Review: Those Damn Crows – SWG3, Glasgow

What a year it has been for Those Damn Crows. 2023 got off to a great start with the release of the people’s champions’ third studio album ‘Inhale/Exhale’, and the 5-piece packed them in the length and breadth of the UK with a mixture of record store instores, and headline shows. One of those shows was in Swansea. In an arena. Those Damn Crows, headlining an arena. It doesn’t normally get better than that, but for The Crows it did.

First up came the chance to reach a new audience by opening for Goo Goo Dolls on the Grammy-Award winners UK tour of Academy-sized venues. And by all accounts, Shane, Shiner, David, Ronnie, and Lloyd left with hundreds of new converts each night. Then, the icing on the cake: opening for The Hollywood Vampires in Europe. The chance to bring TDC to the masses in Europe, and having caught the Berlin show, I can confirm that they went down a storm and the crucial German market discovered first-hand what those in the UK have long known: Those Damn Crows are a global band. And now as the year reaches the final quarter; their largest headline UK tour to date, with a few EU headline dates thrown in. In the largest venues that they have headlined. And they say that good things don’t happen to good people.

Walking along to the venue the noise is deafening. Skull-splittingly deafening. And the sky is full of red warning lights. A quick glance up to see what the hell is going on reveals a Police helicopter hovering directly above the venue, and the first thought is “Shit, what the hell has Shane done now? Where has he climbed up?”. You see if you are new to Those Damn Crows after catching them with Goo Goo Dolls, or The Hollywood Vampires, you might not know that The Crows frontman likes to climb. Give him something to climb and he will jump at the chance. Thankfully tonight the copter was not called out to get Shane down from somewhere he shouldn’t have been, and with the panic over, it’s into the main room at SWG3 for Those Damn Crow’s largest Scottish headline appearance to date, and the place is packed.

Opening act The Cruel Knives takes to the stage in front of a surprisingly full room. This is surprising purely because the bar is in a separate area and is usually full when the opening act are plying their trade. But with a mixture of punters wanting to stake their places for the arrival of the headliner, and the small matter that The Cruel Knives have glowing recommendations from anyone who has caught them live, the four-piece led by ex-Heavens Basement guitarist Sid Glover are performing to an attentive room.

Last seen opening for The Pretty Reckless, The Cruel Knives are comfortable on larger stages and have a certain air of confidence missing from other acts of similar standing. Musically, The Pretty Reckless was a great match-up. Shinedown would be perfect as The Cruel Knives have that modern American rock sound down to T. Opener ‘The Life That We Made’ (the ideal track for frustrated drummers in the audience) is a colossal few minutes that scream America, as does the excellent ‘Black Eye Friday’ which again features some stunning drum work. The sound is huge on this one and the chop and change in pace and style would not sound out of place opening on the current Shinedown/Papa Roach US tour. Likewise, ‘If This Is The End (I’ve Been a Fool From The Start)’ is begging for American airplay. Vocalist Tom Harris delivers a muscular performance and has formed a great partnership with the always-impressive Sid Glover, best exemplified on the new track ‘Shotgun to the Head’ which as Harris explains, has been bubbling under for a while and keeps on being worked on before it gets recorded. With a hint of a Velvet Revolver influence, if this is the direction that The Cruel Knives are going in, it will be worthwhile getting on board now because this one is special.

“Are you ready? Show me that you are ready!” Shane Greenhall knows how to work a room. Even though he is preaching to the converted – The Crow Family – he is not resting, instead, the likeable frontman is seemingly intent on making eye contact with everyone in the crowd that he can actually see through the darkness. And once he is content that the crowd is indeed ready, he lets rip with “We’re…Those…Damn…CROWS”; his version of Lemmy’s trademark introduction “We are Motörhead and we play rock & roll”. His bandmates crash into ‘Who Did It’ and suddenly “There’s a storm cloud coming…”, but in a good way. There are a lot of red lights burning the eyes of all those that look directly into them, white spots are bursting through to offer some respite from the red, the crowd is in great voice, and drummer Ronnie Huxford is hitting so hard that this reviewer has a dentist appointment next week to get their fillings replaced. Cheers, Ronnie.

It only takes a few moments before it becomes apparent that Those Damn Crows belong on stages this size and under their own steam, rather than special guests to someone else. Through a fantastic work ethic and backed by a plethora of killer, easily-relateable songs, The Crows have created quite a community that seems to grow in number with each turn. It’s also lovely to see so many families in attendance, with multiple generations united by stellar moments such as the fantastic driving rock of ‘Man on Fire’, ‘Send the Reaper’ (where the lighting naturally changes to all-red), and the staccato-riffs of ‘Takedown’. Chit-chat is kept to a minimum as the band storms through the set at pace; ‘Find a Way’ is stunning (and a tad ironic since the stage turns to a wall of blue and you can’t see anyone), and ‘Wake Up (Sleepwalker)’ has Mr. Huxford and the smiling assassin on bass, Lloyd Wood, combing to great effect. ‘Lay It All on Me’ keeps up the lush bass lines from Lloyd and guitarist David Winchurch delivers some gorgeous, deep tones throughout (as both he and fellow guitarist Shiner do all night). And although you know what is coming as soon as the guys leave Shane alone onstage, it is still a huge thrill once he takes his place at the piano for ‘Blink of an Eye’. The band gradually comes back in as the song starts to build and with full-throated backing from the crowd, it ends with a wall of Roman candle fireworks lighting up the front of the stage. Very special indeed.

One of the reasons that Those Damn Crows stand out from the pack is that they are constantly evolving. There is clear growth from one album to the next, and that willingness to watch and learn is abundant. As well as growth in their stagecraft, there is also massive growth in the songwriting department, with the closing pair of ‘This Time I’m Ready’ and ‘See You Again’ being prime examples. Both of these – culled from ‘Inhale/Exhale’ – are perfect for the global market, ‘This Time I’m Ready’ is genuinely like an unexpected punch to the solar plexus, both lyrically and musically, especially on the aggressive turn of pace towards the end, and if you can watch the promo video for it without welling up then lucky for you that you have yet to experience loss in your life. The bouncy ‘See You Again’ packs a bit of a Gaslight Anthem punch in places (so in turn, also a bit of a Springsteen feel to the music), poignant, uplifting, and super catchy, it is one of those songs that leave the audience beaming from ear-to-ear and hoarse from singing along to. None of the usual encore shenanigans, once the last strains of ‘See You Again’ fade out, the Roman candles burn out, and the plumes of smoke fade away, all that is left is five musicians soaking up the adulation from their extended family. This one is set to run, and run, and run…

Catch Those Damn Crows at the following dates:

Mon 16th Oct – BRIGHTON Chalk

Tue 17th Oct – LONDON O2 Forum Kentish Town

Tickets are on sale now, here.

Review – Dave

Live images – Dave Jamieson

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