With an already packed out O2 Academy in front of them, Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown took to the stage under crimson light and started out with the fast-paced ‘Drive Me Mad’, taken from this year’s latest album, Truth and Lies. An apt choice to capture the audience’s attention, lead singer and guitarist Tyler Bryant’s impressive playing ability was shown with a great solo, sandwiched between striding across the whole stage, unable to stand still. He already had the crowd clapping along on song number one.
“A sawed-off buckshot, blowin’ all the locks off, comin’ in hot, burnin’ up like a molotov” – the opening salvo of lyrics from the next song in their arsenal, On to the Next, with its spinning grove being this reviewer’s favourite selection from their set – it’s just simply, immediately catchy.
After the third song, ‘House on Fire’, did what it said on the tin, Bryant introduced the Aerosmith ‘Weak and Weapin’ by thanking Airbourne for bringing a group of “long haireds from Tennessee” along on their tour. If you’ve been looking for a quality rock act from Nashville to fill the void that the Followills vacated several years ago, then The Shakedown is the choice for you.
To give a reflection on the variety of the sounds on their albums, the band played their cover interpretation of Arthur Crudup’s ‘That’s Alright’, with Bryant swapping Strat for Resonator, slide guitar and all. This song appeared to get the biggest cheer from the crowd and it showed that the band has another talented guitarist in Graham Whitford, closing the tune out with a beautiful solo. Drummer Caleb Crosby brought the unusual by placing his bass drum to the front of the stage to give it a good pummelling before putting it back in its rightful place.
Australian hard rock outfit Airbourne, returning to the Bristol O2 Academy two years to the month that they were last here, have been on tour for a gruelling five months, but they brought an energy and enthusiasm typical of a band starting out on such a journey.
Before the band arrived on stage, the first set of familiar tropes were present: the Terminator 2 theme music and T-800 like red spotlights, the fortress of Marshall amps. Bassist Justin Street, guitarist Harri Harrison, drummer Ryan O’Keefe and his brother, singer Joel O’Keefe (shirtless, of course) then took to the stage, and they launched into Raise the Flag – the crowd giving a raise of their own with the first sights of alcohol being thrown aloft in response.
Greeted with the first signs of crowd surfing in the pit, Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast takes you back to something like Highway to Hell with its similar chorus and the band strutting Quo style. Burnout the Nitro, from 2019’s Boneshaker album, has a furious feeling, replete with whipping hair from all band members, and sees the first shots of vertical smoke firing from the stage; Joel O’Keefe dunking his head in for a taste of the plumes at one point.
Joel then introduces Girls in Black as a song that the band use to reminiscence about their first trips to England around 2007. His first water bottle dropkick attempt fails to clear the first ceiling speakers, but he checks that there are no crowd casualties after the bottle descends. A sight of reminiscence mid-song is displayed when Joel jumps on somebody’s shoulders and continues to play in the crowd, causing some balcony hoggers to be drawn away for a closer look. Returning to the stage, he gives the longest yell of “Bristoooollll” you’ll probably ever hear.
Not everything is at full pelt on a constant. O’Keefe advises that Bottom of the Well is both a powerful one and a slow one. It starts off relaxed for the first minute at least, with Harri Harrison playing a slow guitar part with a Money for Nothing echoy effect, and then the rock power kicks in along with a classic sing-a-long chorus. Later on, O’Keefe’s lit lighter is joined by the glows of a hundred smartphones.
Joel leads chants for Lemmy and gets a healthy response before he carts out a trolley with Lemmy’s name labelled on the side. He then pours four concoctions and though they first seem destined to be downed by the band, they are actually gifted to fans at the front row – the only in-tact transporting of drinks from band to audience of the night. In the proceeding It’s All for Rock ‘n’ Roll, Joel carries out the old school sliding to his knees to solo and ends by holding his Gibson Explorer aloft.
Surrounding Live it Up was the most fun of the night. First, singer Joel beckoned the “Big Bristol’s to pick up the Little Bristol’s” on to their broad shoulders – some complied with his request. He then followed up by throwing out cups of beers to some willing fans and finished by successfully throwing one cup like a quarter-back to the bloke with “folded arms” on the upper balcony.
A warm and encompassing chant of “owowows” from the crowd led to the first encore song, Ready to Rock kicking off, O’Keefe giving back with fabulous screaming vocals. I feel the last strains of the guitar with the returning chanting would have been the perfect end to the night, but Running Wild finished things off. Joel tried to climb the stairs to the left of the stage mid-song but he was stewarded away, so even stars can’t get their way on the Academy stairs.
All-in-all, a pretty relentless showcase of solid typical hard rock – well recommended.
Review // Adam Lusby
Photography // Emma Painter