Monday, 1 January 2018

2017 - A Year In Live Music

Happy New Year! In previous years around this time, I’ve posted a blog about my top 10 favourite gigs of the year, as well as favourite festival sets as well. As I didn’t go to a festival this year, it will be difficult to do a top list of bands seen at a festival. Instead, I’m going to just rank the gigs I’ve been to, but I will also talk about the ones that didn’t make the top 10 as honourable mentions. I’ll do the gigs that didn’t make it in chronological order, as to not create a top 15.

I wrote a blog earlier this year the evening that the news broke about Chester Bennington passing away. It would feel improper to not mention both him and Chris Cornell’s passing. Whenever I hear a song that either of those men have been a part of, I still feel a pang of sadness. Only following his passing have I realised how much of a genius Chris Cornell was. I said in the blog about Chester that I didn’t care for the later works of Linkin Park but it wasn’t the time to really address that. I still feel it would not be appropriate to really discuss that point as I wouldn’t want it to come across as disrespectful. I cannot stress the point enough about how much of an impact Hybrid Theory had on my life however, and I wanted to mention both men as they are still very much in my thoughts as the year ends.

Let’s kick on with the honourable mentions of 2017 gigs – the ones that didn’t quite make the top 10.

Kreator – O2 Kentish Town Forum, London. March 2017 – This was probably the closest gig to making the top 10 which didn’t. The bill was superb, with Aborted, Soilwork and Sepultura in support. Soilwork are just excellent live. Sepultura really got the crowd moving when they played some of their classics – but you can’t help but wonder if they could headline this venue and bigger ones if Max and Igor were in the band. Probably bigger, as Max and Igor headlined it doing a Return to Roots show. Kreator were their usual great selves live. The new material fits in very well in their set. Their new album is excellent. I guess if I’m looking for negatives for this not being in the top 10 is because by the end of it, I was really tired and ended up leaving during Pleasure to Kill. Think this is the 3rd time I’ve seen Kreator in this venue but I’d go again, amazing support bill or not (although come on Kreator, bring Vader to the UK one time!)

Morass of Molasses – Edge of The Wedge, Portsmouth. April 2017 – I could almost copy and paste my words from last year, but just change the names of the supporting bands. The opening band didn’t do a great deal for me. Gravel Rash were good fun. Morass of Molasses were the band of the night though. Riffs for days! Sadly, I’m not sure when the next chance I will have to see them again is, but if they come back to Portsmouth after their Icebreaker appearance, I will be there. I was also really pleased to see them on the bill for DesertFest in London. That sounds like an awesome festival that I want to attend one year.

While She Sleeps – The Talking Heads, Southampton. April 2017 – First visit to the new Talking Heads and I want the old one back! I know that won’t happen but a man can dream! It was very weird that I walked into a venue for a sold out gig and wasn’t ticket checked but oh well. This gig is an honourable mention for two reasons. The first being how good the top 10 are in my opinion (if I were to try and give this a place were this to be a top 15, I would say it would be 11th or 12th – in a knife fight with Kreator). The second being the slight awkwardness about bumping into an old school friend who I no longer speak to (my fault, not theirs). Sadly, that awkwardness is my lasting memory of the gig rather than how good While She Sleeps were, which is a shame as they were bloody excellent. I really like their latest album and the material from it live crushes. Hopefully I will get a chance to see them live again. I find it hard to believe it will be in such an intimate setting mind (I was surprised when it was first announced).

Ginger Wildheart – The Railway, Winchester. April 2017 – It is always tough for me to not include everything Ginger and Wildhearts related in any top 10 list at the end of the year. This was a set list that contained some great Wildhearts material but the main focus was solo material, including from the recently released Ghost In The Tanglewood. It was a really fun night and a great first visit to The Railway pub.

Dragonforce – The Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth. October 2017 – If I was doing a top 15, this would be 15th. Power Quest had a decent set supporting them. Dragonforce started off really good as well but about half way through the set, they did a long drum solo and then the singer and bassist picking up the guitars and having a mess around, which was cool in places but it lost me. After this, I just wasn’t interested. They did their cover of Ring of Fire which is just dreadful. They closed with Through The Fire and Flames which was cool but not enough to save this gig for me. Shame really, as I was really looking forward to it beforehand.

Top 10

10 – KT Tunstall – Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry. May 2017
For a full review of this gig, please click here! A quick review though, Nina Nesbitt was good in support. KT Tunstall was excellent. The set list contained 5 out of 6 of my favourite songs of hers which was ace. I hope this is not the only time I see her perform live.

9. The Wildhearts – Rock City, Nottingham. January 2017
The Wildhearts playing Fishing For Luckies in full, Massive Wagons and The Main Grains – what is not to love?! This gig was just brilliant. I enjoyed The Main Grains and suspect I’d go see them play if they did a headline show. Massive Wagons were bloody wonderful. They are doing a headline show nearby and based on how good they were on this night, I definitely want to go to it. Now, the reason why this gig is 9th is because the story after the gig has become more of a talking point than the gig itself. The gig itself was bloody excellent and seeing The Wildhearts play Fishing For Luckies in full was just superb – it was the only UK outing for this album in full and I would definitely go again if they did a full tour playing it. Seeing Danny on stage for the conclusion was a wonderful thing as well. However, I had 1 or 2 too many beverages of the alcoholic persuasion during the gig and on the walk back to the hotel afterwards, I got really lost. So much so I had to call an uber to get me back to the hotel (something which made the driver laugh a lot at my expense – deservedly so I feel). I have often criticised people who get drunk beyond the point of no return during gigs because why would you spend so much to go to a gig, and then get so drunk you can’t remember some/all of it. Well, on this occasion, I was that person. I remember the gig being amazing, but certain specifics of the gig are lost in an alcoholic haze, which is a shame.

8. Weezer - Wembley Arena, London. October 2017 -
Last year, Weezer’s gig at Brixton Academy was in my top 3 of the year. It seems odd to have them in eighth in this list and it isn’t because the gig wasn’t excellent because it was. Ash were the special guests and they were outstanding. Weezer were better however. The set only contained 2 songs from their latest album which I was pleased about, although not the fact the one I really like off the album wasn’t played. Weezer have so many fantastic songs though and they played a whole heap of them, which made for a lovely evening. Dope Nose being in the set list probably would have made it a top 5 gig, as I love that song. Can’t win them all.

7. Milk Teeth – The Joiners, Southampton. August 2017 -
The opening band on this tour, Wallflower, were decent. However, if I am to be honest I don’t remember a great deal about them. The main support however, Employed To Serve, I mean fucking hell. They are a stunning band on record – their latest album The Warmth of a Dying Sun is just awesome. Live though? They are a force to be reckoned with. I really hope I get to see them again live. Milk Teeth were just as good as Employed To Serve. Both bands absolutely smashed it on this evening and I honestly couldn’t pick a favourite. Just a lovely way to spend an evening was this gig. Milk Teeth and Employed To Serve are two bands I’ve properly discovered this year and my life is better because of it.

6. The Wildhearts (Acoustic) – Engine Rooms, Southampton. December 2017
Engine Rooms was an interesting choice for this show as I would have thought the Joiners or Talking Heads would have suited it better but no matter. Before I start waffling about how good The Wildhearts were, I want to give a nod to Dave McPherson, who opened this gig. I’ve seen Ginger play a handful of acoustic shows, and they have all been excellent. I went into this evening with high hopes and they were more than met by Ginger and CJ. The set list was packed with the best of The Wildhearts back catalogue and it all just worked so well in this environment. The singalongs were as good as any Wildhearts show which made it even better. I walked in wondering whether this gig would make the top 10, and walked out wondering just how high it should be (caused me to do some reordering, that is for sure) – with a massive grin on my face. More of this sort of thing, please!

5. Marmozets – The Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth. November 2017
This gig was originally scheduled to be on the same day as I was seeing Metallica in Birmingham and so, I didn’t buy a ticket. Then Becca, the singer, was unwell so a few of the gigs got pushed back. Portsmouth was pushed back by two days, meaning I was able to make it. It would be a bit weird to say I’m happy that Becca got ill, but I’m kinda glad she did as this was my first time seeing Marmozets and they blew me away with how good they are live. Their debut album (The Weird and Wonderful Marmozets) has been in regular rotation for me since this gig but in particular, Why Do You Hate Me is a song I’ve played over and over. It was about a 75-minute headline set and it was just superb. It was tough not to put this gig higher truth be told. The band announced extra dates just before this gig and I remember before the gig turning to a mate and saying “Southampton on a Saturday night is nice, but this will likely do me”. About 2 songs in, I was changing my position on this. Now? Marmozets at the Engine Rooms is currently scheduled to be my first gig of 2018 (tempted by Hatebreed or Mongol Horde, both of which are the weekend before it). I am really excited to see them again. I expect to be writing words about them again this time next year based on how good the Portsmouth date was.

4. Metallica – The O2, London. October 2017
Picking between two Metallica gigs in one year is like picking your favourite child (I guess, being childless I’m not quite sure if that is true). I felt it would be cheating to have them tied for the same place (which in prep for this, I noted I did in a previous year for Frank Turner gigs – but there were a lot more to pick from in 2015 – probably). Anyhow, Kvelertak are a band that need crystal clear sound live for people to hear just how good they are. Alas, this was not to be on this night (or at the Birmingham gig, so I’m guessing they made the best of what they could have). Metallica though, I mean, damn. I really like most of their latest album, and the stuff they played from it was just great – especially Moth Into Flame. The older material was, as ever, stunning. One of the best bits of this gig for me was going with a mate who had never seen Metallica before. When the band had just finished One, he looked at me and said, “that was awesome!” to which I replied “well, it is about to get better” with a shit-eating grin on my face. Just as he asked how, the band kicked into Master of Puppets. That, that’s how!

3. Metallica – Genting Arena, Birmingham. October 2017
A lot of what I have just written above is the case for this gig. However, Metallica played Spit Out The Bone at this gig, whereas they didn’t in London. Fine margins indeed!

2. Guns N’ Roses – London Stadium, London. June 2017
Before the tour was announced, I never thought I would see Axl, Slash and Duff on the same stage. When the reunion tour was announced, I said the only thing which would stop me going would be if it was silly money. Sure, £100 a ticket was steep, but it was entirely worth it. A full review can be read here.

1. Volbeat – Telia Parken, Copenhagen. August 2017
I wrote about this gig as a part of my Copenhagen blog. However, some 4 months after this gig has taken place and the reason it is number one is because it was everything I hoped it would be, and then some. The support package of Amorphis and Flogging Molly were brilliant – Flogging Molly especially. It was great to see a filling stadium be won over by how good they are. Volbeat though were on another level. It was just awesome to see a Volbeat show of this magnitude. The setlist was excellent and personally, would have just wanted more to be added rather than anything to be cut. There aren’t many headline bands that would get me to step on a plane to go and see them, but Volbeat are now one of them. I would 100% go back to mainland Europe to see a Volbeat show of this magnitude again.

And that, as they say, is that. It was a decent year certainly for gigs. I’ve got high hopes for some of the gigs I have lined up in 2018. So far, I’ve booked a ticket for Marmozets, Milk Teeth, Cancer Bats (performing Hail Destroyer in full), the Britrock Must Be Destroyed tour, Frank Turner for a night at the Lost Evenings festival playing Love, Ire and Song in full and, last but not least, an evening with Machine Head. These should all be pretty good. Roll on the first one!