Never mind Same Night Syndrome, Manchester University Students Union (who run the Academy group) have taken it up a level. Same Venue Syndrome! They hosted three gigs simultaneously, all of which I would have liked to attend, but with Massive Wagons playing the upper floor (Academy 3) and American rockers Papa Roach also playing at the main Academy, you might have thought that might impact on the attendance for Canadian ‘true rockers’ Monster Truck. Not a bit of it – as vocalist/bassist Jon ‘Marv’ Harvey’ informed us during their set, this date was the fastest-selling one of their UK dates.
I got into the Academy 2 (also known as Main Debating Hall) to find it already filling up, as openers Royal Tusk were on the stage. The four-piece (also Canadian) were making their UK debut on this tour; playing a style not too far removed from the Truck themselves they gave a good account of themselves. Vocalist Daniel Carriere was a bit of a Meniketti, demonstrating a good voice and also fine lead guitar prowess. He took many of the lead solos himself although guitarist Quinn Cyrankiewicz (you’re gonna be known as just Quinn from here on in, fella!) also got his share of the spotlight. They harmonise vocally similar to the Truck, and bassist Sandy Mackinnon was up front too, making a formidable front line. Towards the end they threw in a surprise cover of Audioslave’s ‘Cochise’, which Carriere handled very well. I’ll look out for these should they come back to the UK, and especially if they find their way to Liverpool!
Monster Truck had this crowd in their palms from the off, opening with stomper ‘The Lion’. They then got a (wait for it) monster singalong second song in, when they launched into ‘Don’t Tell Me How To Live’. The sold-out crowd were hollering ‘soooarrrr like an eagle’ lustily, back at ‘Marv’ and his cohorts. The set was a mix of all their albums to date, though ‘True Rockers’ is the current offering and several from that were duly played, I suspect that previous album ‘Sittin’ Heavy’ got more songs aired. Not that I was complaining, since the aforementioned ‘Don’t Tell Me How To Live’ is a favourite, as are other bangers like ‘She’s A Witch’ and ‘The Enforcer’ with its crowd-friendly ‘whoa-ohohoh’ refrain. Lots of their material is designed to involve the crowds with shoutalongs like this, allied to satisfyingly meaty riffs from guitarist Jeremy Widerman, big sounding drums from Steve Kiely and that classic organ touch from Brandon Bliss. On top of all that is ‘Marv’ himself, with a rock vocal strong enough to stand with the greats. When not at the mic, he headbangs with menace, stood near the drum riser to allow his guitarist to do his best Angus Young act, all over the stage, never still for a moment.
This was one of those gigs where the band couldn’t put a foot wrong, for me at least even if they’d played a set of polka or something, once they’d given us ‘Don’t Tell Me How To Live’ it would still have been great. As it was, with absolute corkers like ‘Thundertruck’, ‘The Lion’ (which they opened with) and of course singalong favourite ‘Sweet Mountain River’, this was a complete triumph. Gig of the year for me so far, the Truck ticked every box and left me with a post-gig Cheshire Cat grin, always a sign of a corker.
Only slight downer – that old Same Venue Syndrome thing – as we went to exit, they let us out onto the same bit of corridor as the crowd exiting Massive Wagons on the upper floor, causing some crowding. That should have been staggered better, but even that couldn’t detract from a terrific night of proper old-fashioned heavy rock played hard, played like they used to in the old days. Five inflatable guitars coming up!