Monster Truck supported by Those Damn Crows. Two bands who championed the main stage at Download festival earlier this year come to London mid-way through their Uk tour, celebrating the new album release from our gruff-haired Canadian headliners.
Monster Truck – Those Damn Crows
Islington Assembly Hall – 11 October 2022
Words: Monty Sewell
Photography: Robert Sutton
Through an expedite of cardio like no other, I caught both sets at Donnington Park and was hungry to get my hands on tickets for the tour. Not least because of my obsession with Monster Truck ever since their debut record in 2013. The guys are a no-nonsense head-banging good time, and that initial feeling of discovering something great has never waned since.
With a venue change to the historic Islington Assembly Hall, I joined my rock comrades apparelled in the usual leather and lace. Though Download was unforgettably good, without the eclectic grandeur of the UK’s largest rock and Metal festival as a backdrop, how would these bands fare?
Those Damn Crows
The sound of crows squawking could be confusingly eerie if it were not known to most in the venue as the indicator of support act Those Damn Crows taking to the stage. A cheer rumbles through the many people already merch-ed out to the max. Frontman Shane Greenhall pounces up onto the platform at the front of the stage, his kick-back-and-enjoy persona filling the venue with an energetic fire.
The band play out to their audience as one would to tens of thousands. Greenhall is the face of star-studded accessibility, as warm as he is powerful. Their 45 minutes is a fist-in-hand sprawler with every head in the venue headbanging under the mighty wings of Those Damn Crows.
Longtime Dead is played before debut album knockout, Don’t Give A Damn, a hook-tastic reminder to everyone why their rise has been on an accelerated incline since day one. Tight-knit as ever, the quintet forge a strikingly good way of their own as the sturdiest support act around.
Wake Up from their upcoming album, Inhale/Exhale (February 2023) sets the quality assurance expectations high. Lloyd Wood on bass is in a league of his own, wielding his way up and down the stage, egging on the audience with an unfailing success rate. Blink Of An Eye, Sin On Skin and finally, Rock N Roll Ain’t Dead. Somehow between reddening our cheeks with astounding vocals, Greenhall leaves the stage as the band rocks on, only to appear high up on the venue’s upper stalls balcony. He stands on the literal edge of the rock’ n’ roll, singing out to us merry men below with apparently no reservations about potential sudden falling.
Screw the safety police. As long as no one gets hurt, this is the kind of rock n’ roll show we all need.
With spirits now pitched on a – mistakingly – unattainable high, the crowd gears up for the main act, Monster Truck.
Their new album, Warriors, dropped in September to rave reviews. It’s as heavy as their on-the-nose, no-fuss name would suggest; a testament to the initial mantra that tugged them tightly together as a band in the first place. That, plus the guy’s all round good time air, gave me the impression there wouldn’t be any artistic long hauls or refusals to play old fan favourites. Monster Truck were true to themselves in every way, and in that, they gave us exactly what we wanted.
Why Are You Not Rocking? opens the floor up with a punch. Ironically it’s the only question that needs not to be asked as the audience lifts themselves with every gut-chugging riff-ripper. From then on, it’s an open house.
MT take us through the best of their discography, weaving in and out of both new songs and old alike, introducing almost every number with an appreciative zest for their own material.
From the latest album, the guys tear into Golden Woman, Live Free, Fuzz Mountain and title track Warriors. John Harvey is the behemoth of a frontman, standing at the helm, stocky bass in hand and larger than life grin on his face. He really does embody everything about the nostalgic rock we as a community love: long hair, frayed denim and hard-knuckled tattoos with a set of gruff vocal pipes to die for.
Black Forest, She’s A Witch and The Enforcer, taken from their 2016 Sittin’ Heavy’ record, are fire in fist elevators. 2013’s Furiosity features Old Train, ‘Sweet Mountain River and For The Sun are equally cyclonic, peppered into the setlist with an indelible seasoning.
Hearing Monster Truck’s wild aptitude for anthemic chorus’ that stay playing in your head for days after would bring sweet salvation to anyone’s ears. It’s quite something to behold and even more so to see in the flesh.
Guitarist Jeremy Widerman is an absolute rocket rover, strutting his thumping stuff, speed in both onstage movement and razor-sharp playing. Brandon Bliss is quite possibly the coolest key player we ever did see on the works bringing late ’70s keyboard-infused rock under the modern eye. Due to Steve Kiely leaving the band last year, touring drummer Theo McKibbon spits out each 4/4 shuffle crash with as much brutal gusto as on the studio albums. As onstage lineups go, its intoxicatingly good. You can tell these guys have been together since day one with no loss of fervour for what they do.
The guys finish on an encore with Don’t Tell Me How To Live and the The Lion. Not one person in that auditorium could resist throwing their horns to the sky, “Ain’t nobody gonna tell me how to liiiiive!!”.
Hell yeah, it was a show and a half. Absolutely golden egg spot on. With the swish swosh alternating between old favourites and new coupled with the ongoing headbanger clangers, Monster Truck live on in their legacy as the epitome of d rock.
18-year-old me fist-pumping to Monster Truck on the way to school would be very jealous indeed. A great show but also a phenomenal lineup.
Rock n’ roll is dead? Don’t even get me started.