Buckcherry aren’t a band who are part of my usual listening habits. I’ve got the albums (yeah, even 2015’s Rock ‘n’ Roll) and know the usual songs but they don’t feature otherwise. As such, it was the support band which piqued my interest: Aaron Buchanan & The Cult Classics. No stranger to these pages, there’s always a guaranteed good night from Mr Buchanan and his cohorts.
Tonight was no exception to the rule. Despite my friend not being able to make the gig (who was coming from the south of England specifically for them), it’s one I’ve been looking forward to for some time for a number of reasons. As the lights drop and “Mind of a Mute” kicks in, there’s some knowing applause from the people who are aware of the band. Mixing some of the best songs from The Man With Stars on His Knees and Heaven’s Basement’s Filthy Empire, as setlists go for a short half-hour slot, it’s fairly standard. However, that doesn’t make it any less exceptional.
As the band fire on all cylinders, all five musicians are loaded with energy and determined to warm up the crowd which they duly manage. By the time they leave the stage, the crowd are definitely warmed up and far more receptive than at the beginning of their performance. Beers are handed to the crowd for “Dancin’ Down Below” and by this point, guitarists Tom McCarthy and Laurie Buchanan’s backing vocals are audible having been completely buried during “Fire, Fire”. As it ends, the Buchanan siblings freeze as McCarthy leads the intro to “Heartbreaking Son of a Bitch” to which Aaron unfreezes and declares “Ya bastad!”
By the end of the set, complete with Aaron taking to the crowd to perform a handstand much like Frank Carter has done in the past, he shows the Rattlesnakes frontman how it’s done with gusto. But it’s the rip-roaring finale of “Morals” which shows the band at their best, distilling their core sound into one bombastic song. Full of power and displaying how slick they are as a live band, it’s the best performance I’ve seen from the band yet. It’s the issuing of a challenge to the headliners to top it…
…Which they don’t. Boasting a different line-up from my last encounter with them, they’ve got the energy of a young band but lack the polish you’d expect from a band this far into their career. Sure, vocalist Josh Todd may be the sole original member of the band but there’s no cohesion to the rest, perhaps as a result of that.
The hard rock outfit may have cherry-picked the setlist to cover most points of their career as well as teasing a new song to come from next year’s album but their actual performance was more of an exercise than a band excited to be performing for fans. Despite that, the crowd are fairly receptive and bouncing for the whole hour the band are onstage. They manage to fire through a number of songs in that short space of time and Josh Todd manages to find enough space to deliver a sampling of cringey banter covering the topics you’d expect at a Steel Panther gig. And if you’re not wearing spandex and a wig and in on the whole joke, it just shouldn’t be done.
Whilst “Lit Up” gets the crowd going early, it’s their Icona Pop cover of “Say Fuck It” that has the audience at their most responsive. Meanwhile, songs like “Sorry” and “Too Drunk” get a warm reception before the closer of the obvious “Crazy Bitch”. Meanwhile, a cover of The Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues” brings the encore to its end. It’s here where it seems like the band are actually working together as a unit for the first time of the night, rather than playing their individual parts and there’s chemistry on the stage.
It’s a bittersweet ending to a bittersweet evening: an absent friend and Buckcherry pulling it together right at the end. Meanwhile, Aaron Buchanan & The Cult Classics demonstrated how a support act should win a crowd – work damn hard for it and bask in the reward.