Corey Taylor and his band Stone Sour are effectively the American equivalent of Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes. Both artists previously made their name as manic frontmen for bands that dealt in savagely heavy music (though Carter’s old band Gallows perhaps haven’t garnered quite the international renown of Taylor’s other outfit, Slipknot), but have long harboured a secret passion for sing-along, pints-in-the-air commercial rock, enduring the day job while dreaming of selling out stadiums in their own rights.
And stadium gigs are still what Stone Sour are aiming for. Their bells-and-whistles assault on the O2 Brixton Academy almost feltlike an audition for the likes of Wembley Stadium or the O2 Arena. New cuts from the group’s latest record ‘Hydrograd’ blurred into fan favourites like ‘Made Of Scars’ and ’30/30-150’, with the band delivering each song like it’s a modern rock anthem regardless of its position in their back catalogue. Opener ‘Tapei Person/Allah Tea’ boasted a furious rhythm section from bassist Johnny Chow and drummer Roy Mayorga, while closing single ‘Fabuless’ featured some absolutely crushing riffs from longtime guitarist Josh Rand, letting the crowd know that Stone Sour are, first and foremost, a metal band.
But there was only one real star of the show tonight. Maskless and revelling in the spotlight, Corey Taylor offered up a masterclass in showmanship to an enraptured audience. Whether showering them with compliments, fanning them with his monstrous windmill technique or firing his giant (and marginally phallic) confetti gun across them, Taylor went out of his way to make the crowd feel loved. When he dived into a speech about loving music for music’s sake and not just making songs that sound like every other song you hear on the radio, it’s easy to be somewhat sceptical (especially when set lowlight ‘Hesitate’ literally sounds like an amalgamation of every other soft rock song on the radio). But when he launched himself to the front of stage ripping out the chorus to ‘Tired’ like a reincarnated Chris Cornell, it was clear to see that performance is his passion and the stage his boudoir.
As an American metal band touring Great Britain it’s not surprising that they feel an urge to pay homage to the country that birthed their genre. Once the last echoes of the ‘Through Glass’ faded away, enthusiastically belted out by a full-throated audience, Taylor once more declared his love for his ‘favourite’ country (I’m sure he says that at every show) as lead guitarist Christian Martucci started churning out the unmistakable main riff to Black Sabbath’s ‘Children of the Grave’. As Mayorga’s tom-work juddered into life, Stone Sour reminded the audience that they can alternate with ease between heart-on-sleeve balladry and the metallic grind that will always be associated with its frontman. Those very biggest venues he played with Slipknot may still elude Corey Taylor’s more stadium orientated band, but close your eyes and the Brixton Academy feels, as Taylor promises the crowd, like Download 2018 has arrived early.