Gig Review by Gunnar Mallon with Photography by Mark Loraine

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A lot of long hair, black shirts, and too much leather in the streets could only mean one thing: Rock’n’roll was back in town. Tonight it took the form of the spectacular Aussie hard-rockers Airbourne, who were supported by the equally energetic and powerful Crobot and The Franklys.

Music lovers of all generations descended on the Academy in Leeds, with some too frail to stand up and others too young to stand still. Only few bands bridge the generation gap as well as Airbourne and the audience knew that they were in for a musical and theatrical treat.

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Kicking off the proceedings were London-based rock-garage band The Franklys, who, despite only playing to a half full Academy gave it there all and banged out heavy rock and garage riffs. At times The Franklys felt a little inexperienced, focussing too much on the theatrical rather than the musical elements of their show. Trying to live up to the craziness that was to follow, this can be forgiven and the crowd gave them a warm reception. With a little more experience under their belt, The Franklys could be one to watch in the future.

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“We’re Crobot from outer space – welcome to our nebula!” – the craziness was about to start as the sound of Crobot marked a shift in intensity and ‘umpf’. With an imposing stage presence Crobot played to a slowly filling Academy. Reminding me of the shear unadulterated rawness of an early Kings of Leon or QOTSA, Crobot made more and more heads nod along to their unique heavy southern rock sound. They did not hold back during their show, with singer Brandon Yeagley performing half of the obligatory rock song about Lucifer on guitarist Bishop’s shoulders. These US rockers were highly entertaining and made me wish I hadn’t cut my long hair all those years ago.

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With the support acts done, it was time for some seriously mental heavy rock’n’roll. Rushing on stage, there wasn’t much time for theatrics and Airbourne launched right into “Ready to Rock”, with the dedicated fans singing along and starting to get more animated in the now packed Academy; understandably, as the steady thumping of the bass drum made it near-impossible to stand still.

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The hits came flying thick and fast and “Two Much, Too Young, Too Fast” was up next. With bare-chested singer, Joel O’Keeffe, clearly mirroring some of Angus Young’s well-known mannerisms, it was difficult not to draw parallels between the two bands. However, liking Airbourne to AC/DC is like comparing Stevie Ray Vaughn and Jimi Hendrix – both with a similar yet unique and distinguishable sound.

Well know for their stage antics, it was time to abuse the first can of beer that would give every master brewer nightmares. With “Chewing the Fat” pumping, a can of beer was quickly smashed open on O’Keeffe’s head spraying the front rows and panicking concert photographers. Increasing in heaviness, it was time for “Rivalry” from the new album “Breakin’ Outta Hell”, which went down a treat. The well-known and steady riffs of “Girls in Black” from Airbourne’s first album, saw the tentative formation of a small mosh pit, inhabited by young rebels and the older generation reliving their youth. Not content to simply watch, O’Keeffe quickly climbed on a roadie’s shoulders and rode him into the crowd, where another can of beer was quickly obliterated, spraying the adoring fans with the liquid gold.

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Acknowledging Motorhead’s Lemmy’s huge influence on the early success of Airbourne, a dedication to Lemmy Kilmister gave rise to shouts of “Lemmy, Lemmy” from the crowd, while “It’s All for Rock’n’Roll” rang in.

Picking up the tempo again on the rollercoaster of rock’n’roll madness, the not-so-subtle “Going down on you” was played heavier and faster than on the album, and along with encouragement of “Let’s get this circle going”, helped the mosh pit grow to a formidable size. Keeping the atmosphere and intensity of the show going, the title track of the new album made sure to make the crowd erupt, with the first crowd surfers making their way across the barrier into the security pit. Good on ya, mate!

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Showing their age a little, the intensity and shear ferocity of the show took its toll on the band, which now needed to take little breaks between songs – always a sign of an excellent rock’n’roll show. Hard-hitting tracks “No Way but the Hard Way” and “Stand up for Rock’n’Roll” saw the average age of the mosh pit slowly increase with the older generation showing the young ones how it’s done. I still maintain that hard-rock fans are some of the friendliest and most polite fans out there and the evening went without any signs of trouble.

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“Thank you all”. Was the show over? Surely not, the light stayed off and no roadie rushed on stage to dismantle the drum set. To the contrary, an air raid siren appeared on stage to the tune of “Encore, encore”. With the siren ringing out and the band playing “Live it up”, Joel O’Keeffe was opening cans of beer and throwing them to fans in a beer-fuelled extravaganza.

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No Airbourne show is complete without “Running Wild” and this show was no different. With a 14-minute rendition of Airbourne’s undoubtedly biggest hit, and a few more smashed beer cans, the Aussie rockers ended a truly fantastic show on a high. Airbourne are known for their high-energy balls-to-the-wall hard rock shows and their concert at the Academy in Leeds more than lived up to this reputation. Whether a hardened Airbourne fan or non-rocker who was dragged along by a friend, everyone appeared to have an awesome time at a show that will be remembered for many years.

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