For those of you who have ever been to the Academy in Liverpool, you will know it is a 2-stage venue. Academy one is the larger of the pair and whilst I’d hoped Prong would have played there, it wasn’t the case. Some boyband called “Five” were playing it and the stream of women dragging their significant others behind them so they could relive their teens was rather amusing, as was the doorman’s attempt to ask if I was sure I was at the right gig when handing over the ticket. This however made the Prong show even better – Academy two has one of the best acoustics in Liverpool. I’ve seen Orange Goblin, The Haunted and Raging Speedhorn in here and all sounded phenomenal, so let’s see how Prong and the rest of the tour hold up.
Up first were Hark. Hailing from South Wales, the three piece came on stage and the moment they started playing their sound just hit you like a sledgehammer. The sheer wall of volume consisting of pure and shameless riff and groove worship sounded fantastic. The full on stoner rock styled vibe from the band was enjoyable. Thunderously heavy bass, powerful drums and raw vocals, the trio had a commanding presence on stage and they had all those who turned up early to catch them in the palm of their hand. “Sins on Sleeves”, “Blackhole Southwest” and “Scarlet Extremities” sounded great and went down well with the crowd which by the end of their set had started to fill up, leading to them only catching one song… The fools! Hark are well worth checking out and I will be following up on this discovery soon.
After a short break, Steak Number 8 were on next. This promising young 4-piece from Belgium have had rave reviews about them in their home country and some of the crowd here were genuinely excited to see them. When they took to the stage, they may have looked a little out of place, their youth and slight hipster-like appearance did raise a few questionable glances from some members of the audience but when they started playing, the doubts were removed. The best way to describe Steak Number 8 would be they’re kind of like a mix consisting of Mastodon and the Dillinger Escape Plan. That very angular intense sound with some mammoth tones to them. They had some good moments, most notably the song “Dickhead” which was second in, but it didn’t do much for me. They was no denying that this band are intense and heavy sounding, but the angular approach, frantic screaming on the vocals and real ‘out there’ feeling didn’t suit them in the live setting as such. A good portion of the crowd did love them though and you could see the promise this band shows, however these are one band I won’t be following up on.
By the time it hit 9:30, the venue had filled up nicely. I’d expected more people given the fact it was playing, but a mid-week gig can be a bit of a struggle to fill at times. After some build up music from another cult tv show which sadly I didn’t recognise (I’m not a TV/Film person, go figure) Tommy, Art and Jason came out. Opening up with the title track from last year’s release, “Ruining Lives” they kicked things off the way they planned to go on – hard hitting, powerful and plenty of head-banging groove. The set featured a fair few tracks from the latest album, Songs From The Black Hole and normally, you’d expect covers to be at the end of the set, but these were dispersed evenly throughout. “Seeing Red”, originally performed by Killing Joke went down fantastic and Tommy remarked that they were his favourite band of all time whilst “Doomsday”, originally by Discharge sounds like it could have been an early Prong track itself. It was delivered at blistering pace which got a lot of people head-banging and after the applause, bassist Jason exclaimed that “That song is really fuckin’ hard to play, so that deserves ANOTHER round of applause!”… He wasn’t lying either, from my view you could see the concentration on their faces.
The old classics like “Beg to Differ”, “Unconditional” and “Rude Awakening” were loved by the crowd and Rude Awakening sounded incredible, even to the point where Tommy exclaimed after they finished playing it that it sounded incredible to them up on stage. During “Lost and Found” Jason in a public information announcement noted that because there weren’t as many people there on the night, the quality of the head-banging needed to be better and the crowd needed to wake the fuck up (which it did) and the energy of the crowd helped drive the band on more. Tommy was in fine form jumping around the stage and getting up front, fist bumping members of the crowd between songs and before “Turnonver” from Runing Lives, he said it was probably the best Prong song ever off their best album ever. Given the quality of the delivery, he might just be right (for the record, The Cleansing clinches best album ever and Rude Awakening clinches best song ever in my book). When the three tracks from The Cleansing came up, things got really animated (“Another Worldly Device, Whose fist is this anyway? and Snap your fingers/Snap your neck”).
For the encore, they just walked off then came right back on. Given Steak Number 8’s slight problems with getting their sound right, the band were pushing curfew so the encore was chopped down to the Sisters of Mercy cover “Vision Thing” which was delivered with all the attitude of the studio version, some guitar wankery from Tommy and then closed with “Prove You Wrong”, capping a brilliant set.
In all, it was a great night. Hark were phenomenal opening up proceedings and look to have a bright future if they continue to deliver stunning live performances like that. Steak Number 8 do have promise, but it’s just not for me. They might have the groove in parts and some real heavy sounds and intensity, but something just didn’t click for me. Prong, as incredible as ever. They are one of the best live bands around and if you saw them at Bloodstock last year, you’ll see why. Tommy seems to have a solid unit this time round with Jason and Art backing him up and you can see just how much he is enjoying music again. It’s been a while since I left a gig with my ears ringing the way they were, and as I write this up now, there’s still a slight buzzing. Prong in the O2 Academy 2 was a phenomenal experience. The small venue, fantastic sound and fast paced, hard hitting and full of energy set made for a really enjoyable gig. If you ever get the chance to catch Prong, do so. If it’s in a smaller venue, even better!
(Review and photos Fraggle)