It is time for the next installment of my Decade of Gigs blog series that I am writing. The first one was about some of the gigs I’ve seen at the Wedgewood Rooms in Portsmouth (which you can read by clicking here). This time around, I’m going to go for a different theme. From small gigs to massive gigs – stadium shows and open air gigs. I had originally intended to talk about this mixed in with festival headliners, but that list was really quite massive so I have split it in two. I have also opted to exclude the 3 times I went and sat outside the arena in Hyde Park to listen to artists. It is hard to talk about it in detail when the view was a big green metal wall. As a reminder, the time period being covered by these gigs is 2006-2015. However, much like the first installment, we start in 2007.
When I write my festival headliners blog, I will talk more about Metallica at Download 2006 without doubt. The first big gig I want to talk about though is the first stadium gig that I went to - Metallica at Wembley Stadium in July 2007. Originally, I wasn’t too fussed about the support (I didn’t know Mastodon, didn’t think too much of Bullet For My Valentine, and didn’t like what I’d heard of HIM). However in the run up to the gig, Bullet had to pull out due to illness and were replaced by Machine Head. Mastodon were a wall of noise and I didn’t think much of their set. Machine Head, who the month before had one of the better sets at Download, had another excellent set. I didn’t watch HIM so cannot pass comment on them (I went to go get something to eat instead, and Wembley were out of plastic cutlery). Metallica were fantastic. They opened with Creeping Death and then launched into For Whom The Bell Tolls. They then played Sad But True, which created a genuine wave of excitement around the stadium. At the time of this gig, most Metallica sets had two encores, the first starting with Sad But True. This meant we could get something rare in the set. That box was already ticked when they played the title track from …And Justice For All in full for the first time in quite a few years (well, on this tour anyway). They also played Orion, which before the Master of Puppets tour from the year before, didn’t get played often live. The first encore started with the song written for the S&M gigs, No Leaf Clover. That was completely unexpected and was just brilliant. This was my first stadium show and for quite a while was my favourite time seeing Metallica.
A year later, Iron Maiden were revisiting their back catalogue on their Somewhere Back In Time Tour, and the UK date was their first ever UK Stadium show at Twickenham. I had a ticket to Wacken 2008 to see this show in Germany, but as I had some spare funds, I made a late call to go to the UK date as well. I had seen them twice by this point, and whilst I had enjoyed them both times, I wanted to see them play more from their 80s back catalogue. This tour had me more than covered on that front. Opening with Aces High was ace. My favourite part of the gig was them playing Rime of the Ancient Mariner followed straight away by Powerslave. Both times I had seen them previously, the atmosphere during Fear of the Dark was something special and it was the same during this gig – it was excellent. The last song of the evening was Hallowed Be Thy Name, and what a way to close a gig. This was a very good late call.
The next one on my list to discuss took place in June of 2010 and was different to all the others on this list for the simple fact it was a free gig. Rage Against The Machine celebrated the fact they got the Christmas No.1 song in 2009 by playing a free gig in Finsbury Park in London. It was absolute mayhem trying to get tickets, and it was the first (and only) time I’ve had to submit a photo to be printed on the ticket. Oddly enough, the ticket company sent me two lots of tickets. One with photos, one without. There were people outside who were desperate for tickets, which seemed strange as even if someone did sell them a ticket, they wouldn’t match the photo on the ticket and then surely wouldn’t have got in? No matter. I missed the first couple of bands but got inside in time for Gogol Bordello, who were really entertaining. I’d seen nothing like them before (something that still stands I’d say). After they finished, it got really busy. I’d only ever been so squashed in at a gig once before and that was at an indoor venue (RIP Astoria). Rage Against The Machine came on and it was exactly like the celebration party they had said it would be. It was a fairly short gig (their headline set at Download the weekend after was longer, so setlist.fm tells me) but this wasn’t a bad thing. The money they made from the single making it to number 1 at Christmas was all donated to charity (Shelter, if memory serves). They introduced the people who started the campaign to make them number 1 on stage and gave them a big cheque for the donation, which was cool. The final song of the night, unsurprisingly, was Killing in the Name and that closed out what was a very unique gig.
If I can absolutely help it, I never want to leave for a gig at 4.30am ever again. I went to see Foo Fighters at Milton Keynes Bowl in 2011, and the people I went with decided they wanted to be down the front, so they wanted to get golden circle wristbands. Apparently the best way to do this was to get there really early and queue. So, that is what we did. We arrived at the venue not long before 7am, we were one of the first cars in the car park and we waited. There were about 10 other people at the gate at this time, and about 20 or so had arrived by about 9am, when someone came out and gave us all golden circle wristbands. Mission accomplished. I took a long walk into the centre of Milton Keynes as I figured that would be a better use of my time until the doors opened (which wouldn’t be for another 5 hours). When I got back to the venue, it was not long before the opening band came on, and people were queuing for golden circle wristbands. I won’t lie, that annoyed me. The opening band were The Hot Rats, a covers side project of Supergrass. I fell to sleep during their set, which probably says all I need to about them. Jimmy Eat World were up next and they had a really good set. Biffy Clyro were the main support, the week before they headlined Sonisphere (still can’t work that one out) and they had a really good set as well. Foo Fighters though were on another level entirely. They played an absolutely blinding set. The set list was pretty much perfect for me (No DOA was the one glaring omission for me). They more than made up for the early start. However said early start came back to bite us in the arse not long after we had left. Turns out the organisation for getting cars out of the car park was limited. We were one of the first cars in, which meant we were one of the last out – painful.
The next entry on this list is the only one that takes place in mainland Europe. In 2012, it was apparently suggested to Metallica by Andy Copping, the Download Festival booker, that they should tour their self-titled album in full, so they did. They headlined Download on this tour but they also played their biggest show in France to date at the Stade De France. I managed to get a £60 return on the Eurostar, so headed across the channel to go to this gig. Due to leaving it late booking travel, I arrived fairly late into Paris and ended up missing both the support bands (I wouldn’t have minded seeing Gojira again, but the main support didn’t sound like the sort of thing I was interested in at all). Unlike UK stadium shows, the standing area was cut into sections and priced according to how close you were to the stage (If memory serves, there were 3 price brackets but I’m not 100% on that). I was in the section at the back which was fine by me. They played the Black Album in full but in reverse order so that they could finish on Enter Sandman. Much like when they toured Master of Puppets, they opened the set with 5 songs from their other albums before playing the album in full. At this point, I had seen Metallica quite a few times but I was always able to say that every time I had seen them live, they played something I had never seen them play live before. I knew this was going to be the case with some of the songs off of the Black Album, but I didn’t expect them to drop in a song off their Beyond Magnetic EP, which they did – Hell and Back was a nice surprise. As was the tour debut of No Remorse. Metallica played an excellent set that night, and it made me love the Black Album even more than I already did.
2013 was an interesting year as I spent a lot of money going to gigs and festivals. I went to 3 stadium shows as well as two festivals that summer. The last one on this list from 2013 I had bought the ticket a year in advance, but we’ll get into that later. The first two of these gigs happened within a week of each other and took place at the same venue – the Emirates Stadium in London. The first one of these was Muse. The first thing that occurred to me was that in 2012, I had gone to see Judas Priest after going to Twickenham to watch the Premiership Rugby Final, and I said to myself I’d never do that again as it was a really tiring day. Roll on a year later and not only was I going to a gig after the Premiership Rugby final again, but I was going to be standing in a much bigger crowd. Due to going to the rugby before, I missed the support. Honestly though, I can’t say that bothered me too much as it was Dizzee Rascal and Bastille. I had only seen Muse once before this gig and it is tough to say whether this was a better gig than when they headlined Reading the year before (and played Origin of Symmetry in full) but it was still pretty damn good. I think at this point in time, excluding seeing Rammstein, it was the most impressive stage show I had seen anywhere. That was backed up by Muse themselves being one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen. Trying to put them in order of the best I’ve ever seen would be extremely tough, but I feel confident in saying if I did such a list, Muse would be in the top 10. The week after Muse was Green Day. I had seen Green Day the year before in significantly more intimate surroundings at the Shepherds Bush Empire, and this was a good show. However it was almost a replication of that show the year earlier. In hindsight, if I hadn’t gone to this gig, I wouldn’t have missed anything of note. Furthermore, I had a hangover during the gig which is never fun. This was the second time I’d seen Green Day and both times they haven’t played Good Riddance – most annoying. I did enjoy the gig though.
The final big show of 2013 that I went to is probably my favourite gig in the whole of the decade being discussed in these posts. That is a big call to make but it was just that good. Roger Waters had been touring The Wall album for quite a while and when it came to the UK, he did several nights at the O2 Arena (as well as other arenas around the country). I didn’t have the money for it, which was a shame. However, when he announced Wembley Stadium, I decided that I had to go. I bought a ticket a year in advance which for a gig is something I don’t recall having done before. I almost missed the beginning of the show as well as I took a nap in my hotel in London (by Clapham Junction, so quite a way from Wembley Stadium) and overslept. In a panic, I rushed to get to Wembley and was in the stadium for about 2 minutes before the show started. I mentioned before how the two most impressive stage shows I had seen before this gig were Muse and Rammstein. This topped them both. It was an absolutely spectacular show. The Wall is an excellent album, but the combination of it being played live and that stage show made it the best gig I went to in this decade. My two favourite moments of the gig probably won’t be that shocking to anyone who knows the album – but it was when Roger Waters and his band played Another Brick in the Wall (Part Two) and Comfortably Numb. This gig is also directly responsible for me saying the word “Blighty” more often than I used to. As it stands, this gig is the closest I have got to seeing anything resembling Pink Floyd live. That will change later this year when I see David Gilmour do a show at the Royal Albert Hall – but I suspect due to the venue, the stage show won’t come close to the one on display this night at Wembley Stadium. I’m happy to be proven wrong mind!
In 2014, I went to Hyde Park to see Black Sabbath. In the build up to Sabbath, I saw a set from Motorhead which left me thinking that Lemmy needed to retire (he never did, he kept playing almost until he died. RIP Lemmy). I also saw a belting set from Faith No More which had some sound issues and a great set from Soundgarden in which they played their album Superunknown in full. I was worried about the Black Sabbath set. I had seen Ozzy have a bit of an off day when he headlined Wacken in 2011. Sabbath the year before at Download were excellent. I had hoped it would be almost as good as the Download set, but I never imagined they would be able to match that set. They did so comfortably. The band were just on excellent form. It was a noticeably shorter set this time around (the Download set had about 4 more songs in I think) but that wasn’t a problem. Black Sabbath put on a really good show and if it is the last time I see them play, I will be fine with that.
After going to see Foo Fighters at Milton Keynes Bowl, I decided it would have to take something significant to get me back there. The venue is great, it is just a pain to get to and from. Pearl Jam announced they were playing there and I decided that this would be my best chance to see them live (they don’t seem to play the UK often and when they do, the shows sell out fast). This was an excellent decision by me as they were outstanding. This was in my top 5 of gigs from 2014 and just thinking back on it now, it surprises me that I didn’t put it higher than 4th. The set was outstanding. I’m not sure if I will ever get to see Pearl Jam live again. If I do, I’m not sure how it can possibly live up to this gig. If this is the one and only time I see them live, I’m fine with that.
The final gig I want to talk about for this installment took place last year and enabled me to tick a band off the list of “must see” bands. AC/DC haven’t played many shows since I became a gig-goer in 2006 (7 to be exact). I didn’t have the money to get to one of the arena shows they did in 2009. I did have a ticket for their Wembley Stadium show that year, but I decided to sell the ticket and use the money to help pay for me to go see Nine Inch Nails on both UK dates of their Wave Goodbye tour. I didn’t regret that decision at the time but as time ticked on, and AC/DC weren’t playing gigs, I wondered if I had missed my chance to see them. Then, because they are nice like that, they released a new album and announced another show at Wembley Stadium. I managed to get a ticket for it and this time, I was going. The show was really quite cool and the set list was perfect for me. I had heard from some people that their set at Download in 2010 was somewhat phoned in which worried me. This one, whilst no doubt choreographed, didn’t look remotely like it was phoned in, which made me happy.
And that wraps it up for big gigs. Because I had fewer to write about than in the last one, I was able to go more in depth about each one. It was another fun visit down memory lane. So, that is part two of what at the moment is shaping up to be a many part series of blogs about gigs I’ve been to over the last decade. The next few parts to this blog will be festival reflections - a whistle stop look back at the festivals I've been to over the years.