Posts Tagged ‘Manchester’

I went to go see Saxon live tonight at Manchester 02 Ritz (formerly HMV Ritz) on 2/11/16.

This was my second Saxon gig, and indeed the second Saxon gig I’ve attended at this venue. I really like this venue, its farther away from my house than the Apollo or Academy, but has much better sound and feels a bit classier. I remember seeing Queensryche here and it was one of my all time favourite ever gigs.

Last time Saxon were supported by the theatrical and bizarre band, Hell, but this time it was just the sort of appropriate greasy NWOBHM you’d expect. No not Grim Reaper (although that’d be an amazing booking…somebody get Steve on the phone!). Firstly Girlschool took to the stage, leaning heavily on material from the first two albums, plus the critically acclaimed new album, Guilty As Sin, that’s been on the sidebar of Blabbermouth for most of the year. I enjoyed Girlschool a lot. They played their cover of Gun’s ‘Run With The Devil’ (Judas Priest fans would recognize that). The ended with ‘Emergency’ which of course every Motorhead fan would recognize. It was a good gig, a lot of fun, ramshakle energy, smiles all around, jokes about throwing the lead guitarist into the crowd, amusing attempts by the lead guitarist to strum the rhythm guitarist’s guitar. Very entertaining and a great way to warm us up. I’ll check out more Girlschool as a result of this. I was going to anyway during my recent second NWOBHM phase, but spent my money on Tokyo Blade and Bitch’s Sin instead. I’m spotifying them as I write this anyway. Good stuff. They’ve won me over.

Last time I saw Saxon, I took my fiance (who doesn’t listen to Metal) along as a social experiment. Hell’s frontman whipping himself while dressed as the devil on stilts accompanied by spooky lighting and the band playing music that sounded a bit like Cradle Of Filth kind of scared her off so I was solo this time. This allowed me to venture closer to the front, however, for a better view and different atmosphere this time creating a nice distinction between the two times I’ve seen em. The front made you feel more engaged with the actual band, like as if Paul Quinn or Nibbs were looking you personally in the eyes, and it all seemed very perfect until along came some very largered-up people who where bouncing around, elbows everywhere, much to the annoyance of the more music nerd and young kid demographics, but I kept thinking, its a Metal show, not a library, let them have their fun. Now in all honesty; I’d personally rather just geek out on drum porn, but some people need beer and bouncing to enjoy a concert so I shouldn’t be a wet blanket. [I ended up wet due to beer spillages by aforementioned bouncy larger fans, but not necessarily a blanket…]. I dunno, sometimes I wish everyone was as boring and dorky as me, and just wanted to sit tongue hanging out watching the drum parts and guitar solos lustily, but as long as the rowdiness is good-natured and they’re not deliberately targeting people who aren’t into it then I guess I’m not going to be mr. sour about it. Sure Saxon themselves were famously tea-total, but its a loosing game complaining about beers at a rock show. May as well hand back your copy of Back In Black and Paranoid now and head to the new age isle.

Anyway. Girlschool got things revved up. Next was Fastway, y’know, Fastway? …featuring Fast Eddie Clark of Motorhead fame. Technically a NWOBHM band due to timing and marketing although not really in terms of sound. Their singer sounded really like Glen Hughes (and had the same Soul influenced vibe). They were very entertaining. And y’know…. its Fast Eddie Clark. Like, if a town you went on holiday to had a Lemmy or Phil Lynnott or Bon Scott or Dio statue or something like that, you’d go visit it, wouldn’t you? Similarly, just seeing this iconic guy in real life just felt like a special moment. I’m not a super sentimental guy with regards to this stuff. When Dimebag or Dio or Paul Gray died, they didn’t become gravestone tattoos on my body or even facebook user profile pics on my account, I don’t post anywhere near as many RIP posts on this blog as I feel I maybe ought to, but at the same time, when the only living member of the Bomber-Iron Fist line up of Motorhead is in your eyeline, it feels pretty cool I can tell you.

Finally, the main event. The mighty, the magnificent, the one and only Saxon. They battered…um excuse me… the Ritz with their opener, the title track from their excellent newest album, ‘Battering Ram.’ The setlist was really cool. Last time I went to see em, it was a celebration of the classic trilogy (Wheels Of Steel through to Denim And Leather), with songs from the first and fifth album in their too, making it early-days focused. Not content with just repeating the same setlist again, they focused a bit more on modern times tonight. There was plenty off of Battering Ram, as well as some selections from Inner Sanctum, Sacrifice (ok they played that last time too but I’m tryna make a point here) and Killing Ground.

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There were of course all the amazing gems you can’t do without, such as a breathtaking rendition of both ‘Crusader’ and ‘The Eagle Has Landed,’ and all the sing-along classics you’d expect like ‘Dallas 1PM,’ ‘747 Strangers In The Night,’ ‘Wheels Of Steel,’ and double-of course they closed with the eternally fun ‘Princess Of The Night.’ I’ve said before about how the ”take it easy take it slow don’t look back don’t let go” section of ‘Eagle was astonishing live and tonight didn’t disappoint. The drum fills in particular just set if off!

A surprise moment was when they announced that they had meant to tour with Motorhead but it got cancelled when Lemmy passed away (I still remember a few years ago having tickets to Saxon & Motorhead in my 2nd year of uni and it got cancelled when Lemmy got diagnosed with diabetes… poor Lemmy) and then proceeded to invite Fast Eddie up on stage for a cover of ‘The Ace Of Spades.’ Hey, nice surprise, seeing Fast Eddie play Ace Of Spades with my own eyes. And its not even the early ’80s! And I’ve been born! Wow, didn’t expect that. A very welcome bonus to the evening indeed.

There was plenty of smiles to be had throughout the show. For example, Biff declared Solid Ball Of Rock ”one of our MANY comeback-albums” and it really had me grin in a spinal tap way. There was also a technical fault during ‘Stand Up And Be Counted’ and ‘Never Surrender’ where the speakers went all weird and it slowly got fixed over time, but the band of course, never surrendered. Yes I did just write that. I’m sorry. Moving on…

Highlights for me, as before, where almost all from Nigel Glockler. Yes, I do have a massive drummer’s crush on him. Nigel just plays with such verve, passion and authority and absolutely elevates the whole band. The material from his own era is pounded out like nobody’s business (those kicks on ‘Let Me Feel Your Power’ and ‘Attila The Hun’ … you felt them in your intestines!) and the material from previous drummers is so greatly improved, with extra cymbal chokes, surprise splash cymbals or little ride-cymbal’s-bell patterns and indeed with much better fills. His playing doubles or triples how good the already great band are (I mean its flipping Saxon, its hard to make em better, but Nigel is just that magnetic and incandescent that he manages to do it anyway). He’s also a cool guy, specifically throwing his drumstick to a younger crowd member who was really into it and knew all the words and fills, rather than rowdy drunken yahoos just because they’d been fans longer…. I really reacted to that for some reason.

Another fun highlight was when a crowd member threw their patch-jacket (or kutt or battle-jacket or whatever you call them in your town) on stage and Biff put it on and wore it for a few songs before returning it to the correct person. Pretty cool moment. I mean, if the band who wrote the line ‘Denim and leather brought us all together’ wearing a fan’s denim on stage isn’t cool to you, then maybe you shouldn’t be reading my blog. I write about heavy metal not about antique china patterns or crossword hints.

It was a pretty amazing gig, the sound was brilliant (speaker malfunction not included), the vocals were remarkably good, the drums…well of course they were brilliant… did you not just read me gushing?, the attitude and showmanship of the band was perfection itself. The setlist was the perfect balance of wouldn’t-want-to-miss-it and try-this-on-for-size and although not every pet favourite track can get played at every concert (hey, I’m dying to see ‘Battle Cry’ and ‘Everybody Up’ live) it was an absolutely corking gig and set of songs and I loved every minute of it.

That’s twice now Saxon have brought the thunder. If they come my way again you better believe I’ll be up at the front again. If they come to your town you’d be a stark raving idiot to miss them. People who find a way not to enjoy that live show must be very devoted in their pursuit of actively choosing to not have fun, because it seems next to inconceivable from where I’m sitting that the mighty Saxon would be in the same room as you without producing smiles, fist pumping, and a lasting impression. Get tickets now, people!

[Side note: I wasn’t absolutely flat broke this time, and got to walk away as the proud owner of a very nice Saxon Est. 1979 t-shirt with the Eagle logo. I think I’ve found my new favourite shirt. I haven’t found such a perfect to my tastes metal shirt since the C.O.C Deliverance-reunion]

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I went to go see Tesseract tonight (Friday 5th February, 2016) at Manchester Academy 2, with Nordic Giants and The Contortionist as support. This was the fourth time I’ve seen Tesseract (I’ve previously with Karnivool, Protest The Hero and Animals As Leaders, twice at this same venue and once at Sound Control – another venue also in Manchester) and the second time I’ve seen The Contortionist (seen ‘em with Riverside in Club Academy).

I got there a little late, but that meant the merch table was clear and saved me time after the gig, so it actually worked out alright, I got there as Nordic Giants had just finished their first song. I’ve never seen or heard of them before, so was surrised to see two multi-instrumentalists separated by not one but two projector screens centre stage, dressed up as Eskimos or Native Americans or, presumably, Nordic Giants. They moved rhythmically in time with the music and did big Tommy Lee drum gestures, and had violin bows to use on guitars, and played weird arty movies, with things like Game Of Thrones one minute, then parasites evolving the next, then people’s faces melting into sand and then an animated movie with lots of Pink Floyd and Sonic/Mario videogame references. Pretty interesting. The music was, I don’t know, some kind of Post-Rock, Explosions In The Sky meets Sixty Five Days Of Static type stuff (I’m not well informed on this sort of music… I know some music more than others. I could tell you if they sounded like Tygers Of Pan Tang though… they don’t.)
It was very intriguing and I’d happily see them again, or use their music to score an emotional scene in a sports movie if I ended up in the unlikely position to do so.

Next up comes The Contortionist. Their first song was a badass, Rishloo-esque beautiful prog sparkler. The majority of their set was Djent on the very mathy side, very complex and a bit hard to follow, with some really aggressive parts, but mostly quite beautiful. Their singer is still really cool and their main guitarist still looks about 13 years old, but is like a junior Robert Fripp in talent.

It was a good gig, and saw a very quite violent pit from some very odd, angry looking apes who seemed to think they were at a Throwdown or Hatebreed gig, but whatever. I don’t really love their songs because the math thing is a little too far… and the heavy thing is a bit too abrasive, but I’d happily see them again supporting someone else.

Then came Tesseract. It was the first time I’ve seen them since the new album came out. I’ve said it before, but Altered State, their sophomore, was a true stone cold masterpiece, and arguably the milestone against all other new music will henceforth be judged for me. When Ashe O Harra left I was worried and even though Dan is great I’d rather he stay in Skyharbour and I have the best of both worlds. All other times I saw the band, they were touring Altered State effectively, but this time they had Polaris songs to fit into the set.

Fit ‘em they did. In fact, not only did they fit ‘em, but they were the highlight of the night. “Hexes,” “Survival” and “Dystopia” were three of the best performances I’ve seen out of a band in years. The crowd went flippin wild for “Survival” too, which I didn’t realize was such a big deal because I’m semi out of the loop with other music fans at the minute.
They did play the first four songs off of Altered State too, so I’m damn happy, and this time none crowd surfed over my head during “Resist.”
The sound was very clear, the setlist was nice and balanced from all three albums, the light show was more advanced with colorful lazers and the audience didn’t get up in my business. A very good night for this fan. I didn’t even get into my usual ‘beer, littering, photos and crowdsurfing should be banned’ mood because their weren’t any Slayer fans spoiling for a fight or shirtless English versions of Frat Boys in an out of place party mood. Good stuff.

Oddly; when the band left the stage, ‘My Heart Will Go On’ from the Titanic movie played and most of the audience stayed and sang all the words for good minute or two before admitting defeat at the lack on formal encore. An unusual end to a gig, and surprising how many people knew all the lyrics, but whatever… I’m not the music police. I like music my favourite critics and “opinion-makers” think is awful all the time.
Did I mention the new material was good? Its really good. It worked really well live. I’m very excited to see the band again, when they start dropping even more new stuff into the set, Here’S hoping for ‘Seven Names.’

I went to go see Corrosion Of Conformity (with Pepper Keenan back in the band) live at Manchester Academy 2, tonight on Saturday the 7th of March 2015.
It was a sold out show, although when I arrived the queue was literally one person long, with me being the second person. More people arrived and went into the bar, but still, it was so calm and quiet. This lead to early t-shirt purchasing action with no problem getting a front row spot for the show. Everyone must’ve stayed in the bar or showed up late.

There was one support band, that being British Stoner/Doom artists, Hang The Bastard. They’re a band I’d heard mentioned all the time online and in podcasts but who I’d never heard for myself yet. Their music was fat, groovy stoner with abrasive harsh vocals. As the show went on the bassist added nice nasty Scott Kelly style growls, and the music got a bit of a Kyuss melody vibe at one point to balance out all the Doom. It was a pretty perfect booking to support COC. I wish I’d heard them when I was really really into my first wave Stoner phase, because they play exactly the type of music I like, but as with Orange Goblin supporting Down, or My Sleeping Karma supporting Monster Magnet, I was just there for the headliners and the support was cool for the night, but not enough to make me go out and get into them.

When it was time for COC to take the stage, the speakers played Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back In Town” to reinforce the whole Deliverence-Revival theme. It was a nice touch.

COC were on fire, warmly received by the now full room. They blasted out favourites from Wiseblood and Deliverence mainly, with a few surprises, such as ‘Stonebreaker’ and ’13 Angels.’ It was a pretty perfect setlist, although personal preference wise, as with any concert, you’ll miss some of your favourite songs. I could’ve used some ‘Dance Of The Dead,’ ‘The Door,’ ‘Fuel,,’ ‘Zippo,’ ‘Who’s Got The Fire?’ or even a cheeky ‘Psychic Vampire’ or ‘Tarqunius Superbus’ from the trio-lineup as a neat extra, but that’s just personal. Objectively, it was amazing. You got big sludgy gems like ‘Broken Man,’ fast headbangers like ‘My Grain,’ the catchy stuff like ‘King Of The Rotten’ and ‘Long Whip/Big America’ and all topped off with the essential concert favourites ‘Albatross,’ ‘Clean My Wounds’ (which was extended and jammed out a bit) and an absolutely off-the-charts good rendition of ‘Vote With A Bullet’ that put the biggest smile of the month on my face.

The band seemed to be having fun, and were powerful and tight but still had that jam-feel without actually being disheveled and unorganized. At one point they forgot the setlist and had to consult the paperwork to figure out why they were so ahead of time, nicely dropping into a stunning rendition of ‘Goodbye Windows’ afterwards.

There were a heck of a lot of crowd-surfers, which usually I dislike, but I was in a sweetspot that they all missed so I watched all night, front row, but completely undisturbed. Nice one! –Some poor tall guy got kicked in the head multiple times by the same selfish crowd surfer on multiple trips. Glad for my lucky spot! That would’ve spoiled my night if it kept happening to me.

I’m feeling a bit deaf now, with some serious ear-ringing (only wore earplugs until COC came onstage) but I have some damn good memories of seeing Woody and Pepper rile up the crowd, Mike Dean full of enthusiasm and talent; and Reed’s superb, eye-catching hard hitting. It was a great concert that I’m very grateful to have seen, I had a great night, and it’ll stay in my memory for a long time. The band were really good. Did I mention that?

I hope they keep going in this line-up and release a new album. If their performance of ‘Paranoid Opiod’ or ‘Heaven’s Not Overflowing’ was anything to go by, they are absolutely unstoppable!

(Also, I hope they stick more ‘Volume Dealer material in the setlist (no ‘Diablo BLVD’? Awww…..) but that’s just personal preference again)

Bottom line, COC have got Pepper again, and you should definitely go see them, because time has done nothing to reduce the brilliance. They are on their game big time!

I went to go see Machine Head live tonight at the 02 Apollo in Manchester, England on the 16/12/2014.

I’ve never been to the Apollo before, I had tickets to see Motorhead with Saxon here but it got cancelled when Lemmy was diagnosed with Diabetes. It was a nice big venue with a good atmosphere and excellent sound quality. I wouldn’t mind going back there again.

The support acts where Heart Of A Coward and Darkest Hour.

Heart Of A Coward were a Parkway Drive or Killswitch Engage sounding Melodic Metalcore band with a bodybuilder singer. Their drummer seemed to play really lightly and politely and never “rocked out” much at all. The music was ok, and would’ve been alright if you knew the songs, but it was a bit “stare with blank expression” from me I’m afraid.

Next up were Darkest Hour who’s first two songs made them sound like a groove-focused modern Metal band like Lamb Of God but then they ended up being more normal Metalcore. They were way better than the first band, and their drummer (also a bodybuilder) had a lot of force, power and style. He even had a kind’ve unique setup with no rack toms and only floor toms. Their singer came out in a legbrace like he’d broken his knee (said it was from partying with Machine Head). He told a joke: “I heard you Brits like dry humour, so this song goes out to the Queen’s vagina” …Darkest Frankie Boyle more like it! They were interesting enough, especially at the start, but my attention waned after a while… again it’s a case of if you knew the songs it would’ve been good.

Then the main event, Machine Head took to the stage. Man… I’ve been to enough concerts to know this wasn’t normal… I’ve never been in such a crush before. I felt like I was in a trash compactor… the crowd just absolutely squished the crap out’ve the front few rows (naturally, as is the case in 99% of concerts I ever go to, I end up front row centre, barr one. So, I’m the second person from front row centre, and also almost always there is a tiny girl or skinny 15 year old dude in front of me who would get squashed if I didn’t have the good sense to spend the entire concert, muscles engaged to maximum effort, trying to push the crowd back).

Well, this crowd was waaaaaay too selfish and eager and they absolutely squashed the crap out of us and I got it from both sides and backwards and I’m not joking, my muscles hurt more than doing two hours of really focused weightlifting, on a day when I’m adding more weights to the bars (so as to advance). It was crazy. I felt like I was in an animal enclosure and not a rock concert. Lamb Of God fans weren’t this crushing, Hatebreed fans weren’t this crushing. Bring Me The Horizon and their attitude-problem hardcore dancing selfish-jerk audience weren’t this crushing. I, and basically everyone towards the middle of the first four rows just got absolutely crushed and pounded. It was exhausting, and out of the ordinary. Joke – All the lyrics about smashing an crushing probably didn’t help either.

…So it was more like a workout than a gig, and you’d think that would spoil it… think spending so much mental energy just not being bulldozed and trampled would’ve distracted me from the music – but no! What a concert! Machine Head were absolutely amazing. It was such a brilliant performance, such good vibes, such energy. The power and belief and showmanship was absolutely top shelf. I can’t recommend this band live enough. Its one of the best concerts I’ve been to in recent years. In fact, one of the best gigs I’ve been to period. And I’m not exactly a gig dodger.

The setlist was awesome too. They’ve been doing a revolving setlist thing on this tour; some nights you get “Supercharger” or “The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears” whereas some nights you get extra tracks off the new album, there’s different songs from The Blackening on different nights, sometimes “Block” is there from Burn My Eyes and sometimes not. On the Dimebag death anniversary there was a load of Pantera covers.

On this particular night, the night I went to see them, they played “Imperium,” “Descend The Shades Of Night” and “Bit The Bullet” off of ‘Ashes Of Empires, “Beautiful Mourning,” “Now I Lay Thee Down,” “Aesthetics Of Hate” and “Halo” off of The Blackening, “Locust” and “Darkness Within” off of Unto The Locust, “Killers & Kings,” “Now We Die,” “Game Over,” “Beneath The Silt” and “In Comes The Flood” off the new album Bloodstone & Diamonds, as well as rap-featuring “From This Day” off of The Burning Read, “Bulldozer” off of Supercharger, “Ten Ton Hammer” off of The More Things Change, and of course “Old” and “Davidian” off of Burn My Eyes. What a setlist!

I am so, so pleased to have gotten to see the two Locust era tracks with my own eyes. Anyone who knows me, knows that I absolutely adore Unto The Locust. I still have the keyring on my keys, the poster on my wall, and the album never comes off my limited-space phone no matter the new stuff I buy. I dig the crap out of that record and to get to see “Locust” and “Darkness Within” live was amazing. Rob did a little speech about the bay area thrash scene beforehand, which was interesting. Those were my favourite moments of the night, with “Bulldozer,” “Davidian” and surprise awesome new track “Game Over” as the next best. But really, it was all golden!

Rob was a very good frontman all evening; being very entertaining, encouraging participation, getting everyone’s energy up, shouting out all the band members including multiple shout-outs for new bassist Jared MacEachern (man, replacing the amazing Adam Duce cant’ve been easy, but this guy nailed every part and “felt right” in the same way Pat Brudders does for Down). The only thing I didn’t like was that he made fun of a kid in the front row for not going mental enough and sitting there still all night with a Dr. Evil from Austin Powers pinky-finger to mouth gesture the whole evening… and fair enough it probably looked funny, but the kid was likely being crushed half to death if I was anything to go by, and he was little and skinny so in that position I wouldn’t have gone that crazy either. Rob did save it though by singing “Last Christmas I Gave You My Heart” so it felt less like bullying and more like a good frontman entertaining the crowd. Oh and the rest of the band had all got Santa Hats on towards the end. Fitting for this time of year, it was nice and amusing. Merry Christmas.

It was good that all the material went over well. People lost their shit for the Supercharger and Burning Red stuff equally to the classic Burn/Change stuff. Everything from ‘Ashes onwards got an extra special reaction. Anything to do with Phil Demmel is just beloved by the fanbase (and rightly so – what a great musician!). I’ve been at some concerts where people only react to the new stuff (Mastodon, Riverside, BMTH) or only the old stuff (Hatebreed, Megadeth, Slayer) but everyone reacted well to everything here.

It was such a great performance, and the band’s high quality, well-designed lightshow really added to things. It went green during “Locust” and red during “From This Day” off of The Burning Red to echo those album’s artwork and it would black out the stage but spotlight one person to highlighted members during key parts like interesting drum fills or separate guitarists on riffs that switch between separate earphones on the record (aka panning). Their stage show had big backdrop banners, Roman Empire looking plinths with the MH logo, smoke cannons, all sorts of lights, banners with lions on them off to the side. It looked expensive and impressive. To top it all off the sound was superb… during that super dirty riff at the end of “Davidian” (y’know that really slow, brutally ugly riff) it was the best sounding moment I’ve heard live in the last two years (and Rob even called out “so fucking heavy!”).

Also… I can’t describe how cool it was to see Dave McClain. He’s just such a unique, bespoke Drummer and no one else plays like him. His style is so singular it sometimes sounds like he’s playing “wrong” because no one else plays like that. Watching some of those badass fills with my own eyes was like a religious experience.

Overall; great concert… but don’t be surprised if you read in the news that someone died from crush injuries.

I went to go see Saxon tonight on Thursday the 4th December 2014 at the HMV Ritz in Manchester, England. The ticket said doors 6.30, over at 10. Saxon were to be supported by fellow ‘80s British Metal band Hell (recently rejuvenated, and musical home of Andy Sneap).

It turns out that the evening got re-organized. Beyond The Black, a German Power Metal band were added to the bill, which was a nice addition.

Beyond The Black sounded like a bit of a mixture between Accept, Sabaton and Stratovarius (although a toned down one) at times. They had a female singer and a keyboard player but weren’t either symphonic or operatic, nor were they in the Evanescence mould either… it was good solid traditional Heavy Metal from Europe. Or at least that’s what it sounded like in the Hall, who knows what a record producer could do to them?

Interestingly, their rhythm section locked into these very Slipknot grooves at times that seemed very modern and out of place in the Euro-Metal thing if you thought about it (but of course, flowed naturally if you weren’t scrutinizing it looking for things to write about).

I quite liked them. I’d be happy to see them again.

Next came Hell. I knew of them, but hadn’t heard anything. Hoo boy. It was interesting. Very theatric. Very very theatric. It was like watching King Diamond or Queensryche when they do Mindcrime with all the acting. He dressed up in a cloak like a wizard. He stripped topless and self-flagellated with a whip… there were smoke cannons and very theatric lighting. Interestingly though, either the smoke cannons were unreliable or the person operating them had never seen Hell before because they were so badly out of time it was really distracting.

This was the first Metal gig I’ve ever went to with my girlfriend, and she was baffled by this. Or amused to the point of laughing. I was baffled to the point of laughing too. Musically, it was pretty awesome. Quite traditional, sort of like a mixture between early Queensryche and Savatage’s most Power Metal moments (think ‘The Needle Lies’ and ‘Power Of The Night’) mixed with Cradle Of Filth’s less heavy sections (think ‘Better To Reign In Hell’)… oh and a big huge dose of Mercyful Fate. The singer was like a very strange mixture between King Diamond and Van Der Graaf Generator’s Peter Hammil… listen to VDGG’s ‘Killer’ or ‘Arrow’ and you’ll probably see what I mean. His whole thing was performed like he was in a musical or a play, rather than actually singing in a band. But still… very entertaining. Wikipedia said there’d be exploding bibles though… that might’ve been even more fun. Fireworks are cool in a controlled setting.

It went on too long. It was a big contrast to the super down-to-earth attitudes of Beyond The Black and Saxon. But still… I recommend checking them out.

Then, the moment I paid for, Saxon came on. When I originally bought the tickets it said they were only playing songs off of the classic trio of Wheels Of Steel, Strong Arm Of The Law and Denim & Leather. Somewhere between then and now, things changed, and they played a more representative setlist, with two or three more modern tunes like ‘Lionheart’ ‘Forever Free’ and ‘Sacrifice’ as well as a few surprises like ‘Frozen Rainbow’ off of the debut and ‘This Town Rocks’ off of the The Power And The Glory album. All the tracks you’d want or expect from the non-classic-trio rest of the catalogue like ‘Crusader,’ ‘The Eagle Has Landed’ and ‘Solid Ball Of Rock’ were present and accounted for. The modern tracks, far from being momentum killers, made me want to pick up all the modern Saxon albums… I think these guys might very well be in a new golden age like Kreator, Accept and Queensryche. Y’know that thing when they come back super strong.
That probably sounds super obvious to someone who’s been there since the beginning, but for a new, young fan who got turned onto the band with the internet recommendation of essentially “hail-to-the-80s,” it makes for a new thought. Either way, I’ve got some more Saxon albums to buy!

The concert had absolutely superb sound and mixing, and a brilliant civilized crowd. I had lots of space, a great view and wasn’t shoved or crowd-surfed over once. Just like when I saw Queensryche here last year… awesome venue, and an older crowd is nice too. Hmmm, why am I mentoning Queensryche so much? Queensryche on the brain tonight.

Nigel Glockler is a fantastic drummer. He injected such life and energy into things. He would throw in double-kicks and extra fills and sneaky cymbal catches all over the place and really improve and modernize the drum tracks to all the classic material.That and his fills are thunderous. He plays with a lot of power and authority. It makes the band feel so much tighter, stronger and heavier than the studio recordings. If I was going to recommend Saxon on someone I’d now recommend they check out a live album with Nigel on it. Possibly the St George’s Day Sacrifice one since it was also from Manchester’s HMV Ritz. I know he was there in like ’82… but still, here he just felt so… like a young modern guy coming in and kicking ass… you know like when you hear an old song, and think ‘I’d love if someone with some umph covered this’? Well… Nigel gave the material that umph. Like I said, I know he’s got a long, long history in the band, but something about seeing him in the flesh just made me stand back and think “wow… this guy is awesome.”

The band also added extra parts to some of the songs and extended or slightly rearranged them to be better live. A lot of their best songs are pretty short, and to make them up live they’d throw in an extra guitar solo, or one more repetition of the chorus to just let you sing along one more time… it worked really well. The whole unit were incredible.

Even ‘Suzie Hold On’ which I never really liked (until now), felt really great live. I usually zone out during ‘The Eagle Has Landed’ too even though I like it, because the comparison to Judas Priest’s ‘Victim Of Changes’ distracts me and my brain runs off on a thought-tangent and before I start concentrating again the song is over, but it completely captured my attention here, especially with Nigel making it feel so much more powerful.

Then, hearing all the classics like ‘Strong Arm Of The Law,’ ‘Denim & Leather,’ ‘Dallas 1PM,’ ‘747 (Strangers In The Night)’ ‘The Power And The Glory’ and ‘Princess Of The Night’ was just great fun. It was awesome. Real fun sing-along stuff, very entertaining concert… well sang, well played, sounding and looking great, with the whole ‘raises-them-to-another-level’ drumming really icing the whole metaphorical cake.

Bottom line… Saxon were awesome and I had a great time. Go see ‘em if you’re a fan, they are excellent live. If you can’t see ‘em live maybe check out the Wacken DVD or the new George’s Day live album for some Glockler-improved Saxon.

I went to go see fantastic Canadain Prog/Punk/Metal/Whatever band Protest The Hero last night in Manchester Academy. My ticket said Academy 2, but the bouncers herded us into the basement for the Club Academy.

I was a bit skeptical that maybe they’d mistakenly sent me to the wrong gig, and asked some guy in a Protest The Hero shirt if he though he was in the right place, which he did… I asked that two seconds before noticing the rather large Protest The Hero backdrop (with the same image as the t-shirt I was wearing on it).

The support band seemed to be a local band of Manchester students, but in fact turned out to be Palm Reader – who you might’ve heard mentioned dozens of times on the Metal Hammer Podcast. They were good.. a very pissed off mixture of Parkway Drive and Gallows. Definitely more in the British Hardcore mode than Metalcore in the Shadows Fall sense. Interesting. I wasn’t bowled over but I could respect it.

Then came The Contortionist who played Djent, so I should’ve liked them, but they just lacked a special something. Maybe they were deflated that the gig had been downsized? I don’t know. The singer was super, super calm, almost like he was in a coffee shop. Didn’t really create an atmosphere. Also, it didn’t help that their guitarist had such a young face that it reminded me of the gigs I’d played as a teenager when no-one showed up. The whole thing could only be described as ‘drab’ which I’m aware is unfair and makes me sound judgemental, but its honestly how I felt. Clapping out of politeness but not in any way shape or form “blown away.”

The Safety Fire followed that. I’m not being rude but it wasn’t very good. Technical problems, missed notes, lack of energy until the famous songs. They’re a good band, I’ve seen them before and they were really storming, I think this was just an off-night. Don’t let me put you off them, but just being honest, 26/11/2014 wasn’t a good gig of theirs, for me.

Then came the band I’ve been banging on about for the last two years. The band I paid to see. The band who’ve fastest shot up my scroble-count of anyone ever with the same amount of material (in English that means I’ve listened to them proportionately higher than anyone else recently). The band who I saw in February who played one of the hands down best and most fun gigs I’ve ever seen, ever.

It was good. I had earplugs in the rest of the night due to the really bad ear injury I got on Monday at Mastodon, but I took the plug out’ve the non-injured ear for PTH. They were fantastic. Roddy’s humorous banter didn’t fall flat. New bassist was great. New(ish) drummer still completely awesome. Core band absolutely flawless.

The setlist was a good too – bit different from last time I saw them… no ‘Mist’ but there was ‘Termites.’ No ‘The Dissentience,’ ‘Bury The Hatchet’ or ‘Tilting Against Windmills’ but there was ‘Drumhead Trial’ and ‘ Bone Marrow’ and ‘Plato’s Tripartite.’ Still a good balance of all four albums, still hits, still surprises. Good job.

I really enjoyed the band. I wasn’t in the best spot for “getting into it” and jumping up and down and the earplug thing made me self-conscious of my voice and so singing along wasn’t as energetic as it was last time, and I can’t honestly claim a “best gig ever” thing about this one the way I could last time I saw them (it was amazing!), but I’m still glad to have went. And I was in the best spot for seeing music without yobs impinging upon my person or ear canals. So… I’d chalk that one up to a win, given a) my personality anyway and b) the circumstances.

Anyway; Man, I’m buzzed. Speed walking home to avoid muggers has really woken me up.
Good thing I don’t have to get up at 5am this morning. Oh wait…

I went to go see Mastodon live tonight at Manchester Academy (on Monday 24th of November, 2014).

This is the 3rd time I’ve seen the band live. I saw them with Trivium/Amon Amarth and Slayer in Wolverhampton, and I saw them with Tool in Dublin. Both were in support of Blood Mountain, but at the Tool gig they played mostly their proggier stuff, and with Slayer they went for the faster harder stuff (well, still not much off Remission or Lifesblood, but the harder side of Blood Mountain and Leviathan.)

As you can tell from all the pictures of me in Leviathan t-shirts, and the picture of a Leviathan vinyl mounted on my wall, and all the glowing Mastodon reviews in the reviews section… these guys were one of my favourite bands. I have to admit, my love affair is waning a bit in the last year or two. 2007-2011 they were unarguably in my top five bands ever, but I’ve kind of forgotten them (through no fault of their own… just me getting distracted by other musical adventure elsewhere), and if I’m honest I’ve fallen out of love with most of the deep cuts off of The Hunter… I just listened to it way too much and only about half of it stayed awesome. Oh, and I’ve also barely watched the Live At Brixton concert because they failed to put it out on Blu Ray and watching it on the computer isn’t an option for me.

All that, and I’ve not gotten Once More Around The Sun yet… I did stream it twice around the time of release and wasn’t blown away (but maybe it’s a grower?) but I do love the latest single “The Motherload” (or specifically, its chorus!), which I’ve heard a lot in music video form or live on tv shows. So going in, I didn’t know what to think. They used to be one of my absolute favourite bands ever, I can remember hearing them for the first time a decade ago, getting my first cd of theirs seven years ago… going nuts for Crack The Skye for a full year and barely listening to anything else… I remember the whole “nothing will ever be better than this… music is therefore officially finished” emotions, but… I dunno I’ve just not been in the mood for them lately. I’ve been off in other directions.

I have however been blown away live by bands I wasn’t in the mood for before. I was out of love with Trivium last time I saw them and they wrenched me violently back to them with an astounding show.

With that in mind, I headed out to the concert on this cold Manchester night.

The support band was called Krokodil, named after that horrible drug in all the documentaries at the moment, and most famous for providing Slipknot with their new bassist. I hadn’t heard their music before going in.

Turns out they’re a sludgy, harsh, abrasive band in the style of early Mastodon, early Baroness and early Black Tusk. Sometimes they went lighter, which was like the heavier side of Red Fang… sometimes it was a bit more Dillinger. It seemed like their bass was their main instrument. There’s also this noisy hardcore aspect to them and a lot of guttural death growls and stuff too. They had a pretty brilliant song that I assume was called “The Tide” and they seemed ok the rest of the time.

Unannounced extra support band Big Business followed. They were a two-man (bassist and drummer, both singers) group, who played more like the light side of Red Fang but very much in that same tent as everyone else I mentioned. The sound mix didn’t help them… it sounded like one big drum solo. I mean… there was a drum solo, but because of the sound, their normal songs were also pretty much a drum solo. Good job they have an incredible drummer. I think their slot was about 10 minutes too long… if I’m totally honest I did start to get bored (and I’m usually very into giving people a fair chance), but otherwise, I wouldn’t criticize them.

Then came Mastodon: One time “I’ll talk your ear off about them, I love them TOO MUCH” band… Current “barely listened to them in the last two years” band.

Would they reignite that passionate love affair with an explosive set of all my favourite songs, played furiously with intense energy and a great sound mix? Or would it be a drab trotting out of new material with lackluster performances and dodgy sound quality?

Well… first up, they seemed to play mostly music off their new album, Once More Around The Sun (it felt like 7 or 8 songs!), which as I’ve explained, I’m not overly familiar with yet, since I haven’t bought it yet.

Otherwise, the setlist was a mix of hits “Oblivion,” “Divinations,” “Crystal Skull,” “Black Tongue” and closing with the immense “Blood And Thunder” with some very surprising moments too, like… they played “Ole Nessie” off of Remission. Did not expect! – Also “Blade Catcher” off of Blood Mountain, which I sometimes think of more as an interlude than a real song (although I’m pretty sure they played that when I saw ‘em with Tool too, in all fairness). It was cool to see “Megalodon” and “Aqua Dementia.” – I saw them both before but I thought they were quiet deep tracks that would get lost once they put more albums out. Luckily not.

Disappointingly, there was no “Curl of the Burl” which I would’ve preferred over almost anything else off the two newest albums, but hey you can’t have everything. Oh; and they’ve returned to their old position of not playing “March of the Fire Ants” anymore, which I think is a mistake, but hey ho… I’m sure lots of people are sick of it. I could do with an Iron Maiden set without “Run To The Hills” and “Number Of The Beast” so I can see why Mastodon would make this choice. Now that I think of it there were quite a few hits missing… no “Iron Tusk,” no “Colony off Birchmen” no “Capillirian Crest.”

At the time I was kind of put off mentally by the whole “lets play a ton of tracks off of the new album” attitude, but really, I think it’s a good thing when bands do that most of the time, so long as the album is good. Me, not being a huge ‘Round The Sun fan yet might not have been best served, but its always a bit rubbish when you go and see someone like Megadeth or Slayer and don’t get to hear your favourite new songs because they kind of don’t let themselves change the setlist too much in case it wrecks a winning formula.

Oh yeah, and you know the most important bit… they absolutely slayed the new album live! It was killer. People went mad for it too. People sang every word to tracks like “Aunt Lisa” and “Halloween.” People ate that right up! (I felt a bit guilty for not knowing the words… was Troy looking into my blank face and feeling disappointed?)

The highlights of the night for me actually included the two new singles “High Road” (despite way too much ironic crowdsurfer action) and “The Motherload.” They just blew the place apart. The biggest, most explosive thing of all though was an absolutely ripping rendition of “Blasteroid” which I never considered an “evening-maker” until now… but boy did it jam! It put a huge grin on my face!

Oh yes, it was a very good show from Mastodon indeed. The cool hand-painted backdrop… all the fancy lazers, the good sound job, it all helped… but what really sold it was Mastodon themselves. They really cared!

Troy would look people in the eye all the time… he’d give people off at the sides a thumbs up, when he noticed someone taking his picture, he’d pull a cool dramatic pose… even in the middle of a song. Brann looked like he was having fun on his new non-Randy Rhodes drum kit… Bill and Brent tore it up like the rock stars they’ve truly become. You just got the sense that everyone was passionate about this… no phoning it in, no boredom… just pure showmanship.

Yeah… you’re damn right its reignited my Mastodon love and you’re damn right I’m getting that new album as soon as my next paycheck lands!

All in all, if you’re wondering whether or not to catch Mastodon on this tour, I strongly advise you do! Just… wear some ear plugs… because the fans bellowed and hollered in my earhole so much it give me really bad headaches afterward and a weird version of ringing-in-the-ears that’s more like an on-off guitar’s killswitch kind of thing… like I’m deaf for one second, normal the next. Not cool.

Yeah, worth it. But dude, earplugs… seriously!