I Went To Go See Anthrax (With Municipal Waste & Sworn Enemy) Live Last Night In Bristol At The O2 Academy On Thursday 06/10/2022

I went to go see Anthrax (With Municipal Waste & Sworn Enemy) live last night in Bristol at the O2 Academy on Thursday 06/10/2022. I am always a bit dodgy about going to concerts in Bristol. I utterly hate driving there, the roads are very illogical, poorly laid out, change suddenly with little warning and generally difficult to drive on, but the drivers are incredibly competitive and aggressive, a toxic combination. It is nowhere near as pleasant to drive as Cardiff by comparison. The 02 Academy as a venue is also not as nice as the Student’s Union Great Hall / Y Plas in Cardiff, it’s a kind of weird shape and layout, the sound isn’t as good, it gets too hot and generally isn’t as good.

However, Anthrax have been one of (and sometimes even the number one) my absolute life-long favourite bands since I was old enough to shave, and yet I had never managed to catch them on a headline show yet for various financial or scheduling or logistical conflicts over the years (although did finally get to see them supporting Slayer a few years ago).

Now, I am quite reticent about going to concerts nowadays, and have skipped a great many due to the pandemic, even ones I had tickets for. However, after going to see Rammstein and not getting sick or making my family or anyone else sick, I have softened my stance a little bit. I still don’t feel comfortable going to as many as before (eg. I love Saxon live, but have recently skipped two really close and easy to get to Saxon concerts just in case, I’m not going to see Napalm Death, I’ve given BFMV a pass etc) but if it is something I feel will be special (eg. Parkway Drive) my new attitude is I will sometimes risk it. For me, a headline Anthrax show, celebrating the band’s 40th Anniversary, that has been getting rave reviews and the setlist for which is nothing but the absolute best songs, more than qualifies as something special.

After navigating through the stressful streets of Bristol, panic-stricken and on the verge of pissing myself, I finally made it to the venue. Hmm… strange. I arrived late after doors were open and it sounded like the first band were already on, and there was still a 20 minute queue to get in. At Parkway I arrived earlier, at a bigger venue, I still waltzed right in in one fluid motion without queuing. This time it was busy. Well, it turns out the show completely sold out. I thought shows don’t sell out anymore, ever since the pandemic, but apparently things are getting more back to normal now.

I found a relatively nice spot to stand where I could see well enough and wasn’t in too many people’s way and settled in for the night. I caught a few songs from Sworn Enemy. They were quite enjoyable, it was quite aggressive beatdown-heavy metalcore. They were like a heavier, more blunt Hatebreed. The final song was a bit too repetitive for my tastes, but they made up for that by splicing in parts of Pantera’s Domination (or at least I think they spliced in parts, maybe they just wrote a similar part and ripped them off?). A nice little warm up.

The next band up were Richmond Virgina’s Crossover Thrash revivalists, Municipal Waste. I am a fan of Muni-Waste. I own about three quarters of their albums and do enjoy them quite a bit, but I am not a diehard fan where I know every word to every song. Before tonight, I’d probably say “I wouldn’t go to see them on their own, but I like them” but it was an absolutely great set and I might revise that idea now. They played a lot from their The Art Of Partying album which is probably their most famous and definitely the one I know the best, so I could sing along with quite a few choruses etc and join in with the chanting sections without feeling disingenuous. They were really energetic and attention grabbing, they commanded a lot of crowd-surfing and circle pits (although old man at heart that I am, I was glad to be standing out of range of any of it – nice to see, but please don’t touch me!). The singer was quite humorous on stage, but without being gimmicky. The real star of the show however was their drummer. I never realised on record just how incredibly tight and precise he is, nor how complex some of the songs are. I mean, Municipal Waste largely have a set style, and stick to it relatively closely most of the time, and I am not trying to make it sound like they are Dream Theater or something, but for a band who make their name on party-Thrash anthems or Crossover blasts of 1-2 minute rage, there is a surprising amount of depth and nuance to the drumming and song structures, and the speed he can play at whilst maintaining control of every stick-hit is very impressive when you see it with your own eyes from just a few meters’ distance.

The highlight of their set was the closer, arguably their most popular song, and the track I would recommend to any newcomer: “Born To Party” – it’s the one that has that super-catchy “Municipal Waste are gonna fuck you up! Municipal Waste are gonna fuck you up! Municipal Waste are gonna fuck you up!” hook in it. (Alright, that might sound dumb out of context, but on the album its so much fun). When that hook came in live, it seemed to me as though everyone in the building was smiling like it was their birthday. Joyous. For such a stupid sentence, it is such a killer hook. On the record it comes in alongside the sound of a beer can opening and if that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about how it is meant to make you feel, nothing will.

After a very enjoyable set from the modern Thrash band, it was time for one of the true forefathers of the genre. When Anthrax took the stage, in this ludicrously packed sweatbox, a wave of euphoria came over me. There was a short video before they actually came on, where various celebrities praised them on making it to 40 years or explained why they were important / influential / good etc, then they appeared in silhouette backlit against the video screen and it was so fucking cool. Sometimes you don’t need a 20 foot sea-serpent or a metric tonne of pyro – sometimes you just have to look fucking cool, and Anthrax looked like legends.

The setlist was nothing short of giving the people exactly what they wanted. No real surprises so to speak. All the best songs (more or less) off the 80s albums. The only deviation from that was the sing-along generator “Only” from the Bush era and the fallen-rockstar (eg. Dio) tribute song “In The End” from Joey Belladonna’s reunion album Worship Music. A huge part of it was just the most memorable songs from Among The Living and Spreading The Disease… and since they are two of my favourite albums of all time, you’ll hear no complaints from me. They also did the first half of “Bring The Noise” before transitioning into a storming rendition of “Indians” with a massive crowd-participatory “woah, woah, woah-ah-oh” singalong.

Well, I say a massive crowd singalong, but to be honest, apart from maybe “In The End” not much of the evening wasn’t a massive crowd singalong. I have rarely seen a concert where such a high percentage of the crowd sang for such a high percentage of the evening. Not just choruses, but verses, bridges, obscure 2nd/3rd verses, singing along to the guitar parts etc. Nothing you don’t see a bit at every concert, but like… more, more often, and more intensely. It was like being part of a thousand-member Anthrax-themed choir.

The main members Scott, Charlie, Frankie and Joey were so full of charisma it felt like a privilege to be allowed to be there. Dan Spitz or Rob Caggiano aren’t in the band anymore, so filling that spot was ex-Shadow’s Fall guitarist Jon Donais. I always liked Shadow’s Fall, and he can play the songs, but he is not an icon like the other members, and he just stayed in place for most of the evening, quietly getting the job done without taking up much limelight, possibly out of respect for the whole 40-year celebration thing. As an audience member, I spent about 90% of the evening just fixedly staring at drummer Charlie Benante. Anyone who knows me in person has been subjected to me mooning over Charlie Benante with hearts in my eyes, and I am sure anyone reading this blog more than once has probably read it at least 5 times too, but just to reiterate – that man is one of the best drummers in the game. I utterly love the way he plays.

Last time I saw them, I was lower down and further away, so this time I could really see every hit of every single drum or cymbal, and to me that is worth the price of the ticket, worth the stressful commute, worth being absolutely shattered at work all day today, and moreso than “worth it” – it is a memory I’ll take to my grave.

There’s been a lot of shit-talking on the internet and social media in the last 15-years with people poo-pooing Joey Belladonna and his legacy, but to me he is one of Metal’s most memorable vocalists, and I’ve never agreed with the anti-Joey sentiment out there online. However, I had heard on a few podcasts I trust who like him on records, that he wasn’t always good live, especially in the modern era – but I can happily confirm he was utterly excellent live in my opinion. Not all singers can still pull it off live when they reach a certain vintage, but I thought Joey was the absolute business last night!

Scott Ian as always is just spellbinding. I’ve talked at length before about “Scott Ian’s Wrist” and it was out in full force last night.

The sound was pretty good (painfully loud, but I guess that’s a redundant complaint at a Thrash show) and the stage was presented well with various banners etc. The light show was well designed, and various spots or strobes highlighted specific memorable moments (like a key drumfill, for example that weird super quick bit in “Caught In A Mosh” before the “Why don’t you listen when I try to talk to you” verse comes in). Visually, it looks pretty similar to their XL 40 Years livestream.

Luckily, due to the specifics of the one-way-system and the lateness of the hour resulting in much fewer cars on the road, the drive back home was about 40-minutes quicker and immeasurably less complicated, so that was nice too when I was tired, sweaty, hoarse-throated and ready for bed.

I had an absolute whale of a time, the band where on tip-top form (as a comparison point, they were better here in 2022 than they were on either the “Alive 2” DVD or on the “Big Four” DVD) and if you in anyway like the band, I really urge you to check them out on this tour.

I Went To Go And See Machine Head & Amon Amarth Live In Cardiff At The Motorpoint Arena, On Friday The 9th Of September 2022.

I Went to go and see Machine Head & Amon Amarth Live in Cardiff at the Motorpoint Arena, on Friday the 9th of September 2022. This was the fourth time I have seen Machine Head live, and the second time I’ve seen Amon Amarth live (although 3rd time I’ve had tickets to Amon Amarth… and accidentally forgot to go once, what a twat!).

I’ve been really hyped for this Machine Head concert since the release of their surprisingly great new album, Of Kingdom And Crown, and have been on a bit of a Machine Head listening-bender for the last couple of weeks. I’ve been on setlistfm nearly every day for the past week and a half trying to predict what they’ll play. They’ve done some warm up shows in Scotland and brought out some great setlist surprises that you don’t hear every time, but then in interviews frontman Rob Flynn has stated he is just going to keep it simple and play the hits everyone wants.

I’ve said it before, but Machine Head, especially on their killer run from Ashes’ through to Bloodstone’ (and their first two records are all time classics too) are in my opinion one of the absolute best bands in the whole Metal genre, and they are an utterly excellent live band so any time I can for the rest of my life, I’m going to be hyped to see them live.

The first two times I saw them, they were doing their epic three hour long An Evening With shows, both of which I have some of my fondest concert memories of, and the third time was touring the publicly-maligned Catharsis album really soon before excellent drummer and guitarist Dave McClain and Phil Demmel left the band. This will be my first time seeing the band with new guitarist Vogg (Decapitated) and drummer Matt Alston (Devilment) – I was very curious to see if the band could retain their sense of identity without their longest-serving drummer or their fan favourite guitarist who totally revitalised the band back in the day.

Amon Amarth have come a long way since I first saw them opening for Trivium, Mastodon and Slayer in Wolverhampton with no stage show back in around 2008, touring their now-iconic Twilight Of The Thundergod album, getting bigger and bigger over time until now they are an arena band. Judging from their live DVD they had been putting on bigger stage shows before then too, but it has really escalated over the years and now they are famed as a big-spectacle live act that everyone must see. I was very excited to see them again and reconnect. I remember in the wake of that previous concert, I was very excited for the band, and started being a fan then and there, but due to the cost of some of their old albums at the time, I never got all of their back catalogue, and then each time they released a new album after the Thundergod-follow-up Surtur Rising, I’d always been planning to get it, but then just not got around to it due to money or timing against other band’s releases, and slowly fell out of synch with the band for no particular reason. In the build-up for this concert though, I’ve been listening to the Amon Amarth albums that I do own, and streaming the stuff I’ve missed, and I feel quite the fool. They really are a stellar band, and the stuff released after Surtur seems to be even more to my taste (“Shield Wall,” “Put Your Back Into The Oar” and “Fafner’s Gold” in particular are so catchy and memorable, I’m kicking myself for not keeping up with the band).  

But enough of the preamble, onto the show…

The opening act were The Halo Effect, a new band, but made up of ex-members of In Flames. I’ve seen In Flames live before and wasn’t particularly won over.   After a long day at work, some time with the kids and food, I made it to the concert while The Halo Effect were already on stage, so only caught about 3 full songs. The sound was ok, but there was something wrong with the lead guitar audio, it came out distorted and weird sounding in a way you could tell was a mistake. The songs seemed decent enough, the direction was slightly clean melodeath, nothing particularly fancy. There wasn’t much to talk about really. It was a fine opening, but I wasn’t exactly converted for life.

Next up, came the Norsemen. They certainly didn’t come across as amateur. It was a high production value, massive spectacle, very impressive show. There were people in costumes (soldiers, men at arms swordfighting, and even in the grand tradition of bands like Alice Cooper and Iron Maiden having a roadie in a monster costume running around… the trickster god Loki during the ‘Deceiver title track) as well as big inflatables in the tradition of Dio (Statues, Viking Longships, and even the sea serpent Ragnarok), there were props like Thor’s hammer Mjoliner which fireworks were cunningly times to coincide with it striking, a lot of pyro, cool stage set pieces, multiple backdrops, a clever lightshow that simulated storms or seas etc depending on the story of the song, and video screens in the eyes of the helmet. Very impressive… a proper arena show.

They played basically all the 10 most-played songs on youtube-music, most of the above mentioned songs, some classics like “The Pursuit Of Vikings,” and “Guardians Of Asguard,” Some newer tracks from the brand new album, one from ‘Deciever, and bits from Jomsviking and Berserker. They closed with a rousing rendition of “Twilight Of The Thundergod” which was absolutely stupendous. I was surprised they didn’t play “Death In Fire” as I was under the impression that was a real must-have, but I guess it’s a bit old fashioned, and they didn’t play my personal favourite song of theirs “Runes To My Memory” but I didn’t mind because it was a completely riotous set of wall-to-wall bangers. The only time the energy dipped a bit was for the title track of the new album, but otherwise it was pure adrenaline, catchy melodies, memorable vocal hooks and lots of “hey….hey….hey…” fist pumping/chanting. Lovely, lovely stuff.

Sometimes heavy metal is serious and dour. Sometimes, Johan Hegg has an entire crowd of people making rowing-gestures in a song about oarsmen. Variety is the spice of life.

I utterly fucking loved this show, and have a hugely renewed interest in Amon Amarth, and will make sure to get more of their records now. I have such respect and admiration for them. (Not only for the brilliant spectacle of the visuals, but the immensely fun heavy metal music).

If that had been the concert finished then and there, I’d have been very satisfied. However, I wasn’t ready for the near transcendent experience that was a renewed, reviatalised, firing on all cylinders, something to prove Machine Head delivering just the hits in a condensed, furious, no bullshit, hard as nails manner. Every cliché I’ve just written there… not actually a cliché… actually 100% true accurate description.

Visually it was a very different beast than Amon Amarth were, there were no balloons, actors, costume changes… it was a really tasteful but clever light show, with the occasional bit of tasteful pyro and one confetti storm at the end… but the main vibe was sleek, clean, futuristic and minimalist (as far as an arena level lighting and laser show can be). I really enjoyed it. It doesn’t look it from the photos, but it was actually even cooler than Amon Amarth’s very cool show. Just in a totally different way.

It wasn’t the visuals that made Machine Head the best band of the night though, it was the songs, and the way they were performed.

They opened with the heaviest song off the crushing new album, then proceeded to play basically all the songs with a music video, like “Ten Ton Hammer,” “Davidian,” “Imperium,” “Aesthetics Of Hate ,“ “Locust,” “Halo” etc. The odd song out was “From This Day” which isn’t one of their fast heavy super-metal ones, but rather a bouncy rap-metal experiment, but it was great anyway.  They played three songs from my favourite album, Unto The Locust, which I found especially enjoyable. I would have liked to see more from the new record, but I’ve just been spoiled by their previous 25-29 song Evening-With tours. For a coheadline set, it was sheer perfection. So many all-time gems in such a short space of time was really life affirming. What made it even better was the deep and profound conviction, breath-taking performance  and sheer fucking joy of the band on stage. It wasn’t even weird that Dave and Phil were gone… it was sheer quality from start to finish, utter triumph.

I have rarely screamed harder, clapped more, or basically enjoyed myself more than I did tonight. Air-drumming basically every song for the whole night, air guitaring every solo, singing every chorus and mosh call. The atmosphere was unbelievably electric. I utterly adored this concert. Every time I see the band, they become closer and closer to my favourite band, and this was perhaps the best I’ve ever seen them, and that is a ridiculously high bar!

If you have any chance at all, go see this. You will not regret it.

I Went to see Rammstein at Cardiff Principality Stadium on Thursday 30th June 2022

This was my first concert, gig or night out at all since the pandemic. I actually got the tickthts for this as a birthday gift in 2019! 

Other bands who I had tickets for pre-pandemic, like WASP castagencelled their gigs, some postponed theirs until it wasn't possible for me to go anymore, with work or around the birth of my second son. One, I was just straight up was too anxious to go, having been stuck inside too long and I eneded up chickening-out and just giving the tickets away for free to a random fan on the internet. 

I still didn't really feel ready for this gig yet either, and thought about cancelling many times... but the idea of it being a birthday gift, and of having the tickets for basically three years now, kind of made me feel obliged to go. 

In the run up to the event, I had seen news peices about how Cardiff wasn't a good city for stadium gigs, with travel chaos and inadequate infastructure, people missing gigs due to being stuck in the car etc, which didn't help my trepidation any. 

Despite me only living a 25 minute drive from Cardiff (35 until parked and out of the car), I only arrived at the stadium exactly 40 seconds before the band played their first song, having had a ridiculous commute with lots of shenanigans, including taking of 40 minutes to drive down a road no longer than 200m that I drive through in mere seconds any other time I visit the city, then getting to my usual car park to find it full (but the "full" sign is not visible until you already enter the building, thus being totally pointless, and condeming you to a 5 minute loop de loop to get back to the very start of the road, and thus sufffer another 40 minutes again to get down the same 200m you just drove). 

After accidentally going down a one way street, missing my correct turn due to a psychotic taxi driver tailgaiting me too aggressively for me to safely turn, I then proceeded to get stuck in a residential street whilst trying to lose the taxi guy as any more beeping of his horn and I would probably get out of the car, murder him and end up in prison. After deciding prison didn't seem like the best option,  I trued to do a 3 point turn in about 18 turns, then finally make my way to an alternative car park after some more shenanigans involving a train track, and finally hoof it across the city to the stadium.  
The Welsh flag, as the intro music played

After a quick trip to the bathroom, I walked out onto the stadium floor, and 40 seconds later, the band started playing.

The band taking the stage, hard to see because the ground had adverse camber

The setlist was mostly drawn from their first 3 albums and their newest 2 albums, with approximately 3-4 songs from each, and then just 1 song each from LIFAD and Reise Reise, plus nothing from Rosenrot at all. Mostly hits and fan favourites, maybe 1-2 unexpected songs, but with a crowd this size that’s exactly the right call.

Pyro

This was the first gig I had ever attended at the stadium, and I am not too impressed with it as a music venue. It is clearly a sports venue, and the flooring they put into it to protect the grass was weird, at the wrong angel, slippery, and made it hard to see the band as it felt like you were downhill, and hard to keep your footing (I saw so many people fall over compared to normal gigs in clubs and theaters, or even arenas). It definitely wasn’t the ideal place for a rowdy metal crowd who need firm footing.

That being said, the venue wasn’t all bad – the staff were very friendly and trained, the bathrooms were good, and best of all the sound was very good, probably the best thing about the stadium experience.

Rammstein’s pounding, simplsitic, mostly mid-tempo industrial style suits a big arena sound, its not too busy for the sound system. Big gigs often have poor sound, but I was very happy with this, I could hear every thing – every drum, every bass line, every guitar chord, every word.

Light show

As you have no doubt heard if you pay any attention to metal music, Rammstein put on a good stage show.

There were all sorts of things to make the show visually interesting. Lights, lazers, confetti, foam, explosions, sparks, flames, fireworks, a flamethrower-guitar, band members using different parts of the stage or an alternative stage at times, lots of props, an elevator, a treadmill, musicians going out into the crowd. Basically, it wasn’t low-effort.

Sparks shower
Keyboardist Flake ascending into the sky on an elevator for a DJ set.

Of course other bands do big shows too, in the last few years I’ve seen Alice Cooper and Ghost do props and confetti, Slayer‘s final tour did pretty good pyro, and Parkway Drive do the flames and sparks and elevator plus going out to a second stage and going in the crowd, Slipknot do the cool stage set and treadmill. I didn’t see it with my own eyes because I didn’t want to spend the money at the time with Vince Neil’s voice being bad and with me not having time off work, but I know Motley Crue do the flame-thrower (bass) guitar thing, you can see it on their The End DVD.

Rammstein was kind of like seeing all of that in one show. It didn’t quite seem like it was living up to the hype for the first few songs, they started off without much spectacle, but they built more and more over the course of the show, and by the time it went dark outside, and they played “Sonne” I was starting to think maybe this was at least bigger than anything I’ve seen.

The band on an alternate stage in the middle of the crowd doing a piano ballad reimagining of early hit Engel.

The crowd were pretty decent where I was standing, no crowd-killing, everyone respecting eachother’s space, drunks and pot smokers just merry – not falling down or vommiting or fighting. Quite respectful of wheelchairs and mobility scooters too, which wasn’t always the case in previous gigs I’ve been to. The crowd didn’t seem full or sold-out, but there is a pandemic and the show was rescheduled twice, so they did well to have it quite full.

Because I was deliberately trying to hang back at a quite spot with lots of breathing room and space for pandemic reasons, and not getting up and sweaty, I didn’t really buy into the atmosphere of the gig, and it was mostly just an “ok” gig for me, rather than something amazing or life-changing, but the music was good, the sound was good, the stage show (if not something I’ve never seen before) was still good, and the band’s performance was pretty decent. They definitely put a lot of thought, planning and effort into it, and they did well to fill the size of the venue.

Was this the best show I have ever been to? No. Was it nice to be back at a concert after two years? Yeah, kind of, but I just worry I’ve contracted Covid after being so careful and avoidant for such a long time (time will tell). Would I go back to this stadium for any other band? Probably not, unless it was something really special that I couldn’t see anywhere else, like AC/DC maybe. Would I see Rammsteing again? Definitely, but only if it was in a better venue, in a city with better infastructure. If this same show was in the same place at the same time next year, I’d give it a miss (and I wouldn’t say that for Slipknot at the Motorpoint Arena for example).

The way home was luckily much less eventful and chaotic – just a nice orderly queue for a very long time, then a clear shot home. Once I got out of the city centre, I was arguably home faster than during my normal work day commute.

Had this have been in the Motorpoint Arena instead, or had it been in a pre-pandemic world, I probably would give it an absolutely gushing rave review, but all the stress and the feelings or risk and the subpar venue took a little bit of the rose tint away for me personally.

Don’t get me wrong though, great band and I’m glad I went, I’ll probably just not be in the mood for this sort of thing the same sort of way I used to be for another year or two. I’m currently debating whether to go to any gigs at all this year (there are some tempting ones, like Machine Head, Parkway Drive and Volbeat coming to Cardiff at various points this year) but I’m still a bit uncomfortable being outdoors or in crowds at present.

Orange Goblin – Rough & Ready, Live & Loud : 25 Years Of British Rock & Heavy Metal Review.

A lot of bands seem to be delaying their new albums due to the whole COVID19 crisis that has been going on in 2020 at time of writing. Luckily other bands are filling the gap with B-Sides collections, new singles, and in the case of cult British Stoner Metal band Orange Goblin, fantastic live albums.

Rough And Ready Live And Loud is the second live album from ‘Goblin and comes hot on the heals of the touring for 2018’s superb The Wolf Bites Back album.

Now, I must confess, I am a relatively new Orange Goblin fan. I saw them live supporting Down in about 2012 at my first concert since I had moved to a new city and was in a weird phase of not really enjoying anything and so although I thought they were decent, I wasn’t in the mood to explore more. However, luckily I caught them live again a year or two ago supporting C.O.C and was blown clean away. Singer Ben Ward is such a charismatic dynamo of a singer, who revs the crowd up like nobody’s business, with such a fun attitude that I was instantly converted, and have been using all the Birthdays and Christmases ever since to go back through their back catalogue and get all their records.  

Have you heard the phrase ‘’it does what it says on the tin’’ ?. Well, lets just say that Rough & Ready, Live & Loud really is an appros pos title. The production and recording style of this album is fuzzy, dirty and absolutely perfect for Stoner Rock/Metal fans. The bass tone is to die for. It isn’t too smoothed out or polished, but it isn’t too tiny, tinny and kvlt to be listenable. It feels live and sweaty, like you’re really there.

The setlist focuses a lot on the band’s three newest albums. There’s bouncy catchy moments like ‘Sons of Salem’ and ‘The Filthy And The Few,’ there’s Motorhead-leaning fast tracks like ‘The Devil’s Whip’ and ‘Renegade’ and there’s some slower stuff like ‘Mystical Knives.’

That’s not to say that it’s all new material. There’s some material from most of their albums. ‘Some You Win, Some You Lose’ from Thieving From The House Of God. Some older tracks like ‘Made Of Rats’ from Coup De Grace, ‘Shine’ and the Title Track from Time Traveling Blues and ‘Sauruman’s Wish’ from the debut album Frequencies From Planet Ten. Basically; the only albums not represented are The Big Black and Healing Through Fire.

The album artwork is really clever too, featuring images from many of the band’s previous records combined together in one image that looks like it was supposed to be that way anyway. Its fitting with the album’s subtitle, ‘25 Years Of British Rock & Heavy Metal.’

Since it is in essence a 25 year retrospective that covers most of their records in some form or other, this album would be a fine introduction for any new fans, and if you are an existing fan, all the new material gives you something different from their last live record.  

I highly recommend this album. The performances on here are absolutely electric, the drums slam, the guitars crunch, the slower moments are nice and trippy, the guitar leads are blazing and when the tempo speeds up the aforementioned frontman bubbles with excitement. It’s a very uplifting record that oozes with fun. You can almost feel the sticky venue floor beneath your feet. They released a music video for this album’s version of ‘The Devil’s Whip’ which I’d recommend you try out if you want to see if this live album, or even if this band, are your cup of tea.

[Side note: If you haven’t heard the band before; but like bands like Kyuss, Fu Manchu, Monster Magnet, Nebula, Sheavy or Sleep, or indeed bands like the aforementioned Down and C.O.C, but also love Motorhead or like it when Stoner music goes fast (like High On Fire when they step on the gas pedal) then I can pretty much guarantee you’ll enjoy Orange Goblin].

I went to go see Testament, Exodus and Death Angel live last night, on The Bay Strikes Back Tour at Bristol 02 Academy, on Tuesday 02.03.2020

I went to go see Testament, Exodus and Death Angel live last night, on The Bay Strikes Back Tour at Bristol 02 Academy, on Tuesday 02.03.2020.

As you probably know if you read this blog, I really, really like Thrash – it is my unquestionably favourite type of music.

Boy, I was so pleased when I saw this concert bill advertised. This is one hell of a concert line up! Three bands that I’ve been listening to since my teens, together on one bill, all playing Bay Area Thrash Metal, my favourite type of music bar none.

The media always likes to talk about the Big Four of Thrash Metal, (all of whom I’ve been lucky enough to seen live before!), but for me it has always been the Big 6 with Exodus and Testament in there too.

Exodus and Testament are so representative of everything good about Thrash. I can never decide which one is my favourite and it can change on any given day. In fact, Exodus and Testament logos occupy both the left and right shoulder positions on my patch jacket, equal in size and position. I’m also quite partial to early Death Angel and their Act III album in particular is one of my favourite Thrash albums.

[Trivia fans may also be aware that there are a few other connections between these three bands. I’ll type just a few here now – Death Angel’s demo was produced by Kirk Hammet, who was in Exodus, and Exodus’ singer Steve Souza was the singer of Testament before their debut album, back when they were called Legacy. Nice connections there].


I’ve been lucky enough to see Exodus before, back in 2016, when I lived in Manchester, on a bill with Prong and Obituary. That gig that got me into Obituary and properly into Prong where before I was just a causal fan. This is my first time seeing the mighty Testament live though, and I couldn’t be more excited. (Crazy as it sounds, sometimes I almost feel like I’ve seen them before though, as I have watched their Live In London DVD more than 50 times, to the point where reality blurs and my memories of it almost feel like I real memories and like I was there). Its also my first time seeing Death Angel live who are a perfect opener for such a bill.

As has become a habit of mine in recent years, I have been listening to these bands constantly in the weeks leading up to the concert, building anticipation. I also listened to them all on shuffle on the drive to the concert, which was in Bristol. This is only my second ever concert in Bristol, as I fear the unfamiliar and large city and much prefer the convenience and familiarity of Cardiff for concerts most of the time – but this line up is too good not to travel for!

I thought since it’s a bit of a stressful drive, I’d book the day afterwards off work, so I don’t go to work on less sleep than usual. Turns out I’m an idiot though, as I booked the day of the concert off rather than the day after! Woops! Oh well, at least I wasn’t in a rush to get there after work then. I tried to get some sleep beforehand to balance it out.

It was much less stressful navigating my way there this time as I made no wrong turns and I was familiar with the parking lot (which is down a weird cobbled side street that looks like you aren’t allowed to drive down) so everything went smoothly. After I queued up and got in, I was just in time to catch Death Angel’s first song. Somehow, I managed to get a good spot with a good view, only a few places from the stage slightly to the left of the venue, stage right.

Death Angel’s setlist was mostly a mix of tunes from their modern post-reunion albums. I only own one studio and one live album from the modern era so far, so it was a bit unfamiliar with the material they chose. They only played two and a half songs from the classic first three albums (‘Voracious Souls’  and a little bit of the title track from their debut album The Ultra-Violence and then the classic opener ‘Seemingly Endless Time’ from their masterpiece Act III). Nevertheless I had a great time.

Death Angel call for blood, and you’ve not spilled enough!

Their performance was great. Tracks like ‘Thrown To The Wolves’ and especially ‘The Dream Calls For Blood’ sounded really powerful and energetic live. There wasn’t much of a stage show, but they really didn’t need it. They really got the crowd gonig with their enthusiasm and crowd ineraction.

I was quite happy with how into it the crowd were. Sometimes the crowd doesn’t go for the opening act. When I saw Diamond Head support Saxon, the vibe was utterly dead for Diamond Head until their last song, but here, people treated Death Angel like a headliner. There were sections of people throughout the room singing every word and most of the crowd were thrashing like a maniac, so to speak. It was a perfect way to start the evening.

Death Angel

The sound was really well mixed. It was a thousand times better than Megadeth had been recently. You could hear everything perfectly but it still had a real crunchy, aggressive power. The vocals soared, the leads were clear and the drums hammered at you. The rhythm guitars hit that sweet crunch spot that makes Thrash so perfect.

In the gap between bands I managed to get closer to the stage still as people went off to find drinks and toilets. I’m not a push to the front kind of guy and am allways mindful of people behind or beside me’s personal space, so sometimes you can’t get the best view, but I got a pretty great view through sheer luck.

Next came Exodus. Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza is still fronting the band. Its nice to see some line-up stability, as there was a lot of upheaval over the years. Tonight was my first time seeing them with main guitarist Gary Holt in the band. Last time I saw them, Garry wasn’t there as he was busy touring with Slayer at the time, following the untimely passing of Slayer’s Jeff Hanneman. Tonight he played a little snippet of ‘Raining Blood’ and Zetro quipped about how he could do it legally now due to having been in Slayer.

Holt and Altus

[Trivia fans may also be aware, just for more Thrash connections, that Exodus’ current line-up featurs Heathen’s Lee Altus. Heathen have also previously had Exodus’ first singer Paul Baloff in their line-up briefly and they currently feature former Slayer drummer Jon Dette.

There are innumerable other trivia links between these bands. If you want to get on with the review, skip to after these brackets. Otherwise; strap in guys, this is a convoluted one…

Also worth mentioning since we’ve brought up Slayer, is that both Testament and Exodus have had Slayer’s second drummer Paul Bostaph behind the kit, and Testament have also had Slayer’s first drummer Dave Lombardo, and while we’re talking about shared drummers – both Testament and Exodus have both had John Tempesta on drums!

The aforementioned Paul Bostaph used to be in Forbidden, who have also had Glen Alvelais, and Glen was in Testament in the ‘90s and has been in Tenent alongside Exodus’ singer and Steve Souza. Testament’s current drummer is former Dark Angel drummer Gene Hoglan. Hoglan has also been in Forbidden briefly and done backing vocals and drum teching for Slayer in the early days.

Speaking of Hoglan, this not strictly Thrash, but he has been in Death with Steve DiGorgio, but it loops back around to Thrash, as DiGorgio is Testament’s current bassist – Its like musical chairs in the Trash Metal world!

I haven’t even gotten into all the Machine Head links yet. Don’t get me started. I had a whole blog about this stuff in my teens called The Thrashagram. Its proably kid’s stuff looknig back at it now, but at the time I was pretty proud of it].

Anyway… When I saw Exodus last time, their performance was great live. I remember writing at the time that if you get the chance to see them, no matter how high up or low down on the bill they are, you really must take it. They aren’t a nostalgia act, they’ve still got the fire in their eyes. This time however, they were even bloody better! They were utterly amazing. On fire. In the zone. Blistering. Whatever you want to call it, they tore the venue a new one. What a difference a Holt makes, am I right?

Zetro made a big speech about how Holt was back and how we were all lucky to catch him on his first UK date back in the fold, and by god was he right. The energy, chemistry and indescribable x-factor going on made the performance utterly captivating. Zetro made a few speechs that night, including one about Bay Area Thrash that really locked into my old teenage love of Thrash and made me smile like a goon.

Exodus’ set was more balanced between their modern and classic material than Death Angel’s had been. They didn’t have enoguh time to cover ever single album, but they hit all the key periods. There were a few tracks from their Paul Baloff-fronted debut Bonded By Blood, a few from the Souza-fronted ‘80s albums (my favourite era of the band), a few from the Souza-fronted modern albums and even one from the Rob Dukes era.

It is nice that they mix the setlist up. Last time I saw them, they didn’t play ‘Deliver Us To Evil’ or ‘Fabulous Disaster’ for example. Last time I saw them, they played ‘The Ballad Of Leonard And Charles’ from the Dukes era, and this time they played the cleverly titled ‘Deathamphetamine.’ I love how this band play material from all eras. It’s a lot better for us fans than situations where some bands have a line-up change or reunion and the returning old guy refuses to play material from his former-replacement’s era. Most fans want to hear it all.

Murder in the front row, crowd begins to bang!

The band were tight, the sound was great again and they played some of my favourite songs (I was so happy to hear ‘Fabulous Disaster’ and ‘Black List’). What a brilliant time. If the night ended here, I would have been utterly satisfied.


Finally came the headliner, Testament. This band’s first four albums absolutely defined my teens and their mighty comeback album The Formation Of Damnation was the metal oasis in my otherwise prog-centric first year of university.

Testament were great live too. Their sound was a bit more restrained and less savage than it had been for Death Angel or especially Exodus. Furthermore; Gene ‘The Atomic Clock’ Hoglan’s drumming is mechanical and perfect, compared to Tom Hunting’s crazed and exciting beast-man drumming style. This made for a nice contrast, and was suited for Testament’s more melodic parts, even if it was a little less pulverising in the heavy parts than Exodus had been.

Atomic Clock

What they lost in savagery however, they made up for in professionalism. Compared to the other two bands, Testament got more time and more of a stage show, with an hour-and-a-half set. Clearly the headliners then!

They had banners, smoke cannons, lazers and a much more colourful light show. The banners changed depending on what album they were focusing on. They had raised points for the guitarists to climb on during solos. Eric Peterson in particular was really impressive. Many of the solos I always thought were Alex from the newer records, were actually Eric. Live, he delivers them with such flare and precision it was a joy to watch.

Peterson slays!

Speaking of joy, after all those years of watching Live In London on repeat, my brother and I always talked about how much fun singer Chuck Billy has. The man looks like being in Testament is his dream come true and that he’s having the best time in the world. His huge smiles as he plays air guitar on his mic stand, and air drums in sync with all the cymbal catches are so infectious. I feel like he is Testament’s number one fan and his joyous enthusiasm is such fun to behold.

Native Blood

No setlist at any concert ever satisfies everything I want to see, and tonight I’d love to have seen the title track from Souls Of Black or something like ‘Alone In The Dark’ or ‘Apocalyptic City’ from their debut. Most of all, I would have really loved to have heard ‘More Than Meets The Eye,’ from Formation Of Damnation which I think may be the band’s finest hour, but overall I was really satisfied with Testament’s choices tonight. Their set list was a real mix as well, not just all old not all new. They covered early stuff, mid-period-stuff, and even a brand-new song from the as yet unreleased next album.

They also played a few songs from their most recent album, The Brotherhood Of The Snake which I’ve been meaning to review for ages now, but spoilers, they managed to play the best two songs from it! Huzzah! Combined with many of my favourite tunes like ‘Practice What You Preach,’ ‘Over The Wall,’ ‘The Preacher’ and ‘Into The Pit’ I was pretty chuffed.

Disciples Of The Watch

Overall, this night was a thrash fan’s dream night if ever there was one. Once again, if it had just been Testament and Death Angel, I would have been wholly satisfied. However; given the utterly perfect set from Exodus, this was a whole other level of good. (And to cap it all off, the traffic and roads were so good, I managed to get home in time to get a fair amount of sleep for work next day! Bonus!).

Next on my concert schedule: Rammstein in Cardiff this Summer, Helloween in Manchester around Halloween, and then WASP doing only tunes from the first four albums in Cardiff a few days after Helloween. (Possibly Sepultura too, depending on money, work and tickets – I’m thinking about it).


 


I went to go see Megadeth and Five Finger Death Punch live at Cardiff Motorpoint Arena last night on 30.01.2020.

I’m not usually in the habit of booking two concerts a week apart. There was a time between the ages of 12-18 when I went to about one a year, and 18-25 when I went to about one every 2-3 years. However; as I explained in my last post, I really wanted to see Slipknot after falling so in love with their new album, but the tickets sold out in less than a second. I thought I would book this as a consolation prize. (Then as things turned out, I ended up going to both, a week apart!).

Now I wasn’t expecting too much from this gig. I’ve been a Megadeth fan for about two decades now, but based on all the live albums they can be hit and miss live. I’d also seen Megadeth before, and Dave’s vocals were never the best live as he has to concentrate on such blistering guitar parts. Considering all we’ve been reading about Dave’s health recently, particularly as it involved the throat, I thought the singing would probably suffer even further and he also might not be in the best of spirits. Add into it that this was a short support slot instead of a nice long headliner and I was expecting a nice-enough evening out, but not a game-changer, like recent concerts at this very same venue from Parkway Drive, Ghost or Slipknot had been.

I’d also never seen Five Finger Death Punch before, despite being a fan of theirs for over a decade. Don’t get me wrong, I’d tried to see them live before. They played Manchester twice when I was there, and I queued at the box office in person both times due to an issue with Ticketmaster not recognising my address the first time and just out of habit the second time. Unfortunately the tickets were sold out each time. They’d also played Download Festival before too, and almost tempted me to commit, but I was always too afraid to go before I finally took the plunge in 2018.

I didn’t really know what to expect from FFDP live though, as the podcast I listen to always calls them an amazing live band and the next big festival headliner, but Blabbermouth was always full of stories about their singer having a breakdown on stage or their drummer being high or similar problems, and their live album, Purgatory Tales From The Pit or that bonus Live DVD that comes with ‘Wrong Side Of Heaven Part 2 both aren’t very good. (But that’s just a bonus material, so you never know).

Now, in my head I was telling myself I was there for Megadeth, and that Megadeth should have been headlining. I’d been a fan of them for longer, I like them more, and they are legendary and more important to the history of metal. You can find at least 3 Megadeth albums in almost any list of best-ever-metal-albums, but you rarely if ever see any ‘Death Punch in any such list. Megadeth have a reputation for musos at times due to their technical guitar work, and ‘Death Punch have a tough-guy image which isn’t always a positive thing. I think they have a credibility problem among the over-35s. I guess that’s why they’ve been doing things like having Rob Halford guest on a song and taking Megadeth out as a support act. They’ve definitely got the youth vote down, but a lot of people still look down their nose at them.

Don’t get me wrong I like them, I like them a lot (I’ve reviewed every single one of their albums on this blog, and given all buy one a positive review) but I always feel this tiny sense of shame about liking them. Along with Avenged Sevenfold and Bullet For My Valentine they are one of the bands I’d be kind of afraid to wear a t-shirt of, for fear of some snobby elitist making fun of me.  Now, I know that’s ridiculous, but sometimes I can’t help myself. Usually I can get over it. For example; when I grew up, in the Nu Metal era, Hair Metal was the most uncool and non-credible thing you could ever lower yourself to listen to, and I got over that mindset pretty easily and own dozens and dozens of hair metal albums now. But still… sometimes, against my better judgment, the 13 year old part of my brain rears its ugly head and sometimes worries what the ‘real fans’ will think of me, despite the fact that academically I know its all nonsense anyway, and as comedian Brian Posein very neatly put it ‘’Metal is not a competition.’’

There was, as it goes, also a third band on the bill. They were called Bad Wolves, but I arrived late due to work and missed them entirely. Not even the last song. Not one second. Not even the Cranberries cover that the internet keeps talking about. By the time I got there after work, Megadeth were already sound-checked, banners up, and there was just enough time to go to the toilet, with only three tracks over the speakers between me getting through security and when they got on stage.

(Come to think of it, last time I saw Megadeth, I missed their support band as well. Is it a Megadeth thing? Hmmm…)

Bladder now empty, Megadeth took to the stage, and I enjoyed myself a lot. One of the all time great bands and I was lucky enough to see them for a second time. It has been seven years since I last saw them and everything about my life is different, from where I live to the career I am in, to the fact that I am married and a father.

I was very grateful and pleased to get to see Megadeth again. There were a few downsides though; first off, the sound was a bit muddy. Dave’s vocals were super low in the mix and I had to strain to hear anything.  (I guess that’s better than jarring bad vocals, but still). The hi hats were also too low if we’re getting pedantic. Secondly; I don’t know if its just were I was stood, but considering I was more interested in Megadeth than ‘Death Punch, there was a lack of audience energy around me for the first half of the show. This is one of the most important bands in the business. Nobody was singing along to ‘Wake Up Dead’ for goodness sakes, which is tantamount to a crime in my book. Bizarrely, they didn’t even sing along to ‘Trust’ which was one of the biggest sing-longs when I saw them last time.  Its not a great feeling when you are having way more fun that everyone around you. Thirdly, the aforementioned length of the set. I mean, how do you do a short setlist when you have so many albums and almost all of them are crazily good?  (To be honest, I could see them perform their first six albums in their entirety and still hunger for more. I’d be all like ‘Aw man, they didn’t play ‘’Blackmail The Universe’’ or ‘’Endgame,’’ I wish they had longer’)

But these are minor complaints. I enjoyed the show. And when they played tracks off of Countdown To Extinction the crowd sang along, so its not like there was no enthusiasm from the crowd. Although the sound mix wasn’t perfect you could hear all the guitar parts, which is what you need most from Megadeth. And of course, I think we can all cut the vocals some slack given the recent health issues. Also, although it was short on time, they packed it with hits and even threw in a few deep cuts from Rust In Peace and one song off the new album.  

I’ve been looking on SetlistFM, and found out that on this tour, the setlist was pretty set in stone, but there is always one song per night that could change. For example, they’ll always play nine of the same songs they played tonight, but there is one spot where you can get something different, such as ‘She Wolf,’ ‘A Tout La Mond,’ ‘The Conjuring,’ or ‘Mechanix.’ Tonight we got ‘Mechanix’ which I was chuffed for, as it was one of my favourite songs and they didn’t play it last time I saw them. I have very fond memories of ebing a teenager and failing to master it on guitar or drums, but having much fun in the effort.  

Between songs, Dave did a speech in which he announced he was now, quote, ‘’100% cancer free’’ which was a nice moment. I deal with a lot of death a misery and disease at work so its nice to see it work out for someone. There were lots of nice moments. Hey, for not headlining, they sure did have a good light show. Hey, this new guitarist Kiko from Angra, is quite good. Hey, I guess they don’t have a lot of time, but they sure are making it count, with all the unmissable tracks like ‘Wake Up Dead’ ‘Hanger 18’ ‘Holy Wars’ and ‘Peace Sells’ all represented. Dave seemed in a very good mood all night, very amused by the Vic Rattlehead actor who came out towards the end, and coming out for extra applause after it ended, to briefly playing air guitar to a Sid Vicious song.  

Overall, while not the world’s best concert, very far from poor. I had a good time. (I’ve been really spoiled these last two years, with the showmanship of Alice Cooper, the fun of Volbeat, the satisfaction of Slipknot, the much anticipated Libertines, and the love-those-songs good times of Corrosion Of Conformity).


Next up, it was time for Five Finger Death Punch. I really didn’t know what to expect. I could go either way really.

When they took to the stage the crowd went really wild. I knew they had a big fan following, even if the critics are snobby about them, but boy I was not prepared for how wild the crowd went for them. All the enthusiasm that was missing for Megadeth, they had in spades for ‘Death Punch. The sing-alongs were so loud, the cheers so energetic, it was crazy to see just how much people loved them. I mean, I am a big fan, with all their records, singing all the choruses and most of the verses to all the songs tonight, and I almost felt like a bit of a fraud, (like…wow…why don’t I love them that much?). Based on tonight’s crowd reaction, I have a feeling that once there is a generation-change in the critics, then this band are going to be classified as one of the real big names in metal, the way Slipknot and System Of A Down are now, even though they were the new upstarts lacking credibility with the old guard when I was young.

Speaking of Slipknot, rather strangely, singer Ivan Moody made a little speech about how he was similar to Slipknot’s Corey Taylor because they both survived overdoses and didn’t take shit from anyone, which seemed a bit weird, but then he also did a good speech about sobriety. And he sang happy birthday for a little 13 year old kid and got everyone to shine their phones/lighters to represent birthday candles. He also did a bit about what an honour it was to meet Dave Mustaine and how important So Far, So Good, So What was to him as a kid. I was really impressed with him as a front man, he seemed like a really warm, genuine and humble guy. Which is interesting, as I always had him pegged as being a big douche, but I guess addiction may have had a big part in that, or maybe press misrepresentation (I mean, they have at least three songs about how he is misrepresented by the press, and played two of them live tonight).

There was a moment, during the power ballad ‘The Wrong Side Of Heaven’ when he said how he didn’t like to talk about his lyrics and preferred the fans to make their own interpretation. Now, this is where I got a bit sceptical. I mean, they aren’t Tool. These aren’t mystical esoteric songs with triple meanings. Most of the songs, in my mind, essentially boil down to swearing whilst threatening to beat someone up. In my mind, if you mix Limp Bizkit’s ‘’Full Nelson’’ and Pantera’s ‘’Five Minutes Alone’’ threats with Slipknot’s ‘’Surfacing’’ swearing, then you get 99% of Five Finger Death Punch lyrics. Turns out, in actual fact however, that the song was actually about his dead grandmother. Who knew?  I guess I was being a bit of an elitist too. My bad. I’ll work on that.

They played a really great setlist tonight, with about 2-3 songs from every album, plus one new song from their upcoming next album F8. They played a mixture of fast songs, groovy heavy songs and then a few quieter tracks in the middle for balance. They played most of the big singles but a few deeper tunes. I was over the moon to hear tracks from the first two albums like ‘Never Enough’ and ‘Burn It Down’ and I was excited to hear the new song ‘Inside Out.’ I even enjoyed the cheesy country cover ‘Blue On Black’ live, which I was initially sceptical of when I first got And Justice For None.

They put on a good show too, with an even bigger light show than Ghost had. They had their big mascot back drop, lots of pyro and  guitarist Jason Hook rose up into the sky at one point. Several songs featured very large quantities of confetti, and even though they aren’t a theatrical band, Ivan had some mini-costume changes throughout the show (such as switching between a top-hat and cane for ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ a t-shirt that said ‘I hate me 2’ for one of their more self-deprecating songs, and Fred Durst style baggy outfit at the start).

The sound was good. Much better than it had been for Megadeth. Not quite as good as say Slipknot, Parkway’ or Ghost from recent times at the same venue, but pretty damn good. The actual musician’s performance was also good. Zoltan and Jason played great leads, bassist Chris Kael had a lot of physical presence and handled the backing vocals enthusiastically, there was a very entertaining and not boring drum solo from new-ish drummer Charlie Engen (I still find it weird that Jeremy Spencer is gone, he was always one of the most in the press members of the band and the person’s face I see in my mind’s eye when someone says the band’s name).

This was a great night overall. I know that beforehand I was sort of expecting this to be a let down after what a great run of concerts I’ve had lately, but I’ll be danged if tonight wasn’t great as well. I was extra impressed due to aforementioned the weird psychological prejudice I have about them and fear of judgement from snobs. It sounds like sort of a backhanded compliment, but I was extra impressed none-the-less. You expect the ‘70s and ‘80s legends to be amazing, but its always nice when bands from the last 15 years or so can match or succeed the greats. It gives you hope for the future of the genre. Highlights included ‘Under and Over It,’ ‘Wash It All Away’ and the final song, and their best song, ‘The Bleeding.’ (‘Burn MF’ was also notable for how much pyro they set off during it).

That’s all for tonight folks. Luckily for my bank account, I don’t have any more concerts next week, so this will be the last concert post for a while, but I will be going to catch Bay Area Thrash legends Testament and Exodus, with support from Death Angel in a few months, so you’re not quite safe from gig reviews just yet.

I went to go see Slipknot live last night at Cardiff Motorpoint Arena 22.01.20

I went to go see Slipknot live last night at Cardiff Motorpoint Arena 22.01.20. I almost didn’t get to see them though. I was sat there logged into the site, ready to buy tickets for 30 mins before they went on sale. I counted the seconds and got ready to buy them at the precise second they went on sale. However, disaster struck. They sold out in a single second (except for super expensive VIP meet and greet packages I can’t afford to be shelling out for now that I have a baby to worry about, and even they sold out about a week or two later also). By the time my purchase button was loaded, I was informed tickets were sold out. Sort of annoying. However, when I googled, less than a moment later, there were hundreds of tickets up for re-sale at double and even triple the price. Very annoying. That should be illegal. Think of how many genuine fans would miss out as a bunch of swindlers just bought hundreds of tickets in the hope that they could sell some of them at inflated prices. And the money isn’t even going to the band, or keeping the music industry going, its purely some low life trying to rip off fans. Very annoying indeed.

I learned of a resale site called Twickets, (after writing an online rant about how frustrated I was by this should-be-illegal practice of instant online ticket scalping), when someone else who felt similar told me about a site, where actual fans who can’t go due to financial or medical or work reasons sell the tickets to other fans, face value. I signed up to that and held out hope that a face value standing ticket would come up. I would check it almost every 2-3 days for a few months. There were lots of tickets for other concerts in other cities, but I had the time booked off work for the Cardiff date from the day the dates were announced. One or two Cardiff tickets came up but were snapped up in seconds by other people like me. I also looked at those double or triple price tickets every week or so, but I couldn’t go through with that. Even if I could afford it, it’s the principal.

Then with less than a week to go, somebody on social media said they got a ticket by just phoning up the venue and asking if there were any extras stowed away. I mean, I never thought of that. The ticket website said it was sold out. The band’s social media and official website said it was sold out. The venue’s own website said it was sold out. But screw it, what do I have to lose? So I phoned them, and said, ‘’I know its sold out, but just in case…’’ and the man on the phone was just ‘’Oh no, we still have one or two tickets left’’ and sold me one face value. Needless to say I felt Over. The. Goddamn. Moon.

And so I did get to go after all. This was my fourth time catching Slipknot live. The 2nd concert I ever went to was Slipknot headlining on the Iowa tour at Belfast Odyssey arena very early on in my highschool career (this gig was a few days around the recording of their Disasterpeices DVD, with a similar set list and stage show, so if you wonder what it was like, it was as good as Disasterpieces, minus the bigger touches like the snow and flying drummer).

I also saw them supporting Metallica in Dublin once, around the time of Vol. 3, with a slightly shorter set and stripped down stage show. Finally; I also caught them headlining in Dublin on the Vol. 3 tour, supported by Shadows Fall and Helmet (with Frankie Bello from Anthrax temporarily on bass). It wasn’t included on their 9.0 live album which took material off most shows from that tour however, as Shawn ‘Clown’ Crahan had to take the show off for a family emergency and they only included shows with the full band.

I never lived anywhere near where they played in the intervening years. I didn’t drive and was much too anxious to attempt to book public transport and hotels on my own back then. I didn’t really have the mindset until I was in my mid-20s. The idea of catching a train to London makes me dizzy even now, and back then it would have caused full blown panic.

There was once, when I potentially could have seen them once more, when I lived in Manchester, just before The Gray Chapter came out, but I couldn’t afford it at the time due to being a broke student, and it coinciding with exams, while I was also working crazy unpredictable hours including flipping between 14 hour shifts and 12 hour night shifts, or two sets of normal 8 hour shifts, with only a weeks notice of what I’d be doing, all the while also studying. Overall this made it hard to predict when I would be out of work. (I also couldn’t afford it, having blown all my money on a high volume of cheaper concerts at smaller venues beforehand, back when my work shifts were previously more predictable; leaving no cash or time off left for expensive arena shows).

That makes it the case that the last time I saw them was 2005.  15 years and 3 studio albums later I was chomping at the bit to see them again. Especially as their newest album, We Are Not Your Kind is so damn good. I mean, I like every Slipknot album, but WANYK is special. It has grown on me so much it is now my 3rd favourite album of theirs, behind only Iowa and the debut, and that is insanely high praise, as nothing will ever top those two due to such heavy nostalgia-value I have around them due the profound almost religious effect they had on me as a kid and all the happy memories associated with them.

Damn do I love Slipknot’s first two albums. I don’t think any other band has ever had such a big affect on me. I wouldn’t have had the friends I did in highschool without a shared love of Slipknot. I wouldn’t have been so into concerts if it wasn’t for Slipknot. I wouldn’t have fallen in love with music and had it overpower all other hobbies and interests without Slipknot. I wouldn’t love band biographies so much if it wasn’t for Slipknot. I wouldn’t have learned to play the drums if it wasn’t for Slipknot. Some people may write them off as a gimmick due to the masks. Some people may complain they aren’t true metal due to the DJs and Samples. Some people may think of them as an embarrassment due to the adolescent sweary violent lyrics. But to much more people they are a generation defining band, the next in the chain of succession that starts at Sabbath, runs through the likes of Priest and Maiden, to Metallica and Slayer, to Pantera. Above all though, they have the tunes. Just some of the best songs I ever have or likely ever will hear.  I’ve said it before, but I imagine that if I had a way to tell (as LastFM didn’t exist back then) I am almost sure that Slipknot’s debut album would be the album I have listened to most in my entire life. Iowa may be close by, but has some catching up to do as it came out after the debut got a head-start, and the younger you are and fewer albums you own, the more you tend to listen to an album over and over again.


Anyway; on to the night in question. I decided to work late, and get there well after doors open, so as to not have to que up. I knew Slipknot were more popular than most gigs I go to so there’s no chance I could get anywhere near the front, so I wasn’t even going to try. However, I forgot just how popular Slipknot are, and even arriving there at least an hour later than I ever have, I still had to que up. I have never had to que in Cardiff before. But Slipknot are just that gigantic.

I managed to get in just as opening act, satanic extreme metal legends, Behemoth, were starting their first song. I had to miss it to go to the bathroom, visit the merch stand etc, but was ready by the time of their 2nd song. Loveable frontman Nergel was dressed up like a mixture of Dani Filth and the pope, with creepy serpentine stands and big banners up. They had a respectable amount of pyro for an opening band, and basically had a show worthy of a headliner. The music from the two new albums is so accessible live. ‘Bartzebel’ in particular was banging live. It seemed like a bizarre choice of opening act at first glance, but it worked well. Better than Slayer supported by Obituary. And when you think about it, Slipknot do mix in death growls, blast beats and Deicide/Morbid Angel influences riffs every so often, so extreme metal bands supporting Slipknot isn’t as strange as it first appears.

Behemoth were very entertaining. A big show, good sound, surprisingly accessible material and a lot of charisma. When they played their little cinematic drum laiden outro, I made a mental note to buy the two newest Behemoth albums as soon as it was financially reasonable to do so.

Nergal Pope
Behemoth Live
Drumkit on fire
Drum laiden climax

Then after the usual wait between bands, it was finally time for Slipknot again. Last time I saw them three members were different. Iconic drummer Joey Jordinson was now gone, late bassist Paul Gray is no-longer with us, and additional percussionist/background vocalist Chris Fehn has recently been sacked due to legal issues, much discussed already in the press.

Paul is deceased so no one can resent his replacement Alex anyway, and although I like him in documentaries and interviews, I never had strong enough feelings about Chris’ musical contributions to think it would change the band notably when he left. However; Joey is gone. That is a big deal. Man, when Slipknot first lost Joey Jordinson, I thought the band should break up. That’s like Mastodon without Brann Dailor. Its like Pantera without Vinnie Paul. So much of why Slipknot feel like they do is in Joey’s work. There is probably no other band I am as emotionally invested in line up changes with.

What must kids who knew them in the ’70s have thought when Peter Chris or Ace Frehley left Kiss? What must kids who liked Motley Crue in the ’80s have felt when Vince Neil or Tommy Lee left the band? It’s such a unit of a band, who capture a young fan’s imagination so hard, that its hard to imagine any change. I did eventually come around though after their recent ‘Gusano DVD showed me that replacement drummer Jay Weinberg was more than equal to the task, and if that didn’t already 100% do the trick, then their new album certainly cemented it. I was actually excited to see them with the new line up.

Since I hadn’t seen them since Vol. 3, there is a lot of material I have never caught live yet. As I said, I like every Slipknot album. (Probably every Slipknot song if you don’t count demos and remixes). Unfortunately, they didn’t play anything off of ‘Gray Chapter this time, which I was a bit gutted by. I really like that album and would have loved to see something like ‘Custer,’ ‘AOV’ or ‘Sarcastrophe’ live. ‘Custer’ especially. From the first time I heard it I said to myself ”that is a song that will be in their setlists forevermore.” They also only played one song from All Hope Is Gone. I guess that’s reason enough to try see them a few more times, as I really want to catch more songs I haven’t heard live before. I’m keen to hear it all.

But given how great the new album is, I was most keen to see material from We Are Not Your Kind live. I was thinking about how much I wanted it on such a regular basis since end of the week that the album was released and it had all started to click with me. Turns out I was in luck, because if you count the 2018 stand-alone single ‘All Out Life’ which technically isn’t on the album (but which features the lyric ‘we are not your kind’ repeatedly chanted and I always mentally count as being part of that album, and have attached to the album in my itunes and on my phone and just pretend it is on the album anyway), then they played 5 new songs. Aforementioned ‘All Out Life.’ Big single ‘Unsainted,’ which opened the show.  The dark, weird, almost formless album closer ‘Solway Firth.’ The groovy ‘Birth Of The Cruel’ and the stompy new single ‘Nero Forte.’  It was great to see this much new material live. It shows you how much confidence the band must have in the new album, and given the audience reaction, this confidence was well placed.

Not counting intros and outros over the speakers, there were 17 tracks. 6 of which I had never seen live before. Pretty great value. No wonder they didn’t have room for much material off All Hope’ or ‘Gray Chapter. The rest of the set featured the big singles from Vol 3; ‘Duality,’ ‘Before I Forget’ and ‘Vermillion’ as well as many classic concert favourites from the debut like ‘(Sic),’ ‘Surfacing’ and ‘Eyeless’ and topped off with a few of the heavier numbers from Iowa, like ‘Disasterpiece’ and ‘People=Shit.’

Slipknot are pretty great at mixing up sets, and not just playing the same thing every tour, swapping in a surprise or two, and dropping a few expected tunes now and again for a deep cut. The (sort of) surprises in the set were first album bonus-track ‘Eeyore’ and Iowa deepish-cut ‘New Abortion’ although I have seen both live before and both have been on official live releases so not super surprising if you want to be pedantic, but I was satisfied. In terms of dropping an expected tune, this time they dropped ‘Spit It Out’ which is almost unfathomable, as therefore they didn’t do the ‘’Jump The Fuck Up’’ moment, (where they make the whole crowd crouch for a few minutes then jump up in unison) but I’ve had that three times and on all their live albums too, so I was glad to lose it if it meant more time for new songs.

In terms of stage show, it was the biggest and best I’d ever seen them. There were videoscreens all over the place (even on the drums). There was pyro and steam. There were fireworks. There was a Nikki Sixx style bass guitar flamethrower like on Motley Crue’s The End DVD. There were treadmills which the more expendable members like the DJ, Sid, would go and play about on when not needed musically. He did the moonwalk on a treadmill at one point. Their setlist didn’t feature many turn-table focused songs this time so I guess he’s got to do something. Clown got a flaming baseball bat out for the keg smashes on ‘Duality.’

Performance and sound wise, it was really good. That’s not always a given. As much as love this band, they aren’t what I’d call consistent. Some bands are just perfect every single time (Hatebreed spring to mind). Slipknot are not one of those bands. I mean, when you have 9 members, complex awkward songs with atypical structures, and a singer inside a mask running around, its hard to get everything sounding perfect…

If you look across all of Slipknot’s official and unofficial live releases, you’ll notice they have been really hit and miss over the years in terms of both vocals and audio mix. Even on just their Voliminal DVD, which features footage from a few different shows, the live stuff goes from amazing to quite poor. The 9.0 live album which I mentioned earlier features material from across a whole tour, and that album has quite poor live vocals and subpar sound mixes. Conversely though the Disasterpeices and (Sic)nesses DVDs have superb live vocals and mixes and are absolutely must-own. The pro shot live stuff from various festivals on the first two album cycles is really mixed also. I remember MTV2 used to have footage of the band on the Iowa cycle in Germany, where Corey’s vocals were really muffled and the kick drums overpowered all the guitars. When I first got into them, on the debut album cycle, the only live stuff available was bootlegs, and they were always pretty rough. You could get pirate CDs from shows like their first time in London or from dates on the US Ozzfest, but you could tell from the CD that Corey was running around, bouncing and going crazy so much, that the vocals would suffer. Even my own live experiences of the band were mixed. When I saw them live myself in Belfast the mix and vocals were brilliant and its still one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. When I saw them headlining on the Vol. 3 cycle, the vocals were poor (he has discussed in interviews over the years that he was drinking heavily in that period) but the mix was great. When I saw them supporting Metallica on that same album cycle, the mix was poor but the vocals were good. As I said, its not a given.

I guess there’s a lot of variables for the soundmen to get right and lots of chances to get it wrong. Depending on how much running and bouncing singer Corey Taylor does, and how his mask affects the microphones, there’s a big gap between his best and his worst shows.

However, tonight it was great. It was pretty close to a perfect show. I mean, if I had to pick pedantic holes in it then I guess the guitar-intro to ‘Surfacing’ sounded a bit weird, and the vocals on the chorus to ‘Nero Forte’ were a bit thin, but otherwise it was magnificent.

The sound mix was perfectly balanced. Even the additional percussion was actually audible and you could tell why they have three drummers. The bass was thick. The guitars were clear and didn’t go muddy. The drum kit was powerful and you could pick every element out individually. The vocals were just right. I couldn’t have asked for a better mix.

The band were energetic and enthusiastic and played like a band on the rise. Drums were absolutely battered. Riffs were practically thrown into the crowd. I guess buoyed by the success of the new album, they are revitalised and fired-up. This was definitely the 2nd-best I ever seen them live; sceond only to that very first time I saw them, back in Belfast in 2002, which boasted many more songs from my favourite album, Iowa, in the set, and featured the classic line-up when they were still mysterious and I was wide-eyed and young. (And to be fair, my memory of that could in fact be a little clouded in a rose-tinted teenage nostalgia).

I always regretted not seeing them live on the last two album cycles, but I would have been heartbroken to miss them this time. Thank goodness for the weird phone/website discrepancy! This was awesome. One of the bands that have meant the most to me in my whole life, playing brilliantly, with a great setlist and sounding great. This is going to be a show I remember for a long time.

I Went To Go See The Libertines Live In Bristol 02 Academy, 16.12.19.

You may be reading this blog, and thinking ‘’Doesn’t he just like Heavy Metal?’’ or at least ‘’Doesn’t he just like Heavy Metal and related Rock subgenres?’’ but I do like a little bit of Indie too. I like Arctic Monkeys and the Fratellis for example.

Most of all; I have been a die-hard Libertines fan since just before their first album was released. So many posters in bedrooms, reading all the fansites, being an active member of their forums, watching all the documentaries, reading several books,  downloading all the bootlegs, crowdfunding the reunion DVD, crowdfunding their third album, covering their songs in my high-school band. I had every album, b-side, session and demo they ever released, followed all the twists and turns, watched every televised performance on British TV (and several non-British ones on the internet, obviously) as well as also obsessively followed their side projects too in the early years when they still sounded a bit like The Libertines.

One thing I never got to do however, was see them live. When they were new and exciting I was too young and lived too far away from anywhere they played around me. When they reunited I was too anxious and afraid (and low on cash) to go to the big festivals they were playing. I finally got tickets to go see them on the seaside sharabang tour a few years ago, and the bloody venue cancelled the gig for repairs. No joy. The closest thing I got to see was singer/guitarist Pete Doherty’s other band, Babyshambles (who I also really like, but to not quite the same obsessive level) back when I was in university. I remember being really jealous for years and years that my friend Stevie got to see Dirty Pretty Things live and I didn’t. (Guitarist/Singer Carl Barat and Drummer Garry Powell’s other band, and the best of all their side projects/spin offs in my opinion).

Finally, finally, finally, however, they announced a date near me, when I was old enough to go, can afford it, had time off work and the date wasn’t cancelled. Jack pot. To say I was excited for this gig is an understatement.

The one snag was, it was in Bristol. I’ve never gone to a gig in Bristol before, and I am a cowardly and fearful person, who was scared shitless of driving in the unfamiliar city centre, at night, in the dark, in winter. However, the drive there went really smoothed and I managed not to injure myself or others on the journey. Always a plus. I got to the venue, a little bit late. There was barely anyone there. I walked right up to the stage. I was only one person away from being front row centre. Jackpot again!

After a brief wait with a strange mixture of indie music, David Bowie classics and music from musicals playing over the speakers, the first support act came one. It was one man and an acoustic guitar. Ed Cosens (doing a solo career, away from his day job in Reverend And The Makers). It was really good.

Then came the main support act, ZuZu, a very stylish indie band, with a very sassy singer, a guitarist so happy he looked like he was on ecstasy and some very catchy tunes.. The only weird moment was when they did a cover of a hip hop song. It was great fun, but not my usual cup of tea. The frontwoman is so charismatic that I can foresee them getting quite big in the future. I hadn’t heard of them before, but I may check them out again in future. Like with the Crookes when they were supporting the Fratellis and then I ended up being a fan of them, since they were the type of music my wife also likes.

Ed came back and did some more songs while the road crew got the stage ready.

The Libertines Live

Then, the moment I had been waiting all night, all year, the last few years, and over a decade for. The Libertines took the stage before my very eyes. Opening with one of my favourite B-sides ‘The Delany’ and then ripping through a near equal split of material from each studio album, (and the non-album anthem ‘Don’t Look Back Into The Sun’ too, because it is one of their biggest songs and how could you possibly exclude it). They also mixed a nice ratio of punk tinged indie bangers, ballads, and acoustic numbers. It was a diverse and eclectic setlist and overall there was a very good balance of material for my first time seeing them, not too much of any one thing, and most sides of their broad appeal showcased at some point. They also made my day and played my absolute favourite Libertines song ‘Last Post On The Bugle’ which I wasn’t expecting but was ecstatic about. (Also enjoyable were deep cuts ‘The Saga’ and ‘The Ha Ha Wall’ from their 2nd and best album, the self-titled).

Pete, Carl and Gary

The performance, vibe, and audience reaction was absolutely magnificent. The sold out crowd bounced, sang and cheered like it was the second coming of the Beatles and Sex Pistols all at once. The movement in the crowd was more energetic than at Slayer’s farewell concert! Also; This has to be the only concert where I have sang every word to absolutely every song. Like, every line, for the whole evening. There have been some close moments, but I think this is the closest to 100% of the words I have ever got to. By the looks of it, I wasn’t the only one. It wasn’t just the big famous songs like ‘Time For Heroes’ and ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’ that the audience sang along to. People were going apeshit to tracks from all era of the band; the likes of ‘The Good Old Days’ and ‘Barbarians’ that aren’t even singles. Clearly this is a band that inspire that kind of die hard, life long, love every second fandom.

Pete and Garry

The sound and mix were perfect. You could hear every member equally, the basslines and kick drums were every bit as clear as the vocals and guitars. When Carl played piano on the ballads ‘You’re My Waterloo’ (from the new album, but also a classic demo from before the debut album) and ‘Dead For Love’ it was perfectly balanced and didn’t overpower the songs. I almost want to give shout outs to members, but the thing is they were all so good, that there was no man of the match, (no MVP if you aren’t British). The thing about the band is that they are such a unit, with each member bringing a very equal part of the puzzle. Garry has always been one of my favourite drummers. He has such a unique and distinct character to his playing, an absolute power house and always such fun to listen to. John is the best bass player I’ve heard who isn’t in a Metal band and the best musician in the band, often the driving force of the songs when the guitars go more jangly. Carl is the beating heart of the band, the real star, one of the best front men who doesn’t have a gimmick, and the reason I fell in love with the band all those years ago before the Pete’s drugs/fallout story overtook the public perception of the band. And Pete… well Pete is the Nikki Sixx/Sid Vicious icon with the story, but with the songs and the charm to back it up. My generation’s Kurt Cobain for sure… Not a Yngwie Malmsteen guitar god. Not a Freddie Mercury vocal god. Too much media attention and tabloid headlines for some folks to give him proper credibility. And yet, the writer and singer of some of planet Earth’s most memorable tunes.  All of them played their hearts out tonight. Effortlessly cool. Tight and loose at the same time. Professional and raw, the best of both worlds.

Carl, Garry and John

I had such a great time. Having dreamed of this day since I was in school, and having figured I’d never see them when they split up, and feeling gutted when they did reunite but I missed out on the previous tour due to that venue cancelation, this was a perfect evening. This was worth the wait. I can’t get over what a fevered audience reaction they caused. I can’t get over how perfectly it sounded live (but still retaining their ramshackle punky energy, not sounding overproduced). I can’t get over what a perfect setlist they chose.

The only complaints are that they didn’t play… literally all the songs they ever released! No combination of songs in the time allowed would ever satisfy every fan urge I have. I mean I could swap out any song for some B-Side like ‘Skag And Bone Man’ that they used to play all the time, or some rarity like ‘Never, Never’ that they don’t seem to ever play, and I can’t believe they didn’t play the fan favourite, historically important early single ‘What A Waster,’ but given the time constraints, they chose a well-balanced and perfectly flowing set). It was better than I expected.

It was better than the classic-in-my-mind Live at CBGBs and Live In Toronto bootlegs. Better than their televised performances at Glastonbury and Reading/Leeds Festival over the years. Better than any guest spot on TV shows like Top Of The Pops. Better even than their only official live album, Live At The 02 Academy Glasgow 2015.  The band were on absolute flipping fire last night (and from the reviews I’ve now let myself read, they seemingly have been all tour). If you ever get the chance to go see them, snap it up in a heartbeat! It is not a case of solo artists getting back to the old band for a paycheck. It isn’t sloppy old addicts reliving old glories long since past. It isn’t any cynical thought you could think. It is a seminal and generation-defining band, back at the peak of their powers, with fire in their eyes and an arsenal of undeniable tunes to chose from. I had an absolute blast, you will too if you get the chance.

[Side note: this was one of the best concerts I have ever been to, and it was just some dudes on a stage. I know that I love lasers, pyro, costume changes, explosions and spectacle, but you can’t beat good music played with passion, its always the music and the performance that makes a concert magical. The most Rockstar thing to happen was a drum solo, and the two guitar players tuned their guitars over the top of it].

Judas Priest – Priest… Live! Review

Judas Priest’s first live album, Unleashed In The East, is considered an unquestionable classic by all and sundry. It is one of the premiere live albums in the whole genre. Less well regarded however, is their next live album 1987’s Priest… Live!

The first live album covered their ‘70s material. However; some of the band’s most memorable albums like British Steel and Screaming For Vengeance were made after Unleashed In The East and thus could not be represented on it. Priest fans then needed a live album for the ‘80s too. Hey, Kiss had Alive and Alive II. It should be possible to have another utterly classic live album. Somehow however the history books haven’t been too kind on this one. Alive II it ‘aint. You don’t find this in every list of best ever live albums.

For me; I both think that’s a shame. But I also get it. There are some things working against it. For example, the running order. They open the album up with a track that is not fast, not a classic and not very Priest sounding. ‘Out In The Cold’ is a mid-paced, non-single from the band’s unpopular Turbo album.  Think of all the great live albums. How many of them open up with a mid paced non-single from the band’s unpopular album? Not many. Next up is even the fact that it is from the tour for Turbo, which may put some people off. I’m sure if they had released a live album touring a more well received album like Screaming For Vengeance or Painkiller, then more people would have given it a chance. (And to be fair, its only three tracks from Turbo, two of which are buried among popular classics and both of which are great live anyway). Finally; a little petty, but there’s also the artwork. Unleashed In The East has an iconic and exciting live shot bursting with energy. Priest… Live! Has a janky drawing of some hands on a mud coloured background. It just doesn’t look like a classic.

That being said, there’s a lot of good to be found here. Tracks from three tracks from British Steel and two from Screaming For Vengeance. Four from Defenders of the Faith. (More if you get the remastered version).Good stage banter from Halford. A decent production job. No repetition from their previous live album’s track list. Good guitar and vocal performances.  Highlights include the evergreen ‘Electric Eye’ and ‘Breaking The Law’ as a better-than-the-album version of ‘Heading Out To The Highway.’ The bonus tracks from the remaster also help boost the record. A bit of ‘Hell Bent For Leather’ never did anyone any harm. Overall; Not the band’s most famous live album. Still worth owning. (Also, a personal tip… the record flows better if you swap ‘Out In The Cold’ and ‘Electric Eye’ in the running order).

I went to go see Alice Cooper live at Cardiff Motorpoint Arena last night on Saturday 12th October 2019.

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.