the jaw for my blatant ignorance. For those who haven’t got much time to read and please excuse my language – Airbourne absolutely fucking rocked the sold-out Limelight 1 to its concrete foundations, with a little help from Wolff hailing from Co. Wexford. The venue was chockfull with fans cladded in cut denim or black leather with Airbourne t-shirts or merchandise from their accepted peers in the likes of Kiss, Metallica, and Iron Maiden. My bright pink and sparkly Britney Spears t-shirt didn’t fit at all it seems, but why be a sheep when you be unique? The bar was the fullest I’ve seen it in years. The first thing I learnt coming to an Airbourne show is you’re here to get absolutely hammered and have a great time. What else would you be doing on a miserable Tuesday night anyway? Getting ready for work? Oh please…
First up was Wolff, a three-piece box meal from Co. Wexford. From the get-go, the band tapped into a very heavy Southern blues vein and further energised it, akin to the stylings of early Black Stone Cherry with hints of Theory of a Deadman, Them Crooked Vultures, Royal Blood, and Hendrix for good measure especially in the solos and licks. Gritty and tough riffs and low-end met sharp smashing drums, matching some clever hooks especially in the song ‘Go Fuck Yourself’ which was reprised at different stages in the set with plenty of eager crowd response. A highlight of their set for me was the fuzz-laden ‘Flesh Blood Skin & Bone’ which summoned the deep despairing desert gospel influences in chant and beat. As someone who has experienced the band for the first time, I’m very eager to be there for their return to Belfast which hopefully will be sooner than later.
Unveiling a wall of Marshall stacks, Airbourne brought the Aussie fury like a pack of wild dingo that found and bit into a crate of potent beer before starting a massive riot in the middle of a busy urban area in Melbourne. One thing that became quickly apparent was the change in sound and energy levels for the set opener ‘Ready to Rock’. The front row caught at the barrier were hanging off it headbanging for their lives, bucket loads of beer and liquor were thrown all over the place creating a lingering haze of alcohol, whilst a big ruckus kicked off in the middle of the venue to the enthralling rhythmS. The band had instigated the party with maximum effect and ferocious rock n’ roll FU attitude and chopping riff-age. Front man Joel O’Keeffe was primed, shirtless and already sweating profusely, with his guitar-slinging band mates Harri and Justin interchanging mics as they threw shapes and whipping their long locks, with drummer Ryan laying down the law rigidly in the back.
It was all runnin’ wild before the end of the opener before putting the foot down for the fan favourite ‘Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast’ which chugged and grooved towards its mighty chorus to get the punters singing and chugging (these boys should do advertising for beer companies). During ‘Girls in Black’, Mr O’Keeffe mounted the shoulders of his faithful roadie and went for a walk, simultaneously ripping a immense guitar solo in the middle of a fiesty pit before pausing to smash a beer open on his head and spraying the delicious beverage on all the people within the proximity. I’m sure many attendees, including myself, stood staring in shock and awe at this insane party trick and his perpetual supply of energy. His hasty movements, boasting, sneering, and posing alongside interactions with the crowd were continuous – ensuring everyone including the guy in the wheelchair to the side of the barrier was getting the full-blown Airbourne experience. Even good aul Lemmy got a heartfelt dedication in the form of the famous whiskey and coke on-stage.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2IyX5LXGyg&w=560&h=315]
Highlights of the set were the unleashed and over driven thrashed ‘Breakin’ Outta Hell’, the more reserved ‘Bottom of the Well’ which embodied the Brian Johnson era DC sound, the stompin’ and adrenaline-charged ‘Live It Up’ and the set closer ‘Runnin’ Wild’ that gave all the happy campers in the crowd one last chance to scream their lungs out and get ready for more drinks in Katy’s after the show.
To sum up the experience in one word, “awesome” fits the event perfectly. I fully withdraw any comments I’ve made about the band in the past. You read it here.
Review by Stephen Donnelly
Photography by metalplanetmusic