Crowbar @ The O2 Academy, Birmingham, UK – 21 January 2011

Posted by Bianca on Friday Jan 21, 2011 Under Metal


With a two-decade plus body of work behind them, and having been cited as elder statesmen of doom/sludge for most of that, there was only one ticket in town tonight for those acquainted with the art of bottom-end. The return of the masters of the riff, New Orleans, Louisana’s own, Crowbar.

The Academy was encouragingly rammed, and anticipation was at fever pitch, with this tour coming at the end of a six year exile from these shores. The downtime was mostly enforced by frontman Kirk Windstein’s moonlighting with Kingdom of Sorrow and filling concert halls and playing enormofests with Down, and whilst this has led to Crowbar being AWOL from the scene, it most definitely raised the profile of the band, added to their legend and gave them virtually a whole new audience to try and enrapture.


With a new album ready to drop, the timing couldn’t have been better and as they took to the stage with a tangible fire in their bellies, it exhibited an obvious hunger usually possessed by bands with decades less experience than that of Crowbar. With the likes of ‘High Rate Extinction’ and ‘Conquering’ thrown out to the masses early on in the set, it was apparent that Crowbar also have the confidence to back up such hunger, having spent twenty years honing their by-now signature sound.

And that’s not even mentioning the almighty fucking riffs they have at their disposal. Riffs that shift and slide tectonically against each other, down-tuned to the Richter scale. Riffs so heavy they have to walk with a stick and wash their arses with a hose. Riffs that you can trace back to where they first became a point of influence for fellow NOLA sluggers Eyehategod, and the half-speed breakdowns that Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta loved so much he sourced out Windstein with whom they created the boisterous Kingdom of Sorrow project.


With Windstein’s howling, aching voice acting as a rigid undercurrent against such monolithic musical accompaniment, it makes the melodies weaved throughout Crowbars output all that more effective, threading throughout the entire set like etchings in granite. His nakedly honest lyrical outpourings give the band a sense of integrity and honesty that has enabled their multitude of followers to connect on an emotional level since their inception, but crucially without ever veering into the realms of over-earnestness or hang-wringing melodrama.

With Crowbar hopefully poised to capitalise on the added attention that Windstein’s extra-curricular activities have afforded the band over the past few years, there was a raucous, almost semi-celebratory air in the room tonight, that solid appreciation that long-term fans hold for the band, yet knowing that if a few thousand extra pair of ears finally start to take notice they will still have the kudos of being there first, and that there’s probably not too many bands more deserving of a long-overdue slice of success.


As such, the set spanned the bands entire output with nearly all of their albums revisited. The likes of ‘I Have Failed’ and ‘All I Had (I Gave)’ saw widespread glee and an aggressive, yet considerate pit break out, and the closing ‘Planets Collide’ is still arguably the most potent coming together of Crowbars heaviness and melodicism, and if you didn’t howl along to, or bang your head at least one part of this song, well, sorry, but your membership to the Crowbar aficionados club may have to be revoked!


It took until the encore for the band to remind us that the purpose of the tour was to promote their new album, namely the staggering ‘Sever the Wicked Hand’, with first single ‘Cemetery Angels’ oozing from the speakers to close the set. Grumblers could grumble that maybe a more new-album-centric set could have benefitted the band more, but I respectfully disagree. This show seemed to be a celebration of Crowbars work, effort and wholly unfuckwithable back catalogue, that climaxed with a tantalising tease of the future. All signs pointed to the fact that with their new album, Crowbar may have completed a work that will finally see them getting the respect and recognition their undeniable longevity deserves. That next time, their later songs will receive the same unbridled enthusiasm that their older works received tonight. And it couldn’t happen to a more deserving band.

Crowbar Interview Image

Gig review by Duncan Wilkins
Gig photos by Gobinder Jhitta

Leave a Reply