As September starts, it is reminder that the summer has come to an end and sadly that means so has my summer, which was pretty busy. This has been arguably the best summer I’ve had since I’ve started going to festivals. I went to a number of different festivals and saw a number of bands. The question I have been asked occasionally is “who was the best?” That is a very tough question but I am going to deal with it now the best way I know how. I will list the top 10 of what I have seen, justifying their place on the list. The list will compromise of bands only. I am discounting the comedy and spoken word sets I have seen. The bands on the list are all ones in the various reviews I have posted to this blog scored a 10 rating.
Before dealing with all the positivity of the best 10 of summer 2011, the negative aspects must be dealt with as well. The first list is the worst of 2011. This list is made up not just based on ratings but on personal feelings of disappointment as well. The second list is the bands I didn’t see that I wanted to and why I didn’t
The Worst of 2011:
• The Hot Rats (supporting Foo Fighters) – Rule one for a covers band, do good covers. This band was mediocre at best.
• Mambo Kurt (Wacken) – I said in the review that I fully accept that the majority of people who saw him loved him, so it must just be me that doesn’t get it.
• Exquisite Pus (Wacken) – Emulating Job for a Cowboy in your music is just like shagging your sister – DON’T FUCKING DO IT!
• Crashdiet (Wacken) – Big ole’ bag of dull.
• Mayhem (Wacken) – Big ole’ bag of shit! I don’t like the band, I’ve since decided. But their set just got painful as it went on.
• The Offspring (Reading) – Performance wise not poor, but they just weren’t interested, which sucked.
• 30 Seconds to Mars (Reading) – Not a fan of them anyway, but they were also pretty dull.
• Warpaint (Reading) – The worst band of the summer. So awfully dull.
The Ones That Got Away 2011:
• Bowling For Soup Acoustic (Download) – Damn you Dan Reed for being on stage before them and sucking enjoyment out of the entire arena. I needed good music, and fast so I had to get out of there!
• Alice Cooper (Download) – System of a Down was on. Enough said
• Weezer (Sonisphere) – Wanted to make sure my headache had passed before heading to see Ginger
• Gojira (Sonisphere) – Headache was still present after Ginger so left the arena
• Watain (Sonisphere) – See Gojira
• Hamatom (Wacken) – Decided at the last minute to see Mayhem. MISTAKE!
• Bedouin Soundclash (Reading) – They can’t have been as fucking bad as Warpaint....surely?!
That is all the negativity dealt with. Now it is time for the very best. There were 22 bands that scored a 10 who are eligible for this list (Motorhead at Wacken discounted due to me not being in the arena and listening from the tent). The ones which did not make the top 10 are Down (Download), Richard Cheese, Ginger Wildheart, Volbeat, Alestorm (Sonisphere), Hayseed Dixie, Sirenia, Skindred, Iced Earth, Kreator (Wacken), Does It Offend You Yeah and Noah and the Whale (Reading). It was a very tough call to cut some of them when trying to get the best 10. I went back and forth over the no.10 slot as well and truthfully, a number of these bands filled it at one point, however eventually losing out. They were all superb, but this is about the very best 10 – so let’s get to it.
10 – TRIVIUM – WACKEN OPEN AIR 2011
Trivium makes the list simply because they were superb. As a live act, they were noticeably tighter than they were the previous year when I saw them. Performance wise, they were flawless and they dealt with being on the main stage for their Wacken debut very well. They played some songs from their new album which was all fantastic while mixing their set list up – dropping former favourites and closing out in a new way. Trivium did everything right in this set, and it would be hard to deny them a spot in the top 10. It was the best time out of 6 that I’ve ever seen Trivium, and that justifies their spot on this list.
9 – PULP – READING FESTIVAL 2011
Pulp did everything a festival headliner should do. They delivered a strong performance, backed up by an even stronger stage show. When it comes to this genre of music, the stage show can really add to the overall enjoyment of the set. The atmosphere for them was one which few bands can replicate live. Seeing Pulp live is an experience I am happy to have had.
8 – MADNESS – READING FESTIVAL 2011
This was just complete and utter fun. Here is this band that my dad saw before I was born on stage, playing mostly classic songs and creating a party feel. From the opening lines of One Step Beyond, some people didn’t stop dancing. Part of the reason Madness are on this list is nostalgia – it was great fun hearing songs I love like Baggy Trousers and Our House live. The rest of the reason is simply that they are still absolutely kill on stage.
7 – JUDAS PRIEST – WACKEN OPEN AIR 2011
I wasn’t going to include these at first as their set did get off to a slow start. We saw 3 songs before heading off to catch Sirenia and only one was good (Metal Gods). When we came back though, Priest had changed gears and were absolutely superb. Everything from when we came back to the last note in Living After Midnight was fantastically flawless. The end of their set alone gets them a place on this list. It is as if they got together, chose my favourite 7 Judas Priest songs, and played them back to back. Utterly outstanding they were.
6 – SLIPKNOT – SONISPHERE FESTIVAL 2011
This set from Slipknot got everything right. It combined aggression with raw emotion over the passing of Paul Gray. It combined a tight live performance with a fierce stage show. A superb set list always helps a set and this truly was great. The atmosphere benefited from the weather – as Slipknot were playing, sheets of rain drenched the crowd. It was quite a sight seeing that stage show amongst sheets of rain. If this is the last tour I’ll see Slipknot on, it was a hell of a way to go out.
5 – SYSTEM OF A DOWN – DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL 2011
Seeing System has been something which I have wanted to do since 2005. So when they went on hiatus in 2005 that was upsetting. As the years went on, it didn’t look like I would see SOAD all together (I saw Serj Tankian solo, which was good). Then rumours started flying round they would tour in 2011, and they did. I almost didn’t go and that would have been a terrible mistake. They were superb. The setlist had pretty much everything I wanted to hear in it and they were technically superb. They got 5Ks from Kerrang but a 6 from Metal Hammer, saying they were technically superb but lacked on-stage chemistry. I really don’t think this took away from how fantastic it was to see SOAD live. They have been removed from my bucket list of bands and added to the “oh fuck they were splendid” pile.
4 – METALLICA – SONISPHERE FESTIVAL 2011
Anyone who knows me might be slightly surprised to see Metallica so low down on this list. Indeed, it was a tough call to put them 4th, especially considering they turned up as a part of the Big Four and played a stunning set list. Was this the best I’ve seen Metallica out of the 8 times? No. Was it top 3? Absolutely. The jam with the Big 4 and the guitarist from Diamond Head playing Am I Evil will be a favourite memory of mine when I look back at the times I’ve seen Metallica live. Plus on top of everything else, they played BATTERY!
3 – FOO FIGHTERS – MK BOWL, MILTON KEYNES 2011
I saw them in February. I knew what they were capable of live. They are a stunning live band. What I didn’t know was how much better they were when playing a massive gig. Wembley Arena was big, MK Bowl was massive. Not only were they superb technically, but they kept it going for over 2.5 hours. They had special guests and cover songs filling a set crammed packed with everyone’s favourite Foo Fighters songs. The new album material just glides into the set list perfectly. That plus a decent but not overdone stage show equalled a superb gig. Only actual gig I’ve been to this summer, and it was fantastic.
2 – MUSE – READING FESTIVAL 2011
Everyone I’ve ever spoken to about Muse live has good things to say. I spoke to a complete Muse fan boy who simply said “you have to see them to understand”. I now understand. Performance wise, they were pretty much perfect. The stage show was out of this world as well. I’ve not seen a better stage show other than Rammstein (hey, I’m a sucker for pyro). Massive tuning forks coming out the stage in the style of Origin of Symmetry with a constantly changing video screen backdrop. Playing the album “Origin of Symmetry” in full caught a lot of people off-guard when it was announced I think but they pulled it off superbly and when they finished it, just played massive song one after another. It was exceptional how simple they made it look. That is another one off the bucket list.
1 – AVANTASIA – WACKEN OPEN AIR 2011
Words cannot describe, even now, how excited I was when the slot machine graphic showed Avantasia’s logo. There was a curtain across the stage (which is one of my favourite ways for a band to start, SOAD did it as well) and from behind it, the opening bars of “Twisted Mind” emerged. The atmosphere from then until the end was electric but also constantly changing. From sheer excitement to 60k+ people all swaying in unison, it was a fun crowd to be a part of. As for the band? It was unbelievable seeing them pull off this project live. For those that don’t know, Avantasia isn’t just a straight band – it is a vast number of musicians and seeing it all in front of me was amazing. The set list was pretty much perfection. Since the gig, I’ve got their set list as a regular playlist and I still listen back and think it was incredible. I can’t list the best moments as it was all stunning. I’m sad to say that it was the last show (or it was announced as the last one, who really knows) but I was there. Getting the chance to see them made my Wacken festival. Seriously though, fuck you Corvus Corax for being so bad in 2008 that I left the arena and missed Avantasia. You have a lot to fucking answer for! Don’t think I’ll ever forgive them for that.
That is my top 10. It was a tough list and looking back over the bands that didn’t make the top 10, all it says to me is that I had a fucking good summer. Now that summer has finished, it is time to look forward. I didn’t go to many gigs before the festivals this year (5 to be exact). However the end of the year is pretty damn busy gig wise! I am pleased about this. Upcoming for me on the live music front is the following:
• Evile @ The Talking Heads, Southampton
• The Answer @ The Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth
• Volbeat @ HMV Forum, London
• Fozzy @ The Talking Heads, Southampton
• Rise Against @ Guildhall, Southampton
• Alter Bridge @ MEN Arena, Manchester
• Dimmu Borgir @ Academy 3, Manchester (to be confirmed tomorrow)
• Every Time I Die @ The Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth
• Ginger Wildheart @ The Talking Heads, Southampton
• Manic Street Preachers @ The O2 Arena, London
I can’t wait for what will be a very good conclusion to this year, when it comes to live music.