Posts Tagged ‘Cardiff’

I went to go see Alice Cooper live at Cardiff Motorpoint Arena last night on Saturday 12th October 2019. I had balcony seats, which isn’t usually my thing (I’ve only seen 4 concerts sitting down ever; this one last night, The Rolling Stones in Dublin with my parents when I was a child, Tool in Glasgow when I was a teenager and Avenged Sevenfold in Manchester a few years ago) but considering what a show Alice puts on, you wouldn’t to miss it being at the wrong angle or having some tall guy in front of you.

The first of the support acts was MC5 (or MC50 now, as they’ve been around for so long). I’m not a huge fan, but I respect them, and like seeing Wayne in documentaries. I have Kick Out The Jams but that’s as far as I know them, and even then I only like about 2-3 songs from it anyway, so I wasn’t super excited to see them, but it was still a good start to the evening. Interestingly though, Billy Gould from Faith No More and Kim Thayil from Soundgarden were in the band tonight, so that was a very welcome surprise. Especially as I’ve spent the last month or so enjoying reading Everybody Loves Our Town (a book about Grunge with lots of Kim quotes) and watching Live From The Artist’s Den (the new Soundgarden concert video). Wayne Kramer seemed very grateful and excited and was quite entertaining. (He and Kim also came out at the end of Alice’s show for some bonus guitar and taking a bow).

MC50, that’s Thayil in the beanie, stage left.

Next up was The Stranglers who I was not really aware of. When they started playing I recognised quite a few of their songs, such as ‘Get A Grip On Yourself’ which Prong cover. They also played ‘Golden Brown’ and ‘No More Heroes’ as well as a song about walking on the beaches looking at the peaches which I recognised from various TV shows over the years. They were a weird mix of punky bass, ‘80s arty pop vocals and yet jaunty Yes style keyboards. It was a bizarre combination. I haven’t researched them but can’t even figure out what genre they were. New Wave? Post Punk? I really wasn’t sure. Kind of fun though. They had some amusing stage banter about grey hair in the audience and them being twats while Alice was a nice bloke.

The Stranglers

After that it was time for Frank Sinatra. Oh sorry, I read the poster wrong, it wasn’t Ol’ Blue Eyes, it was Ol’ Black Eyes and his nightmare castle. I almost don’t know what to talk about first. The music, the set list, the stage antics, the sound or the band?

Nightmare Castle

I think I’ll go with set list. I was very satisfied. Lots of material from Welcome To My Nightmare and Billion Dollar Babies, which are the two Cooper albums I’m most familiar with. Also mega perennial hits like ‘I’m 18,’ ‘School’s Out’ and ‘Poison.’ One newer song from Paranormal (‘Fallen In Love’) and a few of the more energetic ‘80s moments like ‘Roses On White Lace,’ ‘He’s Back, The Man Behind The Mask’ and ‘Bed Of Nails.’ The show opened with my favourite Alice Cooper song, ‘Feed My Frankenstein’ which essentially got me into the man/band due to its Wayne’s World and Motley Crue connections. Also early on they played ‘No More Mr. Nice Guy’ which I was into via the Megadeth cover for years before I heard the original. (Actually, same goes for ‘I’m 18’ which I loved for years prior to be ing a Cooper fan due to Anthrax covering it).

In terms of the sound it was brilliant, very crunchy and metallic. The drums and bass were very clear and you could hear every cymbal and bass line clearly and separately.  The vocals were  crystal clear. I was really satisfied with the sound. I’ve seen some arena shows where you can’t hear the vocals, or the bass, or everything is just a big reverby mess. This however was brilliant.

Cooper

The band were great. Nina Strausse lives up to all the hype, with stage moves halfway between prime era Slash and Zack Wylde and playing that would make Eddie Van Halen slightly nervous. I really assumed all the blabbermouth hype was just hype, but colour me wrong. She was definitely captivating and beyond impressive.

Strausse Up Top

Also; have you ever seen the famous youtube video ‘’This Drummer Is At The Wrong Gig’’ ? The one with all the stick tricks and showmanship. Drummer Glen Sobel was like that, sticks on the wrong side of the kit, sticks upside down, sticks constantly 30ft up in the air.  The drum solo was even entertaining. Most live drum solos I have seen have bored me, and I’m a drummer so they must bore the average fan even more, but this was mad fun. He got such an applause. Since becoming a Cooper fan recently, I have always enjoyed ‘The Black Widow’ and its great how heavy it sounds like, in the weird medley with ‘Black Juju’ and ‘Devils Food’ and unexpectedly for me at least, ‘My Stars’ off of Schools Out.

I never really liked the School’s Out album. I got it a good few years before I became a Cooper fan and it put me off him for a few years. It wasn’t until I got Hey Stoopid and Billion Dollar Babies that I really clicked with Alice Cooper. But as the band make everything so heavy live, ‘My Stars’ really popped live.  I guess I will have to revisit Schools Out a bit more often now thanks to tonight. I guess it is more than just an amazing title track and a bunch of weird broadway music, which was my opinion of it up ’til now.

Guillotine

Anyway, back to the show. In terms of showmanship, Alice himself, or Vince or whatever, is the ultimate professional. Every wiggle of the hips, tilt of the cane, costume change, mock kiss and swish of the sword perfectly placed. His body language and stage presence all mastered over years and years of practice. Then there are the actors, running around, getting knifed, putting Alice in straight Jackets, wearing wedding dresses, pushing prams. Its all very pantomime but I loved it. Alice got guillotined, which I knew would happen but which was still very entertaining. What I didn’t expect was the Iron Maiden style Frankenstein puppet running around during ‘Teenage Frankenstein’ and giant baby puppet during ‘Dead Babies.’

Big Baby Puppets

Interestingly, even though I was singing along to every other song all evening, even the ones I was less familiar with like ‘Fallen In Love,’ …I was surprisingly unable to sing along to ‘Dead Babies’ for some weird psychological reason due to recently having had my own baby son. Weird. Still a classic song though.

At the end, Alice came out in the top hat and tails, launching balloons and glitter and confetti all over the place and adding in a bit of Another Brick In The Wall’s lyrics into arguably his best known song in the UK, ‘School’s Out.’  They then got all the bands and actors out from the whole evening and everyone took a bow while a big cannon shot golden streamers into the audience (like the cannons they had already shot fake money with, during ‘Billon Dollar Babies’ earlier on ).

I don’t care if it was cheesy, it was a truck load of fun. (Several truckloads actually, as I was walking home, all the taxi ranks around the arena were full of trucks, presumably here to carry his castle and all the cannons and guillotines etc).

Taking A Bow

Someone once said every rock and metal fan has to see Alice Cooper live at least once. I completely agree. I had an absolute whale of time. Great sound, great set, great vocals, great onstage nonsense.

I went to go see Parkway Drive with Killswitch Engage live in Cardiff Motorpoint Arena tonight, (February 1st 2019). It was my second time seeing Parkway, after they decimated Download Festival and were so powerful that they made Guns N’ Roses, even with all their money and with Slash and Duff back in the band, still pale in comparison. It was my third time seeing Killswitch, who I had seen supporting Bullet For My Valentine on Incarnate and Headlining over Trivium on Disarm The Descent.

I wasn’t sure if the gig was going to go ahead though, as it had been snowing prior and I was afraid (given that we live in Britain and they close down all the schools if a snowflake looks at them funny) that it might be called off, but luckily by the time I needed to leave, the roads were clear. (This must sound funny to my Canadian readers, but seriously, google ‘frozen Britain’ and see what the British reaction to snow is like).

Rather than arrive late and hang at the back like I did for Architects a few weeks ago, I new I had to be in the front row. Parkway at Download had whetted my appetite, and I needed more.

So I got there just as doors opened and didn’t have to queue in the post snow chill, but got to walk right to the front without any trouble at all.

The speakers usually play the same few songs at all the gigs I go to. Walk by Pantera, Snap Your Finger Snap Your Neck by Prong, Sad But True by Metallica, Psychosocial by Slipknot.

Not this time. They played some obscure hardcore punk. I couldn’t pin point anything I recognized from my meager 20-30 album Hardcore punk collection. I am not an expert, but I heard something that sounded like or was early Suicidal Tendencies (pre-Thrash) and something that sounded like but probably wasn’t Black Flag.

Not important, but just, different that basically every concert I’ve went to since 2012.

To open the evening where Deathcore lads, Thy Art Is Murder. Their front-man announced he regretted eating fruit around the start, and ended up barfing on stage around the end. He was a weirdly unprofessional burping, farting lads lad who was very charming, like how Orange Goblin‘s singer won me over with his topless enthusiasm a few months ago. Their music was Deathcore, which I am not too familiar with, but I know Metalcore, and I know Death metal, and its basically a mixture of that. There were death growls and blast beats, but there were beat downs and grooves. They were fun enough, and their guitarist has a fun sweeping style of leads/solos that reminded me more of Periphery or Dream Theater (or the Periphery song with John Petrucci from Dream Theater guesting on it). The drummer was very fun to watch, he was very inventive as a blast beater, and did it in more ways than I knew existed, and alternated hands and speeds and cymbals the way Tommy Lee would for a rock beat. They even had a catchy bit in ‘Puppet Master’ where the intro sounded a bit like Lamb Of God‘s ‘Redneck’ gone evil.

I enjoyed them. A much better support band than Beartooth had been last time. I’d be happy to see them again. A heck of a lot more than Asking Alexandria had been at Download. Generally, one of the better modern bands I’ve seen supporting people I like, but whom I didn’t know the support act beforehand.

It takes strength of the mind

Then the room got a bit fuller. After a Thin Lizzy ‘Boys ‘Back In Town intro; metalcore legends Killswitch Engage took to the stage. I have written before about how utterly majestic KSE are live, and how captivating it is when a whole room full of people sing ‘The End Of Heart Ache’, with its big long…

”This distance
This disillusion
I cling to memories
While falling
Sleep brings release
And the hope of a new day
Waking the misery
Of being without you”

…all done in perfect time, in its entirety. As a music fan it is one of the purest joys you can experience. Its crazy how good it makes you feel. And the band are always such fun, with Adam D clowning around like a hyperactive toddler making better masturbation jokes than Blink 182 ever did and brightening up the room with his infectious sense of fun and his big smile.

You knooooooooow me, you knooow me all too well!

I’ve also said before that Jesse is one of the, if not the, greatest live singers in the genre. Almost no-one can sing cleans that well live. He is a master of this type of music. Sam Carter, Ashe O’Harra and Jesse Leech are probably the best clean singers I’ve ever seen with my own two eye. Up there with Maynard incomparable James Keenan.

They played a set-list that was mostly greatest hits (Rose Of Sharyn, My Curse, End Of Heart Ache, All In Due Time, My Last Serenade) with a few early numbers (Fixation On The Darkness, Breathe Life) and it was more compact than any other time I’d seen them but no less potent.

The crowd seemed to really, really love ‘Always’ too, and Jesse doing the very last line while the band were all silent was some Freddie Mercury level skills. They played the two best songs off the new album too, (‘Hate By Design’ and ‘Strength Of The Mind’) which are even better live than on record, with more of a crushing Pantera groove to them.

Darkness will give way to light

Speaking of better live; ‘My Last Serenade’ is so, so good live. Joint with ‘End Of Heartache’ for the most audience participation (and augmented by all the fun guitar squeals and extra shenanigans) it is just excellent live in every way. And of course, they finished on my favourite Killswitch song, the fantastic ‘All In Due Time’ which turned me from a Jesse-reunion skeptic into the kinda guy who goes and sees em three times even though I don’t go to that many gigs.

Building a revolution to heal nations

If it was over then, it would’ve been enough. A solid opener, and mighty Killswitch doing themselves proud with a perfect set-list, excellent performance and decent sound & lighting. That would’ve done me nicely as a gig.

But I wasn’t ready for what happened next.

Now, I’ve banged on and on in this blog numerous times about how good Parkway were at download festival, and if you’ve met me in real life I’ve probably talked about how Ire is a modern classic that deserves to have the reputation sort of The Blackening has. You’ll have noticed the new album Reverence was high in my most played albums and highly ranked in my end of year list for this year just gone.

Well, that’s about to get a whole to more, because I have just seen. The. Best. Show. Of my whole life. No qualifications. No caveats. No exceptions.

I am not been hyperbolic. I am not exagerating. This was the best concert I have ever seen in every way. Visually, muscially, sonically, intangiable x-factor magiaclly. It was absolute bliss.

The set-list leaned heavily on the newest two albums, with just one song from Atlas and Deep Blue each, and two songs from Horizons, but otherwise all newer stuff since the change in direction.

The sound was immense, and the cruch and chug of big riffs like ‘Absolute Power’ or ‘Crushed’ was immense and made you pull that satisfied ”riff face” even harder than usualy. My view was perfect for most of the show, with a spot where I could see every member and even every cymbal on the drum kit. And the band’s performance was so bombastic, confident and commanding that it felt like witnessing something truly extraordinary.

The way Winston would sweep his hands or stomp his feet, or when he got topless and the end and would throw fists, always timed to some musical highlight like a conductor or film director was so entertaining. He is such a fucking golden rock star like we were back in the 1980s again. Having only been born as the ’80s died, its great someone is that for this generation and I don’t just have to read about it in old books.

The crowd were so into it, doing a gigantic circle pit during ‘Idols and Anchors’ and clapping along to the drumbeat in ‘Writings On The Wall’ like it was ‘We Will Rock You’ by Queen. They sang out not one or two but five or six songs guitar lines like when you see footage of Maiden or Megadeth playing South America. It was a brilliant vibe.

And that’s all without mentioning the fucking sheer spectacle of it all. If you haven’t been paying attention, it might be surprising to learn that Parkway Drive have become one of the most explosive live bands of the modern era. (Or any era).

The evening started with a dubstep or electronic noise while various lights were going off on the empty stage, with crazily loud concussion bombs going off to match the ‘the truth drops like a bomb’ lyrical theme.

Behind use, we could feel heat. Then in unsion we turned and saw that the mixing desk behind the crowd had pyro on it. And then the band, marched through the middle of the crowd, carrying flaming torches like a strange religious ceremony until they got up on stage. Then, wearing matching black outfits like some kind of Apple technology expo, they moved in choreographed and weirdly alien or robotic unison until the music really kicked in after the intro.

Crushed by the fist of god

Attention, attention, welcome to the stage

The first few songs they played in a tasteful white lighting set up. But it just got bigger and bigger.


You never miss your shadow
Till you’re alone, alone in the dark

There were various lights. And then there was smoke. And then there were fire balls. And then there were towers of fire. And then there were rows of fire. And then there were hydrolic platforms going up and down. And then there was a string quartet.

And we all go to heaven in a little row boat

Let’s get this straight, while you’re listening


And then there was an acoustic moment somehow behind the audience again. Then there was mini fire works. Then lights, lasers and fire together. Then well timed concussion bombs, like literally going ‘bang bang bang’ when Winston sang ‘bang bang bang’ in ‘Absolute Power.’ There was a Kiss-esque shower of sparks from the ceiling bouncing off their heads.

We’ve been waiting for the sky to fall!

At one point he came out with a bottle, and a rag in it, and set it on fire for real with a real lighter, and tossed it onto a big floating PWD shield, and there was really well timed explosives that made it look like he blew it up. And they just kept adding in more and more pyro and explosives until it looked like the whole building was on fire, and Winston would sweep his hands and flames would match the directions, such as during ‘Crushed.’

The truth drops like a bomb
Bang, Bang, Bang, drop the hammer of conscience


Between the spark and the ember
You are smoke threading the wind

Messages written within our columns of fire
No life blooms from the ashes of ire

Slayer had more pyro than I expected on their Farewell tour, but this made them look like a bar band with a packet of sparklers. It was almost Rammstein levels. At one point they had everything going off all at once in complete strobe light sensory overload destined to trigger epilepsy and PTSD sufferers in a way I would genuinely advise them not to attend due to. Absolute bloody war. I’m surprised health and safety let them get away with it to be honest.


Burn your heaven, flood your hell

Bombastic doesn’t do it justice. It was so well thought out and planned, cribbing all the best ideas from Motley Crue and Kiss and updating them with touches of Maiden and Rammstein and Tool but somehow feeling like a really cohesive and excellently orchestrated performance piece than a cobbled together greatest hits of concert ideas, the spectacle side of things was off the charts.

And all that being said, if they had have came out in day clothes and played the same set in an empty room with not so much as dry ice or a single light, it would’ve still been the best concert I saw in the last decade purely on the utter majesty and perfection of the performance. Songs like ‘Vice Grip’ are so goddamn triumphant sounding that when you see it live you feel like your team won the world cup. Songs like ‘Wishing Wells’ and ‘Chronos’ are so well constructed that you feel like a tween discovering the love of music for the first time. Songs like ‘Wild Eyes’ and ‘Karma’ are sing along fun that you just don’t have enough of as an adult. And best of all, ‘Bottom Feeder’ and ‘Crushed’ just level the place. When he sang ‘Now snap your neck to this’ and the payoff riff after the build up came in I got the kind of euphoric rush normally exclusive to a wedding day or the birth of a child. Ok, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but the best part is…not by much!

Speaking of the birth of children. This will probably be my last concert for a while. Ozzy with Judas Priest got cancelled due to Ozzy’s ill health (just like my first ever Ozzfest, Ozzy didn’t play due to a quad bike accident.). My son is going to be born just a few months before Kiss say farewell and Download rolls around again so as much as I love music I’m not traveling for any of that this year, and so far nobody seems to be playing in between now and then.

As a last concert for a while, possibly of the year, I could not have asked for a better one. Hands sown the best concert of my life so far. If you ever get the chance to see Parkway live I advise and border on demand that you go. I hope to high heaven that they release a live DVD from this tour. This is how live music is done!

Until next time…

I went to go see Architects at the Cardiff Motorpoint Arena last night (Friday 18th January 2019) with support from BearTooth.

I had to work so didn’t get there in time for the opening act, Polaris. I’ve never been into Polaris though, so it wasn’t too much of a disappointment (even if that sounds a bit rude). I had heard of BearTooth before, and had checked out a few of their songs on Spotify/Amazon Music over the years due to a podcast I like talking about them a few times, but wasn’t really familiar with them overall.

I decided, due to late arrival and back ache, not to bother getting right up to the front, and stood as close to the back as was possible. No moshing and crowd surfing for me. I had loads of space and wasn’t bustled around too much. It was nice being right up near the front for Slayer and Anthrax, but I wasn’t in the mood to be smashed around tonight and just wan’t to look at and listen to the live band.

BearTooth sounded a lot more raw and natural live than of what I vaugley remember about their recorded output, from what I sort of remember they were a bit wet and overproduced and a bit electronic. Live it was less wet and more natural, but still generic melodic metalcore. I feel they’re a little late for me to really fall in love with them.

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All the metalcore slots in my brain are taken up by the likes of Shadows Fall and Chimaira and Killswitch Engage and don’t really feel like there’s that much more I can get into. When I saw a few more modern melodic metalcore bands at Download Festival, like the forgettable Black Veil Brides and  Asking Alexandria or even the quite good Bury Tomorrow, I felt like I’ve had my fill already. Beartooth similarly offer nothing new, and didn’t win me over enough to go buy any of their albums, but where pleasant enough while they were on.

Their singer was very enthusiastic and called out specific riffs to pay attention to and seemed to be enjoying it. The sound for them wasn’t so good though, and you couldn’t really make out the vocals.

Then after a brief interlude with bands like Limp Bizkit and Rammstein played over the sound system, the main event, Architects took to the stage.

I’d seen them live before, back when I lived in Manchester, on the Lost Forever // Lost Together cycle. I really wanted to see them on the All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us cycle too but it was sold out when I got to the counter to buy tickets (should’ve bloody done it online in hindsight!).

I got into Architects when Hollow Crown was their newest album, but I feel like they’ve been getting better over time, and I’d take albums like Daybreaker, All Our Gods’ and even the controversial The Hear And Now over earlier albums like Ruin or Hollow Crown. Lucky for me, the set-list last night was almost entirely off their new album Holy Hell, and the previous two albums Lost’ and Gods’ (as well as one single track off of Daybreaker), which made it quite a different set-list than the last time I saw them, with 12 songs tonight I didn’t see last time (I quite like it when bands do that).

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Last night’s setlist was:

  1. Death Is Not Defeat

  2. Modern Misery

  3. Nihilist

  4. Broken Cross

  5. Holy Hell

  6. Royal Beggars

  7. Gravedigger

  8. Mortal After All

  9. Downfall

  10. Naysayer

  11. These Colours Don’t Run

  12. A Match Made In Heaven

  13. Hereafter

  14. A Wasted Hymn

  15. Memento Mori

  16. Gone With The Wind

  17. Doomsday

I really, really enjoyed ‘Gone With The Wind,’ ‘Downfall’ and ‘Doomsday’ especially, they worked so well live. If you haven’t heard of the band before and you wanted to check them out, they would be good tracks to try out.

Some people online have said the sound wasn’t good, but from where I stood last night, it sounded pretty good to me. A lot better than BearTooth. You could hear everything, each cymbal, all the vocals, every riff was clear (Except in the really heavy parts, like the start of ‘Nay Sayer’).

Sam was very grateful in the stage banter, repeatedly thanking the crowd and pointing out how they used to be in smaller venues and how cool it was to get to play somewhere this big. (He thanked the crowd so much, he ironically called himself a broken record numerous times, so that shows you how much it was!).

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Performance wise, they were top notch. Flawless. Can’t say enough good things about them. Sam’s clean vocals are almost record-perfect live which is impressive as hell and something his peers aren’t half as good at.

The production was really good too. Fire balls. Steam cannons. Confetti Cannons. Confetti from the roof. Lights. Lazers. Video footage of trippy wolves and falling bodies and mountain-scapes. A lot of variety and really well sequenced and well timed. There were lazers coming out above the crowd as well as strobes on stage and interestingly laid out lights and beams on stage. Sometimes all of it was going off at the same time, Very entertaining. It was halfway between the time I saw Tool in Dublin and the time I saw Killswitch in Manchester.

 

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There was also a bit where they had a bit paying tribute to late guitarist Tom Searle, and had a nice speech about how his brother, drummer Dan Searle got the band back together when they were all bereaved. It was really nice, and the had a ‘T // S’ in a heart up on the screen.

It was a very good evening, which is good, because I almost didn’t go. I had a difficult day at work, had a massive headache, had just got new glasses and hadn’t got used to driving in them yet, and a bunch of other lame-o excuses, but the gist of it is I wasn’t in the mood. I was very tempted to just skip it, but I remember how good Architects were last time, and I’d heard they had a really good production this time around, and I really like their newer three albums. Getting in and out of Cardiff was nice and easy too, even though it was a Friday night, the streets were quiet and the roads were pretty empty and it was no hassal with the travel.

Good night. Next up for me concert-wise; is also an evening of Metalcore: Killswtich Engage and Parkway Drive at the venue is February, and that’s going to be madness, if tonight’s production was good, I can’t wait to see the upside down flaming drum-kit like at Download Festival, but at their own show, in a more controlled environment than a festival. Can’t wait.

I went to go and see Corrosion Of Conformity live in Cardiff Uni Great Hall last night (Saturday 03.11.18), supported by Orange Goblin and Fireball Ministry. A pretty good bill for Stoner Rock fans. I’ve been having a wall-punchingly, burst out in tears, sleeplessly dreadful week at work even though this should be one of the best weeks of my life due to a pregnancy scan earlier in the week, and getting to go see C.O.C seems like the perfect stress release. I’ve been playing Live Volume repeatedly all week in anticipation.

C.O.C have over the years become one of my absolute favourite bands. There’s always certain bands at the start of your musical life, in your teens and such, that get stuck and become a favourite forever by default, but C.O.C, along with Queensryche, Helloween and Manowar have been absolutely defining my musical landscape as an adult. If I picture in my mind’s eye the best albums of all time or albums I want on my wall as decoration Deliverance and Wiseblood and America’s Volume Dealer are always there. One of my favourite photos of me and my wife together has me in a C.O.C shirt. My metal jacket has a C.O.C patch right on the front in one of the three most important spots (the back is Helloween and the other prime spot is Pantera in case you were wondering).

I have seen C.O.C twice before, once this year at Download Festival 2018 (quite a short set) and once before in Manchester Academy on their
Deliverance Revival
shows where Pepper returned to the band (one of the best concerts in recent memory). I remember thinking after Download when they’d only played one new song, that I would really love to see a concert as long as the reunion one, but with more songs from their real grower of a new album, No Cross No Crown.

Always one for a good spoiler, I’ve been looking up the band’s recent setlists online on Setlsit FM and was glad to see they are mixing it up. One night there’ll be more songs from ‘Volume Dealer, One night there’ll be more songs from In The Arms Of God and then one night there’ll be more songs from No Cross No Crown. Exciting stuff. For example, Dublin got ‘It Is That Way’ and Nottingham got ‘The Door’ and Houston Texas got ‘Long Whip Big America.’ Just like Clutch, you never know what you’re going to get.

Speaking of Clutch, they played some Clutch over the PA in between bands. Good taste.

Anyway; I also saw Orange Goblin once before supporting Down in 2012. I remember thinking they were good but hadn’t totally won me over. I never did get around to checking a full album out. Fireball Ministry are new for me.

So now onto the evening itself; I turn up to the gig, que for about 10 minutes and then doors open. There’s only about 15 people in the que. We get in. The merch stand isn’t there like it has been for the past few gigs I’ve been to at this venue. Hmmm, surely they sell merch right? Oh ok, they put it right in the hall with the band. Previously it had its own dedicated area outside. The merch is crazy cheap. I think my Guns N Roses t-shirt from Download cost me about 30 quid. The C.O.C merch was so low priced I got 2 t-shirts for £25. Bloody bargin! I got a No Cross No Crown one and a general C.O.C skull logo one. I wanted a new C.O.C shirt to replace my Deliverance Revival one which had been my favourite shirt for about 3 years but now has the deadly combination of being shrunk in the wash and me haven gotten too fat, so it just looks ridiculous on me. I’ve still got a trio-lineup C.O.C shirt that fits though, wore that to gig tonight actually. (Oh, and I got to wear my jacket, which I am always excited about, and no one even stole any of the patches because they’re a lot better secured after the last incident).

Anyway, while I was getting the merch, a familiar sound was playing in the background. Was that Fireball Ministry? I thought I didn’t know any of their songs?

Oh. Would you look at that. Actually; Black Moth are on the bill and I didn’t even know. I like a bit of Black Moth. I haven’t thought about them in a few years, but I remember liking their debut album  back in 2012. (2012 was the first year I saw Pepper Keenan live actually, in Down, back when C.O.C were still doing the trio line-up without him.)

Black Moth were pretty cracking tonight. They played nice Sabbathy groovey Stoner Metal with clean vocals and a very enthusiastic drummer. The drummer looked like he has having great fun and I really dig that. He also looked very similar to C.O.C’s fill-in drummer John Green (to the point where I had to google if they weren’t the same person). I have nothing but good things to say about them. Their singer seemed really grateful and she kept thanking everyone.

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Black Moth

Next up after a pleasantly short wait, were Fireball Ministry. Man. Their drummer hits hard. He is a big bouncer looking Kirk Weinstein kind of guy and he beats the absolute shite out of his drums! The man hits hard. The singer kept trying to get everyone energy up but the thin crowd didn’t seem to want to move or make much noise. Also, what was up with this tiny crowd. C.O.C got a tiny crowd at Download un-befitting of their status and quality. Was it happening here again tonight?

The Fireball Ministry guy kept telling everyone to be louder but it wasn’t really happening much. By the end of their set though, they won me over with their melodic choruses and they said it was the best night of the tour for em, so maybe the audiences have all been this sleepy.

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Fireball Ministry

Then came Orange Goblin. Or ‘Orange-Fucking-Goblin, baby!’ to give them their preferred title. Their singer burst on to stage like an affable hurricane. He was full of grins and cheeky expressions but an absolute presence on stage, swinging fists and spitting clouds of water and using the mic stand as a pretend guitar and actually getting the crowd riled up this time. He really pumped the energy in the room up 200%.

I remember that the last time I saw this band it was ok, but didn’t make me want to explore further. Not so this time. They were a bloody revelation this time. So powerful, so much energy, such a good vibe off of them. Their friendly but intense singer just absolutely commanded the room, and they have a speed (which he said on stage was influenced by Motorhead) that a lot of Stoner bands are missing. Some Stoner bands worship Sabbath and only Sabbath, but hearing Sabbath through a Motorhead filter was a lot of fun tonight. There was also an amusingly British moment when the singer announced that the next song was ‘The Wolf Bites Back’ and the lead guitarist said ‘Not yet he don’t’ at which point the singer realized he had missed a song. He then made a joke about it when it was time to actually play that song, and got a better laugh out of the crowd than a lot of comedians I’ve seen live. Orange Goblin definitely made a very good impression on me and I think I’ll definitely be getting some of their albums in the future.

 

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Orange Fucking Goblin, Baby

Anyway; that was the warm up. Time for the main event. Yes. It was time for C.O.C. Now; as I’ve said before, C.O.C are one of the most important and favourite bands of my adult life, and the first time I saw them live was a religious experience that few gigs could rival. Them only playing about 4 songs at Download to an unenthusiastic crowd of Babymetal fans was a pretty different gig experience. But hey; its their own gig this time. With people who know the score. Some woman ran up to the barrier and started screeching hysterically in a Beatlemania kind of way, for like the first four whole songs. And hey, it had filled up a lot since Fireball Ministry were on. It almost looked as full as when I saw Saxon or Mastodon here. Thank goodness it was so quiet at the start actually, because I was able at the start to just walk right up and stand immediately at the barrier and wait for this moment. Unlike the screeching woman who had to fight tooth and claw to get a good view. Man. This was a goooood view.

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Up close and personal 

I was right in from of Woody Weatherman (a brilliant showman with all his gesturing and stage moves) with a perfect diagonal view of John the drummer and Mike Dean and Pepper Keenan. I could literally see every hit of every drum and every note of Woody’s guitar, and a pretty excellent view of the bass and vocals. I think this is one of the best views I’ve had at a gig ever. Maybe its because the stage is low to the ground? (Orange Goblin’s singer was able to touch a crowdsurfer from the stage and rustle his hair up). Also maybe it was because all the crowd-surfing happening stage left and me sat at stage right was unmolested all evening. Man I love comfortable gigs. You can keep your 1980s hardcore punk face punching gigs, give me a good view and a good sound any day, especially if it is with no one hitting you in the head.

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C.O.C – Houselights down.

The set-list was pretty great. The hits from Deliverance. Vote With A Bullet from Blind. Wise Blood‘s title track. 3 new songs off of No Cross No Crown (which were absolutely savage live by the way, they sound even better and rawer and heavier live! – ‘The Luddite’ was crushing and ‘Forgive Me’ was even more energetic than the studio version) and hey, 3 songs from my favourite C.O.C record, the immensely underrated America’s Volume Dealer. I guess I chose the right night to see ’em. ‘Diablo BLVD’ was such a top of the lungs sing-along for me, as was ‘Who’s Got The Fire?’ – I think the only thing I would change about the first time I saw this band was that there was not enough Volume Dealer. Now I’ve had my fair share. Bloody loved it too!

 

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I feel like they maybe played less than Orange Goblin, but maybe ‘Goblin have shorter songs. Or maybe time flies when you’re having fun. Or maybe they ran out of time. The houselights after-all did come up and they almost didn’t play an encore but then people chanted and they did the last one (‘Clean My Wounds’ – with extra jamming) with the house lights up, after asking if the power would not be cut from the amps. It actually looked really cool with the lights up. I wonder if they did it on purpose actually?

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C.O.C – Houselights up.

Anyway. That was my lot. What a concert. Bonus Black Moth I didn’t expect. Cheap merch prices. A very entertaining Fireball Ministry first timer and a strong new interest in Orange Goblin. And best of all; C.O.C played an utterly fantastic gig and reaffirmed themselves as one of my favourite bands of all time. They are just such a really special band, and its great to have them deliver so well live. I just had a brilliant time.

I won’t have to wait long for another gig. Monday night sees the mightly Slayer rolling into town for the last ever time. I’ll let you know how that turns out too. ‘Til we meet again…

I went to see An Evening With Machine Head last night in Cardiff, Monday 14th May 2018. There were no support bands and wasn’t much waiting around, just about three hours of Machine-Fucking-Head (as they like to be called).

After playing some Slipknot, Metallica and Killswitch Engage songs over the PA, and coming on to ‘Diary Of A Madman’ by Ozzy, the band took the stage. It was all decked out in cool mats and banners with the band’s iconography on it, there were no visible amps as it was all covered in screens which were white and blood stained, the drum kit was even white. I think at other shows the band might’ve been dressed white as well but they were dressed normal tonight.

The audience reaction was really great. I’ve seen Machine Head twice before and in the UK they are utterly beloved, so you can imagine how good the energy in the room was.

The night held a mixture of old and new, fast and slow, heavy and quiet. They played a decent chunk of their controversial (but excellent) new album Catharsis, which I appreciated as although I thought it was good on first impressions, it has been my car album ever since and in work that is the soundtrack to driving and I’ve really come to love it over the months. They played 6 whole songs of it, which is a pretty good showing for a new album. The audience reacted really well to the new material and the sing-alongs to songs like ‘Kaleidoscope,’ ‘Catharsis’ and even the controversial ‘Triple Beam’ were all just as good as fan favourites like ‘Bulldozer,’ ‘Take My Scars’ or ‘The Blood The Sweat The Tears.’ There was one typical meathead guy just shouting ‘Davidian!’ all night, but he was a small minority, the new stuff went over really well. Take that internet trolls.

The audience lapped up stuff of the classic albums like Burn My Eyes and The Blackening, reacted very well to material off my favourite album Unto The Locust and went mental for even stuff off the controversial albums like The Burning Red and Supercharger (yes even the much bemoaned rapping in From This Day, their late ’90s single which is often complained about by the bullet belt crowd. Hey, I love it and I showed up in a patch jacket full of Forbidden, Exodus and Testament patches). The only point in the evening was when it dipped was for the new ballad ‘Behind A Mask’ (which I loved and happily sang along to) but which seemed to die on its ass. One mosh-pit enthusiast turned to me and yelled, ‘this is why we have support bands!’ – meaning he didn’t like it. But to be fair the crowd might have just been tired from banging around for two and a half hours and just having heard ‘Davidian’ 19 songs into the otherwise crushing and energetic set.

There were all the songs I can’t live without nowadays like ‘Locust’ ‘Game Over’ ‘Killers And Kings’ ‘Aesthetics Of Hate’ and ‘Imperium’ (I think I’d cry if I saw Machine Head and they didn’t play all of those) as well as the old reliable tracks like ‘Old’ & ‘Ten Ton Hammer.’ They even threw in ‘None But My Own’ off the debut which they didn’t play either time I saw them before which was a nice change.

The way the lighting works, with green for Locust era songs, Orange for Burn My Eyes era songs and Red for Burning Red songs is really cool, and with occasional towers of smoke and a very enthusiastic band interacting constantly with each other and the crowd, it is a joy to watch. You catch little bits like Phil and Dave making faces at eachother or Phil tuning Robb’s tuning peg in the middle of a part for laughs and you can tell they’re having fun. Although not new anymore, the new-ish bassist Jared MacEachern has such a great stage presence and is a perfect fit for the band, just like how Phil was when he joined and now you can’t imagine the band without him.

As for the performances; pure flipping magic! Watching Dave McClain drum is like watching a science experiment on a voodoo ritual. The man comes up with some bonkers patterns and just the best fills, and its hard not to spend the majority of the concert air drumming. The guy is a beast.

The vocals from all three stringed players were great, and Rob really holds up live. He is a brilliant frontman, you get peaks of it on the old live at brixton DVD and the live CDs but in person its a whole other level, he is the perfect mixture of grateful and humble but also commanding and dominating. Its awesome.

Apart from one or two very minor technical issues, the music was amazing. (I think Phil either broke a guitar string or had faulty equipment once as he dissapeared off stage briefly once). The jaw dropping guitar solos are such fun and people were singing along to parts like you do for Megadeth. I was in such a good spot – second row from the front, just left of centre – so could see everyone perfectly and see every little detail of the fretboards and drum kit. The venue has the stage quite close and low to the crowd so you really get to see everything and it was visually the best concert I’ve seen for a band of this size. You could practically make out their nose hair it was that good a view.

Considering Machine Head don’t have that many short songs, and played long tracks like ‘Clenching The Fist Of Dissent’ and ‘Halo,’ having 26 songs live was incredible value for money. Considering how ridiculously good the band are live it was anyway, but the sheer quantity as well as the spectacular quality make this one of the finest live concerts I’ve ever seen… Sometimes I’ve seen bands I love and been underwhelmed by sound, setlist choice or performance (see Monster Magnet for all the that one time when I was in Uni, or Slipknot when they supported Metallica that one time back in Dublin where the soundguy fucked them over and they only had a very short set) but with Machine Head everything has been amazing. Like Saxon, I’ve never seen them anything less than amazing and been totally satisfied.

If you get the chance, see this band live!

Ps. Shout out to the Cardiff audience members in the That’s Not Metal merch, I love that show!

I went to go see the mighty Saxon last Friday in Cardiff; this was my third time catching the NWOBHM legends live and my second ever concert in Wales. (It would have been my fourth time seeing Saxon but I’ve already written before about the time I had tickets and it got cancelled due to Lemmy from Motorhead getting diabetes.)

The trip to the venue was great, now that I know the way it was a lot less stressful to find than the time I went to see Mastodon and this time the city centre was a lot quieter and less full of boozed-up thugs. I got there a bit late and missed all but the last minute of the opening act, Rock Goddess, so just got to hear them chant ‘Heavy metal – rock and roll’ about six times and take a bow. I remembered the really good comfortable spot from the Mastodon concert – behind the sound/lighting desk, so I headed there and remained there for the rest of the show, great sound, great view and no people bustling you around.

I caught the Metallica-inspiring also-NWOBHM legends Diamond Head next. It was kind of strange to see them be their own roadies. Usually you get excited when the band but I saw Brian Tattler for like 15 minutes before the band were ready just setting up the guitar, I can see why roadies get hired and how annoying it must be nowadays when records aren’t selling as much. They were a man down due to a serious hospital operation but they soldiered on regardless, dropping all the best and heaviest songs from Lightening To The Nations and Borrowed Time. They also dropped one new song from their self titled album (‘Bones’). I didn’t know this beforehand; but they have a younger guy on vocals (Rasmus Bom Andersen). He was a very good frontman, jumping in the air, pumping up the crowd, trying to get people enthusiastic and doing a very good job of mimicking the original vocals. I’ve been listening ‘In The Heat Of The Night’ a lot recently so I really enjoyed it live – he did it justice. The crowd were into it, but not so into it. The band were pretty good; not so tight, but that’s obviously due to the man-down situation and totally understandable. Hey, I’m just happy to be seeing songs like ‘Its Electric’ and ‘Lightning To The Nations’ live.

When they dropped ‘Am I Evil?’ though…the whole atmosphere changed. The crowd sang almost every word, the room warmed up, the band looked five-times as confident and all the energy that was sort of missing before came into the room. It felt like a real heroic moment. Previously the crowd seemed to view them as a bit of a ropey pub band based on how they reacted, but for that last song they treated them how they deserved, like stars.

After a wait, the mighty Saxon took the stage, opening up with the intro and title track of the new album. I had been a bit cold on ‘Thunderbolt’ when it was the previw single but when I heard the album and listened to it on repeat it fell in to place for me. Seeing it live made it even better. Its a really strong tune. Biff mentioned we were the first audience to ever see it live, which got a big cheer. They also dropped some other fairly recent material such as ‘Sacrifice’ and ‘Battering Ram’ (also so good live!). Its nice to see them not just being a nostalgia act.

There was also all the big classic songs you’d expect such as ‘And The Bands Played On,’ (Side note – I never think about how short that song is!) ‘Strong Arm Of The Law,’ ‘Crusader,’ ‘747 (Strangers In The Night),’ ‘The Power And The Glory’ etc.

They also played a good four-six tracks off the new album overall, such as ‘Sniper’ ‘The Secret Of Flight’ ‘Predator’ and ‘They Played Rock And Roll.’ Nibbs did the backing parts that Amon Amarth’s singer Johan Hegg does on the album, which was quite fun. My favorite moment was hearing ‘Nosferatu’ live.

They mentioned that they had filmed their next music video in the venue the previous night and also that the students were filming the concert (maybe that will be their next concert film or maybe just on youtube later, I’m not sure).

They did two encores. They ended the main set with ‘Princess Of The Night,’ and then they came back and did ‘Heavy Metal Thunder’ and ‘Wheels Of Steel’ then they went off again and came back once more and did ‘Denim And Leather.’

The band were absolutely phenomenal. I’ve seen Saxon three times so far and this was unquestionably the best. They were absolutely on fire. The power and confidence and audience reaction was really special. The band seemed really taken aback and grateful and Biff kept commenting on what a great crowd it was that night (which I do agree with, I’ve seen a lot of concerts but its rare to get such good applause and sing-alongs and fans demanding you come back again after you’ve already done an encore).

It appears the band are on an upswing; Biff mentioned the new album was their first to enter the UK Top 30 albums chart since the mid-80s and joked that he ‘almost chocked on my cornflakes when I heard that!’ which was very amusing. He was quite amusing all night to be honest. Someone suggested they play ‘Crusader’ early on in the set and he started doing the ‘Who dares battle the Saracen?’ voice from its intro but said ‘Its not time for Crusader, that comes later’ which was pretty funny in context and got a good crowd reaction.

The band were stunning too. As well as Biff’s excellent stage presence and banter, the guitar solos were so good. Doug and Paul were so impressive – they really are absolute guitar heroes. Nibbs is the rowdy guy with all the energy and gets the crowd going. Best of all of course, as if I would say anyone else, (how many times have I banged on and on about my drummer-crush on his skills?) was the incomparable ‘Engine Room’ – Nigel Glockler! I’ve already written at length about how he elevates the songs with the extra cymbal catches and well timed extra double kicks on the old stuff before he was the drummer and his own stuff is badass to begin with. He has a star power and talent level that really lifts Saxon above so many of their NWOBHM peers and shows you why they are not only relevant now when so many of their peers fell by the wayside but arguably better now than even in their classic period.

The whole concert was an absolute triumph, the old stuff, the new stuff, the stage presence and the performances. Scorching solos and powerful fills. I had an absolutely great night. I really recommend you catch Saxon live if you haven’t already and if this turns out to be available now the students have filmed it, check the video out.

It was a bit of an interesting gig, in that I didn’t really want to go due to a mixture of recent bereavement and family visiting that evening and anxiety over finding a strange new venue in an unfamiliar city on a Saturday night when all the drunks and junkies would be roaming the streets, during the busy Office Christmas Party season where even more rowdy people would be out trying to look crazy to have something to talk about at work the next few weeks, as well as having to drive on some roads that have caused me much problems already this month and which have got me so stressed out I’ve actually said aloud ‘the next person to beep me, I’m getting out of the car and telling them, that I’m memorizing their face and if they ever beep me again I’ll follow them home and burn down their house with them in it.’

So, driving in the dark on a terrible road, negative emotions, better things to do with visiting family all already had me thinking I should just stay home and not attend.  Then, when I looked at the setlist of previous gigs in the tour I noticed a lack of a lot of my favourite songs (no Blood & Thunder!) and a too-high percentage of the new album (9 whole songs!). I also, when I bought the tickets initially, had noticed that they’d been doing a six song encore with all the songs they’d ever recorded with guests spots by Neurosis’ Scott Kelly, live, with Scott himself guesting. That seemed cool but I noticed on the previous show when I checked the setlist before going to my own gig that it now said ‘last show with Scott for 2017’ so one of the reasons that influenced me to buy the ticket in the first place was gone.

Mastodon are also a very hit and miss live band. Watch any outdoors show of them on youtube and you can see cracks appear. Watch their early DVD appearances and you can see Brent Hinds really struggle with vocals (that semi-famous version of ‘Capilarian Crest’ from that Slayer tour DVD for example). And while there are also amazing live moments from Mastodon, when I was thinking of reasons not to go and being a big wimp about the city streets and dodgy roads, I forgot about that.

I made a compromise and decided to not wimp out and still go, so I took my visiting guests to Cardiff for a night out, we had a nice meal in a restaurant, they went for drinks and saw the city and its Christmas market and temporary Ferris Wheel and got some drinks while I slipped off to see Mastodon after the food.

The support acts were Russian Circles, an instrumental Post-Metal band who my brother likes but I’ve never checked out, and Red Fang, the fun stoner metal band who have a Baroness and Mastodon sheen to them but also write Queens Of The Stone Age type stuff at times. I made it to the gig timed in such a way as to only see the last two Red Fang songs (and that’s ok, I only have two Red Fang CDs and only like one of em anyway) and I missed Russian Circles altogether (sorry guys… when I lived in Manchester I always walked to the venue early, got in as doors opened and watched all the support acts, but this is a new city, coming in by road, and bla bla bla…).

I’ve seen Mastodon three times before. Twice when their newest album was Blood Mountain, once with Tool where they leaned on their proggier side and played the full ‘Hearts Alive’ (hooray) and once supporting Slayer where they leaned on their more Metal side. I also caught them a few tours later when their latest album was Once More ‘Round The Sun, where they leaned on their more commercial and accessible material. Each version was great. In the Tool show the sound was bad and the vocals almost silent, but otherwise cool. With Slayer was probably the best. The headline ‘Sun show was pretty great but came at a period when I’d sort’ve fallen away from the band and it was actually what pulled me back in. The only downside was some stupid Scottish jerk screamed so loudly directly into my earhole that I had a ringing in my ears for three and a half days solid and I thought I was going to have to go to the doctor’s over it.

I have to admit, when it comes to Mastodon, my favourite albums are the three album stretch from Leviathan (I have a vinyl copy on my wall as decoration) until Crack The Skye. In this period, when it was happening, they were the most important, beloved, can-do-no-wrong band in the world and everything about them was cool and perfect. The next three albums are good too, and pay off really well when you first get them, but don’t quite live up to those previous three really, when you really look at them, in the cold light of day after the excitement has faded. They’re great, but they aren’t important and generation defining and tied up in all sorts of friendship memories and youthful anything-could-happen-next wide eyed wonderment. A lot of my friend group always say ‘they should’ve broken up after Crack The Skye and would’ve had a perfect untarnished legacy.’ (I’m much, much more forgiving of the next three albums than any of them, but even I can’t deny much preferring the previous three.)

So anyway, that’s the background.. On to the show…

So they came on after soundcheck to a warm applause, and launched into the rather odd song choice for an opener of the Crack The Skye late-album deep track ‘The Last Baron,’ (which is awesome in and of itself, but always feels like the second half of the title track and the third part of a suite of it, the title track and ‘Ghost Of Karelia’ and feels sort of unexpected and naked on its own). It was great though. It was a rather big statement of intent of what you could expect from the evening though, the trippier spacier stuff was definitely moved to the forefront.

There was some tasteful lighting and the stage turned from red to green to flashing depending on the tempo or time signature or some hidden logic I was having to much fun to study.

Then came the recent single from the new album, ‘Sultan’s Curse,’ which I didn’t think I liked all that much until I found myself singing along. They played the Crack The Skye single ‘Divinations complete with its surf guitar influenced solo, and then new-album deep cut ‘Ancient Kingdom’ and the lighting and previously not-much-used seven large thin screens surrounding the band started showing running water.

From then on the show started to get really good and I was warmed up and the showmanship started to come out more, the crowd started singing along more, and the screens started showing mental-ass psychedelic visions of evil octopuses, burning horses, snow, hell-scapes, deserts and all sorts.

The previous setlists on this tour had had a full 9 songs from Emperor Of Sand, but they trimmed that down to a more manageable 7 songs for my show, adding in the hits ‘Colony Of Birchmen’ ‘Black Tongue’ and ‘Blood And Thunder’ to the set to balance it out. They also made the very nice decision to play crazy-ass Blood Mountain deep cut ‘Bladecatcher’ which I wasn’t expecting but gladly welcomed, air drumming along to all its twists and turns and teases.

There was an absence of a lot of their hits that night. No ‘Iron Tusk’ no ‘Capilarian Crest,’ no ‘March Of The Fire Ants,’ no ‘The Wolf Is Loose,’ no ‘Crystal Skull’ no ‘Curl Of The Burl’ and no ‘The Motherload.’ They certainly don’t always just play the same songs every tour that’s for sure!

They did a pretty great job without them though. When they initially chucked in the deep cut from ‘Round The Sun, ‘Emerald City’ I found myself thinking, “which one is that?” when they said the name in the introduction, but then quickly found myself singing the chorus loudly along with easily a thousand other people. I didn’t even know I loved that one, but apparently I do. Its never made it into any of my greatest hits playlists or friend recommendations before, but I guess it probably will in future.

They also played my favourite track off of Emperor Of Sand ‘Andromeda’ with its almost Remission-esque noisy barbaric riff. Some of the drums on tracks like ‘Steambreather’ and ‘Roots Remain’ were breathtaking. Brann Dailor is an absolute drum hero up there with Dany Carey and Neil Pert.

Now; Because Mastodon are such an important band to me, all their albums are major life events and are tied to specific periods in my memory forever. Leviathan was around my 16th birthday and was influential to my teenage band and one of the most exciting times I’ve ever had as a music fan (a lot of my early facebook photos are in a Leviathan shirt and I’ve got a vinyl copy on my wall, now and in my last three homes, as decoration). Blood Mountain was the big exciting release all my high school friends were talking about when I left town after high school and what I’d discuss with them when I got back in touch with them any time in the next few years. Crack The Skye was this amazing otherworldly transcendental masterpiece that defined much of my time when I moved to England. The Hunter was the soundtrack to when I worked in Blackpool while reading all the A Song Of Ice And Fire books and figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. Once More ‘Round The Sun always reminds me of walking my then girlfriend, now wife, to university in the snow and slipping and sliding along all the ice, and then waiting in the lecture halls I’d gotten to half an hour early for my own classes, just cranking out Mastodon, sitting in cold echoing halls bopping away to ‘Halloween’ and ‘Tread Lightly.’

Emperor Of Sand, however, reminds me of misery. I was listening to it heavily when we lost our first baby, and when I was working horrible soul destroying night shifts with an awful, passive aggressive, demanding and socially maladjusted manager in a horrific ungrateful job where you could work either 14 hours a day day shifts or 11 hours a night night shifts and still be harassed into coming in early so they’d pass inspections or going home every single damn day between 20 and 90 minutes late due to short staffing, and not be thanked for it, and have to come in on two hours notice, or on only five hours sleep, and work in awful dehydrating conditions and have the manager talk to you through the toilet door if you ever actually got the chance to actually go to the toilet and escape work for long enough to piss. That place broke so many labour laws and health and safety rules it was staggering and its a wonder the upper management weren’t all sacked, if not prosecute. But anyway… Nowadays when my life is so much happier and nicer and I’m in an awesome job that I love in a much better city in a much nicer home and everything is a lot better, listening to Emperor Of Sand just bums me out and reminds me of slaving away in such horrible conditions for such a dreadful uncaring company and their demanding, hateful, ungrateful clients and then coming home to bereavement and a lack of sleep.

Hearing those songs live with the cool video screens and all the joyous sing-alongs from the other fans sort of freed them from that association. I just got to listen to and enjoy them as songs, free from all the baggage. It was nice. Liberating.

Which is a good job, since so much of the setlist was from it. Going off Setlist FM, the breakdown was as follows: Emperor Of Sand -7 songs; Crack The Skye – 3 songs; Blood Mountain – 2 songs; Leviathan – 2 songs; Once More ’Round The Sun – 1 song; Remission – 1 song; The Hunter – 1 song.

Oh yeah, did I tell you they played bloody ‘Mother Puncher’ ?! SCORE! Its nice that even though they’re so late in their career they aren’t ignoring Remission (come to think of it, last time I saw them they very unexpectedly dropped ‘Ol Nessie’ into the middle of all the commercial stuff!). I hate fans who act all cool and say they only like Remission, sure, but it is a stunning monstrous album and I’d hate for it to be overlooked or forgotten. I’d love for them to drop a few more nuggets from it in nowadays. Nobody could argue with a bit of ‘Crusher Destroyer’ or ‘Where Strides The Behemoth’ nowadays, surely. Just slipped in nice and tidy among the proggier stuff to raise the energy levels and remind us of heavier times.

Speaking of ‘Mother Puncher’…. good God, the drums on that song! That and the breakdown in the middle of ‘Blood And Thunder’ have some of the most maddeningly-illogical yet crazily-satisfying drums ever.

Overall, I had a pretty great night and the band were great. A vastly different setlist than I’ve ever seen by ’em before, cool interesting visuals, a receptive audience, and I’ve not mentioned it yet but the sound was really clear and well balanced, the guitar solos were cool and Brent played them with a little bit of improvisation, and the vocals were really great. As I’ve said, I’ve went to Mastodon shows were you couldn’t even hear the vocals, I’ve seen Mastodon live footage online were the vocals weren’t so hot performance-wise, and I’ve seen ’em live before or recorded on their Brixton live video for example, with awesome vocals. Tonight was a good night for vocals, and indeed for crowd participation. The audience were dancing, singing, air drumming. I was sat behind the lighting/sound guys and they were dancing in unison at one stage. The whole vibe was very friendly and fun and like we were all in on the group secret.

I might have been skeptical and almost cancelled going to this show, but I’m glad I didn’t. I had a good time, I saw a good show and its given me a renewed appreciation for the new album and helped free it from bad memories.