Sunday, 3 May 2020

The World Cup of...Frank Turner

In these days of lockdown, and staying in all the time, the main thing I’ve been looking for is to keep occupied. That could involve just staring at the TV, playing a game on my iPad or endlessly scrolling through social media. And occasionally, doing my job (I jest, that takes most of my time…if anyone from work is reading that is!) One thing I saw today which I really liked was someone on Twitter had done a March Madness type affair with Frank Turner’s solo material and created a knockout tournament of 64 of his songs. There is a ranking system which I don’t entirely follow (I only know March Madness by name) but the accompanying tweet explained the labour of love that went into it, and it certainly seems as though time has been spent on this. To read about, and see the original knockout bracket, click here for the twitter thread. I saw this and decided to play out (so to speak) the bracket they created and see what would end up winning for me.

For the purposes of this here blog, I’ve decided from here to refer to this as the World Cup of Frank Turner (as said above, don’t really know much about March Madness, and also it is now May). My bracket in full is here, but it is much too big for screenshots for this here blog, so I thought I would write out the matchups and the winners etc. The link to the bracket is very much the TL;DR version of this post. Without further ado though, the first round of 64! An advance note, this is all a bit of fun and some of these summaries are very cheesy.

  1. Recovery v Song for Eva Mae - A clear early win for Recovery here. I like Song for Eva Mae, but Recovery could go deep into this tournament.
  2. Smiling at Strangers on Trains v Journey of the Magi - I wouldn’t call either of these songs “go-to” songs for me personally, so I’ve chosen Smiling at Strangers on Trains.
  3. I Am Disappeared v Must Try Harder - Another straightforward choice for me here – I Am Disappeared advances to the Round of 32.
  4.  Be More Kind v 21st Century Survival Blues – If this were a sports tournament, the “Be More Kind” derby would be a highly entertaining score draw which would go to penalties. This one was tough, but the nod has been given to Be More Kind. Even as I typed that, I second guessed it, but no! The title track makes it through.
  5. A Decent Cup of Tea v Tell Tale Signs - Tell Tale Signs wins this, but not a straightforward win. 
  6. Substitute v Wherefore Art Thou Gene Simmons - I think I could count the number of times I’ve listened to Gene Simmons on one hand, so Substitute runs away with this match. 
  7. 1933 v Poetry of the Deed – 1933 straight through here. One of my favourites from Be More Kind. 
  8. Get Better v Romantic Fatigue – Get Better progresses into the next round. 
  9. Love, Ire and Song v Sand In The Gears. I am not familiar with Sand In The Gears, whilst Love, Ire and Song is a favourite. Clear winner. 
  10. Sons of Liberty v To Take You Home – Sons of Liberty is another song I’m not massively familiar with, and I do really like To Take You Home, so that is the one that makes the next round. 
  11. Four Simple Words v Mittens – This is brutal. Four Simple Words wins, but I am gutted to see Mittens fall so early. 
  12. The Way I Tend To Be v Going Nowhere – The Way I Tend To Be eases through into round 2. 
  13. Jet Lag v Live Fast Die Old – Live Fast Die Old has advanced here. 
  14. Make America Great Again v Isabel – Make America Great Again, by allowing this song to advance into the next round. And by not giving fascism another 4 years. But that is another discussion for another day. 
  15. Glorious You v Imperfect Tense – This was tough, but after a bit of thought Imperfect Tense made it through. 
  16. Photosynthesis v Broken Piano – No giant killings today, Photosynthesis makes it through
  17. The Ballad of Me and My Friends v Sister Rosetta – The first representation from No Man’s Land sadly falls at the first hurdle. I like Sister Rosetta, but The Ballad progresses. 
  18. Tattoos v Fastest Way Back Home – Tattoos is going through here. Another example of two songs I’m not massively familiar with being drawn against each other. 
  19. Try This At Home v Brave Face – This was another tough first round tie, but Try This At Home makes it through. 
  20. If Ever I Stray v There She Is – If Ever I Stray progresses here, another one that could go deep. 
  21. Vital Signs v We Shall Not Overcome – Vital Signs from the debut album wins out here against a song I’m not massively familiar with. 
  22. Peggy Sang The Blues v A Love Worth Keeping – Peggy Sang The Blues, and Peggy progresses into the next round. 
  23. The Real Damage v St Christopher Is Coming Home – One of the toughest decisions of the first round this, and I’m very sad The Real Damage doesn’t advance further, but St Christopher, much like football, is coming home. 
  24. Long Live The Queen v Faithful Son – Long Live The Queen progresses though this matchup with ease. 
  25. I Still Believe v Love 40 Down – I Still Believe, one of the favourites, makes it through. Love 40 Down though is underrated. 
  26. The Lioness v Worse Things Happen at Sea – I really ought to choose Worse Things Happen At Sea here, given I have a tattoo with those words written on it, but I prefer The Lioness as a song, so that makes it through. 
  27. Reasons Not To Be An Idiot v Rivers – Reasons Not To Be An Idiot is one of the best songs on Love, Ire and Song, which is an excellent album. A straightforward win. 
  28. The Next Storm v Wanderlust – The Next Storm blows past Wanderlust and into the next round (no, I will not get my coat!)
  29. Plain Sailing Weather v Little Changes – This was a tough little match, but Plain Sailing Weather makes it through. 
  30. The Road v Nashville, Tennessee – The Road beneath my feet leads to the next round of this contest. 
  31. Polaroid Picture v Don’t Worry – Don’t Worry had to worry about this one, I really wasn’t sure which way this would go. In the end, Polaroid Picture falls short – great song though.
  32. I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous v Song For Josh – I feel bad for Song For Josh here, but Prufrock has to advance. 
And that ends the first round. Sticking with this format, we already know how round 2 shapes up, so let’s get to it. Again, the TL;DR version (ie, the full bracket) can be accessed here.

  1. Recovery v Smiling At Strangers On Trains – I am presently listening to Million Dead as I type this (something I don’t do nearly enough by the way). That being said, the Million Dead cover falls against Recovery here.
  2. I Am Disappeared v Be More Kind – It is at this point of the tournament that I ask myself “whose bloody idea was it to do this” and then I realise that me running through this set up myself was my idea. Moving swiftly on, this was a hard choice but I’ve given the nod to I Am Disappeared.
  3. Tell Tale Signs v Substitute – Substitute wins this one. Probably one of the easier decisions of this round I think
  4. 1933 v Get Better – For fucks sake. This could be the final if the draw was different! Get Better advances, but that was a nasty decision. One which I am already second guessing as I type this. I get the feeling this will happen a lot. Bloody hell.
  5. Love, Ire and Song v To Take You Home – The title track takes this one. Not as tough of a decision as the last one, it has to be said.
  6. Four Simple Words v The Way I Tend To Be – Four Simple Words advances here. A tough old route to the final for Four Simple Words so far!
  7. Live Fast Die Old v Make America Great Again – Another tough one, but the nod goes to Live Fast Die Old. I really like both songs though. This is just going to get harder now. Argh!
  8. Imperfect Tense v Photosynthesis – Photosynthesis continues its assent through the tournament. I feel like Imperfect Tense winning this would be viewed as a “giant killing” if this was an FA Cup match.
  9. The Ballad of Me and My Friends v Tattoos – An easier win for The Ballad this time out than in the first round.
  10. Try This At Home v If Ever I Stray - If Ever I Stray advances again but this was another tough contest.
  11.  Vital Signs v Peggy Sang The Blues – Vital Signs advances through here but this was another tough old one.
  12. St Christopher Is Coming Home v Long Live The Queen – Long Live The Queen was one of the first Frank Turner songs I heard, and I do really like it. That being said, I think I prefer St Christopher Is Coming Home – and so that is what advances. 
  13.  I Still Believe v The Lioness – I still Believe advances here. The Lioness is probably my 2nd favourite song from No Man’s Land (my favourite not represented on this here tournament – Jenny Bingham’s Ghost in case you were wondering which I am sure you weren’t), but I Still Believe is one of those that would probably make most people’s “best of Frank Turner” lists. It would mine, that is for sure.
  14. Reasons Not To Be An Idiot v The Next Storm – I went back and forth on this one, much like several of the contests in this round. In the end, I have settled for Reasons Not To Be An Idiot. 
  15.  Plain Sailing Weather v The Road – This is just horrible. I love both songs, they would both make my best of list that I referred to just above. However, I remember how happy I was to hear Plain Sailing Weather being played live in Bournemouth (if memory serves, I wasn’t expecting to hear it, so that caught me off guard as well). For that reason alone, I’ve chosen that to advance. How has The Road lost here? I am as perplexed as you.
  16. Don’t Worry v I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous – I personally didn’t know Prufrock before he got famous, nor do I know him now. What I do know though is that this is the song that finalises this round (goodness me that was lame by even my standards). 

Well, that was tough in a lot of places. I am now expecting every, or almost every, decision to be a horrible one to make. I would quip it is like Sophie's Choice, but to be honest all of these outcomes are okay really - no-one dies. Anyway, the last 16!

  1. Recovery v I Am Disappeared – Recovery wins this one. I would rate this as one of the easier round decisions and it was not easy at all!
  2. Substitute v Get Better – Get Better wins this one. Do I need to type how all of these from now are not easy? Probably not, but still!
  3. Love, Ire and Song v Four Simple Words – Four Simple Words. This is the first one where I almost binned the whole thing. Both deserve to make it through! Ghastly decision to make
  4. Live Fast Die Old v Photosynthesis – Photosynthesis wins this, and this probably is the easiest decision of the last 16 so far…Sorry LFDO!
  5. The Ballad of Me and My Friends v If Ever I Stray – The Ballad advances. If you were to ask why, I am not sure I could give you a coherent answer.
  6. Vital Signs v St Christopher Is Coming Home – Will football ever come home? Not if penalties are involved. What I do know though is that St Christopher is Coming Home is in the last 8, and I would not have guessed that when starting this.
  7. I Still Believe v Reasons Not To Be An Idiot – See above about the coherent answer, but apply it to this one with I Still Believe going through.
  8. Plain Sailing Weather v I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous – I am shaking my head somewhat in disbelief as I type this, but I Knew Prufrock…has not made the last four. Plain Sailing Weather has, and I am fine with that. 

Some of those decisions were not as bad as I was expecting, but some of them were just plain horrible. Looking at the bracket now for the quarter final matches and my head shaking of disbelief has continued. 
  1. Recovery v Get Better – Get Better immediately came to mind with this one, so that progresses.
  2. Four Simple Words v Photosynthesis – The ride of Four Simple Words ends here. This one I went back and forth on several times, and concluded I would likely change my mind if I thought on it for much longer…and then probably change it another x number of times.
  3. The Ballad of Me and My Friends v St Christopher Is Coming Home – The two with the longest titles battle it out and St Christopher makes it to the last 4. How did this happen? I should be able to answer this as I decided upon it, but there we are.
  4. I Still Believe v Plain Sailing Weather – I Still Believe ends the glorious run of Plain Sailing Weather. I feel somewhat sad for this, but I think I would have trolled myself if I Still Believe didn’t win this one!  
We are down to the last 4 songs. Some of these decisions were horrible in round one - just know they are somehow worse now.

  1. Get Better v Photosynthesis – As soon as I typed that out, the first thought straight away was “it is Get Better though”. So, it is Get Better. Somehow. Argh!
  2. St Christopher Is Coming Home v I Still Believe – I’ve gone through this blog making little jokes about the coming home part of St Christopher’s title and making references to the Baddiel & Skinner song Three Lions. They first wrote that song for Euro 96, at which England went out in the semi-finals. Football didn’t come home then, and St Christopher joins England in going out in the semi finals (addendum, this is the most I’ve written about football in years!). Does that make I Still Believe the Germany of this competition? I guess so, in a way. Unexpected twist.
And so, after several hours of listening to Frank Turner and working through this bracket, I finally reach the final. This has been a lot of fun but bloody hell some of this decision making has been just nasty. The final is Get Better v I Still Believe. Weirdly, this decision isn't all that tough now we're here. The winner of the World Cup of Frank Turner is...Once We Were Anarchists. Seriously, where is that song? All joking aside, the winner is:

That was fun. Early on when I started doing this, I thought it might be fun at this stage to flip the script and say Get Better won the World Cup (March Madness), but who would win the FA Cup of Frank Turner, with randomised draws for each round. I may revisit that idea (we might have a bit of lockdown to go yet, who knows!). For now though, I will leave it there. 

Thursday, 23 April 2020

30-Day Song Challenge

I've seen a few friends on Instagram partaking in the 30-day song challenge on their respective Instagram stories. I considered taking part but when going to start it, I realised I wasn't entirely sure how to do it. In the spirit of honesty, I originally typed a quip about how it being a "genuine" shock that a 33 year old was struggling with social media, but actually the people I've seen doing it are my age or older so...aye. I was tempted to do 30 blogs for this, and release one each day - but that sounded like a lot of work. Instead, I have decided to ape the Eastenders omnibus edition and do it all in one post. This is that post. If you are still reading at this point, I commend you.

Day 1 - A song you like with a colour in the title

Billy Talent - Red Flag. It has been far too long since I've seen Billy Talent live. I would love it if things are back to normal and Slam Dunk could go ahead. Somehow though, I don't see it happening. Alas. 

Day 2 - A song you like with a number in the title

Metallica - One. Need I write more? Incredible song

Day 3 - A song that reminds you of summertime

Weezer - Summer Elaine and Drunk Dori - This song is great all year round, but somehow better in the summer. 

Day 4 - A song that reminds you of someone you'd rather forget

The Fugees - Killing Me Softly With His Song

Day 5 - A song that needs to be played loud

Slipknot - Custer. I always forget how sassy the skeleton on this album's artwork is. Anyway, this song can't be listened to quietly. Well, I guess it can but why would you?

Day 6 - A song that makes you want to dance

Earth, Wind & Fire - September. The second it comes on!

Day 7 - A song to drive to

Terrorvision - D'Ya Wanna Go Faster? I don't drive so this one is a bit moot, but the song is ace.

Day 8 - A song about drugs or alcohol

Pulp - Sorted Out For E's and Whizz. Saw Pulp play this at Reading festival which seemed fitting for some of the folk near me!

Day 9 - A song that makes you happy

DJ Ötzi - Hey Baby. This played before every home game at the one season I had a season ticket at Fratton Park. Used to sing along with my Dad every time we heard it (at least, that is my memory of it, it might not have been every time)

Day 10 - A song that makes you sad

Simon & Garfunkel - Bridge Over Troubled Water. It was played at 2 or 3 funerals I was at, and I just associate that song with those days.

Day 11 - A song you never get tired of

The Interrupters - By My Side. Discovered this band properly last year. This is my favourite song of theirs. I think it is just ace.

Day 12 - A song from your preteen years

Rednex - Cotton Eye Joe. I remember this being on a compilation tape (tape!) that I bought from Woolworths in Southsea back in...I want to say 1995? I would have been 8 or 9 I think. This song from that collection is the only one I remember.

Day 13 - A song you like from the 70s

Bacarra - Yes Sir, I Can Boogie. Cadbury is to blame for this. I saw the advert, I fell in love with the song. And yes sir, I can boogie (just please let me drink all of the alcohol first)

Day 14 - A song you'd love to be played at your wedding

Aerosmith - I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing. Struggled with this one, but I would say this is one of my favourite love songs, possibly my favourite? Tough call

Day 15 - A song you like that's a cover by another artist

Metallica - Tuesday's Gone. One of my favourite songs from their covers album. There could have been a number chosen from this though.

Day 16 - A song that's a classic favourite

Alice Cooper - School's Out. Great song, this. That is all.

Day 17 - A song that you'd sing a duet with someone on karaoke

Bonnie Tyler - Total Eclipse Of The Heart. The song is a banger, and if I was the male part, it is very limited. How could I screw up singing "turn around"?! Well, probably quite easily, but still.

Day 18 - A song from the year you were born

Metallica - Disposable Heroes. Metallica released arguably the best metal album ever in the year I was born. Is this the best song on it? No. But it is one of them.

Day 19 - A song that makes you think about life

Less Than Jake - The Rest Of My Life. A song where the protagonist tries to apologise for past mistakes, knowing they can never truly take back what has been done, and will have to live with that forever...aye.

Day 20 - A song that has many meanings to you

Frank Turner - Eulogy.

Day 21 - A song you like with a person's name in the title

Apocalyptica (Featuring Corey Taylor) - I'm Not Jesus. Without question my favourite original Apocalyptica song. Is it because Corey Taylor is on it? Probably

Day 22 - A song that moves you forward

Black Spiders - Stay Down. I interpreted this entry as one that pushes me on, so I chose one that does this when I'm out running. If I am tired, and this comes on shuffle, I keep going.

Day 23 - A song you think everybody should listen to

Eureka Machines - Brainwaves. Because Eureka Machines are bloody brilliant, and your life would be immeasurably better if you listened to them and realised this. I mean, probably. They are ace, especially live.

Day 24 - A song by a band you wish were still together

REM - It;s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) - Fitting at the moment this one! I have chosen REM because I didn't get to see them live before they split up, and I would have really liked to!

Day 25 - A song you like by an artist no longer living

Motorhead - Ace of Spades (acoustic). Not everyone who was in Motorhead has died (thankfully!), and there may have been a better known version of this song to choose. I really like this version though. RIP Lemmy

Day 26 - A song that makes you want to fall in love

Sixpence None The Richer - Kiss Me. Unless I've wildly misinterpreted this song, it seems like a really nice love song.

Day 27 - A song that breaks your heart

Eric Clapton - Tears In Heaven. Because how could it not?

Day 28 - A song by an artist whose voice you love

Ginger Wildheart - The Pendine Incident. I really like Ginger's vocals on Wildhearts songs, as well as his solo stuff. This is one of my favourite songs from Ginger's solo catalogue.

Day 29 - A song you remember from your childhood

Bombalurina - Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini. I remember loving Timmy Mallet when I was a kid (even had the soft pink and yellow mallet). Only doing this just now have I learned that Timmy Mallet didn't release this song under his own name though. Every day is a school day!

Day 30 - A song that reminds you of yourself

Milk Teeth - Owning Your Okayness. Not everything in this song applies to me, but there are certainly bits of it that definitely resonate with me.

Some of those were really quite hard, but got there in the end. Even so, choosing them was quite good fun!

Sunday, 12 April 2020

Flavourly Beer Case Review

This is something new for me, and I’m certainly not an expert on the topic I am about to write about, but there we are. Recently, I saw a social media advert for a mixed case of beer from a company called Flavourly. The case was 20 beers (10 different beers, two of each for those who don’t want to do the math), two glasses and a bag of flavoured corn for £20. I decided to take the plunge because it seemed like a good offer. This blog is a review of the beers that came in that box. From what I have gathered, these beers are all ones made by the brewery in partnership with Flavourly. Please note, this is not going to be an in-depth review because, as noted in the first line, I am not an expert. I am simply going to say if I liked what I was sent. How this has worked is I’ve had 1 variety of beer a night since I started this – so the palette has not been mixed. The snack was fine – nothing much to write about really, so I won’t.

Beer 1 - By The Horns ‘Kokomo’

Sometimes I find with a beer, you need to get past the first sip. The first sip of this beer was really quite sharp, to the point of it being off-putting. I stuck with it though and subsequent tastes were pretty decent. (although there was the odd occasional one which caused me to scrunch my face a little). Not sure I would buy this again, but if it came in another case of mixed beers, I wouldn’t be sad.

Beer 2 – By The Horns ‘Fresh Tracks’

This was a properly refreshing lager with a bit of flavour as well. I really liked this beer and would definitely buy a case of just this one beer. One of those lagers that is very easy to drink, and didn’t leave me feeling gassy afterwards, which is a plus.

Beer 3 – The Wild Beer Co ‘Eagle Hunter’

This beer was alright, really. I didn’t dislike it, but on reflection I can’t say it was at all noteworthy.

Beer 4 – The Wild Beer Co ‘I Heart Yuzu’

My favourite of the two from Wild Beer Co, without question. The citrus zest in this beer was very evident. It says it is crisp on the can, and it is not wrong. A very enjoyable beer.

Beer 5 – By The Horns ‘Levitate’

There was plenty going on in this beer. This is where my lack of expertise when it comes to beer lets me down as I can’t explain what was going on, but I liked it. 5% strength and very full bodied. To this point, probably my favourite of the bunch aside from Fresh Tracks.

Beer 6 – Black Isle Brewing Co ‘Amber’

This tasted as though it was a really heavy beer, so I was surprised to see it was only 4% strength. It took a sip or two after the initial one for me to decide if I liked it or not, but I did. After the first couple of sips, I thought it was a very smooth beer as well, which is always a plus in my books.

Beer 7 – Black Isle Brewing Co ‘APA’

Another smooth beer from BIBCO (don’t know if that is what they call themselves, but aye). My preferred beverage of the two in the box from them, this one was a nice drink immediately and was very easy to drink.

Beer 8 – First Chop Brewery ‘USA West Coast Session IPA’

Rounding out this review with three in a row from First Chop and it has started off very strong. Like beer 7 the day before, I was on board with this one after the first sip and enjoyed both cans of it. My favourite of the bunch so far.

Beer 9 – First Chop Brewery ‘New Zealand Ultra Pale’

This for me was one of those beers where once I got over the first sip, I really enjoyed the beer. Plenty of flavour in it, which is always a plus. One of those that once I realised I liked it, it didn’t last all that long, which is a sign that it was good but was a shame because then it was gone.

Beer 10 – First Chop Brewery ‘Mittelfruh Vienna Lager’

The second lager in the box but very different to Fresh Tracks. This lager seemed to have more body to it. Immediately nice, much like a number of the beers in the box and another one I would be happy to buy a case of.

Favourite Beer - By The Horns ‘Fresh Tracks’

Least Favourite Beer - By The Horns ‘Kokomo’

And there we are, some thoughts on the box of beer I got from Flavourly. On reflection, it was definitely worth the £20 I paid for it. Since buying it, the advert has changed and it now shows the same offer for £30 (which I am tempted by, if the beers are all or mostly the same). However, the original offer said suggested the full price of this box was somewhere in the region of £70 (the discount was something like £50 off, but it appears after the box arrived, I binned the email confirming the order). I’m not sure if this is the genuine price of the box (cynically saying “this box would cost £x if it was full price” but then never is etc). I would be lying if I said I thought this box was worth spending £70 on. But £20-30 for 20 decent to very good beers – that is a good price.

Monday, 6 April 2020

2020 - A Year In Live Music (so far...)

At the beginning of this year, I thought it might be fun to change how I cobble together my end of year blog (in which I rank my favourite gigs of that year) and try and keep a live league table of sorts, that would be updated each time I went to a gig. Best laid plans and all, I forgot to do this after about 3 gigs and abandoned the idea. I wrote the 3 gigs in three days blog as going to three gigs in three days is not something I do often and thought it would be fun. Since then, I’ve been to three gigs in total, taking me to 9 for the year. After the 9th, I had a think about a potential league table again, but decided it was not a good idea and binned the idea once and for all. Deciding on the end of year list would be future Mike’s problem (one which he will likely curse past Mike for, but I digress).  

Since then however, the world has somewhat changed. The Coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed life in almost all countries around the world (at least, that is the impression I get from looking at the news). This, at first, didn’t impact me so much. It was a talking point at work around early March, but I don’t recall there being any (public) chat about it being cancelled/postponed. Since then, social distancing measures have been introduced which have temporarily closed several businesses including pubs, theatres, arenas and everything in between. The first time the pandemic impacted me in any way came when I was going to get a late ticket for The Subways show in Portsmouth and was considering one for Ash and/or Stiff Little Fingers (all three were at the Pyramids). However, all three got postponed (I’ve just checked, and all three have been rearranged for September).

The first gig I had a ticket for, which got postponed was the Evanescence/Within Temptation co-headline tour. This has just been rearranged for September. The second one to go was Dinosaur Pile-Up, which has been rearranged for a date in August which clashes with something major at work. I don’t know if I’ll be back in the office by then (as I am one of those who is working from home) - so I cancelled my ticket for that one as a precaution more than anything. The main thing which for me which sucks has been the cancellation of my holiday to Belgium. I am keeping a close eye on Faith No More, Rammstein and the Hella Mega Tour as well (Green Day, Fall Out Boy and Weezer) as I don’t see any of them going ahead in June. When Glastonbury was cancelled, I realised truly how much of an impact this would have on live music. Download and Isle of Wight festivals have since been cancelled (yesterday as I type this, Isle of Wight closed its borders to non-essential visitors, more significantly).

I fully accept that gigs and holidays being cancelled in the grand scheme of things is not the end of the world when this disease is killing a lot of people. This isn’t intended to be a “isn’t life unfair” blog where I say my experience is worse than everyone else’s, because it definitely isn’t. I still have my health (most importantly) and I still have my job. Members of my family have had to self-isolate which isn’t great - but that is the worst of it for me personally so far. In the grand scheme of things, I could be a lot worse off.

I don’t know what will happen next in terms of social distancing. The deputy chief medical officer (apologies if I have that title wrong) very sensibly said on TV yesterday (as of writing) that these restrictions would be lifted in stages and, when it happens - it would be done slowly. Because of this, I think gigs scheduled for June/July will be cancelled/postponed. I wouldn’t be shocked if this is extended to August/September as well. I am not expecting, for example, to be seeing Evanescence/Within Temptation in September. The same with the three Portsmouth shows that got postponed in March – rearranged to September but I would not be shocked if they get postponed again. It would of course be lovely to be wrong, but so much of what is currently going on is unknown at the moment.

Anyway, the point of starting this blog was to talk about my end of year list. I honestly don’t know at this stage in the game when I will next be at a gig, if indeed I will be at one again this year, so I thought I would post a Top 9. Honourable mentions go to live gig streams I’ve watched (Frank Turner has been the proper MVP of these). As it happens, most of this blog was written yesterday while a Chris Catalyst stream is on YouTube which I was watching in between typing words. I am counting the ones I watch live in my overall gigs list, but not counting the ones I watch after the event (seems fair). I’m not including any of the streams, live or on catch-up in the end of year list though (because frankly, Code Orange would run away with everything). Without further adieu, the top 9:

9. The Bellrays - Edge of the Wedge, Portsmouth. January 2020.

This was a gig I went to on a bit of a whim really. I heard two songs and was like “sold!” as those two songs were immense. When I bought the ticket, the gig was set to be at the Wedgewood Rooms. I would say I was sad to see it get downgraded, but I didn’t know it had been until I got to the venue and saw the main venue’s door was closed. The main support, Los Pepes, were good. The Bellrays were really good. Anyhow, there are some really fine margins in the placements of these gigs - and this one is 9th because I don’t like a packed Edge of the Wedge (and because there was a higher up from my work there, which meant drinking away my uncomfortableness wasn’t an option sadly).

8. InMe - The Joiners, Southampton. January 2020.

InMe were really good. Haggard Cat, who were the main support, were also really good. I got drunk before/during this gig in a snooker/pool hall (which was quieter than most of the local bars, although it didn’t take long to work out why) and honestly, thinking back on it now, there are chunks of it I can’t remember (which isn’t ideal). Not a lot else to add really - the bits I remember are all good (aside from being a drunken/awkward mess buying a shirt from the front man of Haggard Cat towards the end of InMe’s set - why couldn’t I have forgotten that bit?!)

7. The Interrupters - O2 Forum, London. February 2020.

If you had asked me when writing my end of year blog last year which gig I had booked that I expected to be number one, I would have mentioned this one as being within a shout. The reason it is not is twofold. Firstly, the supports were not my thing at all. I know that shouldn’t spoil a gig, and it didn’t, but 2 months on and that is still the first thing I think of when I think of the gig. The second reason, like the InMe gig is that I was very drunk by the time The Interrupters came on stage, and there are chunks of that gig that I don’t remember. What a state, honestly. From what I recall, The Interrupters were predictably great.

6. Loathe - The Joiners, Southampton. February 2020.

This is where this list gets tough. I went back and forth on this and, in another thin margins decision, decided this gig was 6th. The main reason had nothing to do with the gig either, but it hampered my enjoyment of it. In short, on my way to the gig, I was walking down Above Bar Street in Soton when I heard some loud voices, and saw a young girl running for her life. In pursuit, was a guy shouting after her - and a group of people were following him. They all poured into a Burger King there and that was the last I saw of it. There was a venom in his voice which made me worry about what had happened for the rest of the night - it frankly was horrible. I couldn’t fully switch off and enjoy the gig. The gig itself was great, God Complex were abrasive in a good way, Phoxjaw were ace again and Loathe were just quality. Their new album is immense. Aye, this was a great gig, just a shame I couldn’t fully enjoy it in the moment. To conclude the story, as I walked back to get my train home, the BK was closed and there was no indication it had been a crime scene so...who knows? I looked for any mention of it in local news and found nothing.

5. Frank Turner (solo) - The Dome, Brighton. March 2020.

As it stands, my penultimate gig of 2020. I have wanted to visit the venue ever since getting my second tattoo, and the tattooist telling me how good it was for a gig he was at. He wasn’t wrong, the Dome is a cracking venue. Jess Guise and Micah Schnabel both had really good sets. Frank Turner’s set was just as good as the one I saw last year at the Wedge, if not better. Not relevant to this gig itself, but Frank Turner has done a number of live streams to raise money for his crew/band, as well as independent music venues and charities, and I think that is something that really ought to be commended. I've watched 4 of them now, and they have all been excellent. 

4. The Menzingers - Engine Rooms, Southampton. February 2020.

This came so close to being ranked above Slipknot. I had an equally as lovely time, with the right amount of booze and didn’t have to leave early, which was nice. Mannequin Pussy opened and they were good (a real mixed bag in terms of styles but I enjoyed them). Spanish Love Songs were great, having one of those support sets that made me wonder if the main band could top it. The MenzIngers, the main band, did top it. They were excellent as well. All my memories of this night are positive, which is all you can ask for really.

3. Slipknot - The O2, London. January 2020.

I am surprised this is as low as it is, but there we are. Truthfully, the only reason it is so low is because the trains were a little bit knackered. So, to avoid a very long train home, I had to leave early. Anyone who has done this knows this means setting a cut off point for leaving. I did this but kept checking my watch throughout the gig. The reason it is as high as it is though is because Slipknot are so fucking good live and the new material live is just massive. Also, seeing Slipknot play Disasterpieces live was just wonderful (the song that starts with the line “I’m gonna spit your throat and fuck the wound”). Loved it. Shout out to Behemoth as well, who looked and sounded great on that big stage.

2. Sabaton - SSE Arena, London. February 2020

This one almost got scuppered by a hangover (see earlier entry about The Interrupters). I wasn’t going to bin it, but I was tempted to transfer my mates’ ticket to him and stay in the hotel until I absolutely had to leave. I decided to grit my teeth and bare it, and as it happens the hangover headache had gone by the time the music started, which was fortuitous. Amaranthe opened and were excellent. I really enjoyed Apocalyptica. Sabaton set a high bar for me when I saw them at Wacken 2013, and with this set, they comfortably cleared it. Quality set. Their stage show was awesome as well – big fan.

1. Employed To Serve - The Joiners, Southampton. March 2020

The travel to and from this gig was a proper headache. It meant missing a chunk of the first band, which was a shame as what I heard sounded very good. Palm Reader were incredible. And somehow, Employed to Serve were even better. Their headline show in London last year was ace, and since then they’ve introduced more from their new album which is cracking. The one thing which caught me off guard was them playing “I Spend My Days Wishing Them Away” in the middle of the set, as I am used to that being a set closer. Not sure what else to write really, ETS crushed it. My only gripe is I wish they played longer, which in the grand scheme of things is a small gripe.

Photos of most of these gigs (of varying quality...) can be found on Instagram. There are also other photos there, because that's how it works. 

And that, as they say, is that. Despite ranking them all, I am pleased to say that all 9 gigs were varying degrees of good to superb. If there is no more this year then that would be a shame. I hope that this isn’t it but am aware there are bigger things at play - and honestly, I won’t complain about there being no more gigs this year for me if the trade-off is me, my family and friends all stay safe and well. This disease discriminates against no-one (earlier tonight as I write this, the Prime Minister was hospitalised as a precaution), so my overriding hope is as few people as possible are harmed by this thing. Anything else can wait. I don’t know what will happen next, and it would be a lie to say I’m not concerned or anxious about it. A prediction I’ve seen is that in the UK, we’re going to hit the peak in the next couple of weeks in terms of cases/deaths – so it is probably going to get worse before it gets better.

Stay safe. Be kind.

Monday, 10 February 2020

Three in Three

My first post of the new decade, and it is about live music, who would have thunk it? This weekend, I went to three gigs in three days. I almost started this by saying “this weekend, I rolled back the years to my younger days” but I actually don’t know if I’ve previously done 3 gigs in 3 days before (outside of a festival setting). I know I’ve done two gigs in two days before, but I am not sure about three in three. One of those gigs was close to home, and the others involved a stop in a hotel in London. I was tempted to write a separate post for all 3, and then decided to be lazy and just write one that covers all three gigs. The three gigs were The Menzingers at the Engine Rooms in Southampton, The Interrupters at the O2 Forum in London, and finally Sabaton at the SSE Arena in London - a bit of a mixed bag there you could say (indeed, I am saying that). Anyway, it feels like it makes sense to talk about them in chronological order, and so I will.

The Menzingers - Engine Rooms, Southampton. Thursday 6th February 2020

I bought my ticket for The Menzingers, a gig which happened on Thursday night just a few days before, I remember seeing the listing and thinking I wouldn’t mind going, and then prompted to forget about it until I saw a social media advert for it (they do work, I guess!) The advert prompted me to give their latest album, Hello Exile, another go and I was immediately reminded about how good some of the songs on there are. This, alongside the fact that the ticket was remarkably affordable, and the main support were Spanish Love Songs, was enough to convince me to buy a ticket for this gig. I am very glad I did so. The first band on were Mannequin Pussy, who I thought were pretty decent. Their music was a real mixed bag of genres and song lengths (including a short song which got no response, causing the singer to remind us that not all songs have to be 4 minutes long). Some of the songs towards the end of their set was really abrasive punk, which I liked (I liked it all, but I wasn’t expecting that based on what had been played previously).

The main support and one of the reasons I took the plunge on buying a ticket was Spanish Love Songs. I saw the video for their song Losers a few months ago and thought the song was excellent. They played that song first I think, which was nice. They were excellent. I would love to see them come back and headline (and given the number of people in the room when they came on, they could probably play the same venue and have a decent turnout). Of course, if they wanted to come back and play a slightly smaller venue, I think they would be great at the Wedgewood Rooms in Portsmouth (yes I am biased as it is up the road, but I reckon that would be a good night).

Anyhow, the main reason I was in the room was The Menzingers and they did not disappoint. From start to finish, they were on top form. I’m not an aficionado on the band, but they seemed to play a good mix of their back catalogue whilst heavily featuring the new album, which was cool. The highlight for me was the song that got me into them, America (You’re Freaking Me Out), followed by I Don’t Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore. They even threw in a cover of The Clash - Death or Glory, which was nice. As I said earlier, this was a late call to go to this gig, and it is one I am glad I made.

The Interrupters - O2 Forum, London. Friday 7th February 2020

Up in the big smoke for gig 2 of 3, and this was, before the weekend, the gig I was probably looking forward to the most. The Interrupters were one of the best bands I saw at festivals last year (indeed, in my end of year blog, they were only topped by Tool). I didn’t check out much by either of the support bands before going in, and to be honest I think if I had I would have stayed in the pub longer. The supports were Buster Shuffle and The Skints. Of the two, I preferred Buster Shuffle, but I have to be honest I wasn’t really into either of them. It would be boring if we all liked the same things!

The Interrupters, mind, were bloody great. They played every song of theirs that I love, which was always going to help my enjoyment of their set. I am also pleased to report their cover of Billie Eilish’s song Bad Guy is better live than the studio version, which I wasn’t that into. The Interrupters were great from start to finish, and I am glad to have seen a headline show of theirs. It will be interesting to see when they are back, as they said this tour was the end of the world tour for their third album. One wonders if they are off to do another album soon.

The sad thing for me is that the bulk of my chat post gig has been about not really liking the supports, rather than liking the main band. It shouldn’t be that way, but it has been. Let’s put a full stop on that negativity and end on a high - The Interrupters were banging!

Sabaton - The SSE Arena, London. Saturday 8th February 2020

Right, before getting into the gig, boy did I have a hangover which stayed with me all day on Saturday. I wouldn’t recommend it, kids! Anyway, I hadn’t seen Sabaton properly since the first time I saw them at Wacken 2013 (when they were outstanding). I saw a smidge of them at Download 2014, but they clashed with Volbeat, and I love heart eyes emoji Volbeat so I didn’t see much Sabaton. I am not sure now why I didn’t go see them play Southampton Guildhall with Alestorm in 2016 - my immediate thought is the venue in question played a part in that. No matter! The bill this time round was really good, with Apocalyptica and Amaranthe. Luckily, for my hungover ass, I booked a seating ticket for this one.

Amaranthe opened the night and, for the most part, I thought they were great. I really loved their first EP and first two albums, somewhat liked the third album and just lost touch with them since then. They played a good mixture of their stuff and aye, I thought they had a great set. It was cool when they played Amaranthine, and the fans in the venue lit up their phones to add to the atmosphere. Apocalyptica were up next and I was a bit nervous about their set, I last saw them at Wacken 2014, when they played with a full orchestra, and I thought the set was really dull. This impacted my direct enjoyment of them when I saw them the year after at Download because I kept thinking about that set, and just walked off after a couple of songs. I wondered if that set at Wacken would pop into my head again while they were on stage. I am pleased to say it didn’t. It was cool to hear them cover Seemann by Rammstein (with Elise from Amaranthe on vocals). Elise stayed out there with them for I Don’t Care as well, which was also cool. The end of their set, which featured two Metallica songs, and Hall of the Mountain King was a quality way for their set to end. Thumbs up for Apocalyptica - I very much enjoyed their set.

From where I was sat, I could see the stage show being built for Sabaton and my word, they did a cool job of the war themed stage, tank and all. Wacken 2013 was the benchmark I had for a Sabaton live show and in my mind, that was a high bar to clear. I am pleased to report that Sabaton cleared it and then some! The set, including 6 songs where Apocalyptica were back on stage with them, was superb. I already mentioned how the show looked, but there was a lot of pyro and fireworks (things which I quite like in a big live show). Opening the main set with Ghost Division, and then opening the encore with Primo Victoria was outrageous behaviour (the sort of behaviour I encourage, though!) In short, Sabaton knocked it out the park.

Photos of all three gigs (as well as a tree which was blown over by the wind, I assume) can be found on my Instagram (which is my way of saying I hadn't downloaded them from my phone when I posted this) 

And that was three gigs in three days. I am more than glad I went to all three. I am not in a hurry to do 3 in 3 days again though. Nor am I in a hurry to have a hangover again after the one on Saturday. I am taking a break from going to gigs for a while now. By break, I mean my next one is Thursday, when I dive into Southampton to see Loathe. I’ve been listening to their new album as I wrote this, and it is very good.

Sunday, 29 December 2019

A Decade In Live Music - Favourite Gigs

I signed off my 2019 -A Year In Live Music blog saying I would likely knock something together as a best of the decade type affair. That is what I have done with these posts (there is another one nearby this one for best gigs). How I am going to do this is go over all the lists I’ve knocked together and try and drag out the best ones for two lists – favourite festival sets of the decade, and favourite gigs of the decade. I’ve decided to split the two lists into two posts (end of the decade isn’t the sort of thing that comes around every 5 years y’know!) Without further ado – the list!


To determine this list, I’ve gone back through all the old end of year lists I’ve made of gigs and make a long list of all the ones that I would consider for a best of the decade list. I narrowed it down (!) to 40+ possible gigs and have extracted 15 from there to make the top 15. Because, as with the festival sets list, there were so many that could have made the top 15 of the decade, it felt wrong not to include the ones that made the long list as honourable mentions. As such, here they are (broken down into the years they took place).
Honourable Mentions:

2010 – My Chemical Romance (Hammersmith, London), Stone Sour (Dingwalls, London), Rammstein (Manchester).
2011 – Foo Fighters (National Bowl, Milton Keynes), Manic Street Preachers (The O2, London).
2012 – Pulp (Royal Albert Hall, London), Rammstein (The O2, London), The Wildhearts (The Forum, London).
2013 – Eric Clapton (Royal Albert Hall, London), Eureka Machines (The Borderline, London), Muse (Emirates Stadium, London), The Wildhearts (ABC, Glasgow)
2014 – Foo Fighters (Islington Assembly Hall, London).
2015 – Nightwish (Wembley Arena, London), AC/DC (Wembley Stadium, London), Frank Turner (Guildhall, Southampton).
2016 – Billy Joel (Wembley Stadium, London), Clutch (Roundhouse, London), Weezer (Brixton Academy, London)
2017 – Milk Teeth (Joiners, Southampton), Marmozets (Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth), Weezer (Wembley Arena, London), Metallica (Genting Arena, Birmingham).
2018 – Epica (The Forum, London), Ghost (Royal Albert Hall, London), Slayer (Wembley Arena, London), Volbeat (House of Vans, London)
2019 – Cancer Bats (Boileroom, Guildford), Ghost (Wembley Arena, London), Royal Republic (Engine Rooms, Southampton).

15. Zeal & Ardor – The Haunt, Brighton. December 2018

Original Words:
This is a show I’ve wanted to go to since I first listened to the debut album, and immediately had to listen to it again because it was like nothing else I’d ever heard before. This year they released their second album (although I’ve heard the brains behind Zeal and Ardor refer to it as the debut album, with the first one being little more than a demo…either way) and it was bloody great. If I was doing a favourite albums of the year list, it would be in the top 3 probably (having a knife fight with Idles and Ghost). They’ve done 2 London shows before this tour that I’ve been unable to make which has been annoying and, on this tour, I couldn’t make the London show again due to being at the Fireball tour. It was either Brighton and a hotel or missing Z&A again. I found a hotel which was perhaps a 15 second walk away from the venue which was affordable and so, Brighton was a go! I almost didn’t go in to see the support band (was watching the Man in The High Castle) but I am glad I did – blanket were very good.
Zeal and Ardor were fucking great. I had no idea how they would replicate their sound live which added to my excitement of seeing it live. 4 vocalists on stage for the gang chanting which was quite something. The stage at The Haunt was quite small so to see all those people crammed onto it was pretty cool. I loved hearing the first/demo album material, but the new album music live was massive. Also, they played Row Row which I have fully fallen in love with. I will definitely see them live again if the opportunity presents itself. Amazing.

New Words: The chance to see them live sadly has not presented itself to me this year (the band played at least one festival this year in the UK, but one I wasn’t at). I still very much want to see them live again. Not sure if new music is coming, I hope so!

14. Cancer Bats – The Underworld. London. April 2018

Original Words:
Before lobbing superlatives at Cancer Bats, a firm nod of approval should be given to both supports, both of whom were very different to one another, Funeral Shakes being a rock n’ roll band and Death by Stereo being a hardcore punk band. Both were really good though. Gun to my head, I would say I preferred Funeral Shakes but take nothing away from Death by Stereo because they were great.
This show was Cancer Bats playing Hail Destroyer in full. The first time I saw Cancer Bats was in 2009 on what was essentially the Hail Destroyer tour which I remember was a short headline set but it blew me away. 10 years on and they were playing this album in full and it was incredible. I loved hearing the songs that don’t usually get a live airing, alongside all the classics which will regularly find their way into a Cancer Bats set list. I also liked the anecdotes throughout, including one moment where Liam was being very gracious towards the crowd, thanking everyone for their continued support. It was a really nice moment, but then the band launched into Sorceress – which is probably one of the most aggressive from the album. The band kicked off the show with 3 songs from Dead Set on Living, which is no poor way to start a Cancer Bats show. The encore of 2 new songs, Pneumonia Hawk and N.I.B (a Black Sabbath cover) capped off a breath-taking evening. Best CB show I’ve been to? Would certainly be in the top 3.

New Words: Nothing much more to add to this really. The inclusion of this gig was run close by the show I saw this year at the Boileroom in Guildford, but the reason this one won, quite simply, was the set list. Hail Destroyer in full? Just wonderful.

13. Pearl Jam – National Bowl, Milton Keynes. July 2014

Original Words: I fell to sleep during the main support act, which probably says all I need to say about them. Pearl Jam though were magnificent. They were on stage for nearly 3 hours. I had given thought to trying to get near the front but decided instead to sit on the hill instead and watch from a distance. I’m glad I did that as it was an ace experience. The only downside to this gig was of my own doing which was choosing the worst time to go to the toilet. As I entered the urinals, I could hear Pearl Jam start playing Even Flow. Poor call on my part, but then the whole thing was just immense so it was alright in the end.

12. Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls – Guildhall, Portsmouth. February 2014

Original Words: Before talking about how good Frank Turner was, I want to just give a quick tip of the cap in the direction of Flogging Molly, who were the main support for the evening. Had they headlined, I’d have left more than happy and that gig probably would have made this list (perhaps not number 1 but still). They were outstanding and set the bar really quite high. I guess the thing about having supports that set the bar quite high is that it means you really have to do something to be better, and Frank Turner managed it with ease. Picking a setlist covering all of his albums, while still leaning heavily on his latest release Tape Deck Heart, he pretty much played the perfect setlist as far as I’m concerned. For some of these entries, I’ve picked highlights but really, this was all just superb. So good in fact I was actually a little bit gutted when I couldn’t make the September tour which took in towns he doesn’t normally play

New Words: Similar to the Cancer Bats entry, I knew a Frank Turner gig would make this list, but which one? All of the headline shows I’ve been to have been excellent. In the end, this decision was taken for a number of reasons, including it being the first headline show of Frank’s that I went to, the set list being bloody good (I mean, they all usually are) and Flogging Molly in support, who I would probably suggest are the best support band I’ve seen this decade. Maybe that’ll be another list? Probably not though.

11. Avantasia – The Forum, London. March 2016

Original Words:
I’d seen Avantasia twice before this night, both times headlining Wacken festivals and both times they were my band of the festival. I did not anticipate they would play a UK headline show and this view was reinforced when Team Rock Radio were plugging Bloodstock Open Air in 2013 and mentioned just about every band playing apart from Avantasia – who were sub-headlining the Saturday night. One of the publications that fall under the banner of Team Rock, Metal Hammer, when reviewing the festival wrote something like apart from the 500 diehards there, no-one could care less – can’t imagine why that could be. Anyway, fan boy annoyance aside (not least as I couldn’t make that show), when a headline show was announced, I snapped up a ticket immediately.

It was “an evening with” set up in that there was no support band. Doors opened at 7, Avantasia came on at 8. The new material from Ghostlights worked so well live as did all my old favourites that I had seen previously at Wacken. Tobias Sammet was only not on stage for 3 of the 24 songs of the night (sadly, two of them are my favourites but no matter) which is pretty damn impressive. It was everything I hoped it would be and then some. Looking back at the set list from that night now, I’m really struggling to not say “all of it!” were I to be asked about the highlight – and that to me is the sign of a great gig. I’ve spoken about this gig without once giving mention to Michael Kiske. My favourite Avantasia songs that have more than one singer usually feature him, and he was so good during this gig. That isn’t to say the other singers and musicians weren’t great, because they all were. I think the thing which made it gig of the year for me was seeing this music that I absolutely love in such an intimate setting, given the context of the previous times I had seen them. They were always great at Wacken, but this was just something else. I remember watching their first live DVD, and there was a clip of them playing a venue in Argentina the size of The Forum. I remember wishing they would do something similar in London, and speculating just how incredible it would be (and then being annoyed because it would never happen). It did, and it was (and then some).

New Words: Nothing more to add really. This show was immense.

10. Metallica – The O2 Arena, London. October 2017

Original Words: Picking between two Metallica gigs in one year is like picking your favourite child (I guess, being childless I’m not quite sure if that is true). I felt it would be cheating to have them tied for the same place (which in prep for this, I noted I did in a previous year for Frank Turner gigs – but there were a lot more to pick from in 2015 – probably). Anyhow, Kvelertak are a band that need crystal clear sound live for people to hear just how good they are. Alas, this was not to be on this night (or at the Birmingham gig, so I’m guessing they made the best of what they could have). Metallica though, I mean, damn. I really like most of their latest album, and the stuff they played from it was just great – especially Moth Into Flame. The older material was, as ever, stunning. One of the best bits of this gig for me was going with a mate who had never seen Metallica before. When the band had just finished One, he looked at me and said, “that was awesome!” to which I replied “well, it is about to get better” with a shit-eating grin on my face. Just as he asked how, the band kicked into Master of Puppets. That, that’s how!

New Words: I actually ranked the Birmingham gig in the 2017 gig of the year above this one, and on reflection I would swap them round. This was my favourite Metallica gig (excluding festival headline slots) of the decade I think simply because of what I refer to in the original words – being at the gig with someone who had never seen Metallica and wanted to for years. Just every now and then exchanging looks which didn’t require the words, but were saying “this is fucking good!” Full disclosure, I almost had the

9. Rage Against The Machine – Finsbury Park, London. June 2010

Original Words: The effort that went into this gig was quite something. It all started from the race for Christmas No1 in 2009; would it be X-Factor or RATM? Well, as we all know it was RATM that won the day in the end. They announced during the campaign that should they win, they would hold a victory party in London which included them playing a gig. Now, I’d have been up for this anyway because I love RATM, but it was also free. Now not only did this spark my interest but also seemingly most of the damn country! Getting tickets was a thankless two hour epic but we got there in the end. The actual gig was awesome in that there were loads of people outside asking if they can “buy tickets” for this gig that’s a) free; and b) has tickets that have individual photos of the ticket holder on.

Anyway! We arrived in time to see Gogol Bordello. They were pretty damn good actually – a very fun band. If memory serves, I remember thinking their set got a bit long after a while. They were good but it was a touch repetitive by the end. Annoyingly, I can’t accurately confirm what I thought at the time because apparently I didn’t review the gig, oh well. RATM were superb though which made everything good. The pre-show cartoon introduction from Simon Cowell was hilarious. Testify is such a good song for them to open with. The set was quite different to the one I saw in Germany as well so that was quite cool. I now love White Riot by The Clash because of this gig. Before the last song (Killing in the Name – like I really needed to type that), they played a clip of McElderrys song which got heavily booed. The song purchasing statistics came up which showed that not only did RATM win, they won by a wide margin. With the words “YOU MADE HISTORY!” on the big screens, Killing in the Name started. Excellent

New Words: Not a lot to add really. I saw a fake poster which very much suggested a RATM tour in 2020. It was a fake but apparently RATM are going to be back. Would that mean a UK show/shows? I hope so. I think it would be great if they did another open air gig similar to Finsbury Park. A new album would also be nice (although in the spirit of honesty, I didn’t listen to any of Prophets of Rage). 

8. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band – The Ricoh Arena, Coventry. June 2016

Original Words: Going to this gig ticked a box for me, in that I’d wanted to see Springsteen live for quite a while but never got round to doing so. I have spoken to a number of people about his live shows and every review was glowing. My parents, who had seen him once before this gig, said they didn’t know exactly what was going on (he played Darkness on the Edge of Town in full), but they could tell it was something special. This gig just happened to fall on my Mum’s birthday, so I went to visit them and we all went to see Springsteen together. In the US, he had been touring the album The River. I was a bit disappointed when that didn’t happen in Europe but not so disappointed that it took anything away from the gig.

No support band for this one, but one wasn’t needed. Springsteen and his band played for about 3 hours I think, maybe slightly longer. All of the reports I had heard set my bar pretty high for this gig – that bar was surpassed and then some. The whole gig from start to finish was just great – even when songs were being played that I didn’t know, I didn’t feel bored, waiting for one I wanted to see/knew. One thing which impressed me is just how well prepared the band were for the fan requests. They played three fan requests – and one of them was a song rarely played live. Now, they might have ballsed it up for all I know about the song in question – but based on the crowd reaction to it, it didn’t seem that way. They played a few cover songs throughout the course of the evening, the highlight being Because The Night, a Patti Smith song. The overall gig highlight for me was when they played several in quick succession that I loved – Born In The USA, Born To Run and Dancing In The Dark – outstanding stuff. I went to this gig, as said above, to tick a box but I would 100% go and see them again.

New Words: There hasn’t been a UK tour since this one. Would definitely go again if I could.

7. David Gilmour – Royal Albert Hall, London. September 2016

Original Words: I wrote a full review. Click here for that

New Words: I ended that blog by saying I’m not going to say which gig out of David Gilmour or Roger Waters I preferred. By the virtue of this list existing, and both gigs being on it (spoiler alert), I guess I have gone back on what I said originally. Sorry 2016 Mike!

6. Guns N’ Roses – London Stadium, London. June 2017

Original Words: I wrote a full review. Click here for that

New Words: Turns out GnR did come back the next year to headline Download. They are also back next summer. As things stand, I won’t be at that gig. I was at this one though, and it was bloody ace.

5. Rammstein – Stadium MK, Milton Keynes. July 2019

Original Words: This show had everything. Rammstein are an immense live band without the show, and I am sure that if they just turned up, played their songs and left, then everyone in attendance would have a lovely time. However, the show they bring with them just takes it to another level. This tour was the biggest they’ve ever done, and the show (as a result) was the biggest show they’ve ever done. It was incredible the amount they pulled off. I was worried when I saw how much of their new album they were playing live (it is an excellent album, another one in the conversation of my favourite of the year), but I needn’t have worried as the songs just fit in perfectly. It wasn’t until some days after the gig that I remembered they didn’t play Feuer Frei! – and I love that song! It is possible that next year’s list is already wrapped up as well, because Rammstein are bringing this tour back to Europe again in 2020, and I’ll be at the Coventry date, this time in the golden circle. I’ve no idea how different the show will be this time, but I am looking forward to finding out!

New Words: I mean, I wrote these words just the other week. The only additional information I have to offer you is that, for the 2020 tour, the piano duo are supporting again, which I guess means the show will be quite similar to the one this year.

4. Volbeat – Telia Parken, Copenhagen. August 2017

Original Words: I wrote about this gig as part of a blog I wrote about my Copenhagen break. You can read that here. Additionally: “However, some 4 months after this gig has taken place and the reason it is number one is because it was everything I hoped it would be, and then some. The support package of Amorphis and Flogging Molly were brilliant – Flogging Molly especially. It was great to see a filling stadium be won over by how good they are. Volbeat though were on another level. It was just awesome to see a Volbeat show of this magnitude. The setlist was excellent and personally, would have just wanted more to be added rather than anything to be cut. There aren’t many headline bands that would get me to step on a plane to go and see them, but Volbeat are now one of them. I would 100% go back to mainland Europe to see a Volbeat show of this magnitude again.”

New Words: Since this gig, I’ve seen Volbeat twice, both in London. One gig was in the 600 capacity House of Vans and the other at Brixton Academy (a 5000-cap venue, which they sold out). Thinking back on it all now, it is still very strange that these two shows barely make up 10% of the crowd at the Telia Parken that day. Since that gig, I have the show on Blu Ray and it is a bit good.

3. Nine Inch Nails – Royal Albert Hall, London. June 2018

Original Words: I so wanted to see them at the Royal Festival Hall as part of the Meltdown festival they were playing one night of. I couldn’t get tickets and that was a real shame. When this one at the Royal Albert Hall got announced, I was a bit more hopeful I would get a ticket and was successful. Black Moth Super Rainbow opened this gig, continuing the pattern of me not really liking bands that open for Nine Inch Nails (in fact, there has only been one I’ve genuinely liked). This was my first time seeing NIN since they were over here in 2014 and I had forgotten just how good they are live. Some of the new material from the 3 EPs released in the last 2 years or so are just massive live, and the cool thing for me about the setlist was that because of this new material, almost half the set was made up of songs I’d not seen them play live before. I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen NIN quite a few times at this stage, and this gig could be the best NIN show I’ve been to. It is certainly in the conversation that is for sure. Part of the reason for this must be the fact it was at the Royal Albert Hall. Previously, whenever I’ve been to the Royal Albert Hall, I’ve been in the gallery standing area. I’ve been fine with this because usually, these are the cheapest tickets. I’ve often wondered if being lower down is worth the money. To stand on the floor for this one I think cost £20-25 more, and to answer that question – it was certainly worth it. My word was it worth it. It got me thinking of other gigs I’ve seen there, and I can now see why people would pay more to sit down there for most things (I’ve wondered since how much more I would have enjoyed Pulp and David Gilmour there, had I been downstairs). That band and that venue fit together perfectly.

2. Roger Waters – Wembley Stadium, London. September 2013

Original Words: Something special is certainly one way to put this gig! I booked this ticket I think in November 2012 and as the day was getting closer, I was getting more and more excited. I was going to see a member of Pink Floyd live and not only that, I was going to see him perform one of the classic Pink Floyd albums in full – The Wall. I’d heard from several people about how superb the arena tour of The Wall was and I couldn’t wait to see it. I’d heard from different people a rumour that the stage would run along the touchline of Wembley rather than one of the ends like a standard stadium show. That was not to be but the stage was bigger than your usual stadium show. I remember standing on the pitch in anticipation, excited but hoping I hadn’t got my hopes too high and would be disappointed. During the first song ‘In The Flesh?’ there were fireworks, explosions and a rigged plane flew over the top of the crowd and on to the stage. It was at this point I knew I would not be disappointed. I could now go into intricate details about the gig and what happened but I’m not writing a review here. I also wouldn’t do the show justice. In fact, there is very little I could say to do this show justice. At the time I could say little more than “wow” and on reflection, I think that probably the best word for it. Aside from hearing my favourite songs from that album, I just loved all the visual effects used in the show. The band Roger Waters assembled for the gig (I’m guessing his regular band) were just excellent. The personal highlights for me song wise were ‘Another Brick In The Wall (Part Two)’, ‘Mother’, ‘Young Lust’, ‘Hey You’, ‘Comfortably Numb’, ‘Run Like Hell’ and ‘The Trial’.  The whole gig was immense and made the decision of what was my favourite gig in 2013 an easy one to make.

New Words: Sorry again 2016 Mike for ranking this against the Gilmour RAH gig. Two very different gigs, but this had The Wall in Wembley Stadium – which was just incredible.

1. System of a Down – Wembley Arena, London. April 2015

Original Words: This was my second time seeing System of a Down. I loved their headline set at Download despite almost every review I’ve seen in the years after saying it was lacklustre. This gig however was far from lacklustre. I could spend time writing every superlative I know about this gig and it still wouldn’t seem appropriate. I’ll just write one for now, it was phenomenal. They played for over 2 hours, playing a 35 song set. As far as dream System of a Down setlists go, this one was as close as I’m sure I’ll ever get to see. But to see them again, and see them just be amazing, was the best moment of 2015 for me in terms of live music. If they release new music and tour, I’m sure I will try to go – but I’m not sure they would be capable of topping this gig for me. I never got to see them play at the Astoria in London (I’ve been told these gigs were something special), but this for me was something very special. Also, Holy Mountains is a fantastic set opener. I had goose bumps from the second it started.

New Words: System of a Down played at Download 2017, and are playing again at Download 2020. I didn’t go in 2017 and am not going in 2020. Seeing SOAD at this gig for me was as close to perfect as I am going to get – and I am happy with this being the last time I see the live. Unless of course, there is a new album and tour that comes with it.

And that, as they say, is that. It has been a pretty damn fine decade of gigs. As can be seen by the amount that made the honourable mentions list, as well as the top 15, I was lucky enough to be able to go to some pretty damn awesome shows. Looking into the calendar for 2020, I currently have a few fun ones lined up including The Bellrays, InMe, Slipknot, The Interrupters, Sabaton, Frank Turner, Employed To Serve, Evanescence/Within Temptation, Faith No More, Green Day/Fall Out Boy/Weezer and Nightwish. I am sure there will be more added to that list, but the next decade is getting off to a good start in terms of gig attendance.