On Friday night, the Australian group Airbourne drew a packed house on opening night of their U.S. & Canada Tour at The Gramercy Theatre in NYC. Their tour started September 9th and runs through October 11th in Los Angeles. It’s the band’s first U.S. and Canadian tour since 2016. Their original tour to support their 2019 release, “Boneshaker,” was unfortunately scrapped due to COVID.
The boys hit the stage dressed in black from head to toe and sweaty like they did a pre-show lap around the block. The 90-minute concert contained no props, pyro, or EDM mixes; just straight up in your face rock & roll while the band played some new songs off “Boneshaker” and some of their familiar classics. Airbourne has remained musically steadfast and consistently powerful since they came on the scene in 2007 with their debut release “Runnin’ Wild.” Since then, they have released four additional albums every two or three years. They are the perfect escape to immerse yourself in the power of a live show and forget all the nonsense going on in the world.
They opened the show with “Ready to Rock,” as fans were more than ready. Those who knew what to expect came shirtless, planning to get soaked with beer, and do some moshing! As soon as the first chord was struck, the audience pitch turned frenzied as the crowd sang along exultantly; fists raised in the air. If there were doubts that it might take the band a few shows to find their groove, rest assured it was not the case as Joel O’Keeffe [lead vocals/guitar], Ryan O’Keeffe [drums], Justin Street [bass], and the newest member Jarrad Morrice [guitar], know how to deliver a powerful show consistently.
Joel, Mr. Nitro himself, was poised at the ready with his smutty smirk as he delivered Airbourne‘s double-entendres lyrical content based on lust, Hell, and all things sexual. A blizzard of Gibson Explorer guitars led by Joel and Jarrad fueled the thunderous riffs pouring out of their bloodied, beaten, and scared Marshall amps and stacks. The show consisted of a 12-songs, and the band didn’t ignore fan favorites that helped put them on the map, like “Girls in Black,” “Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast,” “Live it Up,” and “Diamond in the Rough.” They performed two songs from “Boneshaker”, “Burn out the Nitro” and the title track.
Joel was the focal point with his compelling gruff vocals and guitar showmanship. A rebellious spirit burns within him, coupled with self-assurance in his singing and playing, which makes him one of the greatest front men. He is also not afraid to jump into the crowd and mix it up. This was evident by the second song when he was hoisted on his roadie’s shoulders and carried into the crowd cracking beer cans on his head. Later, he randomly jumped off the stage to drink with them again. Fans loved it as they went wild! Speaking of “mixing it up,” mid-set, Joel and the band took a moment from their sonic assault to toast Lemmy Kilmister by bringing out a portable Lemmy’s bar cart and pouring drinks of Jack Daniel‘s and Coke for themselves and their fans. To keep the party going in high gear, Joel tossed half cups of beer like grenades high into the venue for fans to try and catch; regardless of being caught or missed, the splatter effect was monstrous.
Before the show, I asked Joel: “You always come across as very calm and cool, but on stage, you are a madman. Tell me about that transformation and what happens when you hit the stage.” He replied, “It’s really about the power of the guitar; when you run out in front of the crowd, you can’t stand there and stare at your shoes. You have a wall of Marshalls behind you, so it’s like a shot of adrenaline. It doesn’t wear off until you leave the stage. You can be running on fumes, and the crowd can actually pick you up. They keep you upright until you leave the stage when you hit the floor. As soon as I get off stage, I’m done! You can order me a coffin and throw me in. People would think I died, and you can have an open-casket funeral backstage [laughing]. You give them everything, and that’s the only way to do it. You don’t think about the next gig; you just think about the one you’re doing and give it all you got.”
Keeping up with Joel‘s and Matt‘s playing was Justin‘s bass playing with his lightning-fast fingers and head thrashing. His bass and neck stimulatingly took a beating through the night. If you are wondering if his neck hurts after a show, pre-show, he told me, “Not really!” Perfectly stated! His bass playing supplies the power and groove to Airbourne‘s songs while marrying nicely to Ryan‘s solid backbeat and serving-the-song drumming. He is a no-nonsense drummer that plays with style and grace as all Hell is exploding around him.
Fans have been starved for a good hard rock band, and Airborne fits the bill. When the show was over, the band and fans were equally sweaty, beer-soaked, and exhausted; it was a testament to the band’s stamina and the sheer power of rock & roll that all fans came out smiling! Tickets to their remaining dates can be purchased HERE.