MONSTER TRUCK with guests THE PICTUREBOOKS at Club Academy – Manchester / 18 March 2017
Saturday Night in Manchester, and while crowds were plentiful around the city centre, I was curious as to how audience numbers would be represented at this gig. Several other rock gigs and events on the same evening did not bode well in advance for this one. Manchester rock crowds are a fickle lot – turning out in droves for the larger arena shows but choosing to remain in couch potato mode for the smaller bands. In stepping into the basement confines of the smallest Academy venue, my reservations were borne out in that crowd figures were sparse and very thin on the ground. Opening band The Picturebooks would certainly not, it would appear, be in receipt of a very warm local welcome – well, with only ten minutes until they were due on stage that would certainly seem to be the case. Moses himself must have then made a guest appearance and parted the stairs/doors to the venue. Within that short period, a small venue went from a handful of people to packed to near capacity. I often sympathise with bands that give everything to a few indifferent people while everyone stays in the bar next door until the headlining band begin their set. Tonight, however, The Picturebooks would be in receipt of a quality and overwhelming response.
The official definition of a band is “a group of musicians who play music together.” Not sure if a duo then fulfils that description accurately. However, the massive sound generated by Flynn Claus Grabke on vocals and guitar, and Philipp Mirtschink on drums, certainly does deliver entertainment in droves. While people’s initial reaction was quizzical, asking questions regarding the lack of bassist, once the opening power and raw music was delivered they became instantly engaged in enjoying the music. Hard to define in terms of musical genres The Picturebooks serve up a touch of country, sprinkled lightly with a slight colour of blues, elements of gospel and huge brutal rock riffs. An unusual myriad of sonics – it was a reflection of the band’s quality that they engaged the full capacity of the Club Academy from the outset. Playing most of their latest album Home is a Heartache, the duo appeared at several points during their all too brief set to be visibly moved by the quality of the audience’s reception that they had received. Many new fans were won over and I will not be alone in hoping that they fulfil their promise to quickly make a return trip to the UK. Definitely a band that offer a personal guarantee of entertainment and a great evening out.
With a short turnover, it was then the turn of Canadians Monster Truck to power onto the stage boards. When I last saw the band live, it was in the much more spacious Manchester Arena as main support to Nickelback. Quite the surprise on that tour as they easily won over what I had anticipated to be a difficult audience. This time it would be their own crowd, so they would be preaching to the already converted. This didn’t mean however that the band would hold back on their intensity and passionate delivery. Combining material from both albums, like the support band their musical style is difficult to categorise. Retro fuzzed rock, the only thing missing was the smokey haze from the audience which used to permeate concerts of a bygone era. A Saturday night with a fully packed venue, audience voices raised on high along with their beer glasses, heads nodding in response to the heavy rhythms served up in huge Southern-flavoured, greasy slices. Tonight, the Monster Truck was on fire, and driving on full-speed ahead. The atmosphere created in this small Manchester venue was akin to a huge party where the only condition of entry was full 100% participation. Monster Truck don’t let their energy levels fluctuate depending on venue size. They give their all each and every night. Their fans fully recognise that and reciprocate with devotion and their voices.
It wasn’t all full in-your-face power brutality though; the band did take (albeit brief) quieter songs of lighter reflective and mellow moments. These served merely to give both them and their fanbase a breather before raising the tempo and energy levels once again. Not surprisingly, the mighty Monster Truck delivered a high tempo, unforgettable and explosive performance. Next tour I confidently predict another step up to larger venues. I cordially invite you to grab a beer and get aboard the Truck, but hold on tight for a rocky ride.
Review by Mark Dean || Photos by Mik Connor