It’s not long after doors open at Glasgow’s O2 ABC before opening band Crobot are due to grace us with their presence. Already there’s a good-sized crowd, the young guys behind me are looking forward to their set as much as I am. Between the four of us and another regular face I see at gigs, we swap anecdotes. All around me, there’s a sea of black, leather, denim and beards. I don’t look too out of place, having the first three. It’s only a short wait for Crobot and they hit the stage with all guns blazing.
A short set based off their debut album Something Supernatural, they marry riffs and grooves with Brandon Yeagley’s impressive voice. They hammer through as many songs as they can manage, very much showing their Zeppelin influence and sounding very much of that era, they manage to shine because there are fewer bands doing this stuff today.
Even more impressive on the bigger stage compared to downstairs a few months ago when they made their Glasgow debut and they were fantastic that night, too. They receive a rapturous response and the entire set, I was nodding along with the catchy melodies whilst thinking they would do well in somewhere like the Cathouse on a headline show. Much of the set had guitarist Chris Bishop swinging his guitar around his body whilst Brandon Yeagley looked like he had springs in his legs, bouncing around the stage. Over far too soon and Black Tusk had a task ahead of them to top that.
Earlier, one of the young guys we had been chatting to had informed me Black Tusk are less than wonderful. Admittedly, he did look like a hipster so I had pretty much made up my mind that they would actually be good. Turns out he was right. Kind of. After a quick turnaround between Crobot and Black Tusk, they took the stage for their own set.
Musically, they were good. Heavy, sludgy and squealing riffs. Perfect for Black Label Society. But the shared vocals between guitarist, bass player and drummer were very much akin to screaming and shouting. I don’t think I picked up much of the vocals. However, by the end of the set, I was suitably entertained and warmed up for the main attraction. Had the vocals been more appealing, I’d have walked away as a fan.
How do you get a Scottish crowd onside before even starting your set? Play a bagpipe rendition of “Flower of Scotland” for the crowd to sing along to. Patriotism aside, the intro which spoke more to me was the mash-up between Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” and Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs”. As it stopped, the curtain dropped and Zakk Wylde and his cohorts began a barrage of heavy metal, backed by a wall of Marshall amps.
Playing a decent chunk from their latest album, Catacombs of the Black Vatican, they slotted in perfectly with older material. The band never stopped with the exception of swapping guitars between songs. Zakk Wylde showed some brilliant skill during an extended guitar solo but it quickly descended into a boring display of showing how technical he can be. As much as I like my guitar solos, this one over-stayed its welcome.
Boring solos aside, they pulled off a pretty good performance. Songs full of chunky riffs, squealing elsewhere. Headbanging from the crowd aplenty. The only drawback being because of ScotRail, I had to leave after “Angel of Mercy”. Just as “In this River” began. Looking at the set afterwards online, I only missed a couple of songs after that, including my personal favourite “The Blessed Hellride”.
That being said, I’m not in any great rush for them to come back. Should they return to Glasgow in a couple of years, I’ll maybe show my face again but last night showed Black Label’s material can be pretty familiar, even if you only see an hour of an eighty minute set.