Airbourne / A masterpiece of madness in Kentish Town

After a seven-month postponed wait, Airbourne finally descended on London at 02 Forum Kentish Town. The Aussie Titans are the absolute quintessence of rock ‘n’ roll in all its glorious forms. With a sold-out show and a soon-to-be-sold-out UK tour under their sweat-slathered arms, it was time for them to release their complete, raging wrath upon the capital.

Airbourne

02 Forum Kentish Town, London – 27 July 2023

Words: Monty Sewell

Photography: Steve Ritchie

Airbourne - O2 Forum, Kentish Town. 27 July 2023
Airbourne – O2 Forum, Kentish Town. 27 July 2023 Photo: Steve Ritchie/MetalTalk

Both pubs on the run-up to the O2 Forum were jam-packed with long-haired band shirt-sporting punters, giving passing ‘hey, nice top! ‘s left, right and centre. A quick few pints, a couple of wired pre-show fireups, and we were in.

The infamous Motörhead Ace Of Spades follows Iron Maiden’s Run To The Hills before the sirens sound and Airbourne arrive in Joel O’Keeffe on lead vocals and guitar, brother Ryan O’Keeffe on drums, latest addition Jarad Morrice on rhythm guitar and Justin Street on bass.

Airbourne - O2 Forum, Kentish Town. 27 July 2023
Airbourne – O2 Forum, Kentish Town. 27 July 2023 Photo: Steve Ritchie/MetalTalk

With a thunderous vivacity, they open with Ready To Rock. It is a crazy train freak-out with built-up amp stacks raging from the back of the stage. Ryan O’Keeffe sits raised on his own stage in the middle of the stacks with that identifiable Airbourne backdrop declaring the night as no one else’s but theirs.

Airbourne - O2 Forum, Kentish Town. 27 July 2023
Airbourne – O2 Forum, Kentish Town. 27 July 2023 Photo: Steve Ritchie/MetalTalk

Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast, Back In The Game and Girls In Black. It is mere minutes before Joel leaps onto the back of security, riding his signature Gibson Explorer Electric like a finger-riddling madman into the crowd and out comes a beer can in between soloing. For seasoned Airbourne-ions, we know what comes next. Smacking the can on his head to the beat of the kick drum, snare hits, and it explodes, drenching the crowd who lap up the action with eye-crazed relish.

Airbourne - O2 Forum, Kentish Town. 27 July 2023
Airbourne – O2 Forum, Kentish Town. 27 July 2023 Photo: Steve Ritchie/MetalTalk

The sound is grand, and the lighting game is strong from the O2 Forum team. But when you are dealing with a band like Airbourne, it is all just complementary. The pit game is strong from the get-go, but there is still enough space to get a decent whacking head-bang game on, along with the constant horns to the sky appreciation.

Airbourne - O2 Forum, Kentish Town. 27 July 2023
Airbourne – O2 Forum, Kentish Town. 27 July 2023 Photo: Steve Ritchie/MetalTalk

Rock N’ Roll For Life is served on a steaming hot plate with a side of big-time beef before Back In The Game, Girls In Black and Burnout The Nitro. Energy levels off the chart, Joel gets his hit of performance peak addiction as he soars through the crowd – straggled hair never catching a whipping break – climbing up onto the upper levels of the venue. Pausing for a moment to give the fans on the top floor a taste of up-close O’Keeffe guitar exaltation.

Airbourne - O2 Forum, Kentish Town. 27 July 2023
Airbourne – O2 Forum, Kentish Town. 27 July 2023 Photo: Steve Ritchie/MetalTalk

At ground level, Morrice and Street are the perfect speed wheel turners. Wielding their axes without a wince of the energy level dropping, they are a perpetually unceasing testament of hard rock mania. Also, they provide crowd chant backing vocals, elevating the whole thing with ear-busting execution.

Airbourne - O2 Forum, Kentish Town. 27 July 2023
Airbourne – O2 Forum, Kentish Town. 27 July 2023 Photo: Steve Ritchie/MetalTalk

Burnout The Nitro hits hard before the last album title track, Boneshaker, finds Ryan O’Keeffe thumping the beat force of Airbourne into our souls. Stepping up close to the mic, Joel O’Keeffe addresses his wild audience, speaking about getting “the fuck” back up after anything gets you down. Cheers are initiated, and Bottom Of The Well commences. A remarkably elaborate version of the song descends as the O2 Forum is thrown into a state of yearning, musically earning awe.

Airbourne - O2 Forum, Kentish Town. 27 July 2023

In a slight story-like, upwards swing, we get Breakin’ Outta Hell for more snarling screams and killer riffs. Duel rock community manifestos It’s All For Rock N’ Roll and Stand Up For Rock’ N’ Roll brings the wide-mouthed rage to a pinnacle before the band leaves the stage and a teetering, simmering anticipation begins.

Airbourne - O2 Forum, Kentish Town. 27 July 2023
Airbourne – O2 Forum, Kentish Town. 27 July 2023 Photo: Steve Ritchie/MetalTalk

A second’s silence is suddenly broken, with the sound of airplane jets flying overhead beginning to linger in the air. Kentish Town goes silent. Ryan O’Keeffe walks onto the stage and clasps onto the handle of an air raid siren in the centre of the stage. He begins to turn the handle round and round, setting off the encapsulating sound of something – something mammoth – about to come.

Airbourne - O2 Forum, Kentish Town. 27 July 2023
Airbourne – O2 Forum, Kentish Town. 27 July 2023 Photo: Steve Ritchie/MetalTalk

On the right-hand stack of the stage, Joel O’Keeffe appears, easing us in with those delicious first notes of Live It Up. Smoke rises, his silhouette cast against the backdrop. The sound just builds and builds, and just when the audience’s suspense is almost too much to bear, the rest of the band jump in it all kicks off. Nothing beats an excellent live show build up, and Airbourne had us in the palms of their hands.

Airbourne - O2 Forum, Kentish Town. 27 July 2023
Airbourne – O2 Forum, Kentish Town. 27 July 2023 Photo: Steve Ritchie/MetalTalk

Sensationally grand, the band top it all off in the only way we could ever imagine with infamous song and debut album chart-topper, Runnin’ Wild.

Airbourne are a masterpiece of madness. Connoisseurs of the crazy and, without a flying doubt, the true defenders of all that is rock ‘n’ roll. And if you ain’t standing up for rock’ n’ roll, what the hell are you even doing?

Airbourne - O2 Forum, Kentish Town. 27 July 2023
Airbourne – O2 Forum, Kentish Town. 27 July 2023 Photo: Steve Ritchie/MetalTalk

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