MAMMOTH WVH, THE DUST CODA @ O2 INSTITUTE, BIRMINGHAM, 08/07/2024

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If you are going to make an entrance you may as well make it a good one. That appears to be the maxim for The Dust Coda this evening, as they kick the show off with a quite brilliant “Limbo Man”. It is everything that has ever been great about the band -and there is plenty. As lead guitar man Adam Mackie and frontman John Drake lock together on a solo, anyone who didn’t realise it before knows it now and the Dust Coda are simply a wonderful band.

Only given 25 minutes to prove it here. Nonetheless, the slower, more deliberate “Dream Alight”, or the study any groove and melody that is “Call Out The Dogs” plainly shine.

And they’ve always been this good, the dip back into the debut for “The More It Fades” underlines that, before they bring it right up to date with arguably the finest moment on last year’s “Loco Paradise” record – “The Road To Hell”. Here, with the original bass player Ricky stepping in just for these shows, Drake reckons it’s their job to “warm you up”. They did that, they always do that, but just as they were getting warmed up themselves they were cut off in their prime. Still, even 25 minutes of The Dust Coda is a must-see.

In front of MV this evening, there are two people. One is wearing a Slash T-shirt from the spring of this year, the other an Alter Bridge one from December 2022.

That matters, because those are the two times we have seen Mammoth WVH as well. They opened on both those occasions and showed themselves to be a mighty proposition.

Which brings us to tonight. The first ever headline show the band have played in the UK and it is, as Wolf Van Halen says more than once: “Ridiculous!”

What he means by that is, the show has been upgraded, not once, but twice. And there is a definite sense of anticipation when they hit the stage.

And when they do “Mammoth” is the perfect introduction. This is a band – and live there is a real band feel – that was both made in, and made for, arenas.

“Mr. Ed” and a brilliantly catchy “Like A Pastime” likewise, and there is a bit in “Horribly Right” where they do the breakdown, and its heavy as you like.

More than that, though, Wolfgang Van Halen loves this. He loves these songs, he loves playing them on stage. “Better Than You” has been dusted off for this tour (and it is both striking and to his eternal credit) that there are no covers in the set at all), and “Distance” manages to pull off the trick of sounding like an epic but remaining accessible.

The huge bass of “Epiphany” in many ways sums up the fact this is an arena show, just not in an arena, but its hook “I’ve never felt more alive” sums up the look on Wolf’s face.

Everywhere you look there are highlights, but “You’re To Blame” is arguably the shining gem of the lot, and there is a moment where the WVH part of Mammoth is at the front of the stage allowing himself to be the guitar hero he could have been all night, if he’d wanted.

“Take A Bow” ends things, by way of a screaming contest and a hyped-up crowd gets even more excitable in the encore of “Don’t Back Down” and “Another Celebration At The End Of The World”.

It’s hard to tell where this could go, it’s tempting to look at a reaction like this and think Arena Headliners, and maybe that’s the case.

But there is one thing you can say with absolute certainty: the lack of Van Halen shirts on view, (there are only two that we saw) gives you a clue, but it’s a fact, it seems to me, that no one is here because of who Wolfgang Van Halen is, more just that Mammoth WVH are a wonderful modern hard rock band.

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