Wednesday, 28 December 2011

The Best Gigs: 2011

If you have read this blog over the time that I have been writing it, you will know I do occasionally talk about live music. IT is has been a strange year for gigs in that by October (excluding festivals), I had only been to 5 gigs (and of those 5, 2 of them were Foo Fighters!) Between October and now, I’ve been to 11 gigs. What this blog will do is choose the best of them. This list excludes festival sets as they had a list of their own earlier in the year. Just a reminder of that list (excluding the only gig from the list) the top 5 were:

1) Avantasia – Wacken 2011
2) Muse – Reading 2011
3) Metallica – Sonisphere 2011
4) System Of A Down – Download 2011
5) Slipknot – Sonisphere 2011

How did Pulp not make that top 5? Damn I saw some good music in the summer. Anyway, you can read the whole summer list right by clicking the word that is underlined at the end of this sentence. The following is a list of gigs that are honourable mentions in date order of gigs that did not make the cut with a blurb from how I reviewed them, assuming that I did.

Foo Fighters (NME Big Gig) – Wembley Arena 25/02/2011 – “Wow! They are an immense live band. Everything about this gig was almost perfect. Dave Grohl is definitely one of the best front men I’ve ever seen live and Foo Fighters are now one of the best bands I’ve seen live.” – I should stress this is only here because the other time I saw Foo Fighters maybe in the top 5. Maybe.
Skindred – Wedgewood Rooms 27/04/2011 – “The room exploded as Skindred took to the stage. Seeing the way Benji Webbe can hold a crowd of any size in his hands is phenomenal. During a song towards the end of the set, the band paused with Benji just stood at the front. Without gesture, the crowd went nuts, chanting Skindred until the song kicked back in. I was left in no doubt though that Skindred are an amazing live band, regardless of setting (be it main stage at Sonisphere or in the 400 capacity Wedgewood Rooms). They are a band that, if you like their music, you need to see them live.”
Ginger Wildheart (Acoustic) – Talking Heads 07/05/2011 – “I really did not know what to expect from this Ginger gig. All I knew was it would be a mix of Wildhearts, solo material and some surprises. The opening song was Geordie in Wonderland which was superb. In a world without The Wildhearts on the touring circuit, it is good to see Ginger still touring and performing gigs as good as this one was.”
Evile – Talking Heads 13/10/2011 – “The gig was superb. Evile were on top form and the new album sounds really good live. They said on stage they were very proud of it and from what I heard, they have every right to be. I hope as they do more shows and more headline tours, they play longer sets. They played 11 songs in Southampton and I’m sure they could have played more. Other than that, and them not playing Armoured Assault (again!), I have no complaints.” – As a side note, they would have been in the top 5 if they played Armoured Assault!
Fozzy – Talking Heads 03/11/2011 – “From the off, Fozzy were superb and this remained the case until the last note of Enemy at the end of the gig. It truly was a superb setlist from Fozzy. A superb performance from the band which was met with a superb crowd. At the end of every song, there were loud and prolonged Fozzy chants. Chris Jericho early on in the gig asked if we could come in the trailer with them and come to every gig. Considering how good this gig was, I’d be in favour of that.”
Alter Bridge – M.E.N Arena 24/11/2011 – “Opening with Slip To The Void, they proceeded to play a very strong set list. The band seemed to be genuinely blown away by the response they were getting from the was a cracking gig. Alter Bridge will headline and sell out arenas in their own right soon I think, and they certainly have the ability to perform on the big arena stage.” – When making decisions about the gigs which make the top 5, I try to focus on the headline band. Including Black Stone Cherry would have made this gig scrape in at no.5. As it wasn’t a package tour I can’t include them and thus this gig does not make the top 5.

I would have included Rise Against in that list but for some reason, I didn’t review them. This might have been because I left early in order to get the train home. Anyway, they didn’t make the top 5 but definitely deserve an honourable mention. Honourable mentions get previous words placed next to them. Top 5 bands get new words written as sort of an end of year reflection on why they were the best. Counting down then, Number 5...

5 - An Evening With Dimmu Borgir – Manchester Academy 3 – 25/11/2011

I really didn’t know what to expect from this gig. Not only was it the first black metal headline show I was going to, it was also the first visit I was making to Manchester Academy 3. I’d heard from people that had been there that the room was tiny. It was also interesting as it was just going to be Dimmu Borgir, no support band. I knew Dimmu were a powerhouse live, having seen them twice before at festivals but neither of those two sets came even close to being as good as this gig was. They were splitting the gig into two sets; the first honouring a classic album and the second being a best of. The album that was voted by the fans was “Enthrone Darkness Triumphant”. In my review, I wrote that I hoped “Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia” would win the vote. It has since been drawn to my attention that it wasn’t an option in the vote. Both sets were immense. I had forgotten how good of an album “Enthrone Darkness Triumphant” really is. I sometimes find myself getting bored when a band play an album in its entirety (the first time I saw Iron Maiden truth be told) but this did not happen this time. Shagrath declared the evening was a celebration to the 14 year old album, and it was a spectacular one. The second set was immense as it had all the best of the new material with the very best of their back catalogue chosen as well (I guess that’s why they call it a best of huh?) They didn’t play Sympozium but I am coming to the realisation that it’s one of those rare ones a fan would be lucky to hear live. Maybe one day I will be one of the lucky ones. Anyway, their set concluded on The Serpentine Offering and Progenies of the Great Apocalypse which was a stunning way to close a superb gig. The best way to sum up why this gig was so good is that on the way back to the hotel, regardless of the conversation; the gig would be discussed using words like “wow”, “so good”, “immense” and many other superlatives. The question which pops up occasionally in my mind is how can Dimmu Borgir top that on an open-air stage at Wacken? With a full orchestra, they stand a good chance but it will be very tough.

4 – Manic Street Preachers – O2 Arena – 17/12/2011

Manic Street Preachers were just amazing on this wet night in London. Looking back on it, I am still so impressed that not only did they manage to play all 38 of their singles, but not once did the gig become boring. With this being a gig where they played all their singles, it was the perfect one for me to be at as they played everything of theirs I wanted to hear. The stage show was fairly understated in that it had some Christmassy stuff on stage. The video screen behind the band though was very impressive. It played video throughout the entire gig, either showing the band as they played or showing retro clips of music videos or previous performances. The atmosphere out in the crowd was something special. Aside from one person in front of me who looked bored and fell in and out of sleep, everyone seemed to be having a great time. Almost every song was met with a large cheer and there was a lot of bouncing, dancing, singing etc. The good vibe from the crowd was matched by the band. The onstage chemistry between them all is superb, but at times James Dean Bradfield and Nicky Wire appear to be a comedy double act. Hey, they’d be successful if that’s what they chose to do with their 2 years away from being the Manics. Performance wise they were outstanding. I was told they were a good live act and that is the case. I’m always impressed when a band is able to get an entire venue singing along to a song, even more so when the venue is as big as the O2 Arena is. The final song of the night was “A Design For Life” and that is exactly what happened. It wasn’t unexpected as that song is their biggest song, but it was still immense to be part of that 18k sing along. Manics were fantastic; the crowd was superb and the fact they played all 38 singles in one night is why this gig is in the top 5. They said “see you in 2 years” and I imagine they will see me then.

3 – Ginger Wildheart – Relentless Garage – 18/12/2011

I saw Ginger the week before this gig in Southampton and I thought it was awesome. I only originally went to this gig because I was in London and it seemed foolish to miss another good Ginger gig. Not only was this a good Ginger gig, it was immense. Before the shows I was going to see, I had misgivings about the set list I was seeing posted online as there were songs I wasn’t overly familiar with in favour of songs that I love. After Southampton I listened more and more to these songs and they became favourites. Going into the London gig, I was a lot more familiar with the songs that would be played and loved most of them. I still have my favourite Wildhearts songs but there is no crime in having lots of favourites...right? Anyway, everything about the London gig was better than Southampton if I’m perfectly honest. Other than the sound quality, the most noticeable difference was the crowd. That could be because it was bigger to be fair, I’ll never be sure. In all fairness, it could just have been “this is the last night of the tour, let’s go out with a bang” which made it better. One thing which certainly helped to make it better was the encore. The main set had already been incredible. Ginger came out on his own to join in with “Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me” and invited CJ on stage with him. In a previous review (which I quoted above), I said without The Wildhearts on the touring circuit, seeing Ginger perform awesome gigs makes up for it. So to see a member two members of the last Wildhearts line-up on stage together was a special moment for me. In Southampton, we got Vernix in the encore. Due to this song being on Chutzpah Jnr, and me not being able to find that album anywhere, I wasn’t able to familiarise myself with that one. It didn’t matter as Ginger/CJ et al didn’t play it. In its place they did play TV Tan and My Baby Is A Headfuck. Headfuck is without doubt one of my favourite Wildhearts songs so on top of a set list containing lots of songs I now love, one of my all time favourites was played, with another Wildheart on stage! For fear of repeating my original review, I’ll call this bit quits but this was the last gig Ginger is doing until probably the birthday bash next year (unless plans change) and what a gig to go out on.

2 – Volbeat – HMV Forum – 29/10/2011

They were the second best band for me on the Sunday of Sonisphere 2011. The headline show got announced and even though it wouldn’t be at the Wedgewood Rooms in Portsmouth, it was happening and that was the main thing. I know I said earlier that I wasn’t taking support into account for a gig making the top 5, but Black Spiders were such a good choice to support Volbeat. This gig was already in the top 5 regardless of the support, but Black Spiders certainly helped nudge it towards the head of the pile. If Black Spiders nudged it towards the top, Volbeat grabbed it and threw it towards the top by being such a fantastic live band. It was so much better than Sonisphere which before the gig I would have said would be damn near impossible. The set list was almost perfect with it being another one of those situations where I didn’t want anything to be cut, but rather they just add more stuff. One thing which was really cool was that we got Barney Greenway from Napalm Death guest on Evelyn. It was cool because it was the first time the song had been performed live with Barney, who did it in studio with Volbeat. Other vocalists had sung it with Volbeat, but we got the guy who did it originally. Honestly I think the set list for London was the best set list of the tour which really helped make this a superb gig. Much like Dimmu Borgir, they are playing Wacken next year in a major slot. It could well be that both bands appear again in best bands of the summer 2012 list, if such a list exists. Wacken is Volbeat’s only 2012 show in Europe, which means it could top this London gig. Whether it will or not is yet to be seen, but it will certainly be a tough task. This would have been the best gig of the year, if it hadn’t been for one band that before this year started, I hadn’t seen once. Now I’ve seen them twice.

1 – Foo Fighters – MK National Bowl – 03/07/2011

How was this the best gig of the year? It had everything and more. You can’t truly believe anyone when they say how good a band is live until you see them yourself. In Feb, I saw Foo Fighters and was blown away by how good they are live. They rocketed close to the top of my list of best live bands that day (FYI, I never intend to list my favourite live bands in order as it changes all the time). This gig was always going to be different to the Wembley gig though. Wembley Arena holds 13000 people whereas MK National Bowl holds 65000. I didn’t think this would be possible but Foos just upped their game and were incredible all over again. It isn’t just the fact that they are a tight live act which makes them so good; it’s the fact they can change songs live and it become even better, or even more impressive (the extended outro to Stacked Actors comes to mind). So, the band was stunning. That coupled with an awesome stage show made for one excellent gig. Moving screens on the stage showing different things to suit different songs, sometimes just flashing lights. A run way that ran through the middle of the crowd so Dave Grohl could move about The run way led up to the sound/light desk where there was another little stage so that Dave could play to the people further back. They also played for nearly 2.5 hours, which is commitment to putting on a great gig. The set list was just unbelievably good. A personal highlight for me was the Seasick Steve cover, performed with Seasick Steve and John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin. To see an original member of Led Zeppelin on stage really was the cherry on the cake for me. All of this added together completely outweighs all the negative stuff which occurred that day (the early start, the nightmare getting out etc) to the point where it’s a footnote which often gets ignored when people ask “how were the Foo Fighters in Milton Keynes?” In most years, they would be the best live band I’d have seen live. Unfortunately, it is not the case for 2011 but they certainly were the best headline gig of 2011. The fireworks at the end of the gig proved to be symbolic, as my best gig of 2011 came to an end.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Review: Ginger Wildheart @ The Garage, London 18/12/11

I went to London for the weekend just gone and was at two gigs, Manic Street Preachers and Ginger Wildheart. This is a review of the Ginger Wildheart gig which took place Sunday 18th December at the Relentless Garage in London.

Well, the bar was set high for this gig. Not only had I been to a gig of the year contender at the O2 Arena the previous evening but I had also seen Ginger in Southampton the previous week (hey, you could read about that here!) I saw the set list before heading to this gig of the birthday show (which took place the night before) which looked immense. I knew full well that we would be getting the standard tour set list for this gig but I couldn’t help but hope for a bit of the magic of the Birthday gig to show up for the last night of the tour. One aspect of the birthday show which made me insanely jealous of anyone who was there was that CJ from The Wildhearts was on stage for a selection of songs. During the gig, I was asked by a friend if someone standing near me was CJ. I then turned and looked and said “nah I don’t think so”. I was looking at the wrong person! Turns out that was CJ standing less than 5ft from me for most of the gig!

The gig was at the Relentless Garage which I had never been to before. I have to say that as a venue I really like it. Not overly enamoured with the drink prices but then I didn’t drink so I can’t be that annoyed. Within seconds of Exit_International taking to the stage, I could tell that this venue had much better sound than the Talking Heads. As a result of this (and me not sitting round the corner by the bar) I could hear them properly and they seem like a really good band. I said last time they were full of riffs and this is still the case. I really enjoyed them. For their last song (I think), they were joined on stage by Ginger. It has to be said that the presence of Ginger on stage made them better. I noticed they came on stage late so I worried what affect this would have on the night’s proceedings. It turned out that actually it had no effect. Hawk Eyes were on not long after them and they were also pretty good. I preferred them in Southampton if I were to be honest. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing considering they had better sound in London but oh well! Ginger joined them for a song as well which was cool to see. Both support bands played with Ginger at the birthday show which sounds like it was pretty cool.

It was at this point of the gig, in-between Hawk Eyes and Ginger that my friend pointed out CJ was no longer in the crowd. I wondered at the time if he had left. My answer would come soon enough! Anyway, this image is the tour set list which had been played at pretty much every gig on this tour. We didn’t get Something Weird (Going On In My Head) in Southampton, but aside from that this is the set list we did get (I Wanna Go and 29x were swapped around as well). As the London date I was at was a date on this tour (rather than the Birthday show), I expected something similar to this.

The tour set list is what we got for the most part and it was excellent. The superior sound quality of the Garage really added to how good Ginger and his band were anyway. Credit needs to be given to Victoria Liedtke for how much energy she bought to the stage throughout the entire gig. I didn’t see her stop jumping or dancing once! Much like in Southampton, Ginger and the guys paid tribute to a very funny internet video during ‘This Revolution Will Be Televised’ by changing the lyrics slightly to incorporate “Fenton” and “Jesus Christ” – very funny! Personal highlights of the main set for me would have to be ‘Suckerpunch’, ‘Mazel Tov Cocktail’ and ‘Cheers’ (since hearing the studio version of The Wildhearts cover of that, I’ve listened to it a lot!) ‘Cheers’ was the last song before the encore and I thought that a noticeable absence from the set list was Vanilla Radio. I assumed at the time this was due to the late running of the gig but this didn’t take anything away from the gig for me as it had been really good.

As the band went off for the encore, the crowd sang ‘Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me’ and Ginger came back out on his own to join in. After thanking everyone that needed to be thanked, Ginger introduced CJ to come out on stage! This was really cool that I was getting to see this, having missed the birthday show. Random Jon Poole and Denzel came back out to join them as well giving us 3/4s of a Wildhearts reunion! The first song they played together was ‘TV Tan’. Quickly following that was ‘My Baby Is A Headfuck’ which was immense. Ginger played this at Sonisphere but it was so much better hearing it in London. Then there was a cool moment as joining Ginger and CJ on stage was Ginger’s son, Jake. They played Vanilla Radio together which made a cool moment even cooler. The final song of the night for me (damn you Sunday trains) was ‘I Wanna Go Where The People Go’ with the touring band and CJ. It was a fantastic rendition of the song with a brief medley of “massive cock and balls” in the middle. I’m not going to claim I know what that was about but it was certainly funny.

This was another excellent gig and capped off a great weekend. Ginger is taking a break from touring next year. As a fan this will be sad, but there could not have been a better way to conclude touring than this evening in London. I will definitely be in the crowd when Ginger tours again and I recommend that if you like Ginger and/or The Wildhearts, you get yourself there as well. This gig makes the decision for gigs of the year harder again. Not that I mind this decision being a hard one as it means reliving some great memories!

Review: Manic Street Preachers @ The O2 Arena

I went to London for the weekend just gone and was at two gigs, Manic Street Preachers and Ginger Wildheart. This is the review of Manic Street Preachers Unique ‘National Treasures’ Christmas Party at the O2 Arena.

Before this gig was announced, I had not seen Manic Street Preachers live. I guess I have had plenty of chances to and just missed them. I guess it only occurred to me earlier this year how much of their material I liked. I remember when their ‘Postcards From A Young Man’ album came out; I was blown away by how good the lead singles off it were. Anyway, over the summer they made appearances at a number of UK festivals (the V Festivals, Isle of Wight and iTunes Festival if memory serves me correctly) and I really wanted to go and see them but financially it was not sensible (I could have made the Saturday at one of the V festival’s when they played but they didn’t realise any additional day tickets for that day). As the summer drew to a close, they were promoted to the list of bands I had to see before I stop going to gigs. I’m pretty sure just after I had promoted them in my mind, they announced this gig.

It was going to be a mammoth task without doubt. Quite a lot of headline bands will play 90 minute sets with some playing 2 hours. Rarely does a band play longer than 2 hours (I’ve seen Paul McCartney, Dream Theater and Bon Jovi play longer but it is still not a frequent occurrence). Now, as I’ve never seen Manics before, I don’t know how long they usually play but I feel fairly safe in saying this gig – playing all 38 of their singles - was a gargantuan and ambitious task. With that in mind, it was impossible to not get more and more excited about this gig coming up as the 17th of December got closer. This not only being the first time I would be seeing Manic Street Preachers, but to see them play all their singles was something I couldn’t wait for. If anything, this has the potential to be the perfect Manic Street Preachers gig to go to as they wouldn’t leave out singles they (or others) don’t like and I wouldn’t be able to say “I loved it but it would have been better if they played...” etc.

The show was due to start at 7.30pm so I went to take my seat around 7. I figured if I waited until later, there could be a rush and I might miss something. I didn’t take into account the band would be late on stage but they were (only by 20 minutes mind so nothing crazy). They took to the stage and kicked off by apologising for being late and played ‘You Stole The Sun From My Heart’ which set the tone for this gig as it was excellent. The strong start to the set continued with ‘Love’s Sweet Exile’, ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ and ‘(It’s Not War) Just The End Of Love’. The stage show was very impressive as well. It was made up of Christmassy articles on stage with a big screen behind them, showing either the band performing on stage, classic Manic Street Preachers footage or clips from music videos. From early on in the set and throughout the whole gig, James Dean Bradfield and Nicky Wire just showed how much chemistry they have – not just by being in a band together but with the in-between song banter. During the first set, the band introduced special guest Gruff Rhys who sang with the band on ‘Let Robeson Sing’. Concluding the first set with ‘Indian Summer’, ‘Stay Beautiful’ and ‘If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next’, the band left the stage. The first set was great but what made it all the more better was knowing that there was another 19 songs left to be played. It was at this stage that I noticed the young-ish girl in front of me had fallen to sleep. Quite how is beyond me but there we are!

After a short break, it was time for the second set. Starting with ‘Australia’, the first half of the second set contained ‘Found That Soul’, ‘Some Kind Of Nothingness’, ‘You Love Us’ and the Theme from MASH – ‘Suicide Is Painless’. Before introducing the next song, Revol, the band reminisced about Richey Edwards and talked about how he came up with the lyrics for the song:

"We were in Portugal at this festival until about 2am in the morning and Richey peaked too early. He was f**king smashed eating a kiwi fruit and he goes: 'I've got an amazing lyric; it's about group sex in the Kremlin'. I said: 'Sounds like a winner to me', so here we go."

A funny moment followed ‘Roses In The Hospital’. Bradfield was introducing the next song and talked about the next song by saying “I don’t think that anyone here really liked this song!” Bradfield’s view was proved correct on this matter when the reaction to the song was lukewarm. From there though, it was a 6 song salvo of immense songs with ‘Postcards From A Young Man’, ‘Your Love Alone Is Not Enough’ (with special guest Nina Persson), ‘Slash ‘n’ Burn’, ‘Tsunami’, the very first single ‘Motown Junk’ and finally ‘A Design For Life’. As the set came to a conclusion there was confetti and fake snow firing all over the place. A strong end to an amazing set which to the bands credit did not flag or get boring at all. A mammoth task completed by one of the best bands to come from Wales, if not the very best. This was the last show Manic Street Preachers are doing in this country for at least two years they said, so what a way for them to go out. They were on superb form throughout the entire 3 hour + gig. The press release from the band before the gig promised us this:

"To celebrate the release of 'National Treasures', the band will play a unique, once in a lifetime Christmas party at the O2 in London on 17th December. The band promise “Glitter, glamour, special guests and a ticker-tape celebration. A never to be repeated one-off visual experience encompassing 21 years of MSP with 38 songs – from 1990’s ‘Motown Junk’ to (but not in order!) 2011’s ‘The Is The Day’. There will be an interval in order to top up on refreshments and like all the best parties, you’ll talk about it for years to come and your friends will wish they’d been there"

It goes without saying, they succeeded. This was truly an unforgettable gig.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Review: Ginger Wildheart @ The Talking Heads, Southampton

The last two times I’ve been to The Talking Heads, I have been very happy with certain drink deals they have been running. For a pub to sell bottles of Fosters Gold and Budweiser for cheap would be impressive. For a gig venue to do it, well that’s just outstanding. I saw no such offers this time but figured I took full advantage of the offers last time (as the hangovers the next day will attest to) so I wasn’t that bothered. Besides, it is not like The Talking Heads charges more than most gig venues charge anyway. Some I’ve been to do charge more but you are paying a premium for drinking in a gig venue. There are only certain times when I will be unhappy with a venues drink prices and that is when they are overly extortionate for no real reason. One example of this was at a club night where it was £4.40 for a bottle of Budweiser. Now, it was my own fault for not choosing to drink the rats piss that is Becks or Stella out of a clubs pump. But I never anticipated that anywhere (outside of London) would charge that. I had one pint at £3.30 which I thought was perfectly reasonable. I then saw a 500ml bottle of Pedigree behind the bar. Pilling pound coins into my hand, I asked how much the drink would cost and was delighted to be told it would be £2.50. Assuming that I go back to the Talking Heads (I’ll address this later); I have found a new drink. Furthermore, it is another reason to support the unofficial study that I am doing that Ale is better than Lager. Lots of field research involved in this study as I’m sure you can appreciate. This really is a major detour to have gone on when discussing a gig. I don’t often give much mention to the venue, especially not the first 300 words. I can’t say anything else about the venue as such (until the end) as nothing has really changed about it. Oddly for Ginger’s gigs, the ticket desk is right at the front door (it was also there in 2010) whereas for every other gig it is by the actual venue entrance. Can’t explain that one, but I don’t think it needs to be explained. Anyway, I think a gig happened so let’s talk about that, eh?

On twitter and formspring, long before the tour started, Ginger was hyping up the support for the tour. The support was made up of two bands; Exit_International and Hawk Eyes. Usually when a support band or bands are announced, I will go out my way to research them (to see whether or not it is worth going in early for). I remember researching both of these bands, and I remember enjoying them. Come gig day though, I couldn’t remember a single note, riff, song - nothing. I was quite annoyed at myself for this but decided I would take a chance and head down early enough to see them both. After all, they wouldn’t be receiving as much praise as they are from Ginger and from other sources if they were both shite. First on was Exit_international. Within the first couple of songs of their set I knew I liked them. I was sat at the bar during their set admittedly, but what I heard I enjoyed. A set packed full of riffs. Remaining at the bar, Hawk Eyes were next on and they were just as good as Exit_International, if not slightly better. Another band packed with riffs. This truly was going to be a good gig. Two support bands opening for Ginger Wildheart, both of whom have a new fan in me. I am going again on Sunday to see Ginger so I will make sure of two things. 1) I will reacquaint myself with both bands before leaving for London on Saturday; and 2) I will not be at the bar while they are playing. After walking through a path which leads to the front of the stage (helpfully), I got near-ish to the front for Ginger.

There are a number of songs from The Wildhearts and Ginger’s solo back catalogue which I absolutely love. I had seen on formspring that there would be songs in the set which had rarely been played live or never played live. As a fan of Ginger’s, I was both happy to see this while being slightly disappointed almost because that surely meant some of my favourite songs would not be played. I saw most of my favourite songs played when The Wildhearts came to Portsmouth in 2009 so it is not something which would have ruined the gig for me. What actually happened was a number of songs which I had rarely listened to became favourites. Inglorious opened the set and it was a superb way to kick off the gig. Other songs that were played included The Hard Way, Splattermania, Can’t Do Right For Doing Wrong, Slaughtered Authors and The Wildhearts cover of the Cheers theme. All of these songs have become favourites along with my favourite songs from the set; Vanilla Radio, Suckerpunch, 29x The Pain and I Wanna Go Where The People Go. All in all, it was a superb set performed by an outstandingly tight live machine that makes up Ginger Wildheart & Friends. During one song, and it is to my shame that I can’t remember, Random Jon Poole got the entire crowd to sit down. Having seen Slipknot a couple of times, I figured there would be some “jumpdafuckup” moment, but unless I missed it – there wasn’t one. Oh well. A fantastic set list is one story of this evening. Another story is how surreal certain things were. Ginger tweeted during the day that the crew had found Dragon Soop for sale and had bought some. This was test driven by Ginger on stage (who didn’t approve of the taste). It gets hot in the Talking Heads, especially down by the stage. One person passed out in front of the stage which put a halt on proceedings while the girl, Rebecca, who passed out was attended to. An impromptu song was written on the spot about Rebecca, wishing she was ok. Across the room, someone else then passed out. He was quickly revived and the show went on, until he passed out again! He was taken to sit outside (there is a fire door quite near the stage and helpfully near where this person was). Ginger asked for this door to stay open, and the security guard slammed it shut. I accept there are health and safety rules for venues to adhere to but that seemed a bit of an over-reaction. Another top quality night out courtesy of Ginger.

Another top quality night out in the Talking Heads, but I’m wondering if it will be my last. I had booked two tickets for gigs at the Talking Heads, Alestorm and InMe. I received emails from Ticketweb saying that both gigs had been cancelled and that I was getting a refund. Now, for one to be cancelled, fair enough; that happens and I’m not going to lose sleep over it. For both to be cancelled though; that was peculiar. I did some digging and found out that the tours were going on as normal. Ticketweb had the rest of the tours listed but the Soton dates were nowhere to be found. That made things even stranger so I visited a number of other ticket agencies and found both Soton gigs, not cancelled but moved. So, Ticketweb were refunding me for a cancelled gig which wasn’t cancelled at all. The dates were relisted on Ticketweb with the new venue being The Cellar. After a little more digging, I’ve seen that 5 or 6 other gigs have been moved from the Talking Heads to The Cellar (or in one case, the Joiners). Why have these gigs all been moved from the Talking Heads, I found myself wondering. Is it about to be announced that it is closing? I really hope this is not the case as I quite like it. I would be gutted to see it go, but at least I can say all 5 gigs I saw there were excellent, and were capped off by a fantastic Ginger Wildheart gig.

Snow? Just Say No!

Am I alone in not wanting snow?

I’ve seen a lot of people put on Facebook that they want snow. Now, to put this into perspective, when I say a lot, I have 116 friends on there (I don’t horde friends or be under some delusion that people who I used to go to school with are friends) so actually it is not that many people but it certainly seems like a lot. It is Christmas now (well it is in 10 days of this writing) and as a result, people are getting hyped up for snow. I can only assume, and for anyone this does not apply to – please forgive me, that people want it to snow because it looks pretty. I can’t argue that it looks pretty. In fact, this is a personal favourite photo that I am in (and there aren’t many of those).

Even with the opportunity to have another photo like that taken, I really don’t want snow. The actual time period where we have snow is quite fun. Because it is so infrequent, it is amazing watching it snow. Its fun to walk out in the snow and its fun to lark about in it (snowball fights and such). But, that fun is limited to about 37 minutes. After that, you have to deal with the complete arsehole known as ice. Ice in your drink is a good thing. Ice packs on an injured limb are also quite nice. Shit tons of ice all over pavements and roads is not good! The thing is the snow that sets disappears fairly quickly as people are walking out in it. It just makes life miserable once the snow has gone. The amount of times I nearly broke my neck last time it really iced over...well I lost count. I remember one walk to the train station where I almost fell 5 times (someone laughing at me for almost falling stopped paying attention to what they were doing and fell. I don’t believe in karma but that was wonderful).

And then of course, you have the issue of public transport. I fully accept this doesn’t affect any of you driving folk (although y’all have my sympathies with the ice on the road) but it is such a farce that every time we get a big freeze, or we get snowfall, the trains stop running and buses just decide to run whenever they damn well please. That walk I referenced just now took place in early 2010 when I was on my way to my old job at Iceland. It took me nearly an hour to complete a 20min walk, to find out every train was delayed and I would be late for work. I phoned informing them of this and they said “get a bus”. When I explained that wasn’t likely to happen anytime soon they informed me that I wouldn’t be in trouble for being late (as it wasn’t my fault) but I would have my pay docked. Cheers! This sort of thing could be avoided if there was no snow!

So to all of you people, who want snow, enjoy it for the time that it is falling. Enjoy it for the 37 minutes of entertainment you (and if it happens, I) will have while its fun. But, I want to hear no bitching about the ice and especially no bitching about how cold it is! You can’t have snow unless it’s really cold! (Unless it is synthetic you would get in a snow machine. Seriously outside of movies, what are they for?)

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Hate To Say I Told You So

Over the last few months, the Euro has been focused on a lot by the media and various commentators. It would appear that the currency is under intense, near breaking-point pressure at the moment. Who would have thought that a single currency for 17 very different countries, with very different sized economies, wouldn’t be perfect? It has received a great deal of attention as a recent treaty amendment was proposed by the European Union (EU), and Britain said no to it. It has caused problems, apparently both domestically and internationally. I’d like to have a discussion about some of the events that have taken place and their impact. I should stress this early on – I am a Euro-sceptic so this blog will be biased and it will be biased that way. If that bothers you, there is a little cross in the corner of this window; it might be worth using it. There is a bit of storytelling which I have to dispense with until dealing with my opinion. I have tried to remember it all correctly but if I have made a mistake, then I apologise.

Ok so there has been a great deal of trouble in the Eurozone (the name for the countries inside the EU that have the Euro as their currency) as members of it have run into financial trouble. Greece has been the one which most people have been talking about. They have a relatively small economy anyway and yet they did not control their spending whatsoever (or from what I hear have legislation insisting taxes are paid...) and this, somewhat unsurprisingly, has caught up with them. Other countries in the Eurozone that are in trouble are Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy. There may be others but I don’t recall them now. This is causing massive problems for the countries with stable (or what passes as stable in the current market) economies as they are having to create rescue packages (bail outs) for these failing countries. What makes me raise an eyebrow is how anyone thought a single currency would work in the first place as merely an economic union and not a more inter-connected political one. What I mean by this is I am surprised that the countries that are in the Eurozone don’t all have to have the same tax rules, or at the very least have their budgets regulated and approved by the EU. What I am saying it is seemed to me like a flawed idea from the off and it has now shown that is in fact a flawed idea. So a massive rescue package was being debated for a long time by the Eurozone leaders to try and save Greece and finally it was approved (even if it did mean a government change in Greece!). Now, if my knowledge on the subject is right, once this was agreed, there were discussions on increasing the bailout fund for all of the Eurozone which was approved. What followed then was the proposal of a new Treaty of Fiscal Union (which I believe is an alteration to a pre-existing Treaty but I’m not 100% on that). The Treaty was debated by all the EU member states as a way to save the Euro, fronted by Merkel and Sarkozy (Merkozy). David Cameron said he was going to this summit to talk to the other EU leaders with a number of safeguards he wanted for Britain. When it transpired that these safeguards were completely unacceptable for Merkozy, Cameron did not sign the new proposed Treaty. I believe I have got the facts right there but I have tried to be fairly simplistic with this as going into much more detail would be even more storytelling and would be a waste of everyone’s time.

The proposal that was laid out by Merkozy and the Eurozone would have ended up costing the City of London £26bn a year I believe. That is quite a significant amount of money to just sign away (I guess this is one of the reasons why I don’t vote Labour). I don’t blame Cameron at all for trying to safeguard British interests when it comes to Europe. In fact, I fully support Cameron’s actions here by not signing the treaty change agreement. For so many years, British interests have just been signed away. We had 13 years of a pro-Europe Labour government who were pretty much prepared to allow Britain to be shafted by Europe. It is a nice change. However it occurs to me that if the shoe was on the other foot, and Britain was proposing that we change something which would severely affect France, them using the veto wouldn’t be so much of an issue. Let’s say, hypothetically unfortunately, that we turned up at the EU and said “we need to significantly alter the Common Agricultural Policy” – do you reckon France would be expected to just agree to it like we were expected to agree to this? I don’t think so somehow. In fact as pointed out in the letters pages of yesterday’s Telegraph - “French governments have vetoed reform of the Common Agricultural Policy – the EU's single largest expense – repeatedly, without attracting the opprobrium they've unleashed on David Cameron.” Slightly hypocritical don’t you think?

As a side note, I say the proposal laid out by Merkozy as it appears to be those two leaders who are dictating over this issue. The famous photo set which has appeared on the front of our papers and probably papers across Europe are those of Sarkozy refusing, or appearing to refuse to shake hands with David Cameron. One thing which has not received nearly as much coverage as I thought it might was that, allegedly, after Cameron refused to just go along with what Merkozy were proposing, that Sarkozy needed to be physically restrained from punching Cameron. Good to know that is how things work in the EU. Are we on level footing with France and Germany in the EU if this sort of behaviour occurs? I think not somehow.

So, Merkozy are really mad at Britain for not going along with this. Best let the bulldog stay in the house tonight as Britain is in the big EU doghouse. Or are we? Boris Johnson pointed out in an article he wrote for a recent edition of the Daily Telegraph that other British Prime Ministers and other Prime Ministers have blocked decisions or suggestions which haven’t been in their respective countries interests to approve. He said: “The reality is that plenty of prime ministers have blocked things that aren’t in this country’s interests – from Thatcher on the EU budget to Tony Blair on the withholding tax. And plenty of other prime ministers have been far more obstreperous than the British – one thinks of Felipe González of Spain, who used to hold up EU summits until he felt he had got his hands on enough Irish cod and haddock.”

He then said in this column that he suspects he knows the real reason why Merkozy are angry with us at the moment. He argues that they are angry because Britain has been proven right over the Euro. He says we have, for the last twenty years supported the single market idea but doubted that a monetary union would be a good idea. For twenty years, we have been saying the reason it wouldn’t be a good idea and wouldn’t work without a political union, which would not be democratically possible. This strikes me as being completely plausible. Here we are on our little island, as a part of Europe – as one of the major countries within the EU (apparently) but we’re not signed up to the Euro. We’ve said from the beginning that without becoming the United States of Europe, this plan wouldn’t work. Now it hasn’t worked and the French, Germans et al really dislike the fact that we were right. “I hate to say I told you so...!”

Boris also points out one major fact which seems to be being glossed over quite a lot and that is simply that Cameron didn’t actually veto anything. “They blame David Cameron for “vetoing” a new EU treaty, when really he has done no such thing. It is perfectly open to the other EU countries now to go ahead and form their own new fiscal rules. If they want, they can decide to create an economic government of Europe. They may decide that now is the time – even though electorates are already feeling alienated from the political process – to hand sensitive decisions on tax and spending to unelected bureaucrats. It strikes me that this would be an amazingly dangerous thing to do, since the peoples of this Supra National and Fiscal Union (Snafu) would rapidly discover that they could no longer remove their government from office. I doubt very much that it would work, since there seems no particular reason why national governments should respect a collection of new “binding” rules any more than they respected the “binding” rules of Maastricht – not unless there is some secret proposal to enforce them by violence with a Euro-army”. So, we haven’t blocked the EU from doing anything. The members of the Eurozone and members of the EU outside the zone can sign up to any agreement they want to. All Cameron did was refuse to sign Britain up for it.

One comment that has been said repeatedly is that Britain is now cut off, isolated and marginalised from Europe (mostly by the BBC and Labour that. Odd – wouldn’t expect to see a connection there....). We are in a group of one inside the EU. It remains to be seen whether or not this is actually the case or not. One thought which does occur to me though is that when Britain was exited from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism back in 1992 (after ‘Black Wednesday’), the economy started to grow again and continued to grow and grow. In fact it continued to grow until this happened

Anyway, one interesting thing to come out of this decision by David Cameron is that it would appear there is a nice split to deal with now in the coalition government between the Conservatives and Lib Dems. Well, this is certainly what the media was attempting to portray anyway. Just looking at the headlines, you could be forgiven for thinking that the coalition was about to split up. This is not the case at all. Cameron faced parliament on Monday to justify his decision to not sign up to the treaty change and noticeably, Nick Clegg (the Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats) was not present. Now, it is fairly obvious why he wasn’t present and that is because he wanted to try and show everyone just how upset at Cameron he was. Despite the fact it has been widely reported that before Cameron went to the EU summit, Clegg agreed to the bargaining position of Britain. He agreed to it, yet it very unhappy about it. He justified his decision to stay away from parliament as he didn’t wish to be a distraction; instead he ended up looking cowardly. If you need proof that the coalition isn’t about to split, it can be seen by looking back at parliament on Monday during Cameron’s statement. Instead of slamming Cameron, all the Lib Dems (including Sir Menzies Campbell, the former Lib Dem leader) wanted was a reassurance that we wouldn’t be leaving the EU and we would still be at the centre of all decision making. Even if Cameron had turned around to his Lib Dem coalition partners and said “actually, I’m going to tell the EU where they can shove it” – I can’t see the Lib Dems breaking up the coalition. Some may resign their government posts but I just don’t see them ending the coalition because that would end in a general election, they would undoubtedly get smashed. Anyway, they got their reassurances that we wouldn’t be leaving Europe. My question is though, should we consider going?

I’m not going to reopen the whole debate on Britain’s EU membership now. What I am going to do is focus on the events of the last few days. What has happened basically is we have seen the Eurozone develop into an in-group, a clique if you will, inside the EU. As Merkozy are the leaders of the two biggest countries inside the Eurozone, they are running the show. Because they are essentially running the Eurozone, it almost seems like they think they are running the EU and that everyone should just agree with what they say and what they propose. This would explain their reaction when Cameron said that Britain would not sign up for the proposals Merkozy made. Now, as I’ve discussed, I am in agreement with Boris on the fact they are not mad at us for saying no to the Treaty but they were already mad at us for being right over the Euro. This was made apparent when Sarkozy told Cameron to “shut up” when it came to advising the Eurozone about what to do. Will we be marginalised in Europe because of this? It is hard to say. What is the case though is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to work with these people and now it might be time to consider picking up our ball from Brussels and bringing it home. These people don’t want to work with us and are looking to cause us problems at all times? If that is the case then we should go. Clegg said the decision we made could jeopardise jobs and this is always the argument which is trotted out when the idea of leaving Europe comes up. Along with the argument about trading. On the jobs front, there may be some job loss following out departure from Europe. But the people that are doing the important jobs will no longer be in the job because of the EU, they will be civil servants because the country needs them. On the trading front, I would be amazed if the EU refused point blank to trade with us if we left. But even if they did, there are other places we can trade with. It would be foolish if we left to not explore further trade options with China and the USA. We are not dependant on the EU. I genuinely believe they need us more than we need them. With the goings-on of the last few weeks, I believe we should seriously consider calling the referendum and asking the British voting public “do you believe Britain should remain a member of the European Union?” Based on the opinion polls following Cameron’s decision, I feel the country would mostly agree with me, it is time to go.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Here We Go...Again

You are my Portsmouth,
My only Portsmouth,
You make me happy when skies are grey,
I never noticed how much I loved you,
Until you take my Portsmouth away.

Please don’t take my Portsmouth away...

Must admit, I’m feeling a certain sense of Déjà Vu writing this post.

Last year, we were faced with the prospect of liquidation. On October 22nd 2010, a press statement was released saying that Portsmouth Football Club was due to be liquidated. The next day it transpired we weren’t going out of business. Between then and the takeover by CSI, the future of the club was a concern for all PFC fans. The club was taken over and collectively I imagine, the fans sighed with relief. Finally, our troubles were over. Finally we had owners who would spend more than the bare minimum on the club. Finally we can move on from the debacle of Al Fahim and Al Mirage (I’m not including Chanrai in the debacle list – it wasn’t great under him but he did so much to ensure there is a Portsmouth Football Club to talk about today). CSI owned Portsmouth Football Club and we could look forward to a bright future. CSI passed the fit and proper persons test (which I believe was changed following Al Fahim/Mirage but I’m not 100%) so they must be perfect, right?

After some confusion over what would happen at PFC following the arrest of chairman and director Vladimir Antonov, the club today released the following statement:

The club's parent company, Convers Sports Initiatives plc (CSI), has been placed into administration.

Vladimir Antonov has resigned as chairman and director of Portsmouth Football Club.

Portsmouth Football Club (2010) Limited – the company that operates PFC – is not in administration and continues to trade.

The club has funding in place for the short term, but will now be seeking alternative investment for its longer-term requirements.

Pompey chief executive David Lampitt said: "After the extraordinary amount of work put in by so many people over the last 18 months to get to this point, it is incredibly disappointing for the club to find itself in this position.

"I want to assure staff and fans that we will continue to do everything possible to safeguard the position of the club and its longer term future."

Well, that’s excellent. After daring to dream that the problems of the past few years were just that, a thing of the past, something else just had to go wrong. I believe a quote from the film Bad Boys 2 is appropriate here – “same shit, different day”. The big question is this - what happens now?

Well, I guess in the short term, nothing will happen. As the statement says, the club is not going into administration just yet as we have the cash flow for short term existence. However, as the clubs parent company has gone into administration, I believe that still leaves us facing a point’s deduction (much like Southampton suffered a little while back). The administrator we had last time, Andrew Andronikou, is once again looking for new owners for the club. I’m not entirely sure I am happy with this news as he was the one I believe who helped find CSI and look how that’s turned out.

I think some serious questions need to be asked about the FA and Football League’s fit and proper persons test though. This has let the club down again in a serious way. We fans now have the fun of wondering whether the club will cease to exist and if we do what level of football we will be playing at. If we are deducted 10 points, we will be bottom and will have a massive task on our hands to avoid relegation. It seems somewhat unfair that we will be deducted points for the 2nd time in 3 years considering this problem arose due to a failure somewhere with the FA & Football League’s fit and proper person test. To be blunt, it is absolute bullshit.

This is a tough time to be a Portsmouth fan. I hope that a new buyer comes in and soon. I don’t know the definition of “short term” in the statement issued by the club is. I am slightly in disbelief that we are going through this all again. I’ll end this post (which I accept hasn’t contained all that much new information but has helped me vent a little) with some analysis from Matt Slater, taken from the BBC’s website.

"Almost three years ago to the day, Portsmouth nearly beat AC Milan on a stirring night of European football. Pompey were the FA Cup holders and solid Premier League performers. How things have changed. News that the club's parent company has filed for insolvency protection would be shocking news at most other clubs but not Pompey. Crisis has become the norm. A second spell of administration looms, Pompey's seventh regime in 27 months, and a points deduction looks likely. Never has a club needed fit and proper persons at the helm more urgently."

Play Up Pompey

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Review: An Evening with Dimmu Borgir - Academy 3, Manchester 25/11/2011

The first observation which I feel needs to be made relates to the venue itself. Before going into the gig, I found out that Manchester Academy 3 is in the Manchester University student union (as is Academy 2 and Club Academy). I also found out the student union is pretty massive! Club Academy (300 cap) is in the basement, Academy 2 is on the 2nd floor (800 cap) and Academy 3 is on the 3rd floor (450 cap). Genius idea if you ask me to have 3 gig venues in one building like that. That would be a great place to have a one day festival of sorts, especially if you utilised the big 2300 cap Academy 1 next door to the union. I assume it is the same for all 3 of the venues in this building, but Academy 3 had a fantastic sound system, something which would prove vital in a gig like this one. When walking into Academy 3, I couldn’t believe I was about to see Dimmu Borgir, arguably the biggest international black metal band, in this very small venue.

This tour was titled “An Evening with Dimmu Borgir” – 2 Dimmu Borgir sets with no support. The first set was a run through of an entire album voted on before the tour by fans and the second being a selection from the Dimmu Borgir back catalogue. The album which won the vote was Enthrone Darkness Triumphant. I voted for a different album personally but was pleased to see this one win. I voted for Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia because it has the very first Dimmu Borgir song I ever listened to on their, Sympozium. Ah, nostalgia.

The crowd roared with mass approval when the opening notes from Mourning Palace played over the PA. This level of enjoyment remained throughout the entire of the gig. There was a certain sinister atmosphere in the venue, created not only by the music but by the lights and smoke. In between and during songs there was a lot of crowd interaction, with Shagrath wanting to see a lot of horns thrown in the air, something which the crowd had no trouble doing. “Raabjorn Speiler Draugheimens Skodde” was the final song of the first set. Shagrath declared the evening to be a celebration towards the 14 year old Enthrone Darkness Triumphant album, and what a celebration it was.

The second set began following a brief interval. It started with a drum solo from Daray which was immense. The rest of the band returned to the stage for Vredesbyrd. Following this, Shagrath said “Left are the kings of the carnival creation, carrying out the echoes of the fallen” to start the next song, which was “Kings of the Carnival Creation” which truly was one of the highlights of the second set. We were treated then to 3 songs from the new album, Abrahadabra - Dimmu Borgir (a song about strength and unity), Ritualist and Gateways. The set then finished with the powerful Puritania. Throughout the material from the new album, Shagrath had demanded mass headbanging which happened slightly. During Puritania, almost every person in the room was banging their head. Dimmu Borgir left the stage but the crowd wanted more. Sure enough they returned and closed the night with The Serpentine Offering and Progenies of the Great Apocalypse, which was a stunning close to this evening.

A special night all round with a superb performance and set list from Dimmu Borgir. I really feel this tour has benefited from being in smaller venues. The sheer intensity coming from the band combined with the intimacy of the venue and the almost demonic atmosphere created a stunning show. I will see them again, at Wacken 2012 where they will play with an Orchestra. That has the potential to be even better than this gig, but we shall wait and see.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Review: Alter Bridge @ MEN Arena 24/11/2011

For Alter Bridge, Thursday marked their biggest headlining gig ever. For me, Thursday was the first time I would be seeing a headline Alter Bridge show. I saw them at Rock AM Ring 2008 and remember being impressed with them. I also remember wanting to see them both times they came close to me (they did UK tours with Portsmouth and Southampton Guildhall dates). However, I never got sorted out and ended up missing the gigs. I was looking forward to this gig not just because I would be getting to see Alter Bridge again but they were being supported by a band I love in the form of Black Stone Cherry (BSC). I’ve seen them twice when they’ve come into town and once at a festival and it’s all been good. The other band on the bill was one called Theory of a Deadman (TOADM). I did some investigative work, with the help of Spotify, and found out they seemed pretty good.

Arriving in the MEN arena, I noticed that the upper tier was covered. I can only assume that is because Alter Bridge isn’t quite a MEN sell out band just yet. The timing of the arrival could not have been worse. The MEN Arena does things differently to any other arena I’ve been to in that to access the standing area, you have to walk through the lower tier of seating and get to the floor that way to have ticket swapped for wristband. I quite like the system as it means avoiding a 10 mile walk to get to the only standing entrance door at the o2 Arena. However, this time around I didn’t care for the system because as we walked in and got maybe 3 stairs down into seating, the lights went out for TOADM. That was really quite dangerous actually. There was no way of seeing where the steps were, and there were a lot of them to go. I think that may need to be changed. Anyway, didn’t fall down them this time so no matter!

TOADM headlined this tour out in America. It was a 5 band tour with Alter Bridge and BSC (plus two other bands) playing below them. I don’t know if it was the fact they weren’t headlining or whether they are just boring live, but I wasn’t overly impressed with them. They lacked any form of stage presence I felt. Musically they were fine but they weren’t great. They had some sound issues (not sure if that’s due to them being a support band though) but they can’t be blamed for the set being not all that enjoyable. I hope it was due to them not headlining, but they aren’t massive in this country so you would assume they would want to be in top form to sell themselves to all of these potential fans watching them. I wasn’t impressed by them and to be honest I probably won’t go out of my way to see them again. They did come out to Blame Canada from the South Park movie though, which was win.

After a short break, it was time for BSC. I had no doubts about how good these guys would be. I had said before their set that seeing them at this gig would probably tide me over and I wouldn’t end up going to their March headline tour. They played a set which evenly covered their 3 studio albums which was good. They are just fantastic live. There is little for me to say which hasn’t already been said elsewhere but they are just one of those bands who deliver live every time. One thing which made me smile was that sing-along moments were loud. It seemed that the now much bigger crowd generally approved of BSC, especially during the song Peace Is Free. The energy coming from the band was infectious. The crowd was loud for the last two songs, Blame It On The Boom Boom and Lonely Train which signed off a great support slot. At the beginning of the set, I said I wasn’t going to see them in March. Now, I probably will.

Having seen Alter Bridge only the one time, and it being at a festival, I knew they were comfortable on the big stage. As soon as the lights went off, the MEN crowd exploded. I thought they were loud for BSC but damn! Opening with Slip To The Void, they proceeded to play a very strong set list (although from what I am hearing, it wasn’t that different to their last tours set). The band seemed to be genuinely blown away by the response they were getting from the crowd. Highlights from the set for me include the opener, I Know It Hurts, Metalingus, Blackbird, Isolation and Open Your Eyes. The rest was really good to be fair. I only have one gripe with what they did on stage and that occurred during the encore. When they went off, the crowd (or at least quite a few people near me) were chanting for more. The house lights didn’t come back on, that’s usually a good indicator they are coming back! Anyway, they played Open Your Eyes and took a pause. During this pause, Myles Kennedy thanked the crowd again for coming out and paid tribute to Freddie Mercury (Thursday marked 20 years since he passed away). Him and the other guitarist then proceeded to duel (I guess is the best word) with guitar solos. It was a bit strange and seemed pointless to me. I kinda guessed throughout the rest of the show that these guys could play guitar. Anyway, aside from that, it was a cracking gig. Alter Bridge will headline and sell out arenas in their own right soon I think, and they certainly have the ability to perform on the big arena stage. BSC will I’m sure continue to grow and grow in popularity in this country if they continue to be as good as they are live. TOADM though...I just don’t know. Maybe their headline shows in March next year will be better? I don’t know, as I won’t be there.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Give The Dog A Bone

With November coming to an end shortly and the first of the summer festivals in Europe not happening for at least 6 months (I’m not sure if there is one in May or not), it makes perfect sense for me to post a blog about the topic. I am going to cover two specifically – Wacken and Download. I haven’t spoken much about Wacken since they announced the first 7 bands at the festival. The festival has been steadily announcing bands since then and we know a fair amount of the line up now. For sake of ease, I am going to go through each band that has been confirmed A-Z.

Amon Amarth – This is a band I’ve wanted to see for quite a long time. I’ve had a ticket to see them headline in London which I then couldn’t make. I also had a ticket to see them support Children of Bodom but I couldn’t make that gig either. They haven’t played a festival I have been to either but they were announced for Wacken 2009 which I had a ticket for but ended up selling it (on reflection, I really regret that decision). I am looking forward to seeing them.

Axel Rudi Pell – They were announced for Wacken 2008 but had to pull out. I remember thinking that was a bad thing. On reflection, they seem like they could be worth a watch (assuming they don’t pull out again).

Coroner – I don’t know much about Coroner but they seem like they are worth a watch. They appear to be a pretty decent thrash band.

Cradle of Filth – They are a band I’ve been aware of for some time now but never seen live (even when they played Portsmouth – dropped the ball on that one). Anyway, if there is no clash I will give them a watch.

Danko Jones (Spoken Word) – I would like to see Danko Jones at a festival some time, but I don’t see me watching him do spoken word for a number of reasons. The main one being it will likely be in German.

Dark Funeral – No ta. They, like Mayhem, are not for me. Granted, if there is nothing else on I may as well watch them, but as they will likely be on the Black stage, there will be something on the Party stage!

Dimmu Borgir – Well, I am massively in favour of seeing Dimmu Borgir at Wacken. They used pyro on the smallest stage at Rock AM Ring, so I can’t imagine what they will do on a big festival stage. Oh, and they will also have an orchestra with them, so that should be fun.

Endstille – See Dark Funeral entry.

Forbidden – They seem like they could be worth a watch. Another thrash band that seem pretty good but truth be told would likely lose a clash against another band I wanted to see.

Gamma Ray – Definitely got to see Gamma Ray. They seem really good. Thanks to Wacken I’m a lot more receptive to Power Metal, part of the reason why I must try and see Gamma Ray

HammerFall – See above really! I was really happy to see these as a part of the first announcement.

Henry Rollins – Every time I’ve seen Henry Rollins, it has been really good. I will do all I can to catch him, but I am concerned that he also will do his sets in German. I don’t even know if he can speak German, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he can.

In Extremo – These have to be seen! I don’t know much by them but what I’m listening to now has folk, metal and industrial elements. Sounds like it should be good!

Machine Head – I am actually looking forward to seeing Machine Head. I haven’t seen them since 2009 and since then they have released a new album so if nothing else, at least the set list will be different. The new album is alright as well, which helps matters.

Ministry – I had a ticket for the CuLatour which I thought would be the final chance to see them. I had a ticket for the last UK date on that tour as well. I couldn’t make the gig so I assumed that was it and I wouldn’t get to see them again. Al Jourgensen seemed fairly adamant at the time that Ministry were done. So to see them announced for Wacken is amazing. I will definitely have to watch them.

Moonspell – This band seem pretty good. Fairly gothic and doom-y (I accept that isn’t a word). Shall give them a watch

Napalm Death – I have to be honest, I couldn’t have given two shits about this band when they were announced for Wacken. However since I saw the vocalist appear with Volbeat on stage in London, I have been a lot more receptive to them. They shall have to be watched.

Opeth – The latest announcement for the festival and it is certainly a strong one. They played Sonisphere this year but I missed them due to a clash. I last saw them supporting Dream Theater and they were really good. I will give them a watch.

Paradise Lost – I really like this band and think the album Draconian Times is stunning. I saw them do a short set at Sonisphere 2009 which I enjoyed, so I am looking forward to seeing them do a full set at Wacken.

Saturnian – They are from the UK! That’s all I have on that one

Scorpions – This is going to be superb - Scorpions closing out Wacken 2012 with a best of set. I am really looking forward to see them

Sick Of It All – Epic announcement this is! Saw them at Sonisphere 2010 and rated them a 10. Definitely going to see them again.

Six Feet Under – I don’t know anything by them. All I know is the vocalist is the original one from Cannibal Corpse (the one who provided the vocals for such family favourites as I Cum Blood and Entrails Ripped from a Virgins Cunt). Might give them a watch.

U.D.O – The vocalist from U.D.O appeared during Skyline’s set at Wacken 2011. After that appearance I thought “I’d like to see them” and then they got announced for Wacken 2012. Strange how that happened really!

Volbeat – OH MY A GOD! That was pretty much my response when I saw they had been announced. At the tail end of my Volbeat in London review, I said: “They were outstanding live last night and left me hoping for another UK tour next year (and a Wacken appearance hopefully).” Well, this show is the only European show in 2012, so I get one of my wishes come true. Only European show of 2012 and I will be there, now that is cool!

Watain – I missed them at Sonisphere due to my headache. I was annoyed about this. However, they are at Wacken so that should be good.

Winterfylleth – Nah, not for me.

So that is the round up of all the bands that have been announced so far. I like quite a lot of them and want to see most of them. That’s always a good thing until times are announced and then it is an utter cunt. Oh well, crossing bridges when they arrive and all. Graspop just announced their first lot of bands and aside from Black Sabbath, the announcement is pretty good (BS making it awesome). Aside from the bands that played the last Wacken festival and the ones who are booked for the next one, I hope Lamb of God, Sacred Reich and Obituary get announced for Wacken.

Changing countries and festivals now, let’s head back to the UK to Donington Park, where a purple looking dog brings music occasionally. There was rumbling about Download getting ready to announce a headliner for their 2012 festival recently and I was excited as I always am. I haven’t spent the weekend at Download since 2007 but I always look at their line up before deciding my summer plans. Anyways, they not only announced one headliner, but over the space of a week, they announced all 3.

My word! That is a good set of headliners! Let’s deal with the major one as far as I am concerned. Metallica at Download is awesome. They are heading back to Donington for the first time since 2006 and like last time, they are playing an album in full. Last time it was Master of Puppets, this time it is Metallica (The Black Album). That is awesome for me as it was that album which got me into Metallica (much like a lot of their fan base I am sure). The main difference though between the two albums is that Master of Puppets has 8 songs on it, while the Black Album has 12. Generally speaking a Metallica set list is 18 songs long, which only leaves 6 songs to cover 8 albums (9 if you include St Anger, but does anyone include St Anger?) Anyway, this is my realistic guess at the set list, assuming of course that they stick to the 18 song set formula and play the album in order, like they did Master of Puppets:

Creeping Death
For Whom The Bell Tolls
Enter Sandman
Sad But True
Holier Than Thou
The Unforgiven
Wherever I May Roam
Don't Tread On Me
Through The Never
Nothing Else Matters
Of Wolf and Man
The God That Failed
My Friend of Misery
The Struggle Within
Master of Puppets
Seek and Destroy

Seek and Destroy seems to be the go-to set closer for the last few years. Despite the fact on the 2011 Big Four tour, whenever they played a Sonisphere festival they didn’t do it that way; I think for this summer vacation tour, it will be that way around. Breadfan is just my guess at the cover song they will do. It could be anything in that spot truth be told. As for the rest of my guesses, the only one which may get cut is For Whom The Bell Tolls but I couldn’t possibly guess what they would swap it with. One thing I love about Metallica is that they aren’t afraid to mix up the set lists and even though this could be the 9th time of seeing them, I would always have seen something I’d never seen live before. Metallica would once again be a must see.

Black Sabbath is one that honestly I can’t decide how excited I am about seeing. The name value makes the announcement genius and it would be impossible for me to say that the original four members of the (arguably) first ever heavy metal band getting back together after a tour is important. But I saw Ozzy Osbourne at Wacken this year who played War Pigs, Iron Man and Paranoid (Black Sabbath wise anyway) which are my favourite songs of theirs. I’ve also seen Heaven and Hell, which was Dio-era Black Sabbath and saw them play the best of the Black Sabbath material they released. I flit between Ozzy-era and Dio-era as my favourite era of Black Sabbath but I believe I’ve seen the best of both worlds. I wouldn’t object to seeing more Black Sabbath material but I feel it would be more of a nostalgia trip seeing Ozzy-led Black Sabbath rather than going to see a band I need to see. I’m not saying that is a bad thing at all.

The Prodigy is an interesting choice of main stage headliner for Download. While I’ve not read any of the stuff, I understand there has been a complete shit storm on the Download Festival Facebook page from people who are desperately trying to cling onto the idea that Download is a metal festival (which is odd as it’s never been a metal festival – rock festival yes). They’ve played Download twice before (2006 and 2009) so it is not as if they or even this genre of music is new to Download. They have also played prominent spots at the festival (headlining the 2nd stage both times they played if memory serves). Them playing again, 3 years after they last played is fair enough. Headlining the main stage is something else. Are they right to headline? In my opinion, yes they are. They have headlined and more recently sub headlined the Reading/Leeds festivals (which I’d say are bigger festivals than Download). They have played high up the bill at Glastonbury and generally attract a fairly high position wherever they play. They are obviously a big enough band to headline Download. People are saying they are not suitable which is obviously nonsense. If they weren’t suitable, then they wouldn’t be playing the festival at all. I for one look forward to seeing them (again, assuming I go) and hope they can recreate something like their set at MK Bowl (I wasn’t there, but I’ve seen videos of it and they looked epic).

So, Download is off to a strong start. I hope to be there for the weekend but will definitely be there for at least one day. And truthfully, if I had to pick one day, it would be Metallica. To see them play The Black Album in full would be amazing. All I know is that festival season is starting to kick into gear and I love it when that happens.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Review: Toxic Shock - Deliverance

For Fans Of: Aerosmith; Guns N’ Roses; Motley Crue; Metallica; Audioslave; Pearl Jam

Toxic Shock is a Portsmouth based band, formed out of the ashes of other local groups. They describe themselves as a Classic Rock/80s Hard Rock band and list a number of big names as their influences. Toxic Shock has just released their debut EP, Deliverance, which is available at all your favourite online haunts (links to follow). The big question here though; does Deliverance deliver?

Before talking about the songs that make up the EP themselves, I think there needs to be a mention made about the production of the EP. It is of high-quality and is clear that some time has been put into making this sound as good as it does.

The EP starts with Make Ma Stand which is an excellent way to open. The song is a mesh of the 80s hard rock style Toxic Shock bill themselves as along with a healthy dose of all the good stuff which emerged from Metallica’s Load/Reload era. This track is a dirty rock & roll song which you could break the speed limit to (I’m not recommending you do in fact break the speed limit to this song, I’m just saying you could!). Insane is a superb track which honours the influences the band cite as having, while making it their own at the same time. While honouring the rock music of years gone by, it gives off a modern vibe almost. Quite like that present when listening to The Darkness or Steel Panther, although to their credit, Toxic Shock is nowhere near as cheesy. Insane is very catchy with a riff you can bang your head along to.

Decreasing the speed somewhat, Vanity is a nod to the grungier side of rock. There is a definite Audioslave/Pearl Jam vibe to this song. It is a noticeable change in style to the previous two songs but this is by no means a bad thing. If anything, it shows off the bands ability to alter their sound, while still writing good material. The title track, Deliverance, is another good song influenced by icons of the past but this time different. I hear a fair amount of Black Sabbath and Thin Lizzy in this track. It is another good example of Toxic Shock taking all the best from the bands that influenced them while making the song sound modern. This is another catchy song which forces you to bang your head. This is not optional. The final song, Bring It Down is a great closer as it is simply kick ass hard rock music.

Deliverance is a great debut EP from Toxic Shock. The influences present on this collection of songs are vast, and yet the songs sound fresh and modern. I would highly recommend listening to this EP. Deliverance without doubt delivers (and with that, is the last time I will engage in word play with the EPs title!)

Official Website

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Review - Fozzy @ Talking Heads, Southampton 3/11/11

I walked into The Talking Heads for the 2nd time in 3 weeks really quite excited. Seeing a Fozzy headline show was something I had not done. I also was only able to watch half their set at Sonisphere. As I arrived, there was a band on stage (I didn’t catch their name). They seemed alright but the in between song banter bugged me. I get that if you are a local band opening a gig like this, there is a chance I won’t have heard of you. Hell, I don’t know many of the support bands I see when I go to gigs unless I research them. Anyway, you don’t need to remind me that I don’t know who you are. They also came across as disrespectful to Fozzy. I get that Fozzy probably didn’t choose them to open and it was the promoters call (or possibly the venue...I dunno how this works) but they said something to the effect of “coming up are two bands who are just as good as Fozzy”. That may or may not be true (for the record, in this case it is not) but your job is to open the gig and pump up the headline set, while selling your own material. Perhaps this is a minor thing which bugs me but it did. Maybe the intent was not to be disrespectful but to me, that is how it came across. I liked what I heard from them but I’ve spent more time talking about how they annoyed me rather than their music. Like I said, they seemed alright...whoever they were! The next band was called Verses. They seemed pretty good and got a fairly good reaction from the crowd. However the job of really warming up the crowd before Fozzy fell to a band called Jett Black. They were excellent. I was told by a friend that I had to see these guys and I do not regret it one bit. They were a lot of fun and are also a good listen. As a crowd, Jett Black warmed us up, and it was time for Fozzy.

From the off, Fozzy were superb and this remained the case until the last note of Enemy at the end of the gig. Personal highlights of the gig for me included Paraskavedekatriaphobia (Friday the 13th), God Pounds His Nails, Under Blackened Skies, Enemy, Let The Madness Begin and Martyr No More. It truly was a superb setlist from Fozzy. A superb performance from the band which was met with a superb crowd. At the end of every song, there were loud and prolonged Fozzy chants. Chris Jericho early on in the gig asked if we could come in the trailer with them and come to every gig. Considering how good this gig was, I’d be in favour of that. The chants varied throughout the night from “we love you Fozzy, we do!” to “fuck you Reading!” when we were told we were the best crowd on the tour. Granted, it was only the 2nd night and we might have been topped since then but what the hell, I’ll take it!

I recall reading on Twitter that this tour will be Fozzy’s last visit to the UK for quite some time. I hope that this is not true because they were superb. If it is though, I’m sure when they come back; they will be just as good, if not better.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Poundland's Poppy Problem

There is one thing I am sick of seeing and that is people using the “we didn’t want to offend people” excuse to justify their actions. Especially at this time of year, when there is always a story about how a company has to send “season’s greetings” rather than saying “Merry Christmas” so they don’t offend. However this isn’t a story about someone trying to ruin Christmas. This is about remembrance. At this time of year, people in this country (and others around the world) wear poppies. The reason for this is simply to remember and honour those who died in the two world wars. Remember the contributions and sacrifices they made for this and other countries. Due to the nature of my work, I am unable to wear a poppy while working. However, I have one which I donated for today which will be attached to my coat shortly. It is a simple gesture but one that should not be taken away from someone who wishes to honour the war veterans, well, that is unless you work for Poundland.

A complaint by a Poundland employee in Lisburn has led to the company changing its policy over the wearing of poppies.
The woman walked out of the store in Bow Street Mall after she was asked to remove the poppy from her uniform as it was against company's dress policy.
Poundland said after listening to customer and staff feedback it had reviewed its UK policy.
The company apologised for any unintended offence caused.
“We have for some years operated a clear and simple dress code that store colleagues are requested to observe," said Jim McCarthy, Poundland's chief executive.
"The policy was designed to prevent issues arising that for whatever reason could upset individuals or communities and to focus our energy on raising money for colleague-nominated charities.”

OH DO FUCK OFF! How could wearing a poppy upset or offend someone? I can’t think of a scenario which isn’t really unlikely and/or ridiculous to justify having a policy which bans wearing one. As for violating a dress code policy, that is absurd. I’ve worked in retail (for more than 1 company) and have never read anything which suggests the wearing of a poppy should not be allowed. At absolute worst, there has been something about management discretion. Discretion is fine and fair enough, but no manager I have ever worked for has banned the wearing of poppies. The thing which makes this worse for me is that I’m reading contradicting stories on their u-turn on dress code policy. More than one source has said they changed their stance on the matter only after customers threatened to boycott their business. If that is the reason why the change was made, they ought to be ashamed of themselves (more so than they should feel already). In their efforts to try not offend people, they have offended every man, woman and child who fought in the war and gave their lives to protect the country.

So like the member of Poundland staff who refused to remove hers, wear a poppy and show that you remember those who gave their lives for us.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Bück Dich

It’s been a week since the Rugby World Cup has ended and already, I miss it not being on. Just to briefly cover what happened in the final weekend of the tournament, Australia beat Wales in a hard fought contest to the bronze medal. They won 21-18. The final was another close fought contest between France and New Zealand. Both teams didn’t play their best and I think it is fair to say that the best team finished 2nd. New Zealand won the game 8-7 and ended 24 years of waiting for another World Cup. Frances wait continues as they lost their 3rd World Cup Final. I said on September 18th that my pick was New Zealand, and they won the tournament. I am quite pleased about this and am excited to see what will happen at the next RWC, in England. Will Martin Johnson be England’s head coach for the 2015 RWC? IT is hard to say, but I think if he doesn’t go before, he will go if England doesn’t win the 2012 Six Nations tournament. I bet the Wales v France game will be slightly interesting this time around eh?

In other rugby news, since I last posted, Bath have played 3 games, 2 in the LV Cup and 1 in the premiership, and won all 3! The first was against Newport Gwent Dragons (16-46 to Bath), the second was against Worcester (which I was at, the full time score being 46-13) and yesterday against London Irish (the final score being 13-12 to Bath). 3 big and important wins for Bath going into next weekend’s game against the undefeated Harlequins. The Quins are on an utter roll at the moment and I don’t know if Bath will have enough to beat them, but I hope they do as I will be there. It is good to see the players from the Rugby World Cup returning now and hopefully we can build on these three games and keep going forward. The Heineken Cup campaign starts on November 20th, so that is something to look forward to.

That is all the rugby talk for this post done with, now on to another regular topic of this blog and that is music of the live variety.

A while ago now, I purchased a ticket to see Rammstein play in London on their Made In Germany 1995-2011 tour, which will be a best of tour. I really enjoyed them on the LIFAD tour but a best of tour can only be better than an album tour in my mind. Details of this tour have been scarce until recently. They hadn’t even released the track list for the best of album which is due to be released alongside the tour so while educated guesses could be made about what would be on the tour and what wouldn’t, no-one knew for sure. In all fairness, we still don’t but now we have a better idea. The first nugget of information was a picture of the stage layout (similar to that you would find on Ticketmaster).

TWO STAGES AND A BRIDGE?! Awesome! The show indoors in Manchester was superb, so I can’t imagine how much better it could be with 2 stages and a bridge. This makes me very happy. However there is still the stumbling block before complete excitement can be had. What will be played? Rammstein don’t mix setlists up (when they have such a complex stage show like theirs, it would be nigh on impossible to mix it up). Before the LIFAD tour, they played some rehearsal shows and the setlist was changed slightly but what they played then is much what we saw in Manchester and at Sonisphere. The following is the setlist from one of Rammstein’s recent rehearsal gigs for the Made In Germany 1995-2011 tour:

01 Sonne
02 Mein Land
03 Keine Lust
04 Sehnsucht
05 Asche zu Asche
06 Feuer frei!
07 Mutter
08 Mein Teil
09 Du riechst so gut
10 Links 2 3 4
11 Du hast
12 Haifisch

13 Bück dich (2nd stage)
14 Mann gegen Mann (2nd stage)
15 Pussy (2nd stage)

16 Mein Herz brennt
17 Ich will
18 Wollt ihr das Bett in Flammen sehen?

19 Engel
20 Amerika

Oh my fuck! That is pretty much the perfect Rammstein setlist for me. I could make some additions to make it the perfect setlist but this is amazing. This setlist absolutely smokes the one from the LIFAD tour. Seeing this makes me seriously excited for February and I’ve got a number of big gigs lined up before that! This is going to be just sublime. I also saw details from the show surrounding the song Bück dich.

As the band vanishes, Richard starts to play with the Keyboards. I've seen 'reviews' that say he turn's DJ and that this is the Combichrist influence, utter nonsense, he was playing the same intro as on LAB, complete with Woooo sections with the crowd, but with no burning keyboard. Eventually the stage centre doors open up and in a cloud of light and smoke Till reappears with Flake on a leash, Schneider and Ollie also tag along bare-chested and on all fours like dogs as well. (The only real area of conjecture that I am going to make is that in the full show, Till will have all three of them on leashes and he will lead them along the runway to the second stage. like dogs) So for tonight the area that is pretending to be the second stage is lit by four white spots from above, all other lights go out. Paul remains dressed on stage left Ollie and Schneider take up their instruments. , Flake is dressed in leather mini shorts with drop down butt flap, thigh high boots and a ball gag harness. There is no box for him to crouch on and he's pulled here and there by Till, really abusing him. Finally he adopts the position, crouching on all fours at the stage front, Till undoes the flap of Flake's shorts and we're treated to the sight of the pale soft moon of Flake's butt! No squirty penis tonight, but Till does pull out of his pocket a rubber pink dildo which he then pretends to insert into Flakes ass, but then, genuinely laughing, Till moves between Flake and the audience so he's blocking what he's doing from the audience, and tries to really shove it in, judging by Flakes reaction I'd say he nearly got there! just after that Flake while trying to re-button his shorts is yanked by Till and falls awkwardly onto a mike stand which looked like it hurt him, there really wasn’t enough room to do it all properly on the corner of the stage they were using.

So it goes without saying that I’ve purchased another ticket to see them in Birmingham.

That is all for this post. I have nothing else to prattle on about. Posting this the same day as my Volbeat review. Look out for a review of Fozzy coming soon from their Southampton gig as well as some other stuff. Now, go outside.