Caught Live: Monster Truck (with The Picturebooks), Club Academy Manchester 18th March 2017

Same Night Syndrome. That’s the snappy name I’ve given to that irritating occurrence when two gigs or more happen on the same night. It caught me out here, when I excitedly booked for this gig having recently seen the Canadian hard rockers play a short but storming set in Liverpool as support to fellow Canucks Nickelback. I failed to spot that the date clashed with Thunder’s show at Sheffield City Hall which I’d booked weeks before, meaning a choice of one or the other. (Thunder were at Manchester o2 Apollo the night before, but that is a venue I have vowed never to set foot in ever again). Despite the fact that Thunder are a long-time favourite band of mine, I opted for this show instead and was able to find a taker for my Sheffield ticket.

When your band is called Monster Truck, it’s a clear indication of what sort of music to expect. They’ve had some radio play on Planet Rock off the back of most recent release ‘Sittin’ Heavy’, and also more locally on the weekly rock show broadcast to the Merseyside area on Wirral Radio, which is how I discovered this band. Having played to arena crowds only six months earlier, it was a chance to see the band in the much more intimate confines of the Club Academy before they blow up huge themselves, as I expect. Fronted by vocalist/bassist Jon Harvey, their style is good old-fashioned, riff-heavy driving hard rock like it used to be, powered along by a solid rhythm section of Harvey and drummer Steve Kiely and given real wallop by guitarist Jeremy Widerman, whose guitar style melds the shirtless antics of Angus Young with the immense sound of Tony Iommi. Add to that tasteful organ touches from Brandon Bliss and you have a band that will take old-school metalheads like me right back to the glory days of denim and leather.

Before that we had The Picturebooks; I’ve seen this German duo twice before (they supported The Answer two years ago, as they reminded punters here) and so knew what to expect. Loud overdriven guitar riffs aplenty from guitarist/vocalist Fynn Claus Grabke and hard slamming drums from Philipp Mirtschink, who hits the tom like it’s being assaulted with a sledgehammer! Their short set was pretty much relentless hammering throughout, the only changes came between songs as Fynn worked his way through a seemingly infinite selection of Gibson guitars! By the end, the drummer looked like he’d been through twelve rounds with Tony Bellew, although they didn’t bring much new to the table they did get a good reception from the crowd, many of whom had got here early enough to catch them.

Monster Truck did not hang about when they hit the stage a short time later, opening proceedings with ‘Why Are You Not Rocking?’ – we certainly were, as Widerman was off on the first of many stage runs getting the crowd going from the off. Surprisingly, ‘Don’t Tell Me How To Live’ came early in the set, as they ran through a selection of tracks from both ‘Sittin’ Heavy’ and previous album ‘Furiosity’, as well as a couple from their ‘The Brown’ EP.  It was just as immense as when they played the bigger stage last autumn, this band have the heaviness to satisfy the Metalheads, the rhythm to keep the heads bobbing all night and the songs to latch into the brain immediately. ‘Sweet Mountain River’ had the crowd chanting to its chorus from the off, Harvey hardly had to prompt them to chant it back loudly and enthusiastically.

“You keep coming, we’ll keep coming back” said the frontman as they neared the end of a set lasting just over an hour, but with 16 songs packed in. They sold out this basement venue despite the fact that there were several competing gigs in this city alone, let alone the one in Yorkshire that I’d sacrificed to be here. They can be sure that people will be back and in greater numbers next time, and if Jon and the lads happen to read this, we’ve suitable venues this end of the East Lancs Road as well besides that big arena you played last autumn! (Hey, it’s my blog, I’ll drop as many hints as I wish!) 😀

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