The notion of support bands is not the same for everyone. No doubt that many bands have taken the stage to be faced with barely full venues, “impress me” expressions, folded arms and the ones taking no notice while chattering at the bar and passing the time before the headliner takes the stage.
This is not the case for Those Damn Crows, though, Sheffield Corporation is rammed with huge swathes of the crowd here to see them. The Welsh act may be considered a relatively new name but one that has been steadily building up a formidable reputation and putting in the hard yards supporting other acts as well as playing festival stages such as Steelhouse and Download. The hard work is paying off and it is not difficult to see why – the quintet has something of a buzz going on about them because from the moment they take the stage, the atmosphere is electric. Opening with Who Did It? from latest album Point Of No Return, there is not just heads bobbing, there is a wave of movement created by dancing and singing along.
Shane Greenhall is not just a good vocalist; he is a masterful front man who reacts to the outstretched arms and often gets in front of the barrier to greet even more of the ‘Crows faithful. Greenhall also has the comedic stage patter and when a singalong is a tad underwhelming, Greenhall is not shy – “that’s fucking diabolical, Sheffield” – which is all taken in good humour. Those Damn Crows is more than their charismatic singer, though, the whole band is on fire. Guitarists David Winchurch and Ian ‘Shiner’ Thomas lay down the riffs, the former often coming to the front of the stage, the latter relatively stock still hidden behind sunglasses but the pair of them totally in tune with each other at each side of the stage.
With two albums of material, Those Damn Crows certainly choose songs that get the Sheffield crowd off of their feet, Sin On Skin and Go Get It have such irresistible choruses where the word ‘catchy’ does not even cover it but it is the hulking guitar of the latter that nearly brings the roof down. Wake Up (Sleepwalker) is the one new tracked aired from Inhale/Exhale set for release in February 2023 and Greenhall teases a new single with more humour as the crowd cheers – “You haven’t heard it yet”.
Closing the with the anthem-like Rock ‘n’ Roll Dead!, Those Damn Crows end on a serious high and for those in the know, it is no surprise that this is a band on the up and anyone not in the know just had their world rocked.
As Those Damn Crows leave the stage, there is a muttering of “follow that” in the audience. Seeing as Monster Truck is on an extensive tour of the UK then the Canadians will have seen the reaction their support act has been receiving and if being upstaged is worrying the ‘Truck then there is no evidence on show. Monster Truck has their own momentum going with the recent release of their huge new album Warriors and the six songs from that album already feel like old friends as they nestle in the set with older material.
As a band, the quartet is pure entertainment, and it is difficult where to place the eyes. While the considerable frame of bassist/vocalist Jon Harvey is rooted at the front, pocketed bandanna, vintage Guns n’ Roses shirt and looking like a rock god, guitarist Jeremy Wideman rarely stands still but it is not the usual bopping around, the stage has enough space for a variety of running back and forth with the occasional duck walk. While ‘guitar face’ is limited to a rare grimace, how a player can be that tight and move so much is mind boggling. At the back is Brandon Bliss who infuses the ‘Truck sound with some snazzy keys and (relatively) new drummer Theo McKibbon is exhausting to watch as he beats those skins into serious submission. There is something very analogue about Monster Truck, not just their look or delivery but seeing instruments wired up and both Harvey and Widerman wander to their amps to eke out a bit of fuzz.
The set is a well balanced mix of old and new and Why Are You Not Rocking? sets the scene in glorious style with McKibbon a a wild flurry of sticks and cymbals. Old Train brings out the first set of ‘whoahs’ to the chorus and Widerman is not shy in encouraging the Sheffield crowd to join in. First new song Golden Woman is an absolute belter and when Harvey grins on the line “she’s a real hot mama” there is a grin and a glint in they at the same time, the stabs of organ from Bliss are pure fun to hear and watch. Following the beautiful slow down of Sittin’ Heavy highlight Black Forest is three from the new Warriors album, the brilliant rock-a-long of Fuzz Mountain, the huge chug of Live Free and the country-fied Country Livin’.
The set does then slightly sag with For The Sun and Seven Seas Blues. Make no mistake, the two tunes are expertly, and it is quite something to see Widerman sink to his knees to play the solos, but the two songs together take some wind out of the sails of momentum. The heavy boogie of the brilliant Get My Things And Go brings back the pace followed by older track New Soul which has Widerman duck walking across the stage once more and then new album title track before heading to debut album Furiosity for a nailed on Sweet Mountain River. On returning for the encore, Jeremy Widerman jokes that drummer McKibbon had only been with the band for thirty shows, and they very nearly let him come on for the encore alone before launching into the riff monster that is Don’t Tell Me How To Live. Closing the show with The Lion, Monster Truck leave the Sheffield stage after covering old and new and back again; a well oiled machine that has no reason to slow down.
Tonight, is an evening of solid rock ‘n’ roll where two class bands brought their A-game and still reaching for the stars. It is not a competition and as the crowd wander into the Sunday night rain, there is not an unhappy face amongst them. Don’t fuck with the ‘Truck? No, sirs, not in a month of Sheffield Sundays would anyone dare.