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Gig Review : Steelhouse Festival 2023 Day Two

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Review by Gary Spiller for MPM

I saw the black cat on the mountain

I saw the writing on the wall

I saw the lights go down on my street

And I watched them fall’

Black Cat – Florence Black

Atop the mountain there’s an almost equal amount of attention paid to the meteorological forces as there is the hard rocking dynamics. Here at Steelhouse the weather is often as diverse as the selection of mellifluous treats on offer. Holding one’s breath the curtain is drawn slightly and a trepidatious eye is cast outside. Result, there’s patches of blue and it appears that the overnight downpours have mooched off elsewhere.

There’s variance across the board; eight bands honourably flying a quintet of flags. English, Belgian, Canadian and Australian colours loftily cwtch the stiff breeze alongside the Ddraig Goch upon the Welsh standards. This is a day that promises much from a supporting card that is most noteworthy in its breadth of diversity to an almighty gargantuan three-way tussle at the top.

Sadly, Swedish psychedelic blues rockers Blues Pills have had to withdraw their services in the run-up to the weekend, but a wee re-jig sees perennial fan favourites Black Spiders drafted in; the Sheffield heavy rockers double-dipping into the rock n’ roll sauce with a slot later in the day at Derbyshire’s Rock & Blues Custom Show.

Ante meridiem has barely transmuted to post meridiem when London chisel-edged quintet Dead Man’s Whiskey head into the lunchtime warmth. Be it Irish or American these lads like their shot glass tipple with the all-important letter ‘e’ in it. With a crash of Charlie Gray’s cymbals and the roar of the twin Les Pauls of Billy Kons and Elliott D’Alverez coupled with James Titley’s bass ‘Masquerade’ rages like a bull out of the gate and right into the hypothetical china shop.

Ever since announcing their post-covid return with a storming set at 2021’s Stonedead festival there’s not only a growing sense of maturity but additionally an embodied evolution of sound. The heavier direction of ‘Masquerade’ along with latest single ‘Ravens Call’ sees a course set for waters darkened with the forthcoming second album ‘In The Storm’. This has in turn brought the older material, kicking and screaming, into the new chapter too.

“My heart is beating way to fast” proclaims vocalist Nico Rogers in a stampeding ‘Last Train’, neatly sandwiched between the two new tracks. It’s most certainly with a keen sense of focus upon the future that DMW strike a treble from their debut long-player ‘Under The Gun’ to crank it further upwards. Nico is gracious and playful “Max [Rhead] if you’re out there thank you for this wonderful opportunity to play this festival” before going on “I wanna kiss you all! Perhaps I’ll make time!”

‘This Fight’ takes on a steroid-induced strength – no track has the right to be this pugilistic and remain utterly melodious too! – prior to the ever-emotional ‘Make You Proud’ makes the core of the mountain gently weep. Penned to make memories for Nico’s mother it’s a number that’s pertinent to us all. Hollering down the freeway ‘Racing Bullet’ and is an excellent caper with which to bring the opening half hour to a befitting crescendo. The early doors gathering roar loudly, the middle day is outta the traps!

Explaining his bright yellow jacket and trousers combination Planet Rock DJ Darren Reddicks provides one of THE quotes of the weekend prior to introducing Austin Gold; “In a sea of black be a banana if possible!” 24 carat pure self-deprecating comedy gold no doubt of it.

Pre-pandemic Austin Gold were gathering good momentum following touring with King King and an appearance on Ramblin’ Man’s stage. Constructed upon the solid foundation of 2017’s Classic Rock Magazine approved debut album ‘Before Dark Clouds’ and an eponymous ep almost two years later the Peterborough quartet were approaching the new decade with hopeful expectations.

However, the not insignificant matter of Covid-19 pressed an almighty pause button on everything. Subsequently there’s been a period of reconstruction and with a much-lauded second long-playing offering ‘Those City Lights’ in the bag there’s a verifiable buzz being generated.

Whilst they’re a band new to me it’s evident these slick 70s-infused rockers possess a healthy following given the amount of their merch on display and a more than sizeable gathering to greet their entrance to a low, droning intro. Footsteps in the shadows, a heart beats loudly.

Clinquant keyed notes courtesy of Adam Leon combines with a mean rhythm delivered from bassist Lee Churchill and James Pepper from behind his kit. Along with a raw riff emanating from David James Smith’s Gibson Firebird it’s an attention-grabbing splendour.

‘Before Dark Clouds’ opening number ‘Brand New Low’ sets an initial marker in the sand. Shreds of Aussie rockers INXS and Jimmy Barnes (think back to the soundtrack of 1987 supernatural horror film ‘The Lost Boys’) are woven together with soulful patches of Al Green’s ‘Take Me To The River’ in a hard rocking embrace.

The easy feel of ‘Cut & Run’ is followed by one of a clutch of songs so appropriate to this festival’s setting. Every inch the frontman Smith smiles “Steelhouse the blue skies are above us!” before launching into ‘Mountain’. “No mountain will break it, what we have found” roars Smith atop an opulent layering of Jon Lord-esque keyboards and a vast pageantry of southern licks.

Transient atmospherics uplift seismically in ‘Before Dark Clouds’ on the day it’s reported a certain Taylor Swift is reported to have created a recordable quake (of 2.3 magnitude) in Seattle. Personally, I wouldn’t swap locations as we gracefully glide effortlessly above the high moors. Quite aptly a seemingly lost gull soars past mid-track.

The thrill of the chase with ‘Roadside’ is pursued down the southern highway by the arenaceous ‘Caught On You’ as AG rattle along plundering an abundant rocking vein. Contradictorily entitled set-ender ‘Never End’ raspingly rocks as the second set of the day comes to high-standard of conclusion.

The re-shaping of the day’s running order gets underway with the ten-legged hard rocking arachnid collectively known as Black Spiders consuming thunder and passing lightning at the appropriate junctures. A late replacement for last-minute withdrawals Blues Pills the Spiders are welcomed with wide open Steelhouse arms but are on a tight schedule with a second festival slot in Derbyshire just a few hours later.

It’s been quite a rollercoaster for co-founders Pete ‘Spider’ Spiby and Adam ‘The Fox’ Irwin since emerging, nearly three years ago, from a hiatus just shy of four years. Guitarists have come and gone but with loyal percussive lieutenant Planet Rock’s Wyatt ‘Octopus’ Wendels the powerhouse continues to pulverise all in its path. The mysteriously monikered J’Evans and D’ron have settled into the ranks ensuring a triple-pronged six-string onslaught remains central to the Spider ethos.

Sheffield steel is brandished as the quintet file on stage to an ecclesiastical styled spaghetti western intro track; a trademark rapid-fire “1-2-3-4!” from Wendels and ‘Death Comes Creepin’ ensures a doom-laden commencement. Following this dip into the darkened shades of their self-titled comeback album the spotlight is shone upon the latest studio recordings ‘Can’t Die, Won’t Die’ with ‘Hot Wheels’ vigorously fulminating with its steely fire eliciting a loud cheer from the now packed arena.

The punked up metalliferous assailment of ‘Stay Down’ replete with the obligatory pause for the time-honoured one-digit salute and chant of “Fuck You Black Spiders” is given total respect from the raucous ensemble. The Spiders know how to rampage and plunder in equal amounts, a whole fleet of Viking longships wouldn’t come close to the punch packed by ‘Stabbed in the Back’. Spiby cracks open a can and raising it greets the crowd “Hope you fuckers are getting suitably drunk! If not there’s something suitably wrong!”

Further obsidian shadowed tracks in the form of ‘Destroyer’ and ‘Strange’ are teleported in from the latest album as Sabbath-ish riffing is warped into the Spiders dimension. Spiby tongue-in-cheek likens themselves, just a fortnight after the 38th anniversary of Live Aid, to the “Phil Collins of Steelhouse, two festivals in two countries in one day!”

There’s an underworldly bombastic with ‘Kiss Tried To Kill Me’, “It was Gene not Paul” rages Spiby. The thunder clouds amass on the horizon with ‘A Rat Is A Rat’ ratcheting up the rodent rocking. Prior to launching into a melding of Zodiac Mindwarp and the Rolling Stones in ‘Fly In The Soup’ Spiby whips up the Steelhouse faithful “Don’t worry that we might be away in Derbyshire. You’ll have the mighty Those Damn Crows and the even mightier Airbourne!”

With a nod and wink towards Deep Purple’s ‘Highway Star’ the hammerblow of Spider’s signature track ‘What Good’s A Rock Without A Roll?’ The advisory of “Eat thunder, shit lightning’ is liberally offered as a tumultuous three quarters of an hour flashes by in the blink of an eye.

Most festivals slip in one swerve ball in musical terms and this year’s at Steelhouse is Belgian multi-layered rockers Black Mirrors. Formed in the latter part of 2013 this beguiling quintet captivate from the very off. Fronted by bewitching vocalist Marcella Di Troia they’re off and running with the gothic expressions of ‘Snake Oil’, the opening track off last year’s ‘Tomorrow Will Be Without Us’. “Rise up with all your faith” encourages Marcella, engagement ensured.

The Black Mirrors’ groove soon has me thinking back to Aussie fuzzed up garage rockers Devil Electric. Hard charging across all fronts ‘Günther Kimmich’ ripples, under blue skies, across the surrounding moorland. Based in Brussels the high hills of Steelhouse must feel a million miles away from their capital city surroundings but Black Mirrors are eager to demonstrate why leading rock and metal label Napalm Records snapped them up several years ago. The titular track off their 2017 debut EP ‘Funky Queen’ serves a highly piquant slice of 60s / 70s rock beloved of MC5 and The Stooges. Pierre Lateur’s battered white Stratocaster screeches amongst the maelstromic tempest that batters its way out of the basement.

Di Troia enthuses “Oh my god what an amazing day!” continuing “[It’s] not everyday we play in the UK, as Belgian people it means a lot!” The gritty tones of ‘Lost in Desert’ starts a fine hat-trick from ‘Tomorrow Will Be With Us’ with the stark message of ‘Anthropocene’ the filling in the rock n’ roll sandwich completed with the haunting ‘Tears To Share’. The middle track intrigues with its slant on the proposed geological epoch marked by the acceleration of human impact upon the Earth’s geology and ecosystems. “Remaining deaf to every warning, In a blink of an eye, transform our land, As if nature was an endless bank giving us a loan” warns the track’s second verse.

A brief shower doesn’t detract from the pounding furrows of ‘Lay My Burden Down’, a raging dervish brandishing blades of the finest metal. ‘Hateful Hate I’ll Kill You’ bustles with dynamic animation. It’s as if the individual components are harassing for complete attention; an inner strength within ensures that the threatening implosion doesn’t occur. It’s within a gnat’s wing of kicking off but because there’s a firm hand on the tiller the effulgent chaos broils and froths but doesn’t overspill.

It’s a busy summer with festival slots across the continent including the likes of Graspop Metal and Wacken Open Air and based upon this showing I reckon their calendar for next year will be even fuller. Infectious, oft-mysterious, hypnotic by the bucket load Black Mirrors don’t toe the line and nor should they. Darkened closing number ‘Burning Warriors’ is grunge laced with truly engaging riffs soaring the height of the highest peaks entwined with bleeding melodics that beg addiction. The Belgians have come and conquered leaving a high percentage clamouring for a return to these shores. Marcella forms a heart with hands as they take the deserved cheers, they’ve enjoyed their first experience of festival rocking Steelhouse style.

With the likes of Bywater Call and The Commoners there’s a definite Canadian insurgency going on across this side of the Atlantic. Right at the very forefront and slap bang at the epicentre of this rock n’ roll invasion is Montreal’s The Damn Truth. Via the hard graft of good old-fashioned touring, post-covid, this retro-fuelled quartet have begun to crack this territory. By my reckoning this is the third tour inside 18 months, the rewards are beginning to be reaped.

The military rat-a-tat of Jefferson Airplane’s 1967 classic ‘White Rabbit’ ushers the band forth with it’s ethereal psych. A call emanates from a hookah smoking caterpillar; this is The Damn Truth in a consummate nutshell. Multi-layered magnificence from both the 60s and 70s encompassed in a 21st century package. Vocalist / guitarist Lee-la Baum, arms out wide, sings along with Grace. Clearly a musical influence along with the likes of Janis Joplin.

Gathered around Dave Traina’s kit the front trio of Lee-la and Tom Shemar (lead guitar) and PY Letellier (bass) the quartet drive headlong into the Planet Rock playlisted 2021 single ‘This Is Who We Are Now’. Trained in from ‘Now or Nowhere’ the album that has catapulted the band firmly into the glare of the spotlight. This is a magical moment; I’ve waited a good while to see this outfit but it’s totally worth the wait. Total captivation inside one track.

With a country-fringe ‘Full On You’ and its nitrous southern conjuration invokes bygone Woodstock vibes. All that’s missing is the pervading wafts of campfires across the arenas. Even with switching guitars mid-track Tom maintains a thrilling hi-speed despatch with bassist PY. With PY driving the intro’ing notes of the sultry, smoke hazed heartbreaking rock of ‘Too Late’ the attentions flicks across to TDT’s 2012 debut ‘Dear In The Headlights’. Appears I have a lot of catching up with regards the back catalogue of this stunning outfit. Lee-la sinks to her knees at the end of the Steelhouse runway as the accelerator is pressed hard to the floor.

With a bluesy intro right off the levee, an uplifting swaggering groove, a soulful angst I’m left pondering upon how so much musical pulchritude can be condensed into the less than three minutes of ‘Lonely’. “A hundred dollar bills will get you guns and pretty pills” informs Lee-la.

The night flight of the owl in the country-infused hopefulness of ‘Only Love’. A sparkling solo is finely carved out from Tom’s roughly restrung guitar, its head a glorious web of untrimmed strings. ‘Look Innocent’ brings a sudden change of tempo with a soulful Aretha despatch, “Steelhouse this is a true love affair, often I talk about love it’s very important to me” extols Lee-la exchanging a knowing glance with her partner Tom.

Blues skies are the perfect accompaniment for ‘Devilish Folk’ the quirky wonderful title track of 2016’s album, from the gentle unplugged feel of the opening notes through to its ascent upon uplifting thermals so the skylark sings. Lee-la sings “There’s no room for people like you and me” but looking about seemingly there is, for this weekend once a year, a spiritual home right here at Hafod-Y-Dafal. Dates are in the diary for 2024.

‘Get With You’ snarls and gnashes teeth; Lee-la kicks out to the industrious hook whilst Tom engages “Steelhouse let’s make this moment special! Let’s pretend we’re at a sold-out festival in the middle of the mountains” adding a rousing “Let’s go motherfuckers!” There’s time for one more with PY, horns raised, bouncing to Dave’s steam-hammer beats as the lavish highway affluence of ‘Tomorrow’ is unleashed. Steelhouse volcanically erupts, a newly crowned crowd favourite has been taken to the festival’s heart.

It’s fair to say that in the couple of years following the release of their debut album ‘Weight Of The World’ local lads Florence Black have generated an absolute shedload of momentum. Planet Rock’s Best New Band last year, touring stadiums supporting Germanic behemoths Böhse Onkelz has provided a solid foundation for a 2023 during which the triumvirate from Merthyr Tydfil have pushed on even further. Slots at such prestigious festivals as Hellfest, Sweden Rocks, Maid of Stone and deserved headliner at Love Rocks demonstrate a tangible progression and all achieved without the support of a record label.

New material is in the offing with new single ‘Start Again’ aired to dramatic effect early on in the set. In fact, its release was celebrated just down the valley, a couple of months ago, with a brace of sold-out shows at the redoubtable Patriot venue in nearby Crumlin. Recent support slots with tonight’s headliner Airbourne have reaped dividends too; there’s a steely glint in their approach early on this second evening up on the mountain.

The atmosphere and levels of expectation grow exponentially with the ‘Zulu’ intro to which the band enter. The forcefulness of their entrance – akin to that of a major title boxing bout – demonstrates what returning to Steelhouse means to them. With their horns raised and punching the air drummer Perry ‘Perk’ Davies and bassist Jordan ‘Foz’ Evans lead the charge with guitarist Tristan Thomas roaring “Scream for me Steelhouse!” and rallying, in trademark fashion, “Make some noise motherfuckers!” Joel O’Keefe is going to have his work cut to match this level of intensity!

The intro veers tangentially off into the marauding fermentation of ‘Smoke’. “Why don’t you open your eyes?” implores frontman Tristan. The trio make their first venture into last year’s highly praised debut lp with the smoking gun ‘On The Ropes’. “It’s so good to be back” confirms Tristan just in case we required affirmation.

The cataclysm is torn asunder, Steelhouse is under an onslaught several years in the coming; Merthyr is well and truly rising. Single-only release ‘Bird On A Chain’ stampedes furiously before latest single ‘Start Again’ propagates raw, feral seismic waves. Although his voice isn’t quite at full strength Tristan doesn’t hold back, “Let’s see your fucking hands up in the air” he roars. Only those of us who know will recognise he’s battling bravely against restricting forces that he’s determined to overcome.

Foz joins in with the vocal duties in the buzzsawing wildness that is ‘The Deep End’, clenched fists in the crowd jab upwards at Tristan’s behest. His demonic solo is contrastingly countered with multi-hued bubbles and an even brighter inflatable unicorn. Herein lies the very spirit that makes Steelhouse so very special to so very many. The corybantic output of ‘Can You Feel It’ ensures the opening waves of despatch are matched.

“Give it up for Max and Mikey! We love you guys!” offers Tristan before furthering as way of introduction “You might have seen some lyrics coming up the mountain.” The palatial Celtic resonance of ‘Black Cat’ lifts me to a higher plane for up here in the heart of the Welsh hills so Cath Pulag does proudly prowl her domain. This is a striking moment one that shall live long.

Eyes closed, head tilted Tristan’s exalted vocals usher in ‘Down’ as the track builds up note upon note as does the castle wall with the addition of each stone. The crowd, in unison, bounce in response to Tristan’s motioning for the rasping ‘Zulu’.

A memorable set concludes with two contrasting styles; the beauteous bludgeoning that is FB’s version of fellow Welsh rockers Budgie seminal prog-metal opus ‘Breadfan’. Leaning more towards Metallica’s fabled cover than to the original justice is, of course, more than liberally served by the Merthyr trio. “I saw a little mosh pit open up [earlier]. Let’s open that shit!” encourages Tristan with a glint in his eye.

A rapturous roar emanates from the Steelhouse crowd packed into the arena as Tristan hits those instantly recognisable opening licks of the infinitely wondrous ‘Sun & Moon’. For one last time Tristan rages “Scream for me Steelhouse!” with the crowd responding by singing as the band briefly pause to, no doubt, soak in the incredible atmosphere. Concluding Tristan emotes “We love you Steelhouse.” There’s no need for this to be complicated, a straightforward display of sincere emotions as the local trio acknowledges a job well done.

Following on is a tough task for sure but in Those Damn Crows here’s one band that’s surely up for this sort of challenge. After all it’s the very same calling card they’ve laid down countless times since exploding on to the scene a few years ago with their debut ‘Murder and the Motive’. Many a headliner has become inadvertently ‘wrecked’ upon these very rocks.

2023, putting it in elementary terminology, what an absolute year of craziness thus far. Returning to their spiritual home atop the Steelhouse mountain is representative of one of the many lofty pinnacles achieved inside the near eight months that have comprised the calendar thus far.

For starters, a first-ever UK headline tour that culminated in a sold-out arena show in Swansea just 24 hours following their third album ‘Inhale/Exhale’ taking the Official UK Album Charts by storm at number 3. Major support slots with The Goo Goo Dolls and The Hollywood Vampires have ensued with the band being out on the road for a solid two months.

Barely home a week from those weeks of gigging hither and thither across Europe the Crows are flexing their collective wings for a trek up the mountain to complete a Welsh 1-2 hammer blow on 2023’s middle day. From a crowd numbering less than 50 in Swansea just a few years ago to that sell-out arena show in the very same city this evening’s 6000 or so souls rammed into the arena represents the largest crowd I’ve witnessed the Crows play in front of.

Bells toll and crows cackle in that distinct Corvus passing of seeming animadversion to all and sundry. Five familiar figures stride forth, enigmatic drummer Ronnie Huxford, playfully, takes a bow as energetic frontman Shane Greenhall enquires “Steelhouse are you ready?” furthering with a challenge “Show me you are ready!” White strobes flash rapidly “We are Those … Damn … Crows !!!” he roars as pyrotechnics flame.

With rambunctious joy the adoring crowd loudly sing the titular words of the set-opening ‘Who Did It’ ensuring sparks fly in conflagrant fashion. The sun may not be shining in the valley below but it sure is up here upon the mountain. It’s clearly evident the band are buzzing with a quick “Wassup Steelhouse” Shane affirms their arrival, taking a breath before confessing “Oh my god, we have missed you!” The honest sincerity is truly palpable, this is the Crows’ crowd.

With maximum chuggage, right up to the permissible eleven of course, ‘Send The Reaper’ is right royally despatched with its trademark quick-fire chorus. This pairing from ‘Point Of No Return’ is rolled directly into by a coupling off the latest studio offering ‘Inhale/Exhale’.

Clearly moved by the crowd’s response to ‘Man On Fire’ Shane holds his palm over his heart to salute the masses. “Fucking ssh!” he chuckles before quipping “It’s like talking to my nine-year-old son!” I think I’m safe in stating that is likely to be the first time this comparison has been made at Steelhouse.

‘Wake Up (Sleepwalker)’, with an idiosyncratic eastern flavouring, sees Rhiannon Hill (Kira Mac singer) going nuts in front of me in the crowd. The mid-evening skies remain mercifully blue even with clouds amassing out on the weather-bearing horizon, even Taranis dare not interrupt proceedings.

We’re transported back to the first album with, firstly, a rollickingly boisterous ‘Don’t Give A Damn’ followed up by the anthemic, and one-time set-closer, ‘Rock N’ Roll Ain’t Dead’. I, for one, never foresaw a day where this track’s placing would be anything other than right at the end of play. However, such is the craft of the Crows that another track has, currently, deservedly taken on this role.

During the ever-emotive ‘Blink Of An Eye’ my thoughts drift to Crows gigs up here in the valleys; early headline shows of which I’m told of like good friend Ceri Davies’ 50th birthday bash up, some six years ago, in Ebbw Vale or a particularly striking night in early 2018 at Crumlin’s Patriot. Of one thing I’m sure is that somewhere amongst all these shenanigans there lurks a rather tasty book! I’m brought back into the present as twin six-stringers Ian ‘Shiner’ Thomas and David Winchurch exchange those harmonious trademark licks.

We swing into the second half of a round baker’s dozen with ‘Go Get It’ doing precisely what it states on the exterior of the tin with the crowd counting in the Crows. ‘Takedown’, with its ‘haunted voices’ intro, is well received as TDC remain firmly in top gear. ‘Sin On Skin’, the first Crows track to rack up a million plus Spotify streams, receives the loudest roar yet from the partisan ensemble.

Shane ‘lets it slip’ that they’ll be headlining one of the three days of next year’s Planet Rocks Winters End festival down at Trecco Bay, Porthcawl before a tempest rages within ‘Long Time Dead’. A chill wind blows across Steelhouse, contrails cross over in the evening skies above during ‘This Time I’m Ready’, a kiss from heaven possibly?

Far too quickly we reach the final number with roars of mock disapproval. Shane offers gratitude to Max and Mikey on behalf of the band “Steelhouse thank you so much no doubt we will ‘See You Again’!” Most firmly and befittingly ensconced as the Crows’ showstopping curtain call this track has been taken to the very beating heart of the Crow Family.

The Steelhouse baton is passed on to Australian outfit Airbourne and with it the meaty task of headlining day 2. The antipodean hard rocking leviathan are a mean beast, but the gauntlet has been firmly and squarely laid down by a determined Welsh 1-2 that smashed down the ramparts afront a partisan home crowd.

None of this would, of course, be of any concern to Airbourne themselves. They’ve been tearing up the script for a couple of decades now since their formation back in 2001. Co-founding O’Keeffe brothers Joel (guitar / vocals) and Ryan (drums) along with long-standing bassist Justin Street and very recent recruit Brett Tyrell (guitar) have been on the road since the beginning of June – opening up with a warm-up gig at Frome’s Cheese and Grain prior to illuminating Sweden Rocks amongst others. It’s Norway one day then Hungary the next, hard touring goes with hard gigging! It’s just the Airbourne way.

With a bank of amps lined up in a ‘wall of death’ and a slew of extra lighting the four-piece had certainly brought their party up the mountain track. Treading their initial steps on the Steelhouse boards to the theme tune of Terminator the crowd greet the Aussie headliners with an almighty bellowing approval. Lighting flashes and spots circle somewhere, unspotted, in the darkened depths a chest quaking bass grumbles monstrously. Airbourne have landed.

It’s Motorhead furiously fused with AC/DC as Joel roars with a glint in his eye. The freneticism is unrestrained and we’re, naturally, ‘Ready To Rock’. It’s no-nonsense and proudly unpretentious. Inflatable kangaroos and dinosaurs bounce about down the front of the hard-partying crowd.

The balls out rock of ‘Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast’ could be the band’s motto but that is saved for the next track ‘Rock n’ Roll For Life’. Heck the initials are even emblazoned upon their logo. Joel thanks the Steelhouse crowd with his trademark gusto adding “You are true believers up here! Rock n’ roll ain’t no kind of fashion. Rock n’ roll is for life [and] we got a few lifers out ‘ere!”

‘Back In The Game’ is a riotous ass-kicking romp whilst ‘Girls In Black’ is dedicated to all the ladies dressed in black. Now who commented that romance is dead? A roadie shoulders Joel as he embarks his up close and personal engagement with the crowd returning to the stage to hammer the living daylights from his guitar. Subtlty isn’t Airbourne’s business they leave that for other folks, they’re in the live hard, rock hard portion of the spectrum.

Out on the runway Joel sprays beer as if it’s going out of fashion during utter fury of ‘Burnout The Nitro’; you can hear the thunder a hundred miles away. In a crowd pleasing move Joel offers up the rarely played ‘Steel Town’, the only time it’s been played on this current tour and according to records the first time it’s been aired in over a decade. Joel informs that it’s a century since work commenced on the Sydney Harbour Bridge and that the steel apparently originated from this region. A sincere touch that further endears the Aussies to the crowd who reciprocate with a thunderous approving cheer.

Unashamedly AC/DC to the nucleus ‘Bottom Of The Well’ is as Joel states “One of those songs that can pull you out of the ditch.” Its tornadic forces get the blood pumping which is just as well as Joel whips up the crowd further for ‘Breakin’ Outta Hell’. “Let’s get you fuckers moving!” as he goes toe to toe with Florence Black’s Tristan in the swearing stakes.

If anyone is left unsure of the pride of Airbourne in their DNA and ancestry, then the next two tracks should erase any lingering doubt. Lemmy’s bar is wheeled out during ‘It’s All For Rock n’ Roll’. “Are you thirsty Steelhouse?” asks Joel, our host with most certainly the most. Drinks fly into the crowd and glasses are raised to Lemmy who, no doubt, would wholeheartedly approve. Crashing headlong into ‘Stand Up For Rock n’ Roll’ sees the Steelhouse crowd go wild and in places mosh pits open up.

Propellers and engines roar as the air raid siren sounds, spotlights circle searching in the night sky as the devil borne detonation of ‘Live It Up’ shakes the mountain.

The set-closing ‘Runnin’ Wild’ gets a mahoosive hell yeah as the metaphorical curtain comes down on Steelhouse’s Saturday with a wild whirlwind of Airbourne mayhem and misadventure. Airbourne have brought their A-game to the mountain and rocked the Welsh hills to the very core.

Photography by Kelly Spiller for MPM

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