Photos by Ivan Scheffer
Words by Thomas Duncan
There ain’t no party like an Alestorm party. Regardless of where you see them, or when this remains true. They have always been an amazing gig to go to, if for no other reason than to see how much fun the metal community can be. While other bands can be a killer gig experience for fans of the genre, Alestorm simultaneously is incredibly fun and rewarding for fans of the band while being quite accessible to newcomers. The combination of power and folk metal that is Pirate Metal is rarely better demonstrated than in this Scottish crew, and last night at the Croxton Bandroom in Melbourne was no different.
Supports for this sort of gig can be hard to pick, as you want to get that careful balance of getting a metal crowd warmed up while still keeping people in a lighter party mood. To that end, you could have hardly found better picks. Triple Kill opened up the show, and showed why they’re one of the most fun bands kicking around Melbourne. They have a great balance between incredible musicianship and the ability to take the piss, not taking themselves too seriously while blasting out precise riffs and incredible solos. Always a pleasure to see, this time was no different and I look forward to seeing them on more headline shows.
Rumahoy were up next, and a better suited warmup to Alestorm you couldn’t ask for. Their mood, their stagecraft, and the cheesy feeling of their songs was excellent, and the crowd reacted accordingly. This was a sold out crowd all crammed into the Croxton, but I’ve seen sold out crowds react less to the headliner they paid $100 for than what Rumahoy got. Notable stand outs for me were ‘Treasure Gun’ and ‘Cowboys of the Sea’ as the songs that really got me on board their ship.
With that, it was time for Alestorm, and we didn’t have to wait long. Opening up big with ‘Keelhauled’, they proceeded to blast through a fan favourite selection of tunes, with nothing that wasn’t easy to name off the top of my head. All the hits were there, from the early classics like ‘Captain Morgan’s Revenge’ and ‘Nancy the Tavern Wench’ to more recent hits like ‘No Grave but the Sea’ and ‘Mexico’. Given that Alestorm tour Australia fairly regularly, I almost wished that they had played some more of the back catalogue, but it’s hard to argue with the tour de force that was their setlist. Everything was played to an adoring crowd, shouts and pumping fists from all corners of the room.
Anyone who listens to the albums knows what they’re in for, and everything was played pretty faithfully. The sound wasn’t perfect from the edges of the room, but in the centre you were blasted with what you came for, the kick drum and guitar lines ripping through like the crashing waves in the lyrics. The combination of Máté Bodor’s guitar and Gareth Murdock’s bass carry the whole crowd along into the piratical world of the songs, while Peter Alcorn’s precise drum rhythms keep everyone in line. These three create the guts of what Alestorm is, and without the power that one feels live from this trio it’s easy to see how Alestorm might lose people over time. The music is consistently cleverer than it has any right to be, while still sticking to the expected tropes and clichés that we’re all there to see.
On top of this comfortable metal base comes the keyboards and vocals of both Elliot Vernon and lead singer Christopher Bowes, an exceptional showman. The stage was a little too small to see some of the antics I’ve witnessed at Alestorm gigs before, always a pity, but overall they both really sell the Alestorm experience, and I don’t think many people could have come away from that disappointed. With any band as anthemic and memorable it would have been easy to lose the vocals in the sea of people, but thankfully nearly every audience member knew every lyric, so you were covered.
At the end of the day, I think it’s a fiddly one to review. As with many other bands, the experience of the live show is a hard thing to condense into words, but even more than that, the atmosphere in an Alestorm gig is another thing altogether. You can tell it from the gentle swaying and cry of “Come take a drink, and drown your sorrows” all through to guest vocalist Beefguy (Phil Philp, previously of Lagerstein) leading the mosh in a cover of Taio Cruz’ song ‘Hangover’. It’s a special kind of party that you get at gigs, and short of perhaps Korpiklaani you’d be hard pressed to find anyone better at creating that vibe. Whether that’s at Wacken or 70000 Tons of Metal, there really ain’t no party like an Alestorm party. If you missed them, I’d recommend getting a bottle of rum from the shop, inviting your friends over and blasting their albums while getting trashed, and then buying bloody tickets next time. You won’t regret it, though your body might the next morning.
Get tickets to the remaining Alestorm Australian tour shows from Soundworks Touring HERE!