Sunday, 8 May 2016

A Decade Of Gigs Part Five - Here, There and Everywhere

This, like the title of the blog suggests, is part 5 in the series of blogs I have been writing about the last decade of gigs I’ve been to. I’ve taken a short break from writing about it recently because, as you will know if you have read any of the previous parts, they are quite long. The last post was published on the 14th April and a week after this, the news came out that Prince had died. Prince was a musician that I really wanted to see live but hadn’t. This will be a regret of mine, especially as recently there were a few chances to see him live. It, unfortunately, meant dropping everything to go which I just couldn’t do. He will be missed. RIP Prince. This is the 5th part of this series and the links to the other parts are on the right hand side of this page but will also be at the bottom of this blog. This part is about gigs that I’ve been to that are outside of Portsmouth, but not in London (apart from one which will become clear why it is in this post when it comes to it). The London gigs will have two separate blogs dedicated to them when this is all said and done. I start off this post like several others in the series, in the second year of the decade of live music I am covering, 2007.

As 2007 started, I was still relatively new to the world of going to gigs and if memory serves, I had only been to gigs that were in Portsmouth or London. This changed in June of 2007 as I went to a gig in Southampton (a gig at The Nexus, that was a decent venue from what I remember). In the second half of 2007 however, I went to a gig in Brighton. I would love to go to Brighton for gigs more often as they have a decent arena and the Concorde 2 is an excellent venue. I’ve only been there twice (the second of these gigs will be discussed later) which to me seems a real shame. Going to a gig in Brighton either relies on a friend going who drives or booking a hotel. Hotels are quite pricey in Brighton for the most part so generally, I tend to not go to Brighton gigs. The first gig I went to in Brighton was at the Concorde 2 and it was to see Hayseed Dixie. I saw them at Download 2007 and it is still one of the best non-headliner festival sets I have watched – it was that much fun (it transpired they were my headliner that day but that is a long story). This gig was basically like that, just longer! This was a really fun night. The support band were a band called Neck if memory serves, and they were also good. All in, it was well worth the journey. The next two gigs on this list are also in Brighton, and they both took place at the Brighton Centre.

In November 2007, Heaven and Hell toured. When this was first announced, I had no idea who they were and I remember being amazed that their tour was in arenas. After a bit of research, it turned out this band were basically Black Sabbath when Ronnie James Dio was the front man – but they couldn’t tour under the name Black Sabbath for legal reasons. My knowledge of Black Sabbath was pretty low at the time and I didn’t know anything about the era when Dio was the singer. After listening to the albums he sang on, I bought a ticket almost as soon as I could. I got lucky in that I was visiting my brother in Eastbourne that day so I was relatively close to Brighton, so getting to the gig wouldn’t be that troublesome (or so I thought). It turned out there was a cancelled train which meant I got into Brighton an hour later than planned and completely missed Iced Earth (who opened the gig) and about half of Lamb of God. It does bother me somewhat that this is the only time I got to see Dio perform live. Heaven and Hell’s set was fantastic. I had a ticket at one point for Wacken 2009 and didn’t go as I wasn’t ready to go to a festival by myself at that point, certainly not abroad. Their set from that night was released on DVD and from all accounts, was amazing. I could have seen Dio perform with his solo band in London in 2008, which I missed as well. I regret not seeing him perform more as well. Not quite the same regret as I mentioned with Prince earlier, but still. My only entry from 2008 that I want to bring to the table is the Mark Knopfler gig at the Brighton Centre. At this stage in time, I doubt I will get the chance to see Dire Straits perform as a band, but getting to see Mark Knopfler was pretty cool. It was mostly his solo material he performed at this show but did a handful of Dire Straits songs, so I was happy.

For the next part of this blog, I not only change years but also cities. The three gigs discussed so far have all been in Brighton. The only 2009 gig I want to discuss took place in Manchester at the MEN Arena (a venue that despite it changing names several times, I still refer to as the MEN). I already discussed this tour in the first part of the London blog so I won’t go into too much detail here, but there were 3 dates on the Nine Inch Nails Wave Goodbye UK tour, and the Manchester date was the first of them. This was my first visit to Manchester and due to the way presale tickets were sold, I had to find a will call table. This meant walking around the arena (and the nearby train station) several times until I eventually found it. One of the benefits of the presale meant priority access, so ticket holders could get right down the front for the whole gig. This sounds like good news but I didn’t factor in the opening band being Mew, who were not good. The main support was Jane’s Addiction who I thought had a very good set (the one in London the night after was sub-par by comparison). The NIN set was fantastic – I got to hear a number of songs I had not heard them play in 2007 when I saw them twice in London including Gone, Still – this was a song which rarely got played live but they did so twice on the UK run. My next visit to this arena would take place 7 months later in 2010 to see Rammstein, a band who at this point I had not seen live. They were touring their then new album, Liebe Ist Fur Alle Da, but their set included a number of their better known songs and the stage show was something very special. It has been special every time I’ve seen Rammstein to be fair. It does make me chuckle thinking back on it though that the stage show they had at this show was massive, and yet significantly smaller than the one they bought when they toured their best of album two years later (there will be some chat about that in the next London blog). On top of the stage show though, Rammstein are just an excellent live band – something which I discovered for the first time at this gig. This was the first of 3 times I’ve seen them in an arena and is probably my least favourite of the times seeing them indoors. Not because it was bad in any way, but because the best of shows were just that good.

For the next 3 entries, I go slightly closer to home and talk about a few gigs that took place in Southampton. The first one I thought about for a sad reason recently. When Lemmy passed away at the end of last year, I tried to think back to a great Motorhead live performance I had seen. While I enjoyed the two times I saw them in Portsmouth, for me the best time I saw them was in 2010 at the Southampton Guildhall. The band were on top form, the set list was great and, surprisingly considering the venue, the sound quality was spot on (for every band that played actually – not just the headliner). It was a great night and one that I look back on fondly. The main support that night was Michael Monroe’s solo project and one of the guitarists in that band played his own solo show in Southampton the next month, right before Christmas. I only saw The Wildhearts once before they went on hiatus, but between that gig and Ginger’s solo tour being announced, they had become one of my favourite bands. So, him touring with a group of his friends was probably the closest thing I was going to get to a Wildhearts show for some time. The show opened with Ginger and one of the members of his crew doing an acoustic set, which was pretty cool. After the support band, Ginger came back on stage with the guys making up the solo band and did an electric set which was mostly Wildhearts material with some Silver Ginger 5 thrown in. As much as I loved the one and only Wildhearts gig I had been to at this point, it was this first visit to the Talking Heads in Southampton which made me a fan of Ginger. The final gig for this section about Southampton took place nearly a year later and was again at the Guildhall. Earlier in 2011, I was at the Reading Festival and saw Rise Against on the main stage. They had a really good set and I wanted to see them do a headline show. They had a tour in November 2011 supported by Tom Morello’s The Nightwatchman project. That was quite good although my lasting memory of his set has nothing to do with music. Before his last song, he gave a little speech about rejecting capitalist ideals and the crowd gave a loud roar of approval. The same crowd, after Morello had finished, en masse went to the bars in the venue and paid £4.40 for a 500ml bottle of Carlsberg. That did entertain me somewhat. The rejection of capitalism did not last very long. Rise Against had a really good set as well, which meant all in, it was a good night.

The next 5 I will mention all took place in Manchester over the span of about 8 months. Just writing that makes me realise how much I miss my 16-25 railcard. The first two took place on consecutive nights and were very different gigs. Alter Bridge at the MEN Arena and Dimmu Borgir celebrating their album Enthrone Darkness Triumphant at the Academy 3 – a venue which holds about 450 people. I did wonder how many people did both gigs. I suspect not many. The Alter Bridge gig was memorable but not really for their set. The main support was Black Stone Cherry where they played for about an hour. They had a great set which didn’t surprise me, but to see them on this big stage was pretty cool. Their set seemed like a crowning ceremony – if they succeeded in this main support role, they would be out headlining in arenas not long after. Alter Bridge were decent that night but there were moments when the energy got sucked out of the room and that is my lasting memory of that gig when it comes to Alter Bridge. I’ve found myself going off them recently which I didn’t see happening. As I said just above, the night after was Dimmu Borgir in far more intimate surroundings. That gig was just fantastic. It almost didn’t seem right seeing them play in such a small room but I wasn’t complaining about that as the next time I would see them, they would be headlining (well, had the longest set so in essence headlining) the Friday night at Wacken in 2012, with an orchestra. Two vastly different sets but both fantastic.

In March 2012, I was back in Manchester to see 3 Doors Down. I cannot remember now why I went to Manchester and not London but no matter. They played the Academy there and were supported by Seether and another band (whose name I cannot remember – although I do recall thinking they were decent). I’m not sure if it was a sound problem or what, but I thought Seether’s set wasn’t great. I’d only seen them the once before at Rock AM Ring and it was a bit of a let-down in all honesty. 3 Doors Down on the other hand had a fantastic set and made the journey worthwhile. They played everything I hoped they would and were just great. In an interesting parallel, the next time I would see them was at Download in 2013. Their set was a bit of a let-down I felt. A reverse situation there to my experiences of seeing Seether live.

On my list, I have the next two gigs in separate months, which is accurate, but the truth of the matter is that they were about 5 days apart. The first one was at the MEN arena. I said to myself after how poor I thought the Guns N Roses headline set at Download 2006 was that I wouldn’t bother seeing them again. As this tour was announced, I felt the urge to give them another chance. I said to myself that if I could get a cheap hotel and cheap train ticket, I’d go. Both things happened and I think it cost me £50 for travel and hotel room for this gig. Given their reputation for coming on late, when I got to the hotel, I had a nap so that I would feel fresh for the rest of the night. This was a great plan until I overslept and missed most of Thin Lizzy, the main support. As I walked in, they played Whiskey In The Jar which was pretty cool. There was then a long wait and finally at 22.50, GnR came on. They did a 3 hour set and it was damn near flawless. The set contained everything I wanted to hear including and included a superb performance of November Rain – possibly my favourite GnR song which wasn’t so good back in 2006. I was so glad I gave them another chance. There were a lot of pissed off people who had left before they came on stage, and I remember feeling sorry for them as they missed an excellent performance. I got lucky in that I was able to take the time off work otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to see it and missed out on something quite brilliant. The next one on the list was at another venue in the student union building in Manchester – Club Academy to see Ginger and his solo band. This was around the time 555% was coming out, or out (I can’t quite remember when the album was out) and they were playing Download. Before they did that though, they did a short warm up tour. So basically we got the Download festival set plus a bunch of extra songs. It was a slightly changed up set from their 2011 tour which made me happy. The 555% material that they played that night was great, and formed a part of an excellent 3 song medley of S.I.N, Very Very Slow (x2) and Suckerpunch. Again, well worth the trip.

Most of the gigs that make up the rest of this blog took place in Southampton. Of the next four I have chosen, the first and last ones were at the same venue in Southampton – The Talking Heads. In the middle, there are two trips further afield and it is covering about 8 months. The first two were both in July 2012 and feature bands playing intimate shows. The first gig was Soulfly at the Talking Heads. I won’t go too deep into my history of seeing them but I had seen them a handful of times at gigs and festivals. Gig wise – they went from Portsmouth Pyramids (1000 cap) to The Brook in Southampton (650 cap I think) to the Talking Heads (280 cap). I remember being shocked when they announced they were playing the Talking Heads and as soon as I could, I rushed out to buy a ticket. After I had done this, Sonisphere 2012 got cancelled and KISS played an intimate gig the same night at the Kentish Town Forum. I decided to stick with Soulfly which on reflection was probably a mistake - not because Soulfly were bad because they really weren’t. KISS don’t tend to play small shows though so that was an opportunity missed I feel. Anyway – I recall the supports for Soulfly being good but when Soulfly came on, it was utter carnage in the venue unlike anything I had ever experienced there before. The crowd were very lively which made for an excellent atmosphere. The second of these gigs was my second and last visit to the Concorde 2 in Brighton to see Black Stone Cherry. This is the only gig I have gone to, stayed in a hotel and then commuted to work the next day. I would do it again if I could find a cheap enough hotel but this does seem to be a frequent issue which is why I’ve only done it once. The set was pure brilliance from BSC – and it was pretty clear that unless they were doing a special one off show – this would be the last time they would ever play a venue this small again in the UK.

The final entry for 2012 for this post is of an arena show in Bournemouth. I’ve only ever been to the BIC once for music. Mostly because it is a fair old step away from the train station and the last train at night back to where I live is 23.13. And that gets you home comfortably after midnight. I managed to get a really good price on a hotel almost directly across the road from the venue which made coming to Bournemouth to see Alice Cooper possible. I had seen Alice Cooper headline one of the days of Sonisphere 2010, which I thought was excellent. I wanted to see him do a show indoors and to be honest, if he had replicated the Sonisphere show again, I would have had no issue with that. As it happened, it was a different show in terms of some of the props used (he still got killed on stage but I think at this stage, that probably happens every night). This tour was the Raise The Dead tour, and there was a section of the show dedicated to Alice Cooper paying tributes to friends of his that had passed away. He did this by doing covers of The Doors, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and The Who. This was great. Usually I’m not overly sold on an artist/band doing too many cover songs in a set, but this really worked well. I saw Alice Cooper do this show again in 2013 when he headlined Wacken, which was somehow better than it was this night in Bournemouth (so much so, it has been released on DVD). Heading into 2013, and now most of the remaining entries on this list take place in Southampton, the first one was in March at the Talking Heads. I had seen Kvelertak play a basement club in London which was absolute carnage. This gig wasn’t as crazy as that one, granted, but it was still pretty hectic. I was stood near the front of the venue but off to the side and it was quite something. During the final song, the singer was finishing his vocals whilst swinging off one of the venue lights above the crowd. It was quite a memorable gig.

This next bit will cover four gigs that took place over two legs of a tour. In December 2012, Ginger announced that his birthday bash gig would be a return of The Wildhearts. There will be more chat about this gig in the next part of the London blog. After this gig I remember thinking to myself that if they only ever did one gig a year at Christmas, I’d be fine with that and I’d try to go every year. Then, from out of nowhere, they announced a 4 date UK tour where they would be celebrating the 20th anniversary of Earth Vs by playing it in full. None of the dates were near me but this was something I couldn’t miss. I went into planning mode to try and work out what gigs I could make and ended up booking a ticket for the Glasgow and Manchester dates (had a hotel been marginally cheaper, I’d have gone to Nottingham as well). I flew from Southampton to Glasgow and spent about 5 hours walking around Glasgow centre somewhat aimlessly as I was cheap and didn’t book early check in for my hotel. I had already bought a ticket to see Eureka Machines in London, but seeing them support on this tour was my first introduction to them and it was over this time that I completely fell in love with them. They are one of my favourite bands now. As for The Wildhearts, they were outstanding. It was fantastic getting to hear Earth Vs in full. They did a long second set after the album had been played and left the choice of songs up to fan voting for the night. In Glasgow, the songs chosen were mostly fan favourites (although getting to hear Beautiful Thing You again was a nice surprise). The next night was in Manchester and that meant getting a train from Glasgow to Manchester. That journey takes about 3 hours but I lost I think 3 years off my life by sharing the carriage with a massive hen party. I should point out, it was painful for me as I had been reuniting myself with Tennents and Belhaven the night before so I was feeling a bit worse for wear anyway. I have never been able to say which gig I preferred more, Glasgow or Manchester. The second half setlist at Manchester was certainly more varied. Getting to hear Schizophonic, Dangerlust and Turning American live was ace. I also loved the fact we got The Duck Song (although over Hate The World Day? Bad form Manchester). The only really close call was for the last song, when 29x The Pain beat I Wanna Go Where The People Go. Really, both of those gigs were great.

So then that tour finished, and they announced a second leg that consisted of 6 dates. Once again I went into planning mode. I could have done 3 dates but I forgot when doing planning that I have family in the midlands I could have stayed with, so didn’t plan to do the Leicester date. Schoolboy error. Anyway, I booked up to go to Bournemouth and London, knowing full well that due to transport issues, I would have to leave both gigs early. I was quite sad to see that the Bournemouth gig was fairly poorly sold I thought. There was a lot of space in the standing area to move around. That wasn’t going to detract from my enjoyment though. I managed to stay for most of the second set which was good. It opened with Nita Nitro which I loved. The next night in London was cool as they had drawn a pretty big crowd to the Forum for the second time in 6 months. This gig was being filmed for a future DVD release (one I think which is finally coming out this year) and it was something else. In terms of performance, it was probably the best of the shows I’d been to on this tour. The second set Sick of Drugs, Two-Way Idiot Mirror, Just In Lust and Urge (the first time I’d heard anything from Endless Nameless live). Again leaving early meant missing the very end of the show (damn you TFL!) but I got to see most of what was an excellent show. I’d never been to 4 dates on one bands tour before, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever do it again, but it was great fun!

In between the two legs of this tour, I went to a couple of gigs in Southampton. The first of these was technically part of a festival. The organisers of Wacken arranged a festival that travelled around Europe on a cruise ship called Full Metal Cruise (inventive name for sure). I think 2013 was the first year it ran and along with bands playing on board the cruise, they also booked bands to play shows at the various ports they would stop in. Quite why this gig went on general sale as a result of this, I do not know. However, it did mean I got to see Saxon play “Denim & Leather” in full. Well, at least that was the plan. I’m not sure what happened but the band played a song from this album before they started playing the album in full (setlist fm does not have the setlist on their website so I cannot say for sure which song they played). When it came time to play Denim & Leather in full, instead of playing that song again, they just played a song in that space that wasn’t from that album. That was quite strange but it didn’t ruin the gig for me and actually, I thought they were excellent that day (I say day as the gig was done by 9.30pm so that the bulk of the crowd could get back on the boat). One final note, because the organisers of the cruise were German, the stage announcer was German and spoke in German. I had no idea what was being said when he was talking in between bands. I remember thinking it was odd but quite amusing at the same time. The next month, I won tickets to go see Frank Turner play a solo acoustic show at the Joiners. It was to celebrate the Joiners being voted best small venue in the south or something by NME readers. I’d seen Frank Turner twice at Reading Festival 2011 before this but really wanted to see him again (missing the Wembley Arena show is a gig regret of mine). I had to leave this gig early which annoyed me but what I saw was just ace. He played the whole of Sleep Is For The Week album, which I had to leave during. I definitely would go and see Frank Turner at a solo show again if I could get there.

Nine Inch Nails waved goodbye in 2009, and I assumed that was probably it. We might get a new album when Trent got bored of winning Oscars (note – as of this writing he has won one) but I didn’t think we would see NIN on the road again – especially after the last show on the Wave Goodbye tour in the US which just had a ridiculous set list (see it here). Then, without warning, Trent announced there would be a new album and they would be on tour. I waited patiently for UK dates and when they were announced as a sub-headliner at the Reading & Leeds festivals, I was a bit bummed. It was still enough to sell me a day ticket but I had hoped for headline shows. They then announced they were headlining Belsonic Festival in Belfast, which was the closest thing to a headline show I was going to get. So I popped across the water to go see them. The venue, Customs House Square, was pretty cool as far as live music venues go. The night before this set, they played a pretty small London show and basically played a best of setlist with little mention of their new album. I had hoped for something similar at Belsonic, as it was their first ever Belfast date. However, we didn’t get the London set which was a shame, but the one they played was pretty damn good. My main complaint of this gig is that people talked all the way through their set. I mean, all the way through it. It was as if at times I had bought a ticket to a conversation rather than to see a band. I enjoyed this gig though and it was definitely worth being stranded outside a Tesco for several hours waiting for the airport to open.

The final two (three if you are being picky) gigs I want to talk about for this blog took place a year apart from each other. The first was my second to last visit to the venue I know as the Talking Heads in Southampton (I’m not saying I won’t go and visit the new one – it just won’t be the same). For reasons I don’t fully understand, Skindred went on an intimate venue tour of the UK. The gigs weren’t all announced at once and some would just pop up and be on sale. That is what happened with the Skindred gig at the Talking Heads. Soulfly and Kvelertak were my benchmarks for how crazy gigs at the Talking Heads could get and I remember thinking this would be something else entirely. It was crazy, but not in the same way as those gigs I just mentioned. If anything, it was like an exclusive party with a fairly big band on stage. The band, who probably could have been excused if they phoned it in, were excellent that night. It is probably my favourite time seeing Skindred actually (between this and one of the Wedgewood Rooms gigs). A year later, I was back in Southampton for two nights in a row to see Frank Turner with his full band, touring their new album “Positive Songs For Negative People”. I already knew that Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls were a great live band (their Portsmouth show in 2014 was my favourite gig of the year). Frank Turner was on stage for about 2 hours for these gigs, which was pretty cool. There were two sets with the full band and an acoustic set in the middle. I think if you were to hold a gun to my head and force me to choose one of the two gigs as a favourite, I would say the first night but that would be a tough decision. These gigs would have been my favourite of last year as well had I not seen System of a Down at Wembley Arena. Frank and his band are one of my favourite live acts of all time and I hope to see them again sometime soon.

That’s it for the here, there and everywhere section of this series of blogs. I warned you at the top of this post that these blogs can be quite long. I didn’t anticipate this one being nearly 5500 words long mind (over half the length of my dissertation) but there we are. The next blog will probably be the next Portsmouth based one. After that there will only be one other one to write, which will be the second part of the London gigs blog. After that I will close it out with a photobook blog, which will just be a selection of photos I’ve taken at gigs over the years. I’m looking forward to that one it has to be said. Until next time!

Part One - The Wedgewood Rooms
Part Two - Outdoor/Stadium Shows
Part Three - Festival Sets
Part Four - London (Part One)

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