The enduring debate on whether rock ‘n’ roll is dead, dying, or actually fine can be thrown clean out the window thanks to one quartet who are tearing up the rule book on what contemporary guitar bands can and can’t do. 18 months ago Starcrawler were just another bunch of Los Angeles teen slackers jamming for fun and dreaming it big. A ton of touring and one Rough Trade record deal later, they’re global cult heroes. The axe-wielding, cape-donning, blood-spitting bunch, fronted by grotesque powerhouse Arrow de Wilde, so unabashedly channel the zero-fucks-given approach of their 1970s rock icons (Alice Cooper, Ozzie Osbourne) in a way the music world has been lacking for some time.
A sold out Norwich Arts Centre buzzes eagerly in part due to the album, but more obviously thanks to that gig at The Crypt six months ago already known as an ‘I was there’-er. Plenty of the lucky ducks who were there can be spotted tonight, mates won over by the hype in-tow.
Sole support comes from Gladboy, a UEA trio whose previous sets have been marginally too #NoughtiesIndie for my taste. Oh, how they’ve grown. The lights dim and through the haze emerges a snarling, swirling bolt of guitar immediacy. When frontman George Orton isn’t shredding it on the floor he’s moseying lackadaisically around the stage like some unhinged Burgess character, no more so than during Ego Pushing, when he screeches over scratchy, gothic noise-rock. The trio also do woozy britpop (Weight Of Expectation) and Tyler’s Tune performed sat down turns the hall into a blissed-out bedroom paradise.
Arrow de Wilde scaling the barrier from within the crowd to join her bandmates on stage is a fitting start for the 45 minutes of take-no-prisoners madness that follows. A slow start is rapidly forgotten as the front half of the audience dissipates into endorphin-driven glory, first for Different Angles then the surf-rock b-side Used To Know.
Starcrawler’s retromaniac aesthetic – for better or worse – makes them especially popular with an older (beardier) audience. As such, guitarist Henri Cash rarely drops his fireball persona, rallying the eager kids at the front for as much dancing and screaming as they can muster. If Henri is a magnetic performer then Arrow is something else altogether. Donned in silver fringe indistinguishable from her sweat-drenched mop of hair, she struts with the vigour and glitz of an icon in the making. She teases the front row, holding hands and spitting water, before her party trick of choice is revealed: blood from the mouth in true cult hero fashion. Between their thunderous music and horrific visuals, Starcrawler make the crimson-lit church hall feel as much like a 1970s garage gig as a medieval vampire’s lair.
For the crescendo, Chicken Woman, extended to mind-melting lengths as Henri climbs into the crowd to shred it on guitar from within the mosh pit. By the end, there’s not a dry soul in the room, not a person who hasn’t been absolutely awestruck by the sheer brilliance of what just went down. Naysayers, you’re outnumbered; regardless of venue or crowd, Starcrawler consistently prove themselves as one of the most striking and entertaining live bands you can see today.