I went to go see Parkway Drive (with While She Sleeps and Lorna Shore supporting) in Cardiff last night, at the Motorpoint Arena, on Monday 3rd October 2022. To say I was hyped up for this would be an understatement. Parkway Drive are routinely called on podcasts and magazines and websites etc “the best live band of their generation” and the last time I saw them is pretty much the single best concert I’ve ever been to. One of their albums (Ire) was my album of the decade (the entire decade) and we are fresh in the hype cycle for their new record so I had Parkway on the brain this month anyway so excellent timing.
After work, travel, parking and finding a bathroom, I got to the gig in time for the opening band, Lorna Shore’s first song. I had heard good things about them online, but after this concert I can safely say they are not my cup of tea. Their singer has an excellent voice (very Randy Blythe live) but they have no memorable songs. It was technical, impressive, but utterly unmoving.
A band to appreciate rather than enjoy. It didn’t help that their music is a bit too extreme for a big echoey arena, they would have sounded much better on a club stage. They also didn’t have the stage presence or show for a big stage and the sound mix was utterly terrible (curse of the opening act). I did see quite a few people in their merch, so they must have their own fans, but I wasn’t converted tonight.
Next came the British Melodic Metalcore band While She Sleeps. I had heard of this band for years and years, ever since The North Stands For Nothing was raved about on the old Metal Hammer Podcast many years ago, and have heard hype for all their album releases and major UK festival appearances and steps up in size over the years, but never actually heard a second of their music myself until tonight. It was very entertaining. If you like Architects, Enter Shikari or BMTH you’d probably enjoy them. They don’t sound exactly like any of those bands, but I think their audience would cross over quite a bit. They were very bouncy, energetic, poppy in places, there was a lot of electronics, and their light show was very colourful.
It was a bright, loud, youthful, party, with electronics and lots of clapping and singing along. The singer got in the crowd and sang a song whilst crowd-surfing. Even though I didn’t really know their music, and am not sure if I would buy any, I had a good time and can recognise that objectively they are a very good live band. If you do like them and yet haven’t seen them live yet, you’re definitely missing out.
Finally, the main even took the stage. They didn’t just repeat the same stage set up and spectacle as last time. The stage was covered in spikes (Maybe military “dragon’s teeth” ?), there was a big screen at the back that projected cool imagery like rotting trees, creepy bell towers and a mountain pass “opening,” on top of some of the cool stuff they did last time like the robed figures carrying torches, the boatloads of pyro, the sparks and explosions etc. (Shame about no flaming spinning drumkit though, that is entertainment gold).
As a spectacle, Parkway Drive do live concerts as well as any major “must see” live band. I’ve seen Rammstein now and didn’t think they did “show” as well as Parkway. Slipknot, Tool, Ghost, Alice Cooper, none of them were as well-designed, aesthetically pleasing and sheer smile-inducing as Parkway. (To get an idea, go on youtube and look up “Parkway Drive – Crushed Live at Bloodstock 2019” – and that’s only the flames not even the rest of it). They just look incredible on stage.
But, even on an empty, unlit, no-spectacle stage, Parkway Drive would still have been one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen due to the sheer power, presence and character of the performance. Winston McCall is the absolute best frontman in music right now in my personal opinion. No one is more commanding, endearing and captivating on a stage. He has such a gravitas, class and spirit that is utterly spell binding. Other people can hammer their arms or punch the floor, or stand in silhouette, but when Winston does it, you feel like something important and life changing is happening. He is just utterly magnetic and incandescent.
The band also all get spotlights for key guitar solos (that massive November Rain style mountain top guitar solo I mentioned on the title track for the new album for example) or drum fills or bass grooves. On a few songs a string section came out and really rocked out, thrashing around, headbanging and getting really into it. The energy was electric, the magic was palpable. Jeff is an absolute guitar hero nowadays and Ben’s drums are utterly thunderous (especially when he rides the floor tom, like the verses to “Prey”), you feel like you are watching absolute masters of the craft.
The setlist was great, four songs each from the three newest albums (meaning four songs from the peerless Ire album) plus a song each from the three albums before that. The songs chosen were the ones that demand the most crowd singalong or clapping or jumping. It was very cleverly chosen to make the most audience participation possible. Looking at the setlist, there may be songs you like more on record, but they clearly know what they need to get a crowd in a frenzy, singing along to every guitar line like south American Iron Maiden fans. There were so many little memorable moments I wouldn’t even want to write them all down, but one of my favourites the guitarists running around Winston in a circle when he was asking the crowd for circle pits.
The sound/mix was great, the heavy parts sounding massive and the guitar leads were clear, the drums were prominent and you could hear every word of the vocals. It felt bigger than a typical concert, it was mixed to feel cinematic, which I guess aligns with the dark arty video screens and hooded monks on stage etc.
Great sound, great songs, great performance, great spectacle, absolutely great all around. “I recommend you go see them” is the understatement of the year. If I could only see one band live ever again, I’d pick Parkway Drive. Big words, but not hyperbole. I’m dead level-headed serious!