Friday, 27 December 2013

Wacken 2013 Advent Calendar

It is December, and that means another blog that’ll take me 24 days to write as I go through every band that is announced via the Wacken advent calendar! Last year they announced some good stuff in this calendar but there was an awful lot of shite as well. I hope this year is better, but I am aware they also need to announce some more filler, so we shall see.


Skid Row were heavily promoted at the 2013 festival (well, one of their box sets was) so this isn’t really a huge shock. I’d say that Skid Row is a good first announcement. I missed their recent UK tour with Ugly Kid Joe, so if they don’t clash with anyone I’d rather see at Wacken, I will see them. The question I have is where will they play? In the UK they seemed to be playing rooms that hold about 600-1000 people in, but obviously this festival is in Germany. I’ve no idea how big they are there. My guess would be one of the bigger bands on the W.E.T/Headbangers stage or maybe on the Party Stage (like Ugly Kid Joe did last year).


I don’t really like Bring Me The Horizon, so not overly interested in this announcement. Oh well. You shouldn’t like every band on a festival line up or else the clashes would be terrible! I could still watch them though if there is nothing else on I want to see. Maybe seeing them live would change my mind. Maybe not. Probably not.


I do my level best not to judge a book by its cover, but in this instance I did. I genuinely expected to hate them. I was wrong though, they aren’t terrible. I’m not saying I’m a fan or owt, but they aren’t the worst thing I’ve ever listened to. What is the worst thing I’ve listened to? I think Job For A Cowboy have to be up there. Watch them get announced now! Anyway, I doubt I’ll make an effort to see this band, sorry! Also, they seem to have done a reworking of The Final Countdown called The Final Grinddown. That is terrible. Now, if Europe were to be announced, they could collaborate live and do...actually no. Please don’t. If that happens now...urgh


This band were announced for the 2013 edition of Wacken but pulled out. I’ve written about them before, and I said the following: “I guess the best way to describe this band (other than a touch boring) is a goth band. There seems to be some black metal up in there but I’m not sure. I know I’m not a fan of it, regardless.” Well, that solves that one then. 1 out of 4 then so far...sort of.


When I first saw this announcement, I was ok with it. They played in 2012 and they were pretty decent so I’m ok with that. I guess you could shout “repeat booking” but Wacken tend to do that a lot anyway. This announcement however appears to be for a one off show where Hammerfall will play their debut album as well as some other material. That makes things slightly different and makes me overall more positive to the announcement. I will likely watch if there is nothing else on.


Sneaky little double announcement there from Wacken. Bulent Ceylan is a German comedian. Given that he speaks German and I don’t, I suspect his act will be lost on me. I guess the booking of Steel Panther isn’t the worst thing in the world given that I’ve already booked my ticket. If there is no-one better on at the same time, I will watch them. Only seen them live once and that was just one song, Death To All But Metal and Corey Taylor joined them on vocals. It would be cool if that happened again. I suspect it won’t though.


A 4 band announcement and none of it is for me. Bah! The first 3 bands played last year and I think two of them are folk bands so they’ll be confined to the Wackinger stage; maybe the Beergarden stage. This announcement is essentially a waste of time. They could just do a news story one day with all the Wackinger bands in and save everyone a lot of time.


I had hoped after the somewhat lacklustre announcement the day before that Wacken might fire back with a big name or two. That didn’t happen but they did announce two very different bands. Starting with Fleshgod Apocalypse, that sure is some death metal right there. I’ve said before how I’m not massively fond of death metal but i do like some of the stuff I’ve heard. Well, I’ve not heard much of this band but I do think they’re alright. I am really interested in The Vintage Caravan though. Only listened to two songs as that is all that is on Spotify, but what I have heard I have liked. So no big names but two bands that if there is nothing I’d rather see on then I will watch.


Given the 2014 edition of Wacken is the 25th anniversary of the festival, it shouldn’t have been a shock that a Wacken favourite would be announced. I am surprised though that Saxon were announced as they played a pretty major slot in 2012. They were one of my favourite bands from 2012 though so I’m certainly not complaining. I will likely watch them again although since seeing them at Wacken, I have also seen them at one of their own headline shows so if there is someone else on I’d rather see then I’ll likely give Saxon a miss. Obviously, I won’t know that until the stage times are released but right now, I’m happy with the booking. I do wonder if they are rebooking the 2012 Night To Remember for the 2014 festival. I’ve no problem with Volbeat playing again!


I’d seen this bands name on other festival line ups before and I guess I had convinced myself that I’d previously listened and didn’t like them. Well, for the benefits of this blog I’m listening to every band that gets announced. I quite like what I’ve heard of August Burns Red. I suspect they’ll be a WET stage band, and as such they might get missed if they are clashing with someone else I’d like to see on the main stages. However, if they aren’t, I’ll give them a watch.


There won’t be much to write in this entry as both bands are completely new to me. I’ve listened to some of Crimes of Passion and it is alright. I would say of the two bands in this announcement, I prefer Godsized. Only listened to two of their songs but I really like what I am hearing. One thing this announcement has got me thinking though is that I wish Wacken would do away with the advent calendar and say “Xmas eve, huge band announcement!” and announce the lot in one go. They could even do the competitions if they like and draw people’s names out of a hat to win the various prizes on offer. I suspect what with 13 more days and 13 more announcements, this won’t be the last time I feel this way.

Much like most bands from this series of announcements, I haven’t listened to much. However, what I have heard is alright. Chances are though I won’t be seeing them. That’s just the facts!


That is some good noise right there. Good call Wacken, good call. I will hope to watch this band. Pretty certain they played before in 2012 but I missed them. I would like to rectify that for 2014.


2014 will be my 5th Wacken, and Saltatio Mortis will have been at 3 of them. Wacken sure do love booking some of their favourite bands a lot. Just wish they liked AC/DC that much. Ho hum... Anyway, Saltatio Mortis are about as entertaining as stubbing your toe. I mean, you find it funny for like a second, then realise it’s your toe you stubbed and then you get annoyed. I’m not sure I should write these posts after a couple of beers, but yeah! I get the feeling Bembers are a comedy band. This is purely due to them being called Bembers and the Masserfaggers on Spotify. Anyway, as I have expressed previously, comedy bands at a foreign festival are generally lost on me. They say a punch line in German and everyone around me laughs and I’m thinking “I hope that wasn’t aimed at me. Even if it was, I’ll never know”. Maybe that says more about me than you wanted to know. Don’t judge me!


I would say this band sound a lot like a combination of In Flames and Bullet For My Valentine, which is not a bad thing. I didn’t listen to much of their stuff but what I heard was alright.


Lacrimas Profundere seem to be alright from what little I’ve heard of them. I suspect they will be appearing in the Bullhead City tent rather than on one of the open air stages over the course of the weekend which means watching them is unlikely, but who knows. Nachtgeschrei sound like they will play on the Wackinger stage, ideally at a time where I am over the other side of the arena. I really don’t understand the logic of booking pagan/folk music for a metal festival. I will say pagan/folk metal is excluded from that thought because it is at least metal. Firkin are much the same but they do have some cover versions on Spotify which are interesting. Whether or not they play them live is a different matter. Omnia have covered Tenacious D’s Fuck Her Gently but aside from that appear to be another folk band on the line up. That said, it would make as much sense to book another artist who uses the name Omnia on Spotify (dance/trance music – I won’t claim to know exactly what it counts as. Although whatever it is does seem to be fairly decent in a sort of “I’d dance to this after 6 VKs” kinda way). Dunkelschon aren’t on Spotify but a quick Google of their name tells me they are a Celtic Medieval Folk Rock kinda band. I can’t say that description has inspired me to open Youtube so I actually have no idea what they sound like. They could be the best band ever, and I’d never know. Well, let’s be honest with each other, just you and me. They aren’t the best band ever. I probably wouldn’t include them in a top 5,000 bands of all time list. That is saying something given that I can’t think of 5,000 bands.

With 9 announcements left, I am thinking for my personal tastes, the December announcements last year were far better than what we have been offered so far. Saxon has so far been the best announcement and that is really saying something when it is a band that seems to play this festival more than others. I have fading hopes that any of the announcements before the Xmas eve one will be any good – but I’m happy to be proven wrong. On the Facebook post to go with this announcement they added “and yes: We will announce some big bands soon”. At least they’re aware these announcements have been a bit shite.  


All I can find out about ICS Vortex is that he used to be the bass player in Dimmu Borgir as well as several other bands and playing Wacken is his solo project. The album they have on Spotify seems to be fairly decent. So much so in fact that I wouldn’t mind seeing this band play. I suspect they’ll be on in the Bullhead City tent, but still, it would be good to see them.


Nightmare appear to have two different eras according to the quick bit of research I’ve just done. They were a heavy metal band until they split up, and after their 1999 reunion became a power metal band. They seem to be fairly decent at the power metal side of things. The earlier stuff seemed to be influenced heavily by NWOBHM and is also quite good. The band is on the main stage at Hellfest this year, so I wonder if they’ll have an open air slot at Wacken. Santiano are fast becoming another Wacken “house band”. They played in 2012 and 2013 so when they play 2014, that’ll make 3 years in a row. I walked past them playing the Wackinger stage this year and thought they sounded alright, They are yet another folk band though who will take up a few slots at the festival no doubt. A waste of a booking if you ask me given this will be the 3rd year in a row for them. Give some other folk band the chance to play the biggest metal festival in the world....wait.


Five Finger Death Punch are an alright announcement I guess. They are one of those bands who when I hear them on Rock Radio, I don’t immediately change over. That said, if I was listening to something else and someone said “hey, FFDP are on the other station”, I wouldn’t change over to listen to them. They have some good songs, they also have songs that do nothing for me. They seem to have praise thrown at them and I wouldn’t be shocked if in 4-5 years time, they are headlining arenas and festivals, but they don’t do a lot for me overall. I’ve not seen them live so if there is no clash at Wacken I’ll probably give them a go. I am encouraged by this announcement though as this is the biggest band to be announced since Saxon. Maybe the announcements will all be bigger bands now? We’ll see!


I saw Hellyeah at Download 2007 and once I’d gotten over the fact that I was seeing another original member of Pantera playing live (having seen Down the year before), they were alright but a tad boring. Listening again and they have some good material. They could be worth seeing, maybe. WASP are a classic rock band and I hope to be able to see them as I haven’t yet. They have some great material. I remember when they headlined Bloodstock not that long ago, heh. Playing? No problem. Headlining? Alright then...


Der W seem to be alright. I don’t have an awful lot to say about them other than that. Hatebreed are pretty decent live. If there is nothing else on, I’ll give them a watch.


I wondered if this announcement would happen after what happened at Wacken 2013. For those not in the know, Motorhead cancelled all their summer dates but one due to Lemmy being in poor health. Nothing was said until the last minute by Wacken when they confirmed Motorhead would be playing. During the set, Lemmy had to leave the stage, leaving Phil Campbell to improvise. After one more song, Lemmy left again and didn’t return. He was too ill to continue. This meant there was a lot of time to wait for the next band, subjecting everyone in the arena to Corvus Corax. Motorhead then cancelled their winter European tour and rescheduled for 2014. Motorhead are a quality band and their latest album Aftershock is pretty damn good. I’ll give them a watch I’m sure. I can only imagine they’ll have a 75min slot like they were due to have this year. With any luck, they will put someone decent on against them in case it doesn’t work out again. Putting Corvus Corax on against them was a further kick in the teeth to the fans when Motorhead finished early. In fact, I think this would be easily resolved by not booking Corvus Corax. That one is a better idea.


NOW THAT IS MORE LIKE IT! And...breathe! Carcass are fucking ace – by far the best announcement of this advent calendar. Dead happy they are playing Wacken and they will be a must see. Just don’t clash them with A Pale Horse Named Death....please! I saw Carcass earlier this year in a small club in London and they were just superb live. They then went and released one of the metal albums of the year – Surgical Steel. It will be good to see some stuff off of that album. All ready for Black Sabbath tomorrow then (no insider knowledge while writing this, just rumours).


First things first, I don’t mind me some Megadeth. Not seen them live since 2011 so yeah...I’m alright with that announcement. I really thought the way things were going with this series of announcements that they might announce the Night To Remember band today. This leads me to think one of 3 things. 1) The announcement is coming soon. 2) The announcement has already happened but the band who will be the Night To Remember headliner haven’t been publicised as such. 3) It’s Megadeth. Now, if 3 is right, that would be an underwhelming festival headliner. They have never played Wacken before if my knowledge of previous Wacken festivals is correct, but I’m not 100% on that. Could it be that a reasonable sized name plays for the first time and gets Night To Remember? I guess. I heard rumours about Black Sabbath (no insider knowledge, just rumours) and I guess they could still be announced. Hell, the festival is sold out; they don’t have to announce it until a week before. That would be a dick move though. In fact, Wacken people, if you are reading this – don’t get any fucking ideas!

Well, that is the advent calendar done for another year. I am of the opinion that they should do away with it and just make December announcements and do a Christmas competition at the end if they really want to give prizes away. Living in the UK, we were able to see the announcements at 11pm our time and it was almost a disappointing end to a day if the band was shit or it wasn’t anything good. I am aware that my opinion here is somewhat irrelevant as Wacken 2014 will be my last Wacken for at least a year. The Rugby World Cup is on in 2015 with tickets on sale in 2014 so that is my financial priority ahead of any festival. In terms of the quality of the announcements, there were some good names announced as ever, the best by a country mile being Carcass. I didn’t listen to a great deal of the bands I didn’t know unless they really caught my attention but I give everything a re-listen if needs be when the stage orders/times are announced so I can make plans for what I plan to see over the weekend.

Still, the line up is a bit nearer completion now. 64 acts have been announced. When you consider that there are between 20-30 acts to be added from the Metal Battle competition - that would put the figure around the 90-95 mark. You can probably increase that figure to around about 100 when they announce all the regular acts that play most/all years (Mambo Kurt, Masters of Comedy, and Skyline etc). Wacken 2013 had 134 acts on its line up (not including Karaoke All Stars). With that in mind, I’d say there are still at least 30 acts to be announced for the festival including the Night To Remember headliner, assuming of course that it hasn’t already been announced. It will be interesting for sure to see what happens when the next announcement is made. 

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Best of 2013

I do find myself talking about music on this blog a lot and this post will be more of the same. In fact so will the next post. Anyway, 2013 has been another excellent year of live music for me and this blog is a look back at the year and a chance to say what was the best of what I have seen this year. As with previous blogs that have covered this topic, I will split the best of lists into two – gigs and festival sets. Going through the gigs I’ve been to this year and saying what to leave off the list is a tough ask, as most of them I have left thinking it was a great gig. However one thing I know when I look at the tickets for this year is that I went to two gigs early on in 2013 which I’d have thought would have been strong contenders for gigs of the year but aren’t even honourable mentions. One got cut drastically short due to transport related concerns and another one was somewhat ruined due to an over-indulgence on my part when it came to ale. The gig was on the same day as England v Wales in the Six Nations and at the end of the match, 7 pints down I was distraught, and had another one to console myself. After that, I was a bit drunk and ended up falling to sleep at the gig – classy as ever!

I’m going to start with the festival sets list with either the words I wrote earlier this year or some new ones. Usually at this stage, I would do a top 10 of festival sets; however I am genuinely stuck on how to cut the list down from 15. So, it is a top 15! To clear things up, while Nine Inch Nails played both Reading and Belsonic festivals, I only count their Reading set as a bonafide festival set. I consider their headline set at Belsonic to be a gig more than a festival slot.

15 – Annihilator – Wacken 2013 – “Up next on the Black stage was Annihilator who delivered an hour of flawless thrash metal. Their set was just immense and their new material sounds superb.

14 – Anthrax – Wacken 2013 – “Anthrax had the unenviable task of entertaining a soaked through Wacken crowd but they absolutely killed it. It was 75 minutes of the very best of Anthrax and was probably the best I’ve seen them play (or at least level with when I saw them support Motorhead). The set was packed with newer songs, classic hits and cover versions including a superb version of T.N.T by AC/DC. Closing out on their cover of Trust’s Antisocial, they proved why they deserved one of the longer slots of the day.

13 – Cancer Bats – Download 2013 – “Following Sacred Mother Tongue was going to be a hard job for any band, but one that Cancer Bats were more than up to. They missed out on playing main stage the year before due to weather issues so this was a big moment and they truly delivered. They are just superb live and I really do hope they will tour the UK again soon.”

12 – Deep Purple – Wacken 2013 – “It turns out that Deep Purple recorded their set for a live album, which is pretty cool. I was a tad disappointed that for this tour, they weren’t playing Highway Star. They recorded an album from this set though and in it, was Highway Star as the opener. I was delighted with that! It was great to hear some of their classics live. The new album sounds pretty decent as well.”

11 – Queens of the Stone Age – Download 2013 – “QOTSA were excellent! Aside from 1 song, they played all of my favourite songs of theirs (which again certainly helps increase the enjoyment level) and opening the set with Feel Good Hit of the Summer was an excellent call. It was nice to watch QOTSA and not be half asleep while doing so (ala Rock Am Ring 08).

10 – Volbeat – Download 2013 – “I was front and centre for possibly my favourite band on the line up, Volbeat. There were two problems with their set for me. It was only 40 minutes, and we got no material off the new album. None of those things though really took away from how good Volbeat were on this day (though I know due to watching them headline Wacken last year that they would have been better with a longer set). They were just superb.” On reflection of their setlist, they did in fact play two songs from their new album. My poor memory failed me there big time. Volbeat were ace though!

9 – Nine Inch Nails – Reading 2013 – I really enjoyed NIN at Reading. I would have ranked them 10/10 had I written a review about the day I spent at Reading, but I didn’t. I do recall writing ratings down but not actually following through with a review. That might be because I was in the rock tent for all but 2 bands and didn’t watch the main stage headliner. Anyway, NIN were great although there appeared to be some issues pre-show which meant they couldn’t have their full production on stage. This meant that Trent Reznor went into the gig pissed off and I think you could tell. The set list was a shortened version of the one they played at the Belsonic festival (their first UK date) which was fine by me although for a festival I would have liked to have heard some of the “hits”. The set list decisions didn’t take anything away from the show for me – that was merely an observation. The set ended with Wish and Trent left the stage without seemingly so much as a goodbye. I guess at that stage it was a “do the job and get the hell out” mentality – especially if he had in fact been screwed over by the promoters. I am very happy I got to see NIN twice on their summer tour and am looking forward to Tension 2014.

8 – Sabaton – Wacken 2013 – “One of the highlights of the day (for me anyway) was up next. Sabaton were announced to a huge cheer in 2012 and they did not disappoint. They were just outstanding. At one point, the lead singer changed vests with someone in the crowd. I wondered if it was the same bloke I saw earlier wearing a similar vest. Sabaton seemed genuinely blown away by how many people had come to watch them and the reaction they were getting. I can’t imagine what it must have been like on stage but from in the crowd, I can say it was loud. I wouldn’t be shocked to see them be in an even better slot next time they play.”

7 – Black Stone Cherry – Download 2013 – “BSC live are immense and with this set, they proved it again. They played pretty much all my favourite songs of theirs which certainly helped matters. They also played a new song which also sounded great. It gives me high hopes for the new album. The sing along to The Things My Father Said gave me goose bumps and was a truly beautiful moment. The band were very grateful to be given this opportunity, and said that there is nowhere else in the world that they would get the crowd the size they had standing in the rain listening to them (at this stage, we were getting battered with rain). BSC closed with Lonely Train and 30 Seconds of Death Metal, proving that they truly deserved the slot of second stage headliners. Hopefully with this new album on its way, they continue to get bigger and bigger.” I’m seeing them again in February at the KOKO in London. A venue that holds 1,400 people is considered an intimate gig for them now. I love that a band I saw in 2007 play the Wedgewood Rooms are now playing rooms 3 times that size as intimate venues. Not sure if I’ll make their arena tour later in the year but I’d like to. Fingers crossed!

6 – Stone Sour – Download 2013 – “Stone Sour are just immense live. This set has convinced me to give the two HOGAB albums another listen. A fantastic mix of old and newer material really made for a great set. Bother and Through Glass created a superb atmosphere. Not content with partaking in two immense sets over the weekend, Corey Taylor finds time to make a young girls day by wishing her happy birthday (she was on the front row with a badge that said “it’s my birthday” and obviously he saw it). She then appeared on the big screen, in floods of tears and looked as though she was yelling thank you. That was a really cool moment but the whole set was ace.”

5 – Alice Cooper – Wacken 2013 – “First up was Alice Cooper who did the same set he toured in arenas in the UK in 2012. This is such a good show and he is just an excellent performer. I’m not sure how it is possible for him to have topped what I saw him do in Bournemouth, but he did. The band is a tight live unit which really helps. I was thinking at the time that this could be one of the best things I’ve seen ever (that is a long list).” One of the best things I’ve seen ever, yet 5th in the list of best festival sets? Crikey! In my mind, I just couldn’t say Alice Cooper was better than the bands ahead of him in the list.  

4 – Rammstein – Download 2013 – “Rammstein were just incredible. I maintain that they are better indoors as they can do more crazy stuff with the show (as the Made In Germany 2012 tour proved), but that does not mean the festivals shows are poor. They are still immense. Stage shows are important but Rammstein’s stage show is backed up by the fact they are also a quality live act. The set list for this show was a rehash of the Made In Germany set list with a couple of changes. One of the significant changes for me was the addition of Benzin into the set, as that is a superb song. I liked the piano version of Mein Herz Brennt but I would have preferred the full band version. Other than that, I literally have nothing to criticise. This show at Download just goes to show why the organisers have been trying to get them to headline since 2005/6. Rammstein finished up on the song Pussy and we left the festival site for the last time.

3 – Rammstein – Wacken 2013 – “The headliner of the Night To Remember was Rammstein and they have always been outstanding when I’ve seen them live. This was no exception. If anything, this show was possibly better than others due to the sing-along’s just making the atmosphere even more special. When seeing them in England, you have people singing to what they can, and some people guessing at the rest (myself included at times). In Germany, it is completely different (given that they are a German band that sings, unsurprisingly, in German). The show was identical to Download aside from two things. They teased playing the song Rammstein, which was cool. They also had a special guest during Sonne – someone called Heino. I have no idea who he was, and he seemed to get a reasonable reaction from the crowd. The people stood in front of me, who had enjoyed the whole set, were very unhappy with him being there. They turned their backs to the stage and held up middle fingers. When Till Lindermann asked the crowd to give it up for him, one of these people yelled “fuck you!” very loudly several times. I’m guessing he’s done something wrong but I’m not sure what. After a bit of research, it appears he is a very famous pop star in Germany, but could well have far right wing sympathies. Awkward! Rammstein were the last band of the day and they kicked off the festival in a solid way.” The show, aside from the special guest for Sonne, was exactly the same as the one at Download. The main difference was the atmosphere in the crowd. Seeing a massive band that sings in German play in Germany was always going to be special, but I didn’t realise just how different of an experience it was going to be until I was in that German crowd watching Rammstein. 

2 – Iron Maiden – Download 2013 – They “kicked off their set with a Spitfire flying over main stage and around the arena. That moment in itself was probably the one I will continue to talk about. Maiden themselves were absolutely superb. There appeared to be a microphone issue for Bruce Dickinson early on but that was resolved quickly. Maiden were outstanding and the set list looked good on paper, but live it was something else – immense. Everything from the band performance, to the set list, to the stage show was damn near perfection. On top of all of that, there were numerous appearances by Eddie, the band mascot in various guises. At the end of their set, Maiden announced a Maiden England date at the O2 Arena in London on 3rd August. I’m very sad to say I will not be there because I’ll be at Wacken. Alas. If you weren’t at Download though, you should go to this show as a priority (you know, assuming you like Iron Maiden that is!) Maiden signed off the second day at Download in truly spectacular fashion.” 

1 – Nightwish – Wacken 2013 – “I will say this now, I truly hope Floor Jansen remains with Nightwish – she is an excellent front woman and did a fantastic job on all of the Nightwish material. The set list contained songs I’d not seen them play live before which really helped me enjoy the set even more. They also used a lot of pyro, which I just love. Their Wacken set could easily be the best I’ve ever seen them. In a nutshell, everything came together for Nightwish to have a stunning set – they chose the right one to film for a DVD – which is a must buy when it comes out. I walked around the arena blown away by how good it was - an excellent way to end Wacken 2013.” – I am yet to buy the DVD but it is now out. It is high on my priority list to buy. Also, in good news, Floor Jansen has taken over the vocalist role permanently. This is good news! Hopefully they will tour again soon as this show was immense and I’d like to see them again on the back of it. 

So given that I went to 2 weekend festivals and a day at another one, I saw a lot of good sets over those days. There were bands I wanted to add into this list but I thought a top 15 is bad enough; any more would have just been silly! I did consider an honourable mentions list as well but decided against it. Moving on to the gigs on 2013, I’ve just gone through everything I saw in 2013 and had a lot of good memories come back to me. I’m going to start as ever with the honourable mentions list.

·         Saxon – Mo’ Club, Southampton. May 2013 – Saxon toured the UK in May and this was the smallest gig on the tour because it was a special show put on by the people who run Wacken. Saxon playing their album ‘Denim & Leather’ in full was really cool - even if they sort of botched the order by playing a song from the album in the main set and then substituted it when playing the album with something else – I want to say Heavy Metal Thunder but I’ll be damned if I can remember
·         Rush – O2 Arena, London. May 2013 – This really was a great gig. Rush are a superb live band. Not only are Rush great, they had an orchestra with them (well, 4 people if memory serves). Had to leave before the last 3 songs because a transport related concern. This happened to me a lot this year.
·         The Wildhearts – O2 Academy, Bournemouth. June 2013 – A superb gig relegated to the honourable mentions list due to having to leave early. A great set list and The Wildhearts were just so good.
·         The Wildhearts – The Forum, London. June 2013 – Erm...see above! Seriously, closing the Northern Line on a Saturday? Fucking jerks TFL! The only extra thing I can say about this gig is that a DVD is apparently coming out next year of this set. That will be a must purchase!
·         Frank Turner – The Joiners, Southampton. June 2013 – I won tickets for this gig. The chance to see Frank Turner in a tiny pub was something I couldn’t turn down. The gig was superb but again plagued by the need to leave early. I had a great time at this gig though (and even got a free drink as part of winning the competition).
·         Hayseed Dixie – The Brook, Southampton. November 2013 – This gig was just a lot of fun! Hayseed played their AC/DC covers album in full followed by a set of originals/other covers. They are excellent at what they do and their between song banter is also very funny. Closing the night out on Comfortably Numb was ace as well.

Those were a good selection of gigs but I think the ones that made the top 10 were just that little bit better. These gigs come with fresh words being written about them. Mostly because this year I have been slack about writing gig reviews so I have no old words to reuse. Alas. Anyway, in reverse order:

10 - The 5th Annual Ginger Wildheart Birthday Bash – KOKO, London. December 2013.

This was the first proper birthday bash that I had been to and I thought it was a lot of fun! Loads of special guests, lots of things happened and all in all, a lot of great music. Highlights for me include seeing Hey! Hello! perform live as a full band for the first time; seeing the Ginger Wildheart band play songs I’ve not seen live before including SG5’s Brain Sugar and Do The Channel Bop); Frank Turner appearing as a guest for a couple of songs and the tribute to The Damned. Of course, The Wildhearts being on stage for a few songs at the end was just ace. This would easily have been in my top 5 this year but I left early as I had a headache. Boo and hiss to missing the final song of I Wanna Go Where The People Go with what looked like all musicians on stage but Frank Turner doing lead vocals. Boo and hiss I say!

9 - Eric Clapton – Royal Albert Hall, London. May 2013.

Eric Clapton was on his 50th anniversary tour this year, and I am really happy to have got to a date on this tour. Not least because the gig was at the Royal Albert Hall and I’ve been told by a number of people that his gigs at the Albert Hall were great. This one was no exception to that rule, with songs selected from all parts of his career. One of the personal highlights for me was seeing him play Tears In Heaven – I think hearing that from the Unplugged album was the song that got me into him as an artist. I’d seen Clapton once before at Hyde Park and he didn’t play that song, so it was great to see him play it. I’d say the only thing missing from the setlist was Crossroads, but aside from that it was near perfect.

8 - Green Day – Emirates Stadium, London. June 2013.

In 2012 I went to go see Green Day in an intimate gig in London at Shepherds Bush and just after the gig, it was announced they were playing Emirates Stadium. On the back of how good they were at Shepherds Bush, I booked a ticket. I predicted this time last year (I think) that they would be ace at the Emirates and I wasn’t wrong. They mixed up the set a bit and it was a lot of fun. Sadly, they didn’t play Dookie in full like they did at some of their other UK shows in 2013, nor did they play Good Riddance, but aside from that it was a great gig. I’m not sure I’ll be rushing to see them again, but I’m glad I went to this gig.

7 - Eureka Machines – Borderline, London. May 2013.

Before 2013, I’d not seen Eureka Machines once. Now as we approach the end of 2013, I’ve seen them 5 times. They were the main support for The Wildhearts in April and in June, and in April/May, they went out on a headline run of the UK. I can’t remember if I already had a ticket for their headline show when the support slots were announced. After seeing them twice in April, I knew this headline show was going to be something special. Supported by two great bands in the form of The Loyalties and The Deadwardians, Eureka Machines played a slightly extended version of the set they played supporting The Wildhearts. The gig though was just so much fun with a great atmosphere throughout. Opening with Champion The Underdog and Pop Star and closing out on Zero Hero for me are perfect choices. They’ve just announced another London show for March and I’ve already booked my VIP ticket. An acoustic gig as well as the main headline slot. Look out best gigs of 2014 list, there might well be another Eureka Machines entry.  

6 - Volbeat – O2 Academy Brixton, London. October 2013

Volbeat are an excellent live band. I’ve seen them a number of times now and not once have they disappointed me. This was their biggest London show to date and they delivered. I was concerned if this would be the case when waiting to get in as it was announced that the balcony was closed. Now, this could be for the technical reasons they announced, or it could be because ticket sales were lower than they had hoped (which to me is amazing seeing as on the continent, they are filling arenas – stupid UK). Anyway, the set was mostly filled with material off their last 3 albums (including the new one) which I was fine with as it was these albums which got me so much into the band. All in all, it was a superb gig as most if not all Volbeat gigs are.

5 - Nine Inch Nails – Custom House Square, Belfast. August 2013

When the Wave Goodbye tour in 2009 concluded, I really didn’t think I was going to see NIN again. I know bands and artists say they are going away for good and then come back, but it genuinely seemed as though Trent Reznor meant it when he said that NIN were done as a touring act. When it was announced that this wasn’t the case, I really wanted to see them as they are my second favourite band (second to Metallica). They announced a Belfast date and I’ve always wanted to visit Belfast – so this was all a win win really. The downside to the trip was not having a hotel booked. On reflection, I regret that. Not least because Belfast City Airport closes overnight! But that has nothing to do with the gig – NIN were great. They had their full stage show with them for this gig which was really cool to see. The set was a mix of old and new which was good to see, especially as the new material they played was the best stuff from Hesitation Marks. I would say the only thing which annoyed me about this gig was the crowd. Good lord were the people I was near annoying. If it wasn’t the constant visiting of the bar, it was talking. I wanted to turn round and say “hey, NIN are playing, that means your mouth hole needs to be shut”. Also, I am firmly of the belief if you are going to a gig and plan to get shitfaced throughout, you should stay to the back. Not force your way down the front before remembering you were thirsty. NIN were that good that it outweighed the crowd being annoying though. 

4 - Muse – Emirates Stadium, London. May 2013.

I went to the Aviva Premiership Final before this gig which meant I missed the support bands. I don’t think I could have planned that better if I had tried. Bastille and Dizzee Rascal if memory serves me well – not my cup of tea at all. Walking into the Emirates, I was instantly blown away by the stage. Usually for a stadium show, you have a smaller version of a festival stage at one end of the pitch. This was much different and completely customised for Muse, a stage which included a walk way and a smaller stage in the middle of the pitch. As for the band themselves – Muse are just a stunning live act. On the first listen of their two latest albums, I was largely unconvinced yet seeing them live sells those songs to me. Were they better than when I saw them headline Reading in 2011 playing Origin of Symmetry in full? That is a tough call but it was very close if not better. I feel as though I could continue repeating myself saying how good they were so I’ll leave it there.

3 - Carcass – Underworld, London. March 2013.

The first time I saw Carcass was in 2008 (I know, very late to the grind party). They were playing the Black stage at Wacken 2008 and I watched their set and afterwards thought they were just immense. Since then, I had hoped I would see them live again. After the odd appearance in the UK (Damnation 08 and Bloodstock 09) I started to give up hope of a UK tour. Then, as if by random chance, I saw they were playing 3 tiny shows in London at the Underworld and the only way to get tickets was in person at the box office. Now, given I don’t live in London, this was quite the challenge. After much debate as to how I would get a ticket from the box office, they sold out. I resolved to buy one off ebay for significantly more than the £5 face value (£5!). My justification for this was Carcass are doing headline shows in London and in a small club no less. The gig kicked off with a band called Asomvel doing an hour set. I was confused as to why they had an hour but not long after they started playing, I was alright with it. Carcass started not long after them and smashed through a 75min-90min (time has dulled my memory) set. Playing a best of set to warm up the new line up, it was almost as if Carcass had never stopped. I would say the new line up is as good as the old, but I sadly have no idea what Carcass were like live back in the day. Anyway, on top of a blisteringly good set, there was a special guest appearance by Ken Owen which always fills a room with joy when he appears. I remember the hero’s welcome he got at Wacken and this was much the same. After this set, I want to see Carcass again! Although I did turn down the chance to see them in London in November with Amon Amarth. I’m not smart!

2 - The Wildhearts - O2 ABC, Glasgow/Academy, Manchester. April 2013.

Right, before anyone says anything, I am well aware of the fact that this is cheating! 2 gigs in one position on a top 10 list, a travesty! Well, perhaps not that serious. After seeing The Wildhearts play Gingers Birthday Bash in 2012, I remember saying if they only ever do one gig a year on the 17th December, I’d be fine with that. Just after the Bash, they announced a 4 date tour of the UK where they would celebrate the 20th anniversary of Earth Vs by playing the album in full. Given that is my favourite Wildhearts album, I almost fell out of my chair. The 4 dates were up north and a pain in the balls to get to, but the timing of the dates couldn’t be more perfect as it was during a time I was off work anyway. I worked out the costs and was able to head from the south coast up to Scotland for the first gig and down to Manchester the next day for the second gig. I love it when a plan comes together. An honourable mention should be made to the supports, Eureka Machines and Baby Godzilla. Eureka Machines were excellent in their role as main support. Baby Godzilla were interesting to say the very least! I think only the bassist didn’t enter the crowd at some point.

As expected, the gigs were just fantastic. The run through of Earth Vs both nights was just superb. For both nights, the crowd were very loud in singing the album back to the band. Both of these crowds (and the two from the Wildhearts gigs that are in honourable mentions) were just great! It had a party like atmosphere throughout the whole thing. It has to be said, they were so good that when the Wildhearts announced their 2014 tour (with Ginger side project Hey! Hello! in support) I tried my best to price up going back to Manchester and Glasgow. Sadly short of a lottery win I will be unable to do that this time around). The gigs were split into two sets, the first being Earth Vs and the second being fan voted. How this worked is two guitar techs would hold up white boards with song titles on and which ever received the loudest cheers, the band would play. As it was the 20th anniversary of Earth Vs (the original release), Caffeine Bomb was not played as it wasn’t on the 1993 release (it was on the reissue in 94 I believe). It was however both nights the first song of the second set which got it off to a great start both times. The Glasgow second set was mostly a set of hits (or more well known songs), which was fine by me. Manchester was a bit more adventurous in that the options meant songs I’d not seen lie before would be played, but some of the selections were just ace. However, as fun as it was to see The Duck Song live, picking that over Hate The World Day was an error Manchester! Glasgow closed out with I Wanna Go Where The People Go and Manchester finished with 29x The Pain and what a way to end both gigs. I had a grin throughout both gigs which stayed with me long afterwards. It was well worth the jaunt.

In summary, it wasn’t possible to choose one Wildhearts gig to be number 2 out of these two, so I put both there. Both were special in their own ways while being stupidly good. I can’t wait to do it all over again in April in Cambridge and London. I guess based on the size of the tour a second leg in June is unlikely, but a man can dream!

1 - Roger Waters – Wembley Stadium, London. September 2013.

Given that The Wildhearts are in my top 3 favourite bands, it would take something special for them not to be my favourite gig of the year. 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.

There we are - my favourite gigs and festival sets of 2013. I always enjoy writing this blog even if coming up with the list is a pain in the arse. It enables me to look back on the year that is about to close and consider the things I have loved and revisit some great memories. For 2014 I already have some gigs booked that I am really looking forward to (including a February that is a bit mental). In these gigs that are booked, there is already several potential shows that could be my favourite gig. I’m looking forward to finding out what wins in the end. 

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Sonisphere 2014 - Metallica: By Request

Sonisphere is back at Knebworth for 2014! This isn’t breaking news really as it had been discussed for some time. There were a number of rumours about who is going to headline and on Monday, they announced that for the first time ever, Metallica and Iron Maiden were going to be on the same bill in the UK. That for me is pretty immense news. You could argue that booking those two bands is a safe and boring booking as they’ve headlined UK festivals a lot. While that may be true, I love both bands and that alone has almost sold me a weekend ticket. Iron Maiden are extending their Maiden England tour. That comes with a cracking set list of Iron Maiden classics which is good news. Metallica’s European tour comes with a twist this time around. They are playing an 18 song set list and the ticket buyers get to vote on 17 of the songs they will play. The 18th song will be a new song from the new Metallica album they are currently working on. I really like this idea as there are a number of Metallica songs I’ve not seen live that I’d really like to. Sadly, the voting for Knebworth has already begun and the songs that are in the top 17 are all songs I’ve seen live bar one. To be fair, the songs that are in the top 17 are all ace, but it would be nice to see something different this time. This is my attempt at a set list, with some stuff I’ve not seen before.

For Whom The Bell Tolls
Ride The Lightning
Fight Fire With Fire
Whiskey In The Jar
Frayed Ends of Sanity
Disposable Heroes
King Nothing
The God That Failed
Master of Puppets
Phantom Lord
Creeping Death

That was tough. I wanted to add so many more. I purposely left out big hitters like Nothing Else Matters, Sad But True and Enter Sandman as a Metallica set list without those songs would be unique and interesting. Whatever happens though, I hope to see Metallica again in 2014. 2013 has been a year lacking in live Metallica. I don’t approve of years like that.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to say roll on Sonisphere!