Friday, 21 December 2012

Best of 2012


At the end of 2011, I said to myself I really should start to cut down on the amount of gigs I go to. I love live music but there’s only so much a man of my means can afford. In 2010, I went to 11 gigs (and a festival). In 2011, I went to 16 gigs (and 3 weekend festivals and one day at Download). In 2012, I went to 35 gigs (and 2 weekend festivals). So much for cutting back! I’ve made the same objective for 2013, I suspect it’ll be a lot easier to cut back from 35 but we shall see I guess. Previous “best gig” lists that have appeared on this blog have appeared in different forms. The 2011 post was top 5 gigs and top 5 festival slots. This post will be more extensive as it will be top 10 gigs from 2012 and in a separate list, the top 10 bands from their festival slots from this year as well.

Top 10 Gigs 2012

Going to 35 gigs and narrowing it down to 10 is really quite tough. There are a number of gigs that almost made it in the top 10. The following list is in chronological order – the honourable mentions.
·         Edguy – O2 Islington Academy, London 04/02/2012
·         Skindred/Therapy? – O2 Brixton Academy, London 13/04/2012
·         Cancer Bats – Relentless Garage (Upstairs), London 21/04/2012
·         Ginger Wildheart – Club Academy, Manchester 02/06/2012
·         Halestorm – Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth 30/09/2012
·         Alice Cooper – Bournemouth International Centre, Bournemouth 27/10/2012
·         Billy Talent – Pyramids Centre, Portsmouth 16/11/2012
·         Therapy? – Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth 06/12/2012
All of those gigs were really good, but the top 10 gigs of 2012 for me were really quite special. In reverse order, this is my top 10. If I have written a review about them, I will copy and paste from the review. If I haven’t, I will write a short blurb on my memories from the gig. I’ve been a bit lax this year writing reviews so I suspect a lot of my words will be new.

10.          Black Stone Cherry – Concorde 2, Brighton 12/07/2012

In preparation for a couple of festival slots, Black Stone Cherry played a handful of small gigs in the UK and one of them was in Brighton at the Concorde 2. They played their festival set with a few extras thrown in as it was a headline show. I first saw BSC in 2007 at the Wedgewood Rooms and they were superb that night, and they are just getting better and better as a live band and this was evident when watching them in the Concorde 2. The atmosphere was electric throughout the entire show (aside from maybe when they played “Things My Father Said” but considering the song, that does make sense). The set closed out on a cover of Muddy Waters “Hoochie Coochie Man”, “Blame It On The Boom Boom” and “Lonely Train” which was an excellent end to a superb gig. I’d be very surprised to see Black Stone Cherry in that size venue again, and I’m sure the intimate nature of this gig is one of the reasons I have included it in the top 10.

9.             Judas Priest – Hammersmith Apollo, London 26/05/2012

This gig was the second time I had caught Judas Priest on the Epitaph tour. The first time was at Wacken 2011 where I thought they started off quite slow but improved vastly after I returned to watching them (took a break to see Sirenia). I had concerns that it would be same this time that they would start slow. Before Judas Priest though, it was Saxon. Saxon had about an hour set which I thought was quite generous for a support slot but I was pleased with it. I was even more pleased with the fact that Saxon’s set was stunning. I’d seen them previously but never were they as good as they were on this day (they somehow managed to top this set at Wacken 2012). Judas Priest had to do something quite special in order to better Saxon, and put simply, they managed it without struggling. I wondered at the time whether being indoors suits Judas Priest better than being at a festival as there was no slow start this time. This set was essentially a best of Judas Priest set and it was outstanding. One thing which irked me at Wacken happened again at Hammersmith though. The crowd taking over vocal duties on “Breaking The Law”. I like that song, I’d quite like to hear Rob Halford sing it! Despite having to leave early, what I saw of this gig earned it a spot in the top 10. A superb Saxon and even better Judas Priest? Excellent night of live rock!

8.             Pulp – Royal Albert Hall, London 31/03/2012

I think from a personal perspective, Pulp had an awful lot to do in order to save this gig. Cat’s Eyes were the support and I think I drifted off to sleep (impressive considering I was standing). Pulp, however, were superb. Seeing Pulp indoors made for a better environment than seeing them at Reading (even though that set was also superb). It was also cool to hear them play some different songs than they did at Reading. One thing I remember very well from this gig was a moment of crowd participation. As everyone entered the Royal Albert Hall, we were handed key rings in the shape of a guitar with the Teenage Cancer Trust logo on. These key rings were also torches. I thought nothing of it at the time but during one of the songs, all the lights in the Hall were switched off and everyone with a key ring switched on their torches, making it look like there were stars all over the venue. It was a really cool moment. The gig finished on Disco 2000 which is my favourite Pulp song, so I was happy with that.

7.             Guns N’Roses – Manchester Arena, Manchester 29/05/2012

GnR were superb. I am so glad that they were as good as they were. I really like GnR and I hated the fact the only things I could say about the one time that I’d seen them live were bad. I can now turn around to people and say that GnR are well worth your money and time, which they are. I've seen people ask why fans still support Axl Rose and buy into his self-perceived idea of how a "rock star" should behave. I was one of those people. Now I get it. Last night’s show was outstanding. Axl Rose was near 100% in terms of his voice and how good he sounded which was a main concern of mine. Within 2 songs that concern was gone.  I think I mentioned it earlier but there was only one song where I thought his vocals didn’t hold up, and that was during the quick part of You Could Be Mine. One small part of one song from a 3 hour set – oh well. All in, it was a superb gig. I still don't like the need for the extended solos (I've no problem with the band members solo songs with them on vocals). I also still don't think starting a gig at 11.10pm is a good thing. I really enjoyed the gig and would pay to go see them again (but again, the clouds would have to align in order for me to be able to do it). I felt like I was gambling on seeing GnR after Download 2006, and I now feel like that gamble paid off. Now, I know that seeing them at their own show is a safe bet for a great night/early morning.

6.             Rammstein – O2 Arena, London 24/02/2012

This gig was nothing short of outstanding. From the opening entrance through the crowd to the very end it was stunning. The stage show I have done my best to describe but my words alone cannot do it justice. Rammstein's show blows anything else on the live circuit out of the water. Performance wise they were tight as ever. Overall, tonight shows why Rammstein are selling out the O2 Arena. I am beyond happy to have seen this show and this setlist. I will close with some well chosen words from The Quietus, who also discussed the week where the O2 hosted both The Brits and Rammstein (I hope their prediction is correct).


“Above all though, tonight - and indeed Rammstein’s very existence - proves ultimately that if you show people innovation, not contrived homogenised crap, if you show people dedication and talent, not auto-tuned flash-in-the-pans, you can make something of both commercial and artistic value. We won’t be staring at Ed Sheeran’s hair in 12 months time, but we’ll certainly be staring at Til Lindemann’s fake ejaculating penis for at least the next 10 to 15 years.”


5.             Refused – The Forum, London 12/08/2012

Before 2012 started, I knew very little of Refused. I knew the song “New Noise” and the song “Liberation Frequency”. They were announced as second stage headliners for Sonisphere 2012 before it got cancelled and because they were playing a festival I wasn’t going to, I didn’t look into them much. However, Sonisphere got cancelled and they got added on to the Download 2012 line up. I then researched them more and realised how much I liked their stuff. I watched them at Download ahead of seeing Megadeth and before the first song had ended, I knew I made the right decision. I actually remember saying to a friend after seeing the advert for this gig “I probably won’t go” and then saw them at Download and that instantly changed to “ok I’m going to see them in London”. That decision was a good one. The set contained a few more songs than their festival sets but it was still so good. I am hoping they do another reunion tour because even without new material, it would be so worth seeing.

4.             The Wildhearts – The Forum, London 17/12/2012

Before I went in to this gig, I felt it was going to be one of my gigs of the year. I was very late to The Wildhearts party, getting into them early 2008. I saw them on their Chutzpah tour in 2009 and I remember leaving that gig in such a good mood and telling every friend I saw that evening (who hadn’t gone) just how good it was. I remember being gutted that I couldn’t make the Xmess tour in 2009 and then even more so when the band went on hiatus after that. However in 2010, I saw Ginger solo for the first time and that gig was almost as good as my first Wildhearts experience, if not better. Since then, I’ve seen Ginger solo as often as I can afford (including full band and acoustic shows) and at festivals. I’ve never left a Ginger gig disappointed. The only thing I’d not done was attended a birthday show. From what I’ve heard of previous birthday shows, they have long set lists and have varying special guests coming up to do some of their own songs or different ways of doing Ginger/Wildhearts songs. This gig was a birthday show, but a bit different from previous birthday shows. This one had Ginger’s solo band as the support band, and The Wildhearts headlining.

Ginger’s set started with him alone on stage playing the beginning to “Just Another Song About Someone” and band members were coming out one by one to join him and play along with the song. After this opening came the first of two new songs (most of the set was comprised of songs released in 2012, but what I mean is really new songs) from the Ginger/Victoria Liedtke project Hey! Hello! The song was “How I Survived The Punk Wars” which I thought was great anyway but live it is excellent. After this song was a crowd favourite in the form of “Girls Are Better Than Boys”. A triple pack of 555% was up next with “Taste Aversion”, “Forget About It” and “Confusion” and another song from Hey! Hello! – “Swimwear” The set finished up with a cover of Cheap Trick’s “surrender” and a Silver Ginger 5 song – “Sonic Shake”. For these last two songs, the band were joined on stage by Clam Abuse band mate Alex Kane. This was an excellent set. It was great to hear some Hey! Hello! live.

A big black curtain was draped over the stage, and after a short while. The house lights went off and you could hear the opening notes of “Nothing Changes But The Shoes” which was an ace opener. One funny moment did happen when the black curtain came down and took out the microphone stands. It would have been perfectly excusable if the set list was a “best of” from this point onwards but there were a few songs thrown in that I can only assume were unexpected (another song from the first EP was played and a couple of B Sides were played). The absolute highlight of the set for me was the trio of Mazel Tov Cocktail, Caffeine Bomb and Suckerpunch.  The main set closed with “29x The Pain” and “Love U Till I Don’t” which was a superb pair of closing songs before the encore.

The encore kicked off with “Nita Nitro” which was very well received (not that the rest of the set hadn’t been, but the introduction of this song got a very loud roar from the crowd). At the conclusion of this song, Ginger introduced his son Jake on stage and he came out with Ginger’s manager Gav and other people to sing Happy Birthday. After the birthday wishes, The Wildhearts + Jake played “Vanilla Radio” which was awesome. We started to get some more guests on stage at this point. Ginger took over on drums as Kavus Torabi, Chris Catalyst and Dom Lawson came out to play a Cardiacs song (“Is This The Life”) with Jon Poole on vocals. After that, the band covered a Jason & The Scorchers song – “White Lies” with Warner E Hodges from the band joining them on stage. He stayed on stage and was joined by former Wildhearts guitarist Jef Streatfield for a rendition of “My Baby Is A Headfuck”. The solo responsibilities for this song were handed by Warner E Hodges, with Ginger bowing in front of him. For the final song, Warner and Jef stayed on stage and were joined Jake, Rich Jones, Alex Kane, Hot Steve and Victoria Liedtke. The last song was “I Wanna Go Where The People Go” and it was such a superb way to finish what had been a fantastic gig.

3.             Faith No More – Hammersmith Apollo, London 08/07/2012

I remember being really gutted when Faith No More got announced for Sonisphere 2012. I wanted to see them at Download 2009 but couldn’t get the funds together to go. Now they were back on their second leg of their reunion and as they were headlining the Sunday, I wouldn’t be able to go for the day due to work. Also, just thinking about this now, but Refused and FNM close to a festival? My word.  Anyway, Sonisphere 2012 got cancelled and bands that were playing made alternative arrangements. Faith No More announced 2 London gigs including one at Hammersmith Apollo. I arrived at the venue slightly before the support had finished and saw Mike Patton singing with them, so that was kinda cool. The next hour was waiting. I’m not sure if there were technical problems or they waited an hour to build up tension. If it was the latter, it worked because as they came out on stage, the atmosphere was incredible. They worked a snippet of Tom Jones’ “Delilah” into the opening song “Woodpeckers From Mars” which was great and then played “Midlife Crisis”. I had to leave early to make sure I got my train. This gig would have been Number One on the list had I been able to stay until the end and hear them play “We Care A Lot”. Alas.

2.             Green Day – O2 Shepherds Bush Empire, London 23/08/2012

On the 10th August, I had a ticket to see Less Than Jake in a small club in London on the 23rd August. Sometimes announcements are made which make you think twice. Green Day announced they were playing London on the same night. This would have been my first time seeing Green Day so I had to go. I’ve heard nothing but good things about Green Day live so I was excited, despite not knowing what they were going to play (aside from testing some of their new material out). They did test some new material out and it was very good live. Aside from the new material, the rest of the setlist was essentially a best of Green Day set, which I was very happy about. Early on, the set had “Welcome To Paradise”, “Burnout” and “Know Your Enemy” in a row which was ace. I could talk about all the highlights from this gig but I’d probably be here for a very long time. I will mention towards the end they did a jam/melody in which they played “Teenage Kicks”, “Stand By Me” and “Hey Jude” by The Undertones, Ben E King and The Beatles respectively which was ace. Closing out on “American Idiot” and “99 Revolutions” , Green Day signed off triumphantly and it was an outstanding gig. I’m going to see them again next year doing a stadium show, which I’m sure will be superb, but they’ll will have to do something really special to top the intimacy of this show (strange thing to say that a gig held in a 2000 cap venue as intimate, but it was!)

1.             Metallica – Stade De France, Paris 12/05/2012

No words I type can sum up the level of excitement which runs through me as soon as The Ecstasy of Gold starts. 9th time be damned, in that environment, it gives me Goosebumps every time! The famous video finished and the song died down and out on stage were Metallica! I could go now and talk through each song but I will talk about some personal highlights. I love the opening combo of Hit the Lights and Master of Puppets. They are songs you wouldn’t expect to open the set with but it just works. It was the same opening to Sonisphere last year and it’s excellent. On the other European dates before this one, the 3rd song was due to be The Shortest Straw (same as Sonisphere again) which I was fine with. However, as the final notes of Puppets finished, Hetfield came to the microphone again and said “Paris....NO REMORSE!” which was immense as I hadn’t seen that song live since 2008. For Whom the Bell Tolls is always awesome live. The 5th song had been changing up throughout the tour but it seemed to be one of Blackened, Battery or Fight Fire with Fire. I was hoping for Battery but we got something completely unexpected. “From Beyond Magnetic...this is Hell and Back!” I was blown away as I didn’t think I’d ever see a Beyond Magnetic song live but also because I love Hell and Back!

There was a video introducing The Black Album with some facts about the album and some old clips. The whole performance of it was solid. Sandman, as always was superb. It was great hearing stuff off the album I’d never heard live before like The God That Failed, The Struggle Within and Through the Never (specifically). It was great hearing The Unforgiven and Wherever I May Roam as I’d not heard those live in over 5 years. All in all, the Black Album live was stunning. The direct result of going to this gig is that I have a lot more love for the Black Album than I did beforehand. Now, The God That Failed is one of my go-to Metallica songs, when previously it wasn’t.

It was then time for the “encore” which was a minute before a very familiar backing tape started up. After a lot of looks around the crowd to see if everyone could hear what I was hearing, it turned out I wasn’t going mad, and Metallica were about to kick off the encore with Battery! It was absolutely....yeah! I have no words for just how good it was. The band then disappeared and the trademark fireworks went off to signify that One was about to be played. What happened while One played though will stay with me for a long time. There was an absolutely stunning laser show. No, I mean absolutely stunning. I can’t find a good video of it from Paris, so here is one from 
Belgrade. Just mind-blowing. The set finished with the old favourite Seek and Destroy and we all went home a happy bunch of people. See, I said earlier I wasn’t going to talk about every song and I didn’t. I just talked about my highlights. There were a lot of them.

I went to a lot of good gigs and that list was tough. It may not come as a surprise to anyone that has read any gig lists or anything of mine previously that Metallica topped that list. But, here is a list they didn’t top, and that is my top 10 festival sets of 2012. No honourable mentions this time. Just the top 10 with the words copied from the relevant festival reviews.


10.          Anti-Nowhere League – Download 2012

Really didn’t know what to expect from this set and truthfully, only went to see them so I didn’t have to watch all of Steel Panthers set. I’d only heard one song by them and that was the original version of So What. Before they got to So What, which closed the set, they played an absolutely stunning set. They played songs called Streets of London, Woman, I Hate People and We’re The League – all of which were superb. They were a real surprise package for me but I’m so glad to have seen them.

9.             Testament - Wacken 2012

Testament owned the stage. Blasting through several tracks from their brand new album while still playing other newer material and classic songs, this made for a stunning set. Testament is a great live band on their worst day, and this seemed to be one of their best days. Towards the end of their set, they paid tribute to Randy Blythe, lead singer of Lamb of God who has recently been incarcerated in the Czech Republic on charges of manslaughter. By far and away, Testament’s set was the best on Saturday.

8.             Dropkick Murphys – Download 2012

This set was awesome. The sun was starting to drop as they played and it was just a party atmosphere. They are a really fun band to see and I am glad I chose to see them over Soundgarden, who I’ve heard nothing but bad things about. Their cover of AC/DCs TNT was excellent as well

7.             Edguy – Download 2012

This band are just outstanding. This set was only 30mins and they were one of the best bands of the weekend. The atmosphere in the tent was immense. Tobi is another superb front man although his jokes and talking were scaled down a bit (there was a penalties joke and he admitted to being a Bayern Munich fan). All I can really say is they were stunning – come back soon Edguy!

6.             Refused – Download 2012

Absolutely superb. I’ve got nothing bad to say about this set whatsoever. I had listened to some Refused before the set and really liked what I heard but live it is so much better. New Noise was actually stunning.

5.             Dimmu Borgir – Wacken 2012

The main reason for coming back into the arena though was to see something really quite special, as Dimmu Borgir (10) were the main act of the day and they were performing with an orchestra (Czech national if memory serves) and a choir. I saw Dimmu barely fit on a little stage in a 450 capacity room in Manchester, so to see them on such a grand scale was quite something for me. Their music really sounded good when they played with the orchestra and choir. The orchestra/choir also played Dimmu songs without the band which sounded superb as well. All in all, this was a really unique and fantastic set, making symphonic black metal bigger and bolder than it had ever been before.

4.             Saxon – Wacken 2012

Saxon signalled their intentions early on to rock the shit out of Wacken by kicking off with Heavy Metal Thunder. It must be a real challenge for Saxon to put together a setlist for a 90 minute show considering how much material they actually have, and Biff Byford actually said when putting the draft setlist together, they did not include Crusader (which they then played). The set consisted of songs from throughout their legendary career and I often found myself wondering “how is this band not huge in the UK?” It is something I still do not know the answer to. Their 40th anniversary is coming up in 2016. I wouldn’t be shocked to see them back at Wacken for an anniversary show then, if that isn’t the final one. That would also be really cool to be at. 

3.             Metallica – Download 2012

Another superb set from Metallica. They really were outstanding. The setlist was the same structure of the one I saw in Paris (which makes sense as it’s on the same tour) but much like Paris, there was a surprise thrown in there. Song 3 over the tour has been Shortest Straw or Fuel but in Paris we got No Remorse. At Download, we got the tour debut of The Four Horsemen which was immense for me as I hadn’t seen it since Wembley in 2007. The atmosphere in the crowd was electric throughout the entire set which certainly aided the enjoyment of the night. During Nothing Else Matters I joined a circle of random people swaying and signing the song. It was a great moment. I should say at this stage I was using an umbrella as a walking stick, which was in the middle of the circle. A random female used it as a stripper pole and a random man used it as an air guitar – both uses were very funny. I opted to depart at the beginning of One and listened to the rest of the set list on the walk back to the campsite – not because it was bad but because I was in pain. Metallica were on top form at Download and long may they continue coming back to the UK. 

2.             Volbeat – Wacken 2012

I had already booked a ticket for Wacken 2012 long before Volbeat were announced (now I’m thinking about it, long before I’d actually been to their London headline show) so when they were announced in a major slot, I was delighted. Their set consisted of the very best of their material, a new song and some awesome special guests. During 7 Shots, the band were joined by Michael Denner (Mercyful Fate guitarist) and Mille Petrozza which was cool (first time seeing Mille on stage without a guitar!) and for Evelyn, much like when I saw them in London, they were joined on stage by Barney Greenway from Napalm Death. Volbeat are a top quality live band and proved it once again with this set. Michael Poulsen announced that Volbeat had just received a Platinum record for their sales in Germany, which was a cool moment. The set closed on their cover of Dusty Springfield’s I Only Wanna Be With You, Pool of Booze, Booze, Booza and Still Counting. After a quick blast through the intro to Raining Blood, they left the stage triumphantly. It really was an outstanding set from Volbeat

1.             Black Sabbath – Download 2012

I believe the only words I could say during the set were “wow” and “...Black Sabbath!” It was outstanding. Ozzy’s voice sounded better than it was at Wacken, which impressed me as I thought it was good there. The band was just in superb form. There was something so special about seeing Ozzy, Tony and Geezer playing these iconic songs. It could be that I never thought I would see them performed live by Black Sabbath (I’m sure someone will read this and say “Bill Ward wasn’t there!” which is true, he wasn’t. However, he wasn’t missed. At least not by me). When Ozzy first introduced Tony Iommi, the ovation he got was deafening. Throughout the show the band all seem genuinely moved by the reaction they were receiving which is understandable as the crowd from front to back were just on. I am just throwing superlatives and praise at this set but that is what it deserves – it was a superb closing to the festival and I walked away so happy that I had seen them. Their set and the festival concluded with a pretty awesome fireworks display.


2012 has been a fantastic year for me in terms of live music. I got to see my all time favouyrite band another two times, I got to tick another band off the bucket list in Green Day, and saw a band I never thought I would see live in Black Sabbath. Will 2013 be as good? I don't think it will, but we shall see. It is impossible to know at this stage what is going to happen, and I quite like that

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