Wednesday, 8 June 2016

A Decade Of Gigs Part Seven - London (Pt 2)

This post is the seventh and final part in the series of blogs I have been writing about the last decade of gigs I’ve been to. It has been quite a lot of fun going back and reliving some of these gigs. However, to be perfectly honest, I am quite glad to see the series come to an end. If you have read one part of this series, you will know they tend to clock in at about 3000 words a go, with the longest being over 5000 words. It has not been lost on me that this series of blogs has been longer than my dissertation on the US Supreme Court (which you can read by asking me for the only copy in existence if you are so inclined). Anyway, this blog is the part two of gigs that happened during this decade in London. I do love going to London for gigs and would quite happily move there if the opportunity arose. The last blog ended at the end of 2011, so this one will start at the beginning of 2012 – remarkable how that worked out really.

In February 2012, Rammstein bought their Made In Germany world tour to the UK. I had seen them twice before this tour started and I knew what to expect with Rammstein live – well, at least I thought I did. Before this tour came here, the stage layout was online and it showed the main arena stage, a bridge and a smaller stage in the middle of the crowd. When I saw this, I realised I had no idea what to expect. The band entered through the crowd and climbed up onto the stage in the crowd, when a massive bridge dropped from the ceiling of the venue linking the small stage to the main stage, and the band walked across it. I was stood pretty close to the part of the crowd that they walked through and was about 5ft away from Till Lindermann – the man is massive! Anyway, they played most of their set on the main stage which was fantastic. The set, much like the Made In Germany album, was a best of which was great for me. I really enjoyed the gig I saw in Manchester on the Liebe Ist Fur Alle Da tour, but this setlist was significantly better. The best way to report back on what happened next would be to refer back to my review of the gig from the time:

After Haifisch, the band disappeared aside from Richard who somehow got to the little stage (went to two shows on this tour and cannot work out how he got there!) who played a dance song on keyboard, mixing the words Buck Dich into the tune. It was fairly clear which song was coming next. What was not expected was how the rest of the band would join him on the stage. The walkway descended again and attached to chains, 4 of the band members were being walked across the walkway (on all fours like dogs) by the drummer (now in drag) who whipped them as they crossed. About half way across the walkway, Lindermann appeared to mount Flake and was repeatedly whipped for this. When reaching the stage, the band members were unchained and pushed towards the little stage (other than Lindermann who was dragged). When the band was all set up, they launched into Buck Dich. It was a real treat seeing Rammstein perform on such a small stage as a part of this show. The size of this stage was no bigger than smaller club venues, so to witness Rammstein playing without many theatrics and letting the music do the talking was just immense. I say barely any theatrics as something occurred during Buck Dich. Flake at this stage had changed from his full body suit into leather pants with an arse flap. Lindermann bent him over in front of him and spanked him, and then took a fake penis out of his trousers and proceeded to fuck him with it. I think Rammstein are the only band where this can happen during the show and people generally think "sounds about right". I imagine the response would be quite different if such an act occurred during a One Direction gig. Anyway, Flake ran away from being fucked and Lindermann had a look on his face which said "but I was so close" and smacked the fake penis a few times. He then proceeded to reach orgasm, and spray the crowd in the liquid result of this throughout another rendition of the chorus.

Who said cheating got you nowhere? This gig was memorable to say the very least. This gig, and the Birmingham one the next night were the best times I’ve seen Rammstein live – or at the very least joint first with seeing them in Germany at Wacken in 2013 – that was something very special.

The next gig I want to talk about here was a charity gig for Teenage Cancer Trust and it took place at the Royal Albert Hall. This was my first visit to this iconic venue and I have to say, I was very impressed. I can see why it has the reputation that it does. I was there to see Pulp. I had seen Pulp the year before co-headlining Reading and whilst they were good there, the experience of seeing them in this venue was so much better. It was just sublime. If I were to pick one moment as a highlight, towards the end of the set they turned off all the lights in the venue before starting Disco 2000 (I think it was) and the crowd were all given little torches. Almost everyone lit their little torch and it just looked fantastic. This was a special night for a fantastic cause. In April, I was back in London to see Skindred and Therapy at Brixton Academy. This was a different tour because it was done under the Jagermeister Music banner, and as a result, tickets cost £5. Now, on reflection, I wish I had been across town watching Frank Turner headline Wembley Arena but hey, this was still a great night. It was cool being in a packed crowd in Brixton for both of these bands. Both of the bands had an excellent set and for £5, this was a complete bargain. The night opened with The Defiled who were decent and Black Spiders who were brilliant. This was worth the money and then some!

Later on in April, Cancer Bats came to London for a one-day tour. By which I mean they played 6 gigs in London in one day.  It was called the Pentagram tour because the venues on a map with the way the band travelled made it look like a pentagram. They played 6 gigs but I could only make 3 of them. All 6 of thee gigs were in small rooms around the city. The first gig was at The Old Blue Last at 11am. It was a strange experience watching Cancer Bats in a pub at 11am but one I’d be happy to repeat. The second one was at the Notting Hill Arts Club (a place which was really difficult to find actually) and the third one was upstairs at the Garage in Islington. All 3 of these gigs were excellent. They repeated some songs over the three of them but that wasn’t a problem for me. I’ve never seen anything like this replicated since (I’ve seen bands doing 3 or 4 gigs in a day, but never 6). This was a great day, and because I only went to the first 3, I was home nice and early which is a rare treat after watching a gig or 3 in London. I’d like to go to 3 gigs in a day again – that was fun.

The next gig on this list took place in August 2012 and was a band on a reunion tour. Refused were due to play Sonisphere before it got cancelled. They got added to the Download festival line up, where I saw them and they were great. I was somewhat distracted during their set though because I could barely stand up due to the level of pain I was in (Download 2012 was a tough weekend kids). They announced 3 gigs in August and I went to the first London show. I was blown away by how good this gig was. It was significantly better than their Download festival set which is saying something because that was a great set. This gig was just on another level though. It has put me in somewhat of a quandary with seeing Refused live. I haven’t seen them since and I’m not sure if I will – because I know it will not live up to this performance. Later that month, I was at another gig which was very memorable as well, but for different reasons. I went to the Borderline for the first time to see Kvelertak. The Borderline is a cool little basement club but an absolute bugger if you are there by yourself – no phone signal is to be had whatsoever. That was the only negative of this night however. It turned into absolute carnage when Kvelertak came on. The night ended with more members of the band crowd surfing than there were on stage. A great night was had.

I went to London a lot in August 2012. The next time I was supposed to go was to see Less Than Jake at the Barfly in Camden (I would have to wait until the next month to find out how much I don’t like that venue). That was the plan at least until Green Day announced a show at the Shepherds Bush Empire. It seems odd describing a show taking place in a 2000 capacity venue as intimate, but this is a band that can and have sold out stadiums. I had never seen Green Day before this set either so this took priority over Less Than Jake. I don’t regret this decision at all. It was a superb evening. The only downside for me was that Green Day didn’t play Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life) – that would have made it perfect for me. Speaking of the Barfly earlier, I was there in September twice in one evening to watch Ginger Wildheart perform two acoustic shows where the fans voted for the setlist. This meant that while there were some of the more well-known songs from his back catalogue, there were a lot of B sides and other songs which don’t get a live airing very often. As someone who was still a relatively new fan of Ginger – this was a great night getting to hear a wide variety of his back catalogue live. I would love to see him do this again at some point. The next entry in this list involves Ginger again, but this time it was the return show of The Wildhearts. After missing the Birthday Bash in 2011 to watch Manic Street Preachers at the O2 Arena, I was dead set on going to the next one in 2012. When it was announced that instead of a normal Birthday Bash, it would be a Wildhearts show, I was over the moon. The night opened with Ginger and his solo band playing, occasionally joined by special guests. This was a great set by itself. The Wildhearts one was just superb though. The only part of the set I thought was odd was when they did a Cardiacs cover, but that is mostly because I don’t know any Cardiacs stuff. The only reference point I had before this show about The Wildhearts live was their headline show in Portsmouth, but this gig was on another level to that one. It was something very special. I remember thinking if they only played once a year, I’d be fine with that. Then they announced the 20th anniversary of Earth Vs and you can read all about my time watching the band on that tour in part five of this blog series

You will note if you have read every part in this series of blogs that there have been no (or very few – I honestly don’t remember!) mentions of ticket touts. My story of going to gigs thankfully has rarely involved me buying a ticket for a gig from a tout. However, in one instance, I felt as though I had no choice. At Wacken in 2008, I saw Carcass on their reunion tour and I thought they were ace. I really wanted to see them again after this set but their only UK dates were at festivals I couldn’t attend. They then announced a couple of line-up changes and 4 dates at the Underworld in Camden. Tickets cost £5 on the proviso that you bought them in person over the bar at the pub that is above the venue. Not living in London proved to be a problem once again. I came very close to hiking to London just to buy a ticket but I didn’t bother and they sold out. As the gigs got closer, I decided to try and buy one off eBay. Long story boring, I was successful and the £5 gig cost me £40. I don’t regret paying 8x the face value because the chances of seeing Carcass in this size venue again were remote. The gig itself was well worth the money I paid for the ticket. They played a 75-90min set of classic material basically to bed the new guys in the band in – which for me was amazing.

Sticking with small rooms in London, although this next one is a bit further away from Camden – in May of 2013, I was at the Borderline to see Eureka Machines at a headline show. By this time, I had seen them twice supporting The Wildhearts and loved the two albums they had put out at this time. The gig introduced me to The Deadwardians and The Loyalties which was a very good thing as both bands were ace that night. Eureka Machines were the best band of the night though by some way. They only played for about an hour or so, but that didn’t matter. This gig cemented them as one of my favourite bands, and one that I will always try to see when they tour, including buying a ticket for their headline show at the Barfly the day of the gig (I wasn’t going to go because it was at the Barfly but then decided to go in spite of the venue). They are a great live band and I can highly recommend everyone listening to Eureka Machines. Anyway, moving on from what must have looked like an advert there (no money exchanged hands), from a small venue to one of the most iconic venues in London – the Royal Albert Hall. As I discussed earlier in this post, I went there in 2012 to see Pulp. This time I was going there to see Eric Clapton. I’ve been a bit of a fan of Clapton for quite a while (wouldn’t call myself a super fan), and one thing I’d wanted to do was see him at the Royal Albert Hall – I had heard from a number of sources about how good his shows there were. He was doing a 50th anniversary tour in 2013 and did a 10-15 date residency at the RAH, so I was able to grab a ticket for the show. Like I said, I heard from a number of people about how good these shows were – but I must have forgot when I arrived at the venue. It was a very special evening. I saw him at Hyde Park in 2008, and that was very good, but it was not a patch on this show. I’m not sure how to explain it – it was just immense. The setlist contained a lot of my favourite songs (including Tears In Heaven which caused me to well up) and a lot of others I didn’t know but enjoyed all the same. It was everything I hoped it would be and more.

The next entry on this list is certainly not the first intimate gig that I have talked about, although it is probably the biggest band playing an intimate venue on the list. In September 2014 (that was quite a jump), The Holy Shits played the Islington Assembly Hall. The Holy Shits are the Foo Fighters by a different name (no idea why). So, the band that can sell a lot of tickets when they play stadium shows were playing an 800 capacity venue. This was on a short run that saw them playing the Concorde 2 in Brighton (!) and a free gig at the House of Vans in London before they played the closing ceremony of the Invictus Games. This gig was just superb. The setlist featured a handful of rarely played songs but was basically a best of set, which was pretty ace. I got very lucky getting a ticket for this gig – and to be honest I’m not sure I’ll go out of my way to see the band live again. This show was something special and I’m just not sure seeing them again in a normal sized venue for them will be able to top it. Watch this space.

In October 2007, I saw a band called Black Stone Cherry play at the Wedgewood Rooms in Portsmouth. I loved that gig and became a fan of the band. I then went to see them a number of times at different sized venues, which were getting bigger and bigger each time (excluding when they played a one off intimate date at the Concorde 2). I saw them blow Alter Bridge off the stage in Manchester in an arena during this time, all but confirming it wouldn’t be long before they were the headlining band in rooms this big. Earlier in 2014, they did a short UK run which was billed as an intimate tour. The London date on this tour was at the Koko, which holds 1400 odd people I think (that gig was ace) and it sold out almost immediately. A few days after this London show, they announced their first arena headline show, including a date at Wembley Arena. For me, I had to go. I really like this band and it was so cool for me to see them headlining Wembley Arena considering the venue in which I first saw them in. They didn’t sell out Wembley I don’t think, but they got at least 20x the amount of people in there than you can fit in the Wedgewood Rooms, and that is pretty cool. The gig itself was pretty ace and as a result, whenever BSC tour over here, it will be in arenas. They deserve it – they have been releasing damn fine albums for fun in recent years. Still, I wish they would add Stay back into their live sets – I love that song (god damn you Florida Georgia Line!) The next month, in the Forum, I saw Epica. I first heard Epica when I won a gift prize from Wacken and an Epica single was thrown in as well (because why not). I remember listening to it and thinking “I like this band!” and barely listening to them again after that. That was until they released The Quantum Enigma which I think was one of my favourite albums released in 2014. This album being as good as it is inspired me to go back through their discography and listen again and I loved what I heard, which meant when they played London – it was a must. The gig was being billed in some areas as a co-headliner with Dragonforce, which was odd as they had just toured a bunch of pubs in the UK. Dragonforce weren’t that bad that night, better than I expected them to be. Epica though stole the show and completely justified standing through Dragonforce. If I’m honest, I think they were better in 2015 in London, but this was the first time I saw them which is why it is on the list. I’m currently debating whether I should go and see them next year when they come back to London (Shepherds Bush Empire this time around). I will probably go.

I never got to see Queen when Freddie Mercury was alive – I was born too late. When they started doing shows with Paul Rodgers, I found myself very interested but I never pulled my finger out and before long, that partnership was over. Queen were announced to headline the doomed Sonisphere 2012 with Adam Lambert, from American Idol, on vocals. I honestly don’t know if this would have been their first UK show with Adam Lambert or not, but it would have been one of their first. The festival was cancelled and they replaced the date with a few shows at the Hammersmith Apollo. I didn’t go to that because I probably had my head up my arse about Adam Lambert being a talent show singer. Anyway, they announced an arena tour for the beginning of 2015 and I debated long and hard about going before deciding “fuck it” and buying a ticket. It was a good call as the show was really good. The atmosphere in the O2 Arena was pretty epic actually – for the bigger songs on the setlist, the crowd were singing along with every word. Credit where credit is due – Adam Lambert is a bloody good singer and did not look out of place being the front man of Queen. It was a great night. Later that month, I was at another arena in London, Wembley Arena to be exact, to see Slipknot. Slipknot supported by Korn – what a belting tour (if you ignore the fact King 810 opened). It seems that is what a lot of people did and the queue to get in was massive while Korn were due to come on stage, which was a bit shit. I managed to get in to catch the end of their set which was cool (I cannot believe I still haven’t seen Korn do a full set – festival or otherwise). Slipknot coming out on stage to play The Beastie Boy’s Sabotage was one hell of a moment. Slipknot had an outstanding set. They are good headlining festivals but indoors they are a different animal (even if the devil that formed the centrepiece of their stage show…I think it was a devil, looked a bit shit). The setlist was heavy on song from their then new album, which is no bad thing as it is a really good album. Also, Custer is an absolute beast live. That will hopefully remain in Slipknot setlists for years to come.

I was back at Wembley Arena in April of 2015 to attend the Wake Up The Souls tour – which was basically an evening with System of a Down. This tour was being used by System of a Down to promote the facts surrounding the Armenian genocide, also known as the Armenian Holocaust. The set was broken up into 3 parts, in the short breaks between songs they played videos telling the story of the genocide and how it has still not been formally recognised as a genocide by many of the Western nations – which to me is shocking. I first heard of this event in 2004 when I met an Armenian family on holiday in the Dominican Republic who told us about it. Anyway, not in any way to dismiss what happened during that event but this blog is to talk about my live music experiences. To read more about the genocide – click here. The gig itself was fantastic. I loved the System of a Down headline set at Download 2011 – I was most definitely in a minority of people who loved it based on reviews from after that festival. I think I loved it though because it was the first time I was seeing System of a Down live and unless it really stunk, I was always going to love it. I maintain it was good. This however was about 29x better than the Download headline set. They played 35 songs in an over 2 hour set and aside from a slight issue with the sound at the beginning, they were superb from start to finish. That setlist was pretty much the dream System of a Down setlist for me. This was my favourite gig of 2015 and thinking about it now for the first time, probably the best gig I’ve ever been to at Wembley Arena. That could be another fun blog – rating gigs at different venues.

It is time for the final two entries for this blog and indeed the series of blogs. The penultimate entry is a band that has appeared over these blogs a few times and that is The Wildhearts. Last year they celebrated the anniversary of their album PHUQ by playing it in full, and then following it up with a “best of the rest” set, similar to the Earth Vs anniversary tour – except the crowd were not picking the songs. First things first, this gig reminded me how much I love PHUQ – what a great album that is. Since this show, whenever I listen to certain tracks from this album, I’m thinking of this gig straight away. The run through of PHUQ was just brilliant. The second half of the set was just as good though. Getting to hear the long outro to Anthem leading into Suckerpunch was pretty cool. The highlight of the second half for me was Anthem though – probably my favourite song from Endless Nameless – I had resigned myself to the fact I would likely never hear it live and now I have. I left the venue after they played 29x The Pain but was stood outside and able to hear them close the night on The Duck Song – The Wildhearts are still an immense live act and one that whenever they tour, I will always try to go. In December of 2015, I was in London to see Nightwish. I went into this with mixed feelings. In 2013, I had seen Nightwish with Floor Jansen be one of the best bands I have ever seen at any Wacken (not sure they were better than Rammstein that weekend, but they were close and that is quite a compliment) so I knew it would likely be good. However, I couldn’t shake the fact that last time I saw Nightwish in London – it was a let-down. This gig was far from a let-down and it made my top 10 list of gigs of 2015. They appear to have stopped playing two of my favourite songs from the Tarja days, which is a bit of a bummer, but during the gig, they weren’t missed. Throwing in the 10+minute Poet and the Pendulum was quite a surprise. The new material from Endless Forms Most Beautiful all fit perfectly in the setlist (although no love for the title track? That surprised me). Overall it was just a great gig. I missed the special guest appearance by Richard Dawkins at the end which was a shame – but not something I lost sleep over.

And that is that! The series is over. Well, nearly over. There are no more essay length blogs to read, but there will be a photo blog posted not long after this one goes up with a selection of photos from gigs and festivals from the decade of gigs (although none from the first two years as my cameras back then were a bit shit). This has been fun – here is to the next 10 years!

No comments: