Live Review: The Sword, Clowns, American Sharks, Hobo Magic

26 February 2016 | 4:15 pm | Tom Hersey

"John D Cronise and Kyle Shutt play licks upon licks upon licks like an air guitarist's wet dream."

More The Sword More The Sword

Sure, it was the year in which we were all subjected to Hotline Bling, but a much larger musical crime perpetrated in 2015 was the collective 'meh' that greeted Texas stoner rock crew The Sword's fifth album. It sounded like if ZZ Top had written Sky Valley and for some bizarre reason no one seemed to care. Thankfully though, Heathen Skulls have brought the four-piece out here to make their case for High Country and Hobo Magic, local disciples of the church that is rock'n'roll swagger, do an excellent job of warming the crowd up for the aural feast they're about to witness.

Stateside proto-punk trio American Shark inject some energy into the proceedings with The Hellacopters-inspired cuts from their self-titled album, which get the swelling crowd starting to move.

Clowns obviously believe in their band. It seems like at the drop of a hat they're willing to jump on any national touring support slot that comes their way. But that self-belief, coupled with all the shows, is really starting to pay off. Tonight the dudes work through the chaotic array of sounds that made their way onto Bad Blood and stay true to the material's wildness without it coming across as feeling sloppy.

Coming out to the short instrumental that opens up High Country, The Sword waste no time asserting their position as jam lords tonight. The material from their first two stoner metal albums barely gets a look in (a groovier-than-thou rendition of Mother, Maiden & Crone is a notable exception) as John D Cronise and Kyle Shutt play licks upon licks upon licks like an air guitarist's wet dream. High Country cuts Tears like Diamonds and Buzzards come across like bombastic mega-jams as the duo's guitars capture the record's confounding balance of weightiness and lightness. What they can do with their guitars makes jaws slacken in disbelief, they work together to create a sound that is spacey and progressive, but also as direct as your favourite good-time rock record. It's sounds like if Queens Of The Stone Age never left the desert and chose to spend their sun-drenched days listening to Blue Cheer. With barely a break in between cuts The Sword can do no wrong tonight. Even when they venture into their somewhat contentious 2010 record Warp Riders, efforts like Tres Brujas and Lawless Lands keep the crowd in their trance of head nodding as Cronise's soaring yelps transport the room to the furthermost reaches of the multi-verse.

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Oh yes, tonight The Sword successfully put forward arguments that support High Country. By the time their encore finishes amid a flurry of stage-diving, no one in the room can doubt their position as one of the premier guitar bands of our time.