Good old Brixton Academy, a stalwart in the London music scene. A venue that has withstood the test of time when so many others have fallen to demolition or repurpose. Some of the greatest musicians of all time will tell you that Brixton is their favourite place to play. Typing in ‘Live at Brixton Academy’ will bring up dozens of live albums cut by some of the best. It’s a theatre beloved by Londoners, concert goers and artists alike. Jacoby Shaddix of Papa Roach even named his son after it! It’s also where I saw my very first concert and was totally bedazzled by Green Day and New Found Glory at aged 14. It’s really like a second home and I know there’s plenty of people who would agree.
As I join the back of the queue, which with only ten minutes until doors open is now well round the side of the building and into the next street, I begin to reminisce about my first time seeing Stone Sour live. It was at the old Astoria theatre, a place in equal measure gross and charming, but a venue for some of the greatest gigs London has ever hosted. I’m reminded that two of the members of the band have departed since then, creating a shift in the direction of the music along the way. I’m interested to hear how the band sound these days. Have they retained their intensity? Can Christian Martucci and Johnny Chow impress me like Jim Root and Shawn Economaki did all those years ago? Is this version of Stone Sour a hit or a miss? I ponder these things as I enter through the hustle and bustle of people being screened for security. There’s a lot of shouting going on but really I’m just happy to be out of the December cold.
I had almost forgotten that The Pretty Reckless were the opening act. I’m pretty stoked to see them as well as I have been a fan of theirs since Light Me Up hit shelves over seven years ago. When they hit the stage it’s obvious which song they’re opening with as that sample provided by adult actress Jenna Haze is played through the PA leading in to Follow Me Down. As it’s Christmas time I’m reminded of the fact that the badass rock n roll jezebel image that Taylor Momsen graces as she takes to the stage is the same adorable little Cindy Lou Who from the Grinch Who Stole Christmas. This disturbs me somewhat. In any case I brush it off and get on with enjoying what I believe is a very under rated band.
They’re loud as hell and their sound is crisp with an epic light show to boot (which on occasion temporarily blinded myself and my friends). They pile drive through Since You’re Gone before introducing three songs of their most recent effort, 2016’s Who You Selling For. It’s clear to see and hear that Guitarist Ben Phillips has gone from strength to strength as his shredding leads the path of this monolith performance, perfectly complimenting Momsen’s rasping wail-like vocals. Really the band have brought their A-game tonight. They smash past breakout single Make Me Wanna Die before playing fan favourites Heaven Knows and Going to Hell. They finish their ten-song set with Take Me Down leaving a lasting impression and setting the bar pretty damn high for the headline act to follow.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years Corey Taylor will always make it his business to bring the party. The man isn’t known as the great big mouth for nothing. Stone Sour take to the stage amongst sparklers as they roar in to Taipei Person/Allah Tea off their critically acclaimed most recent album Hydrograd. Knieval Has Landed follows before the band sends me back in time to my first Stone Sour concert at the height of the Come What(Ever) May tour back in 2006 with Made of Scars and Reborn.
I note how there’s a ferocity to the band’s sound these days. An intensity representative of both chaos and control. It’s clear the band are having a lot of fun as a unit as the exchanges on stage are all smiles and Taylor every so often mid song firing confetti in to the crowd. It looks like a band thrilled to be spending their time with one and other which is only improving their sound. Perhaps a change of line-up was needed to refresh them and get them to this point? Jim Root is a fine guitar player no doubt and certainly more technically-inclined than Christian Martucci, however there’s a playful energy that the latter brings to the table which perfectly complements Taylor and co and allows them to shine through as a more straight-forward hard rock band.
A few songs in and I’m surprised to hear Say You’ll Haunt Me and Hesitate off of Audio Secrecy, widely regarded as the band’s black sheep album. While I actually love that album, I can understand that it’s certainly not as aggressive as their other efforts, which is perhaps why during these songs the crowd dampens slightly and why they chose to throw in the all-action 30/30-150 between these tracks. I’m enjoying the variety in the set list as satisfying portions of each of their six albums are delivered. The surprise of the night comes in the form of Cold Reader, a song from their self-titled first album which I certainly was not expecting. The biggest surprise was yet to come as after Taylor delivered a speech on his love for the British Isles, the band would solidify that praise by breaking in to a pulsating cover of Children of the Grave by Black Sabbath. After a brief intermission, the band take the stage to finish with Gone Sovereign and the audience-backed Absolute Zero before ending with Fabuless with some assistance from some help from some wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube men!
Overall this incarnation of Stone Sour is different but no less great live. They seem refreshed by the changes they’ve had to make over the years. Corey Taylor is as entertaining and enthralling as ever and the band sound tight as a unit. I was very pleased to see and hear that after all these years and all the adversity the band has faced both inside and outside the collective that they are still trucking onwards and churning out some great tunes and performances along the way. I’m equally happy to see The Pretty Reckless absolutely killing it and their performance as the opening act left me eager to hear more from them. I’m anxious to see what awaits in the future of both bands.