AIRBOURNE AND THE WILD! PUT ON A SPIRITED AND GREAT SHOW
Date: October 4, 2016
Venue: Maxwell’s Concerts & Events
Location: Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
It’s always nice when a headlining act brings a quality band that at has least some similarities music wise to open for them on tour. In the case of glam metal rockers Steel Panther who recently did a few shows in Canada, they had sleaze rockers Diemonds open for them and as you will have been able to read from my concert review of their Waterloo, Ontario tour stop, it was one hell of a great bill and a rocking night! Airbourne have also — at least recently — been bringing some quality bands to open for them on tour. Back in the fall of 2014, they had two Canadian bands — One Bad Son and The Glorious Sons — open for them and I ended up picking up The Glorious Sons‘ latest album The Union, which turned out to be one of my favorites for 2014. This time around on their latest Canadian and US tour, Airbourne were bringing Canadian hillbilly / sleaze rockers The Wild! to open for them. I got to tell you, I was completely stoked about that because I had been wanting to see The Wild! live for quite some time.
I actually first got wind of The Wild! when The Rockpile venue — which always brings lots of great shows to Toronto — brought them in as headliners I believe back in March 2015. I remember considering going to that concert even though I had not heard one song of theirs yet just because The Rockpile‘s talent recruiter Steve Hoeg was really pushing them and he’d been spot on with respect to some great bands. I can’t remember why I did not end up going to see The Wild! back then but I sure as well was very excited and determined to see them play live after hearing their debut album GxDxWxB back in August 2015 (which ended up #2 on Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of 2015). The opportunity came when The Wild! had the official support slot for Buckcherry on their Canadian tour last fall but alas, The Wild!‘s singer Dylan Villain got a bad case of laryngitis and the band was unable to play that night. After what seemed like a rather quiet 11 months or so for The Wild!, they were finally back having landed the opening slot for Airbourne‘s latest tour of Canada. Now, I would have gone to see Airbourne play regardless of whether they had an opening act or who was opening for them (as I had done in 2010, 2013 and 2014) but it was certainly icing on the cake to have The Wild! open for them.
Given that I wanted to get right up to the stage barrier if possible for both The Wild! and Airbourne‘s performances, Sleaze Roxx writer Eduardo and I made our way to Kitchener nice and early. Luckily, we were able to avoid the horrendous rush hour traffic in Toronto given that we departed from nearby Hamilton this time around. We met up with Waterloo resident Mark who has to be one of the most knowledgeable hair metal fans that I know of and who once again dazzled us with his amazing album collection. As luck would have it, Eduardo and I were both able to secure a spot on the stage barrier guaranteeing a great vantage point for the entire show.
The venue was already quite busy with patrons when The Wild! hit the stage. The Wild! drummer Reese Lightning‘s drum set was kind of placed a little to the side almost parallel but just behind to where the rest of his bandmates would be standing given that the stage length was rather short with Airbourne‘s drum set already set up in the background. From where I was standing, I was able to read The Wild!‘s posted setlist and was pleased that the British Columbia rockers would apparently be playing ten songs. Airbourne were definitely being kind to their opening band in terms of stage time. I also noticed that there were four new songs on The Wild!‘s setlist, which was cause for celebration given this meant that a new album had to be in the works.
The Wild! started off with a bang opening their set with “Roadhouse” from their only album GxDxWxB. I was expecting to see Pistol Pete playing rhythm guitar but instead, there was a young man dubbed The Kid with short blond hair and an old school little moustache who was very energetic and enthusiastic to say the least. In fact, you could tell that the entire band was really into it right from the start. Drummer Reese Lightning was all smiles as he pounded his drum kit which included a cowbell throughout The Wild!‘s set! Bassist Boozus had a lot of presence with his ZZ Top like long beard. And what can I say about The Wild!‘s frontman Dylan Villain? He brought the total package to the show. I always love when a band’s frontman is able to address a crowd and Villain was able to do that with confidence even though I assume that most people were there to see Airbourne. In fact, at one point, Villain pulled a page from what I consider to be the best frontman of all-time — Twisted Sister‘s Dee Snider — when he called out the people standing in the back with their arms folded, and challenged them to get closer to the stage. I just love that kind of stuff because it could have easily backfired on Villain but instead, it seemed to get the crowd even more into the opener’s set.
Two things really surprised me during The Wild!‘s set. First, Villain‘s voice sounded so good! I’m always fearful that a singer will not be able to replicate what he/she did on an album and I got to admit that I was expecting Villain to run into that problem given the crazy vocals that The Wild!‘s debut album GxDxWxB sometimes has. Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong as Villain sounded really good live! Wow! The second surprise of the night was the amount of choreographed moves that Villain, Boozus, The Kid and sometimes even the drummer Lightning did throughout the evening. It was so cool to see! In a way, it reminded me of KISS early in their career but The Wild! trio actually had their own choreographed moves for the night, which were especially prevalent on the headbanging classic “Banger.” I was also impressed with The Wild!‘s new songs, which were very good on a first listen. As it turns out, “Ready To Roll” will be released as a single in less than a week and was probably my favorite new track that I heard on this night. “Rattlesnake Shake” was a faster rocker which seemed to have some Metallica influences.
My two favorite songs played by The Wild! turned out to be two that I was not expecting. First of all, “Banger” was fucking awesome and so much heavier than what I was expecting. It was great seeing Villain, Boozus and The Kid headbang furiously to the song. Secondly, The Wild!‘s slow and bluesy rendition of “What About You” sounded great live and showed that the group could take it down a notch but still captivate the audience. I got to admit that I had some high expectations for The Wild!‘s set and I can truthfully say that they exceeded my lofty expectations with their great showmanship and high energy. I would absolutely love to see a full headlining set from these guys in the future!
The Wild!’s setlist:
02. Livin Free
03. Ready To Roll
06. Slow Down
07. Rattlesnake Shake
08. What About You
09. Six Hundred Sixty Six
10. Party Til You’re Dead
The Wild! performing “Deuces” in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada on October 4, 2016:
Uploaded by Brian Z on 2016-10-05.
The Wild!‘s playing “Slow Burn” in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada on October 4, 2016:
Uploaded by Brian Z on 2016-10-06.
The Wild! performing “What About You” in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada on October 4, 2016:
Uploaded by Brian Z on 2016-10-07.
Next up was headliner Airbourne who have to be one of the most consistent performers out there. You know what you’re going to get from Airbourne if you’ve seen them before. The band is full of energy with bassist Justin Street and rhythm guitarist David Roads headbanging in their respective corners similar to AC/DC‘s Cliff Williams and Malcolm Young back in the day except that Street and Roads ran to trade places for a brief moment during just about every song. Drummer Ryan O’Keeffe was his usual steady self but frankly I did not notice him that much since his drum kit was further away nestled in the back and there was sometimes smoke and a lot of action in front of me. While Street, Roads and drummer O’Keeffe performed their roles admirably, the star of the evening for Airbourne was undeniably frontman Joel O’Keeffe. I was wondering how much the singer and lead guitarist would be moving given that it had been reported that he fell off stage while performing in Kamloops, British Columbia on September 22, 2016 and sustained some broken ribs and torn ligaments in one foot. I am not sure about the broken ribs as Joel O’Keeffe did not have any sort of bandage around them and was moving around so much that it seemed hard to fathom that he would have sustained broken ribs.
What was quite evident was that Joel O’Keeffe had a big walking cast on his left foot but he simply did not let that hinder him from moving around the stage. To his credit, even with his walking cast, Joel O’Keeffe moved around more on stage than most other guitar wielding singers. At one point towards the end of the evening, Joel O’Keeffe was literally running — or perhaps hopping — from one side of the stage to the other. I wasn’t surprised in the least when all of a sudden during “Girls In Black,” Joel O’Keeffe was suddenly on someone’s shoulders while that someone walked around the venue through the crowd. Before you knew it, Joel O’Keeffe was up on some sort of table rocking away in the back of the venue. I suspect that Joel O’Keeffe‘s left foot may need a little more time to heal with the amount of moving around and pounding that it seemingly takes every live performance!
Right from the start that Airbourne kicked off their set with “Ready To Rock,” it seemed that the entire audience was really into it. Joel O’Keeffe‘s voice was a little rough around the edges but he still plowed through and you could still make out what he was singing. I was really hoping to hear a lot of new songs from Airbourne‘s new studio album Breakin’ Outta Hell since it is simply another great Airbourne album but alas, only two songs were played from it — “Rivalry” and “Breakin’ Outta Hell.” In fact, Airbourne really did not stray away from their regular setlist from years past. Case in point, I cut and paste Airbourne‘s setlist from the previous time that they played in the province of Ontario in the fall of 2014 for the purpose of providing the setlist for this show. Six of the eleven songs played in 2014 stayed at the exact same spot in the setlist on this night. In addition, only two songs were dropped (“Diamond In The Rough” and “Black Dog Barking”) from Airbourne‘s 2014 setlist. Given the amount of great songs that Airbourne have in their arsenal, I would have liked to see them mix things up a bit more for their setlist. That being said, every song played was a very good engaging one so from that perspective, I can understand why Airbourne might want to stick with what works.
Airbourne‘s passion was on full display as Joel O’Keeffe declared to the audience in his Aussie tinged English that as long as he was alive, Airbourne would be rocking, and rock would be alive and well — or something like that. My favorite tracks played by Airbourne were actually the slightly slower paced ones such as “Chewin’ The Fat” and “Cheap Wine & Cheaper Women.” I’ve stated in the past that I wished that Airbourne would play more songs but having seen them play live before, I knew what to expect — about 11 songs and a headlining set lasting one hour and 15 minutes. At the end of the day, I would rather have a short night with no fillers or boring moments than a long night filled with too many songs, extended solos, etc. All in all, Airbourne put on a solid performance. It was also cool receiving a guitar pick from Street at the end of the show.
Not to take anything away from Airbourne because they put on a great show but I was a little surprised when my friend Eduardo advised after the show that he thought that The Wild! put on an even better performance than Airbourne. I wasn’t surprised with that assessment but I was surprised given that Eduardo had declared not really liking The Wild! going into the show and wondering why Airbourne were bringing a musically incompatible opening act with them. I laughed as I pointed out on the drive to the venue that the AC/DC influences were prevalent for both bands. Eduardo‘s assessment at the end of the night proved that an opening band can win over someone with a strong live performance just like The Wild! did on this night with Eduardo and I suspect many others in the audience!
01. Ready To Rock
02. Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast
03. Chewin’ The Fat
05. Girls In Black
06. Cheap Wine & Cheaper Women
07. Breakin’ Outta Hell
08. No Way But The Hard Way
09. Stand Up for Rock ‘N’ Roll
10. Live It Up
11. Runnin’ Wild
Airbourne performing “Cheap Wine & Cheaper Women” in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada on October 4, 2016:
Airbourne performing – Cheap Wine ( & Cheaper Women) – Oct 4 – 2016 – Maxwell’s, Waterloo, Ont. The Wild Opened
Airbourne performing “Breakin’ Outta Hell” in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada on October 4, 2016:
Airbourne performing – Breakin’ Outta Hell – Oct 4 – 2016 – Maxwell’s, Waterloo, Ont. The Wild Opened
Airbourne performing “Live It Up” in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada on October 4, 2016:
Airbourne performing – Live it Up – Oct 4 – 2016 – Maxwell’s, Waterloo, Ont. The Wild Opened