Black Tusk

support Crobot
author AP date 02/03/15 venue Stengade, Copenhagen, DEN

All along the routing for Black Tusk's current European tour, the three members of the band have been spreading the ashes of their recently deceased bassist Jonathan Athon in the waters of the cities they've visited - an appropriate gesture for a musician as hard working, respected and widely loved as he was. Tonight's headlining show at Spillestedet Stengade (an off-date from a tour supporting Black Label Society) then, is a bittersweet prospect, as Athon was by no exaggeration vital to the triumph of Black Tusk's previous concert in Denmark, his undying energy turning the intimate confines of Loppen into a raging sweatpit. They're here tonight to pay tribute to Athon and to prove that from great adversity comes great strength, so naturally the expectations have been high in the weeks leading up to this moment.

All photos courtesy of Peter Troest

Crobot

A previously unknown entity to me, these Pottsville, PA based Southern style rockers waste no time in etching a permanent mark onto my memory, compelling me to jot down "Jesus, that energy!" as the very first impression. With "Legend of the Spaceborne Killer" from last year's debut LP "Something Supernatural" chosen as the ice-breaker, Crobot have the 80-strong crowd including yours truly bewitched with instant effect with the sheer immediacy of their energy. Vocalist Brandon Yeagley struts forth like the owner of the place, swinging his microphone stand and carrying his persona with rock'n'roll swagger comparable only to Steven Tyler; the bushy-bearded Bishop, wearing a telling Willie Nelson tee, meanwhile delivers a masterclass in the art of rocking out, his guitar and body thrown around in exuberant movements that fixate the eye; and bassist Jake Figueroa, his instrument strapped close to heart, grooves about in the best jazz/funk fashion.

Crobot's entrance is remarkable, and so too is the manner in which their set proceeds. The music is no reinvention of the genre notably professed by the likes of Wolfmother, but with Stengade's awesome sound system, the volume cranked to maximum, the immediate accessibility of songs like "La Mano de Lucifer", and of course Crobot's collective prowess as a live band, it all becomes impossible to resist. Sometimes you just want to be blasted with shameless, heavy rock'n'roll, and this Crobot are very happy to oblige with wide smiles, tongues out, and a badass attitude. Plus, despite the relative simplicity of the formula, listen to a song like "Skull of Geronimo" and tell me your head isn't maniacally banging to the beat of its chorus? Or that your fingers aren't noodling in the air when Bishop lays down the blues-dripping solo in "Night of the Sacrifice"? Or that you aren't absolutely enamoured by that main riff and infusions of harmonica in the set-closing "Fly on the Wall"? Now imagine that combined with a performance which can only be described as explosive - sounds pretty promising, right?

The point is, tonight Crobot expose themselves as a band you need to know in 2015, and a band for whom stardom seems destined, not just a possibility. When their 40 minutes of allotted playing time clock in, there seems to linger a sense of universal zest in the venue, everyone's Monday now thoroughly energised.

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Black Tusk

The bar is thus set dangerously high for Black Tusk, who themselves are trusty purveyors of a thrilling performance. And true to tradition, when the trio (now completed by bassist Corey Barhorst, formerly of Kylesa fame) launch into their set, they do so with characteristic intensity, Barhorst and vocalist/guitarist Andrew Fidler both falling off the hinges to look like a pair of madmen about to burst off the stage and strangle the front-most persons in the audience. The two seem to have developed a good understanding, each occupying their own half of the stage front and frequently approaching one another to deliver an instrumental part facing each other; while drummer James May is, as per tradition, a whirlwind of sticks amidst his contributions to Black Tusk's two-pronged vocal assault.

Stengade's sound engineer on deck ensures that Black Tusk, too, can enjoy an excellent mix, all of the aggression and heartbreak from Athon's passing coming in loud and clear. Indeed, it feels as though the tragedy has injected even more intent into these boys, and as a result, even in the face of a rather docile crowd tonight, they're giving it their utmost. May's high pitched screams, in particular, sound seriously ferocious here. With songs as full of vitriol as theirs, this is of course not just welcome, but also prerequisite to a solid show, yet as ever, it strikes me that Black Tusk are a band best enjoyed in small doses of 30 to 35 minutes. They're not exactly renowned for varying the approach - it's pedal-to-the-metal, always fast and in your face, with little by way of prominent melodies, solos and such; though moments like the pairing of "Set the Dial to Your Doom" and "Bring Me Darkness", as well as "Truth Untold" and "The Crash" do offer exceptions to the rule.

Perhaps if there was more reciprocation from the audience, Black Tusk's fierce way of performing would compensate for the veritable lack of differentiation song-to-song. But alas, what exhilaration the attendees felt during Crobot's support set seem to wither with every passing minute. It's Monday, I suppose, and people's alcohol intake has probably slowed as the hour grows later. It's a shame, because the fault lies not with Black Tusk. No, they must be commended for their energy and drive; the circumstances this time keep it from, translating to a sweaty, truly enthralling live experience.

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