|Monster Truck/The Picturebooks – Belfast, Limelight 2 – 13 March 2017|
|Written by Mark Ashby|
|Saturday, 18 March 2017 04:30|
It often takes just the smallest of things to cause the greatest of annoyances. However, pretty major details – like the sound and lights at a gig, for example – can truly fuck things up on a massive scale. And tonight was just such an example of a how shite light show (or, rather, lack of lights) and a just as crap sound mix can put a real dampener on an evening… no matter how good are the act or acts on stage. The atrocious lighting, which ensured that at least half the stage was in almost pitch darkness for most of both of this evening’s sets, is why there are no photographs with this review. So, now we’ve got that out of the way…
The psyched-out blues of openers The Picturebooks could very well serve as the soundtrack to a Rob Zombie-directed nightmare, their minimalist sound built around heavy ass percussive beatdowns – no snares, no cymbals, no niceties, just floor toms battered with hands and hammers – and dense, thick, fuzzed out guitar.
Outside of their two-part vocal harmonies, the German duo – Fynn Grabke on guitar/vocals and Philipp Mirtschink doing said percussive beating – eschew almost all sense of melody as they rattle through a set based around their just released new album, ‘Home Is A Heartache’. The muddy sound mix makes difficult to make out the words to the likes of the singles ‘Zero Fucks Given’ and ‘I Need That Oooh’, those precluding any attempt at audience singalongs. Instead, the overall effect is one of a barrage of raw, primal energy erupting from the stage and hypnotizing many in the audience, while at the same time confusing many of the rest.
Headliners Monster Truck are more like the great big beautiful noise you would expect at a rock ‘n’ roll show. Indeed, when frontman Jon Harvey proclaims early on that “rock and roll might save your life” you know he might just be right! However, the songs title, ‘Why Are You Not Rocking?’, does beggar a question of this diverse audience: and yet again it is the one of why people pay good money to go to a rock gig and then talk to their mates all the way through it, as the two gobshites beside me seem to spend most of the set more interested in comparing what type of beard oil they use than actually listening to the fucking band! There, another pet hate rant off my chest (although I’m sure I’ll return to it again in the future.
But, that foible is to do a massive disservice to the vast majority of the crowd, who very obviously enjoy this extremely entertaining set, as they clap their hands, pump their fists, stomp their feet, holler, yell and sing right from the opening note to the last… For a band who’ve only ever visited this part of the world once before – and that was a support slot (with fellow Canucks Nickelback last October) – they obviously have a huge and devoted following – and it’s great to see this historic venue rammed to the doors on a Monday evening!
The Ontario quartet reward this devotion with a high-energy performance of the sort of intensity that ensures the venue is soaked in sweat almost as quickly as it takes guitarist Jeremy Widerman to remove his shirt. Steve Kiely’s drumming is taut and precise while Harvey’s deep, throbbing, gristly bass riff provides a dense, doomy vibe to the rhythms which fuel Widerman’s suvern-tinged melodies, which combine hard, grinding riffs with huge, catchy harmonies, and Brandon Bliss’ organ swirls add a traditional rock ‘n’ roll danceabilty – well, they would if you could fucking hear them! Again, the mix is awful: too much bottom end, with more mud on the guitar than an entire potato field after a rainstorm.
If a certain brand of lager did Monday night rock ‘n’ roll shows, they would probably, sound and lighting issues aside, be something like this…
The tour continues at the sold out Manchester Academy tonight (Saturday 18 March) and then moves on to the O2 ABC in Glasgow tomorrow, the Rescue Rooms in Nottingham on Tuesday and concludes at the Electric Ballroom in London on Wednesday, before moving on to France, Germany, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Spain.
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