Thursday, 14 April 2016

A Decade Of Gigs Part Four - London (pt 1)

London! Oh I do love me some of that London. This is part four of the series of blogs I am writing about the last ten years of gigs and festivals that I have been to between 2006 and 2015. This one is a two-parter in itself as it covers gigs that I’ve been to in London. This first part covers 2006-2011 and the second part, appropriately, will cover 2012-2015. I’ve been to London a lot for gigs, so the relatively recent terrorist attack in Paris affected me quite badly when I heard about the awful events that took place at an Eagles of Death Metal gig at the Bataclan. It affected me badly because of the fact I go to London semi-regularly for gigs and that sort of event is just something you cannot imagine occurring. Two days after the attacks in Paris, I was in London for a gig. I would be lying if I said that attack on the Bataclan was not weighing heavily on my mind that night – but if you change the way you live your life as a result of terrorist actions, then they have achieved their aims. Anyway, I’m not here to talk in depth about terrorism, I’m here to write about some of the gigs I’ve been to in London over the last 10 years. As I said before, this blog will cover the first 6 years of the decade in question. The third gig I went to was in London, and that is the starting point for this reflection.

I’ve heard so many good stories about gigs at the Astoria. It was an iconic venue. I am saddened to write about it in the past tense as it has been torn down to make way for Crossrail. My first visit there was in November 2006 to see Stone Sour. When arriving in London, I actually didn’t know where the Astoria was. Nowadays, if I am going to a venue and am not 100% sure where it is, I will be on Google Maps figuring out its exact location (this doesn’t always work out as I will discuss later). However in 2006, I didn’t do this. Google Maps was still a relatively new thing at this point – that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it! Anyway, Stone Sour were supported by Bullets and Octane that night. I remember their set because someone tested the stage lights for the club night that would follow this gig while they were on stage. The band were playing away, while behind them in bright lights, the letters G.A.Y were illuminated. It was quite a humorous moment. I had seen Stone Sour for the first time at Download 2006, where I thought they were great and really looked forward to seeing them again. In this environment, they were so much better. I learned one important lesson on this night – don’t stand against a wall with a metal mesh on it at a packed gig. I got squashed against it, which meant it was quite a painful experience watching Stone Sour that night, and I was at the back! The next month, I visited another classic venue which is no longer open – Earls Court - to see Iron Maiden. Not long before this gig, they released their then new album, A Matter of Life and Death. They took the unprecedented (for them at least) step of playing this album in full. I like the album but I will admit to being slightly disappointed they did this. When they had played the album in full, they concluded the set with a few classic Iron Maiden songs – this was when I got my first introduction to how amazing it is when they play Fear of the Dark. The atmosphere whenever they play this song live is something which needs to be experienced to fully understand what I am saying I’d say.

I went to 3 gigs in London in 7 days in March of 2007. Two of those gigs were Nine Inch Nails gigs at Brixton Academy, and the other was Stone Sour, who were back at the Astoria. Brixton Academy is another legendary venue in London. I don’t wish for this blog to sound like a massive advert, but there is a fantastic book written by the guy who bought the venue when it was basically a derelict building and how it became the iconic venue we know today. I originally had planned to go to only one of the NIN gigs in their 4 night residency at Brixton, but I loved the first one so much I went online to see if there were any tickets left for the other gigs and found there were seating tickets left for the Sunday. Both gigs were outstanding. Choosing which one of the two is my favourite is a call I don’t think I can make – I’d say the second night I went to had the better setlist (Starfuckers Inc!) but they were both as good as each other. I’d love for Nine Inch Nails to do multiple nights at Brixton again (although I don’t think my wallet would like it much!)

I didn’t go to London for a gig after Stone Sour at Brixton until later that year when Dream Theater came to town in October and played Wembley. This was their first time playing an arena in the UK (I believe). At their previous shows, they had done 3-4 hour sets. This one wasn’t as long, but still was over 2 hours. I loved their set at Download 2007 and this one was just as good. I’ve seen them twice at Wembley and both shows have been great. I’d say the first one in 2007 was better as the setlist was pretty much exactly what I wanted to hear. The second one was memorable in that it had a drum solo with 4 drummers on the same kit – that was quite something. November had another two London shows in quick succession, with Serj Tankian being on a Thursday and the Black Crusade tour being a few days later on the Sunday. As I’ve said in an earlier blog, I really regretted missing System of a Down when they were in the UK in 2005 and wanted to rectify that. Serj Tankian released a solo album and played a one off solo headline show at the Astoria (if memory serves, he was in the UK supporting Foo Fighters on their arena tour). I had assumed he would drop in the odd SOAD song into the set, but this was not the case. That did not detract from the gig though as his first solo album was brilliant, and I think he played the whole thing that night (if not all, then most). There was also an ace Dead Kennedy’s cover. That Sunday, I was back in London for the Black Crusade tour, which was a five band tour co-headlined by Trivium and Machine Head. I missed the opening band in favour of being in the pub (I know, I’m awful). Arch Enemy had a great set. I enjoyed Dragonforce (although that could be because the two previous times I had seen them at Download, they had some significant sound problems). I was indifferent to Trivium’s set for the most part which was probably the first time I had experienced that at a gig for a band I went to go and see (as opposed to not caring too much about a support band). Machine Head absolutely smashed it. I’d seen them have blinding sets at Download and supporting Metallica that year, but this was better. All in, I’d say this was a great gig.

Just above, I mentioned about not caring for a support band. When Megadeth bought Gigantour to Brixton, I had two very different reactions to their support bands. Evile opened the gig and they were superb. There weren’t masses of people in for them, which is a shame. However this meant I was able to get right down the front, which was cool. I then retreated as far as I possibly could when Job For A Cowboy came on – not my cup of tea at all. Megadeth were superb that night. They more than made up for Job For A Cowboy (and that was a big task because they truly were terrible). The next month, March 2008, I went back to the Astoria for what would be my last visit to that venue (moment of silence). I had been turned on to Nightwish by a friend at this time in life and they played a 3 night residency at the Astoria – all 3 dates I seem to recall sold out fairly quickly. This was the first time Nightwish were visiting the UK with their new vocalist I believe. I didn’t know what to expect as I hadn’t seen them with either singer, but this gig was really cool. They made it feel really intimate, despite the fact it was a full house. This was the first of three times I have seen Nightwish in London. The second one won’t be getting much of a mention in this blog (in fact, this is it) because I left feeling they had put on a pretty mediocre gig, despite having their full stage show. Spoiler alert – I’m going to talk about the third one in the next installment of the London gigs blog. The final London gig I went to in 2008 (if memory serves) was Slipknot at Hammersmith Apollo. This was my first visit to another very iconic London venue (famously known as Hammersmith Odeon back in the day). I was surprised to see Slipknot playing the Apollo because all their other dates were arena dates (then again, they did 3 nights at Hammersmith, which I think is more tickets sold than Wembley Arena). The support bill for this gig for me was crazy, with Children of Bodom and Machine Head supporting. Both of these bands had great sets but finally getting to see Slipknot was something else entirely. I don’t think Slipknot will ever do another multiple night residency at Hammersmith or Brixton again, so I’m very happy I got to see them in a venue this size. Sadly, this was the one and only time I got to see them with their classic line up. They headlined Download in 2009 for the first time and that was their last UK show with the original 9 members but sadly in 2010, the bassist Paul Gray died.

The first London show that I went to in 2009 that I want to talk about happened at Wembley Arena and for me was a fantastic line up of bands. This was not an opinion shared by the country as a whole as one or two of the venues on this tour got downgraded I believe (and tickets were reduced for some gigs, which I remember annoying me). Regardless of that, this was my first time seeing Judas Priest and they bought Megadeth and Testament with them. I was disappointed with Testament’s set – not because they were bad or anything but the sound was. I saw them two nights earlier on an off date in Oxford in a tiny venue and it was far better. I went in to this gig raving about how good Testament were live and they suffered. Megadeth were really good that night. Judas Priest were also really good. I was pleased that they only played a handful of songs from their then latest album Nostradamus but one of the songs they played from it has become one of my favourite Judas Priest songs – Prophecy. All in, I was very happy.

The next month, I went to the O2 Arena for the first and second time to see Metallica. These two gigs were the first and only times I’ve seen them in an arena (I hope when they finally release their new album, they do an arena tour for it). For the first one, I had a standing ticket. I didn’t know what to expect from this gig as it was the first gig I’d been to that had an in-the-round stage. I was able to get right down by one of the barriers on the stage and had 3 of the 4 Metallica members playing right in front of me (probably fair enough that Lars didn’t). The gig was outstanding and continued my longstanding tradition with Metallica gigs that they always play something I’ve never heard them play live before (only once in 11 times has this not happened). I left this gig before the encore because I had no idea how long it would take me to get back to Waterloo. I found out the next day they played Phantom Lord in their encore, which made me feel sad as I love that song and have still not seen them play it live. The second gig was another early finish but not as early. I had planned to leave after the first encore song, which was Overkill, a Motorhead cover. Just as I was about to leave, they started playing Hit The Lights, which got me to stay in my seat (well in the general area of my seat) for a little bit longer. The journey home after the gig was a nightmare, but that is a story for another day. I could write many more words about Metallica, but for those of you that read the last instalment of this blog, you might be a bit fed up of me gushing about how much I love seeing Metallica live, so I will leave it there. One final note, which is not about how good they are live, but about my personal annoyance that I didn’t get a ticket to the Nottingham show on that tour. My brother and his brother-in-law went. That night, Metallica played No Leaf Clover and their cover of Breadfan – I’d have loved to seen that (not least because Breadfan is another song I’ve not seen them play live). As a somewhat entertaining side note – as I am typing this blog, I am listening to a big playlist which pretty much covers most of the music I like. As I finished typing this paragraph, Breadfan came on. It is as if my iPod is mocking me.

For the final London show from 2009 I want to talk about, I went back to the O2 arena to see Nine Inch Nails. Now, I learned from my mistake from the previous night about not going in for the opening band on this tour (Mew were not good…at all). I recall advising friends who had seating tickets not to go in for them but they insisted on doing so. I sat outside and enjoyed the fact it was a nice evening by the river. Not long after Mew had started, I got a message from one of the friends who had gone in to see them simply asking “why?” with a lot of extra letters added to that word. Janes Addiction were the main support. I enjoyed them in at the O2 but thought they were better at the Manchester show. Anyway, if you read an earlier paragraph in this blog, you will know my opinion of seeing Nine Inch Nails live (recap – awesome). The crowd were all caught off guard as the band came out and started playing without the house lights going down to indicate they were coming on stage. I won’t re-tread too much old ground by talking about how much I love them live. However, the reason why I have included this gig on this list, as well as the earlier ones because this one was very memorable. Towards the end of the show, the band bought out Gary Numan as they were covering one of his songs, Metal, on this tour. I’d never seen Gary Numan before so this was really cool. After they finished Metal, they launched into probably Gary Numan’s most well-known song, Cars. That was definitely unexpected but a great moment. I think this is gig is probably my favourite of the times I have seen Nine Inch Nails live.

The next entry (and the only one from 2010) is one that I still discuss with friends to this day. However, this is not because the band put on a special gig that night (for the record, they were excellent), but because of the state I was in when I arrived at the gig. I won’t tell the whole story here but I had a lot to drink the night before because it looked likely my then favourite sports team were going to be liquidated. When I woke up, I saw the news story that actually this wasn’t going to happen. I still had a hangover that would slay a woolly mammoth. Going to most gigs when in this state probably wouldn’t have been the smartest move. Going to the Hammersmith Apollo to watch My Chemical Romance in that state was an extremely bad idea. There was one point, before the band came on, where I realised the bulk of the crowd were teenage girls. I turned to my mate and said something like “I hope they don’t do anything like test the house lights because that might finish me off” – sure enough, they tested the house lights and everyone screamed. The lights came back on and I think the only word I could muster was the word “fucker”. Like I said, My Chemical Romance were really good that night. They were just coming back after a break following The Black Parade, which made them a massive band. So, to see them in the Apollo was quite something (much like Slipknot as I mentioned earlier). In some regards, I felt the same thing about the next gig I am going to talk about. I tended to ignore things like the NME because they tended to cover a lot of music that I just wasn’t interested in. However, when they announced their NME Big Gig of 2011 at Wembley Arena would be headlined by Foo Fighters, they caught my attention. I don’t remember if I already had a ticket to see them in Milton Keynes at that point (I’m guessing I did) but I remember being surprised they were playing in an arena. After their stadium tour in 2009, I didn’t expect to see them play arenas again. At the time, Foo Fighters had the reputation of being one of the best live bands on the circuit and this show did nothing but enhance that reputation as far as I’m concerned – their set was excellent.

In October of 2011, I managed to see a band I was supposed to see at the Wedgewood Rooms in 2010, but they cancelled their tour due to injury. The tour basically got rebooked for bigger rooms, and I was able to get to London to see Volbeat supported by Black Spiders (that gig at the Wedge would have been incredible). Anyway, I’ve never seen a poor live show from Black Spiders. I’m not sure if this was the first time of seeing them live or not, but they were really good that night. Volbeat though were something else entirely. In my end of year blog about favourite gigs and festival sets, I ranked it second and not first only because of Foo Fighters at the MK bowl. I would say I remember the Volbeat gig more fondly of the two though. I had seen Volbeat open the main stage at Sonisphere that year (the least said about the state I was in that day, the better) and they were fantastic. They were just as good if not better at this gig. One cool moment which I have seen them replicate a couple of times since was they bought out Barney from Napalm Death to play Evelyn with him on vocals. Generally, this tends to be the case for indoor gigs, but when they headlined Wacken in 2012, they were on another level that night. Seriously, how are this band not bigger in the UK? Absolutely crazy.

My final two entries for 2011 and for this blog happened the last weekend before Christmas. Until this point in time, I had not seen the Manic Street Preachers and I did want to. I missed them at Rock AM Ring and wasn’t at Reading for them in 2008 (at which, a friend of mine chose to see The Killers instead of them – a decision I will never understand). Manic Street Preachers are not an arena size band across the whole of the UK (they are playing a small stadium in Wales this summer) so when they announced a one off show at the O2 Arena, I was surprised. When I realised that this show was going to be a 3+ hour set show with them playing every single they have released in conjunction with the release of their singles album, I had to go. It meant selling a ticket to another gig I had planned to go to that night but it didn’t matter. This gig, for a casual Manics fan as I would consider myself to be, was perfect. There is little more I can say about it to do it justice. My original plans for that evening were to go and see Ginger Wildheart as it was his birthday bash that night at the Islington Academy. In the build up to this gig, he announced another Ginger Wildheart band gig which would take place at the Garage in Highbury (another famous London venue ticked off the list). As I was missing out on the birthday bash (for good reasons mind), I opted to go to this show, despite the fact I had already been to the Southampton show on this tour. In my (admittedly at this time, limited) experience, Ginger didn’t put on bad shows and this was no exception. I was keen on going to these shows in the absence of Wildhearts gigs, and during the gig at one point, I was stood near long time Wildhearts guitarist CJ. When he disappeared, a mate I was at the gig with wondered if he would make an appearance on stage and sure enough he did. Cue fanboy squealing. Anyway, with CJ on stage, the gig concluded with a very brief Wildhearts set which included TV Tan, My Baby Is a Headfuck, I Wanna Go Where The People Go and 29x The Pain. It was a fantastic conclusion to what had been a great weekend of live music for me.

And with that, 2011 ends and so does this blog. It is funny that whenever I have set out to write one of these, I don’t intend for them to be so long. But when I get started, I start thinking of little bits to add here and there and before I know it, it is massive. This being so long is why I have split the section about London gigs into two blogs. I might take a break from the London gigs and head back home to assorted Portsmouth gigs for the next post. I haven’t decided what order I will do them in at the moment.

The other parts in this series of blogs are available on this page and can be found by continuing to scroll downwards, by the links on the right hand side of the page or by clicking these really helpful links:
Part One – The Wedgewood Rooms
Part Two – Stadium and Outdoor Shows
Part Three – Festival Sets

Until next time!

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

A Decade Of Gigs Part Three - Festival Sets

This blog is the next installment in my decade of gigs series and is all about festival headliners. Just like in the previous blog, I’ve not included everything as I’d be here for weeks writing this blog. There are a fair few entries I’ve picked for this blog so the way this will work is in a simple list format – Band, Festival and Year, Discussion with some bits and pieces around that. I should probably warn all reading at this point that there will be a lot of words about Metallica scattered through this blog. Before I start with the words, I want to include a photo from my big black book of tickets which is all of the festival wristbands I have kept (which I’m sure is all of them that gave a wristband).

I will be doing this in chronological order. Unlike the last two blogs, I actually start in the first year of my decade which is 2006. The first festival I went to was Download 2006. The first thought when reflecting back on that festival is just how bloody hot it was that weekend. My main complaint about festivals over the years has been about shitty weather. Download 2006 gets mentioned because it is at the complete other end of the scale in terms of weather. My main expense of the weekend was water (didn’t know they had free water taps available) and 3 of us were all camped in one 4 man tent. I’ve never repeated that since and on reflection, given how hot it was, that was a big error. Anyway, bands!

Strapping Young Lad – Download 2006 – The first great band I saw at Download 2006. I had no idea what to expect with them. They certainly weren’t a disappointment that’s for sure. Despite the fact they weren’t the first band I saw at Download, they were the first set I really enjoyed.
Tool – Download 2006 – The Friday night headliner. I really enjoyed their set and would definitely go to see them again still (I don’t think they’ve toured the UK certainly in the last 8 years). The sun going down took away from their show a bit I think. Not too much, but if you watch a video of them playing indoors, you’ll get what I mean.
Metallica – Download 2006 – This was my first time seeing Metallica and they played Master of Puppets in full – I mean mother of god! I’ve seen them 11 times in total and whilst I have seen them perform better in terms of a live act – this set remains very special to me. Once again, Puppets in full. I could easily launch into a discussion as to whether Puppets is my favourite Metallica album here, but I’ll resist. Another day perhaps!

I debated long and hard over whether or not to include Guns N’ Roses and their headline set from Download 2006. I opted against it as I have very few positive things to say about that set (it will get a mention when I do the part about out of town gigs). I will now move on to Download 2007. It was a much cooler year this time around and me and the mate I went to the festival with left the site more often to utilise the local village, which worked well I thought (aside from missing Bowling For Soup’s set in order to go offsite to a pub).

Machine Head – Download 2007 – My first time seeing Machine Head and it was fantastic. They had just released The Blackening and this set was a band who were already a fantastic live act from accounts celebrating their best ever release.
Motley Crue – Download 2007 – I didn’t see Linkin Park because I was at the second stage watching Motley Crue. I’ve seen the Crue 3 times and this was the only time I’ve walked away from one of their sets thinking they were amazing live. The other two have suffered significantly because of Vince Neil it has to be said. On this night though, they were superb. I’m saddened that I only have one good memory of them live, but at least I have this one.

2008 was an interesting year for me as I travelled abroad for the first time to go to a festival, and then did it again two months later. Both times to Germany – two very different festivals though. I’ve not been back to Rock AM Ring since this first visit and as I understand it, it has since moved. Wonder if they still have people walking 4 miles from where they camped to the festival site? Hope not. As much fun as I had at Wacken 2008, the lasting memory I have of that festival is missing Avantasia. I was going to see them but either The Haunted finished early, or Corvus Corax ran long. Regardless of what it was, I was subjected to some of Corvus Corax and my immediate reaction was to leave the arena. Avantasia are now one of my favourite bands so looking back, this was an error. In 2008, I also went to a day at Reading which Slipknot were originally scheduled to play but pulled out. I would have to wait until December that year to see them for the first time.

Rage Against The Machine – Rock AM Ring 2008 – The Friday night headliner were RATM, and before the festival, I couldn’t have been more excited. At the festival though, I badly planned my nutrition throughout the day (decided I didn’t want to embarrass myself at the food stalls by being unable to speak German so would just live off Calippo ice lollies all day – I never claimed to be a smart man). As a result, I was feeling pretty rough by the end of the day. I was also really far away from the stage. So much so that the band were essentially a blur from where I stood. However, I had a belting view of a video screen so all was well. RATM were everything I wanted them to be and more which made me happy.
Metallica – Rock AM Ring 2008 – Much the same thing as RATM in terms of positioning. This was probably the worst of the 3 times I’d seen them at this point and yet it was still amazing. They played Bleeding Me and Devil’s Dance during this set, both fantastic songs which I wish they would give live airings to more often.
Iron Maiden – Wacken 2008 – The main headliner at Wacken plays on a Thursday night, in theory (Accept in 2014, really?) Anyway, Maiden were on their Somewhere Back In Time tour. I wrote about that a fair bit in the last blog about big gigs. This was just as good as that night, despite Bruce Dickinson losing his cool with a camera man.
Nightwish – Wacken 2008 – Their set at Rock AM Ring 2008 was plagued with sound problems. As a matter of fact, on the Wacken 2008 DVD, they called it their worst ever live show. This was the polar opposite and for many years, was the best I’d ever seen them perform live. I could easily talk about all of the bands that closed out this festival for me, but they were the second to last band in a run that I still think is one of the best days of any festival I’ve been to - Kamelot, Obituary, As I Lay Dying (before the whole awkward attempted murder business), Carcass, Killswitch Engage, At The Gates, Nightwish, Kreator – amazing day.
Metallica – Reading 2008 – After Slipknot had pulled out, I was a bit bummed out. I remember that day being a bit of a mess actually as Avenged Sevenfold pulled out the night before and weren’t replaced, which meant the main stage was off for at least an hour that day. Anyway, the main event was Metallica and they had a blinding set - rivalling Download 2006 as my favourite time seeing them at a festival.

In 2009, I only went to one day at a festival. It was the newly formed Sonisphere festival at Knebworth. I was really excited by this festival as it was so much closer to home than Download was. I only went for the one day, which I really regret now. I would have loved to see Heaven and Hell on the Saturday, which would have been one of, if not, the last time Ronnie James Dio performed at a UK festival with Heaven and Hell. Anyhow, I went on the Sunday to see Metallica and Nine Inch Nails. This would be the first time after a day at a festival that I would sleep rough. It is not a good idea.

Nine Inch Nails – Sonisphere 2009 – This was the third time I’d seen NIN in 2009. Each one of the gigs had their own special moment for me. This one was a very different set to the ones they had played at their two UK arena shows but I loved that. There were a fair few people in the crowd pissed that they did mostly softer songs, but I loved it. From a selfish perspective, I loved the fact they played The Frail and The Wretched as they hadn’t at either arena show. Those songs, plus Gone, Still and Lights In The Sky made for a great set as far as I was concerned. I am one of a very small number of people who loved that set. Whenever this set is spoken about by other people, they talk about their disappointment with it. You’ll never get that view from me.
Metallica – Sonisphere 2009 – I wanted one of four things from this set. 1) Open with Blackened; 2) Dyers Eve; 3) Stone Cold Crazy; 4) Hit The Lights. One of those would have sent me home happy – I got all 4 plus Of Wolf And Man! I was delighted. This became my favourite time seeing Metallica at a festival for a few years.

Alice Cooper – Sonisphere 2010 – Sonisphere did this interesting thing in 2010 of having half a day on their main stages. In that, they just had no bands on the Friday of their main stage. I remember thinking it was a good idea at the time but I don’t remember why I thought that now. Anyhow, the stage was headlined by Alice Cooper and it was my first time seeing him. He did not disappoint. I’ve seen him twice since and both times were significantly better than this set, but this one was still ace.
Rammstein – Sonisphere 2010 – This set was a shortened version of their arena tour from earlier than in the year but (I think) Du Reichst So Gut was added. I was really close to the front for this set and it was a lot of fun down there (and somewhat unsurprisingly, very warm). The only thing which bothered me about their set at Sonisphere was they didn’t close on Engel. They did at all their summer dates that weren’t Sonisphere’s, which was odd. This wasn’t enough of a disappointment to ruin the set for me though.

In 2011, I made my first return to Download since 2007. I only went for the day though because System of a Down were playing. I missed them in 2005 and I wasn’t going to miss them again.

Avenged Sevenfold – Download 2011 – I loved Avenged at Download 2006. I thought they were terrible when they supported Maiden at Twickenham in 2008 and was delighted (as a result) when they pulled out of Reading that year. I missed Twisted Sister to see them because I wanted a good spot in front of the main stage for SOAD. This set was memorable because it was essentially their audition to headline the festival in 2014 and they passed that with flying colours. I wasn’t much of a fan and didn’t know a whole lot of their material – and I thought the set was fantastic. They did headline in 2014 and I didn’t watch them. My reasons will become apparent later in this post.
System of a Down – Download 2011 – So many reviews of this set were sub-par but I loved it. The setlist was near perfection for me and I thought the live performance was fantastic. I wonder how much of that opinion was influenced by the fact I was blinded by the fact I was seeing them live for the first time? Probably a fair bit. Anyway, I’ve seen them since indoors and that was significantly better. I don’t regret going to see them here though. I do regret sleeping in the train station afterwards – that wasn’t fun. You think I would have learned my lesson from after Sonisphere 2009. As I previously stated, I never claimed to be a smart man.

I only went for the one day at Download because I went to Sonisphere but also because I went to Wacken and Reading again that year. It was the third time Sonisphere had been at Knebworth. It was the second time Metallica were going to headline but this time, they were joined by the other bands that formed the Big Four of Thrash Metal for the first time all four bands were on stage together in the UK.

The Big Four – Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax – Sonisphere 2011 – A quick whistle stop review of this day – Diamond Head opened for them and they were good. Anthrax, who were playing Sonisphere for the third year in a row (and actually have now played the 4 Sonisphere’s at Knebworth 5 times…) were better the year before. Megadeth had a very solid set. Slayer were the best I’d ever seen them at that point. Metallica, whilst I didn’t enjoy their set as much as the 2009 one, it was still outstanding. The moment of all four bands being on stage at once, with members of Diamond Head, covering Am I Evil?, is one that I hope will stay with me for a long time. It was quite something.
Slipknot – Sonisphere 2011 – It pains me not to have an entry for Weezer before this one. I had a headache and missed them. Damn you head! Anyway, this was Slipknot’s first UK show without Paul Gray. It was an excellent set. Plus, I got to hear them play my favourite song of theirs, Wait and Bleed, which they didn’t do when I saw them back in 2008. It was a great set.
Avantasia – Wacken 2011 – This was my first time seeing them because I left the arena on 2008 because the band on before them, Corvus Corax, were that bad. Just reflecting on that moment, I’m not sure if it is because they ran late, or The Haunted finished early. Regardless, I missed Avantasia in 2008 and that was an error. I’ve had a stern word with myself over this matter. I was not missing them in 2011 however. Not missing them was a great call. After seeing they had been announced for the festival I gave them another listen and almost instantly fell in love with them. I was so excited for this set and it surpassed all my expectations. It was an amazing set.
Pulp – Reading 2011 – I went into this set not knowing if it would be any good. I liked Pulp but had no knowledge of what they were like live. I’m glad I stuck around as they hit a home run with this set. This set was fantastic but my second favourite of the weekend, It was something special that meant it was my second favourite. As a side note, someone from Q Magazine got in contact with me about the photos I took during this set. He was very interested to know if I had any with Richard Hawley on stage with them. I sent him my photos and never heard anything back. I guess they were not up to the required standards, which considering they were taken from the crowd with a handheld digital camera, I guess makes sense.
Muse – Reading 2011 – This was my first time seeing Muse live, and it was mind blowing. At the end of this, I’m going to try and rank my favourite festival headline sets. Spoiler alert, this will be in it. They played their album Origin of Symmetry in full, which was just epic. They then came back out afterwards and did a short “best of” set. I think the best word I can use to describe it is stunning.

There have been a lot of words about Metallica in this blog so far, so I’m actually going to skip talking about them at Download 2012 in any sort of detail. That tour is covered on my big gigs blog. I’ll get back to them later. In 2012, I went to Download and Wacken again. This time, I was at Download for the weekend. Download 2006 was ridiculously hot – Download 2012 at times felt like it was taking place in winter – miserable.

Refused – Download 2012 – Sonisphere had booked Refused to headline their second stage before they cancelled their festival. Download then booked them and stuck them near the top of their second stage. I knew New Noise and that’s about it. I walked away from that set completely sold on Refused. Their gig later that year in London was mind-blowing.
Black Sabbath – Download 2012 – I was nervous. I had seen Ozzy have a somewhat sketchy set at Wacken the year before and I really hoped this would be better. It was, by some margin. This was my set of the weekend and them and Metallica being so good made up for the weather, which had tested my patience and caused me to injure my back. Sets this good made it all worthwhile.
Volbeat – Wacken 2012 – HOW ARE THIS BAND HEADLINING FESTIVALS IN EUROPE BUT NOT HERE?! Sorry but that saddens me. This show was an exclusive European show for Volbeat and it was outstanding. To see what I had seen in a 2000 capacity room in London replicated but improved upon with 80000 people going nuts was pretty cool. I’m not sure if this was their first festival headline set in Europe, but they now seem to top the bill without trouble. Europe does get some things right, as Volbeat are ace.

2013 saw the same festivals on my agenda as the year previous, only this time they came with a lot less rain, which was nice. At both of these festivals, I saw Rammstein. I’m only going to include one entry for reasons which I will make very clear when the time comes.

Iron Maiden – Download 2013 – This show started with a Spitfire flying over main stage. That was so impressive to see. Sonisphere tried to top that the next year with a recreation of a World War battle in the skies above the festival. It was cool, but this was something very special. This set was another nostalgia tour, Maiden England, and it was ace. According to some people in the crowd, they had sound problems but I didn’t hear any problems.
Rammstein – Wacken 2013 – Seeing Rammstein play in Germany was something very special for me. Seeing them in the UK is cool but seeing them surrounded by people who are singing every word is another animal all together. They were still touring their Made In Germany best of album, which made it even better.
Nightwish - Wacken 2013 - I had seen Nightwish the year before at Download for the last time in the UK with Anette Olzon which was great. However not that long after that set, she left/was fired from the band. They replaced her, initially on a temporary basis, with a singer called Floor Jansen. As part of the tour with Floor, they headlined Wacken on the closing night. I couldn't get the money together to see Nightwish when they played the UK with Floor in November of 2012, so I had no idea if this set would be any good or not. Within a few songs, I knew it would be better than good. It became my favourite time seeing them live, replacing their set at Wacken 2008. It was a great set. 

I went to Download and Wacken again in 2014, but I also went to two of the three days of what will likely be the last Sonisphere festival in the UK. It seems as though without Iron Maiden or Metallica, they just can’t run. A real shame really.

The Offspring – Download 2014 – The final three bands on the second stage of Download on the Friday were Flogging Molly, Bad Religion and The Offspring. It was outstanding and Offspring were the best band that day. They played their album Smash in full, which was cool. I remember being concerned about how good they would be after seeing them be somewhat disappointing at Reading in 2011. They were so much better on this day though, which I was very happy about.
Linkin Park – Download 2014 – The only band on this list that I didn’t watch their full set. The reason for that is they opened their set by playing Hybrid Theory in full. This was one of the albums that got me into rock and metal music. It was the only date on their European tour where they played the album in full and it was a very special moment. I left afterwards as there is very little post-Meteora that I like so I felt leaving after Hybrid Theory was the right decision as I didn’t want to talk about a story of two sets – now I can talk about the one time I’ve seen Linkin Park being superb
Aerosmith - Download and Calling Festivals 2014 – The only dual entry on this list, simply because on reflection I cannot decide which set I prefer. They were great at both gigs. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever get to see them live, so to see them twice in one month was ace – to see them be great twice in a month makes it even better.
Metallica – Sonisphere 2014 – this set was on the Metallica By Request tour, which was a cool idea until everyone voted for the songs they pretty much always play. I had hoped for Frayed Ends of Sanity but oh well, can’t win them all. I got to hear Whiskey In The Jar live, which was just fantastic. They also opened the set with 3 of the first 4 songs from Master of Puppets, which I loved. They reserved one song for on the day votes, which the title track from …And Justice For All won, which was a nice surprise.

A Day To Remember – Download 2015 – I had gone to see them in Portsmouth in 2014 and the gig was fantastic and would have made my top gigs of the year list until someone jumped off the balcony, cutting things short. This set was superb and I could see them rising up the bill further. Future headliner? Quite possible.
Muse – Download 2015 – My only headliner entry from Download 2015. There were a lot of fantastic sets from this weekend but Muse were my band of the weekend. I think the week before this set, they head released their album Drones, which was excellent. This set was almost as good as their Reading one from 2011, which was my benchmark for them. In their encore came a nice surprise. All the sets had Starlight in the encore which is a fantastic song. It was dropped for Download and replaced by Plug In Baby, the song which got me into Muse. I was giddy when that happened.

And that is my festival sets blog. I could have included so many more. I did consider writing several blogs and highlighting the best sets from festivals but that would probably be 4 blogs on its own. Out of the headline sets I’ve discussed here, I have picked what I think are my five favourite. This was a tough list to make. Given the amount of words written about them, it probably won’t come as much of a surprise that Metallica feature twice.,

5. Metallica – Download 2006
4. Muse – Reading 2011
3. Rammstein – Wacken 2013
2. Avantasia – Wacken 2011
1. Metallica – Sonisphere 2011

Part four of this series will be coming very soon. Links to Parts 1 and 2 should be available on the right hand side of this blog (admittedly a lot further up the page), or you can click these helpful links!

Part 1 – The Wedgewood Rooms
Part 2 – Outdoor and Stadium Shows

Part 4 will be the first part of my London entry – the first 5 years of the gigs I went to in London. That will be coming soon!