Massive + Thirteen Stars @ Eagle Inn, Salford on August 20th 2019

Thirteen Stars, aka The Cumbria Cowboys, have been a little quiet of late. A couple of years ago they were all over the place, you couldn’t go to a gig without tripping over a misplaced cowboy boot or bumping into a tasselled suede jacket but recently? They seemed to have dropped off the radar. Probably had real life and stuff to deal with I expect.

Anyhow tonight they are back on a stage and I’m pleased to report that they are back on form too. I missed the first couple of songs due to Salford’s road closures and incomprehensible diversion signs but arrived in time to catch a couple of tunes from their most recent album “White Raven”. Want raw emotion in a southern rock style? Yep, Thirteen Stars are just the men for that. They are working on a new album at the moment and debut a couple of songs for us. These see them moving in a slightly different direction, more westerly in fact. There is a hint of jangly guitar and a laid-back west-coast rock feel to them. It reminds me a lot of Tom Petty, and indeed the upcoming single ‘Running So Long’ is dedicated to the man himself. I love it! They finish with live favourite ‘Only A Soldier’ with its military drum beat under a proper down-home rock out. Thirteen Stars are back with a bang, and I’m glad to see them out and about again.

Before I get to tonight’s headliners Massive, let me tell you a little about the venue. The first thing I noticed was that it’s tiny. I mean really tiny. They’ve taken a couple of floors out so there’s plenty of height (and a little balcony which is awesome for short people and leads to some interesting angles for photos) but the actual room? It’s like having a gig in your living room. Oh and the stage lights are red, the colour of most photographers’ nightmares!

But that aside the staff are friendly, the beer is good and Massive are about to take that tiny room and turn it into a sweatbox of epic proportions. Even though Massive are not, actually, very massive at all, I’m still a little worried that they won’t fit on the stage. Singer Brad fixes this by putting his microphone on an extra-long stand in front of the stage, which means had he brought a cat he might just have made enough space to swing it if he felt the need. Just.

It’s not so long since I last reviewed Massive for you, and I’m pleased to note that they haven’t changed much. They are still the epitome of a gritty bar band. Their music is hard rock with that distinctive Australian feel to it and they come straight in with riffs that punch you in the face and steal your beer. Probably steal your woman too! Tonight’s gig is almost a house party, and Massive are partying hard. Their energy and enthusiasm fills the room and the music swirls around, catching you up and making you dance. Even the Grumpy Husband nodded his head and tapped a toe or two.

One of the standout songs for me was ‘One By One’, which you can find on their first album ‘Full Throttle’. It’s incredibly catchy, and features an impressive screamy finish from Brad. There’s a change of style for ‘One For The Road’, which has a slower, dirtier groove and kind of oozes into your ears. There was also a little drum solo, and Brad introduced us to guitarist Ben who was the original guitarist but left then came back. It’s at this point I spot his pedal board and realise it’s not a board at all, it’s a switch. Yep, no special effects and poncy electronic aids needed for this band, just the one switch. I don’t know what it does, I suspect it just goes from “loud” to “louder” or something similar.

Back to the music and we got a cover of AC/DC’s ‘If You Want Blood’. It’s nice to see a DC song played that isn’t one of the “usual” ones, and Massive managed to both keep to the style of the original and also rip it up and make it their own. They played a rocking, riffing song off their most recent album “Rebuild Destroy”. “Roses” was not, as the title might suggest, any kind of ballad. Instead it was a balls-out rocker with duelling guitars and more spit-in-yer-face vocals. Fast, furious and full-on. They did however show a surprising talent for a bit of acapella vocal harmony during the intro to ‘Ghost’, before the big power chords came in and the song bounced off the walls in the same way that the band were bouncing all over the stage. Closer “Long Time Coming” (which I thought was called Long Tall Carol, because it was loud and I couldn’t hear properly!) was another bouncy slice of bar boogie, and the only thing left to do to finish the night in style was to allow some lurking members of Gorilla Riot to cling-wrap Ben. No, I don’t know either!

So yeah. Massive. A little band with big balls, guaranteed to put a smile on the face of the grumpiest of grumpy old gits. My kind of band. They are back in the UK next May, so if you’ve missed them on this recent tour keep an eye out for dates.

Words and photography by Jo Crosby