The Waterfront, Norwich May 27, 2022
by Owen Willis
When AC/DC hired producer Mutt Lange to record Highway to Hell, he specifically set out with the goal of stopping the band from “raging too much at the end of their songs”.
Despite all the musical genes that their fellow Aussies inherited, Airbourne clearly never learned this lesson, with nearly every song tonight culminating in a triumphant wall of sound.
Whilst the band and their energy might be more spiritually at home gracing the 100ft-tall open air stages of Donington in a couple of weeks’ time, their brand of controlled chaos transfers effortlessly to the low-ceilinged Waterfront.
Sure, the antics are adapted, with frontman Joel O’Keeffe trading out death-defying rigging climbs in favour of pouring liver-traumatising, Lemmy-esque amounts of bourbon down the gullets of those crushed up against the barricade.
But by the time he’s crowd-surfing, playing a guitar solo with one hand whilst detonating a can of Carling against his forehead with the other, the realisation dawns that it ultimately doesn’t matter which venue they play, as long as you’re there to witness the absurdity of it all.
The set, though characterised by its brash, beer-soaked, four-to-the-floor stomp, is not without its variation. Cuts from their (albeit three-years-old) new album Boneshaker, fit seamlessly into the set – the boys from Warrnambool still maintaining their knack for uncomplicated, repeatable and anthemic choruses after 20 years in the game.
However, the artistic highpoint of tonight’s set comes with the mid-show back-to-back pairing of the more sombre but uplifting bluesy sway of Bottom Of The Well contrasted with the thunderous proto-thrash of Breakin’ Outta Hell.
Subtle they may not be, but the consideration given to pacing the set shows some calculation has gone into ensuring the build towards the final moments of the show is as rapturous as possible.
Airbourne never set out to reinvent the wheel, and whilst simply labelling them as “AC/DC Part II” fails to capture the wider range of influences on show, it’s not an inaccurate description.
But that’s no bad thing. Whilst drawing on influences solely from a minimum of 40 years ago has snared multiple bands in the last few years into nausea-inducing nostalgia for “the good old days”, it can also demonstrate how something that was so good back then is equally as compelling today.
Airbourne so easily fall into the latter camp as to be poster boys for it. They’re not doing it to prove a point, they’re doing it because it’s fun.
There really isn’t a better reason to get on stage than that.