Friday, 29 August 2014

Queens of the Stone Age 21st November 2013 – National Indoor Arena, Birmingham

And so to the present - almost. Queens of the Stone Age touring on the back of their Like Clockwork album in Birmingham. Can’t recall who opened for them but Im not even sure we bothered with them.

Josh Homme was ill and openly stated that he didn’t feel great, but that didn’t stop what was a really energetic show with a real cross-section of material on offer. They kicked off with “You Think I Aint Worth a Dollar...” and did everything you would expect. In fact, to hell with it, here’s their full setlist:

  • You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire 
  • No One Knows 
  • The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret 
  • My God Is the Sun 
  • Monsters in the Parasol 
  • I Sat by the Ocean 
  • …Like Clockwork 
  • In the Fade 
  • If I Had a Tail 
  • Kalopsia 
  • Little Sister 
  • Fairweather Friends 
  • Smooth Sailing 
  • Make It Wit Chu 
  • I Appear Missing 
  • Sick, Sick, Sick 
  • Go With the Flow
  • The Vampyre of Time and Memory 
  • Feel Good Hit of the Summer 
  • A Song for the Dead

Have to confess that we ducked out of the encore to beat the traffic which is probably a really bad habit best avoided for the future, but it was pre-Christmas in Birmingham and sometimes it sucks being stuck in traffic. Anyway, despite missing the last couple of songs, it was a great gig and I recall him waxing lyrical on the local area for its contribution to rock and metal. Which was nice.

9 out of 10

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Ian Anderson 30th April 2012 – Symphony Hall, Birmingham

I didn't realise it at the time, but Ian Anderson is pretty much Jethro Tull now. He has since stated that the band no longer exists as it was and that he is recording and performing in his own right with the legacy of material at his disposal.

This was a gig in support of his recording of the follow up the Thick as a Brick album (TAAB2) and my initial disappointment that it was not the full band was immediately tempered by the way that they approached this. He had the vision to understand his vocal limitations and therefore brought in an additional vocalists to support his efforts – in addition, his band really went for the theatrical look and it gave me the impression of how it would have been to see Tull back in the heyday of the mid-1970s when they were releasing an album a year and playing at Maddison Square Gardens. I also enjoyed the concept of a two-part gig where everyone gets a break in the middle.

What his next project will be, I can only guess but perhaps he could put together a touring band to cover each of the great albums in their entirety? Just a thought...

7.5 out of 10

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Ravi Shankar 16th June 2011 – Symphony Hall, Birmingham

This was the first concert after Em was before the following September and as I recall we were going through a tough phase with little sleep and lots of stress. So it was ideal really to drive to the relaxed environment of the Symphony Hall, where a ninety-year old came onto stage at around 7.30pm to play for an hour or so meaning I was back in bed before 10pm. That probably sounds sad and tragic but in reality it was a kind way of re-acclimatising me back into the real world where people can actually go out and enjoy themselves.

As per the first time, he was fantastic and his playing really took the audience to new places in terms of the sound and the composition. It was with sadness that I learned of his death eighteen months later, but what a musician and what a great legacy he has left from his extraordinary life.

7.5 out of 10

Friday, 22 August 2014

Joe Bonamassa 31st May 2010 – National Indoor Arena, Birmingham

Joe Bonamassa is a great example of a great guitarist who could ideally do with being in someone else’s band. A bit like Eric Clapton I guess. I have a copy of his “Ballad of John Henry” album but if I’m honest I find it a bit “Radio Two.” It’s okay but nothing special. Whereas to see him live, it is clear he has a massive talken for both blues electric guitar and acoustic – perhaps he just needs to be with better songwriters to translate that to record.

Live he was very impressive – playing his best known songs with a high level of improvisation and lots of off-the-cuff solos and jams. Well worth seeing live in a stadium/large arena environment, perhaps just not so much so when it comes to buying his records.

8 out of 10

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Bad Company (supported by The Joe Perry Project) 1st April 2010 – NEC Arena, Birmingham

The Joe Perry Project were crap. At one point they did a cover of “Walk This Way” and I think the band I used to play in covered it with more gusto on a dingy stage in Plymouth. Let’s move on.

Bad Company were good – having seen Paul Rogers with Queen it was clear that his voice was still up to it. They did all the hits and I did my best to block out the image of Dwight Schrute pumping his fists in the car on his farm when they performed “Feel Like Making Love.” I did sort of manage.

7.5 out of 10

Monday, 18 August 2014

Mastodon 16th Feb 2010 – Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton

When a band can simply walk on stage, start playing for a couple of hours and walk off without so much as a please, thank you, hello, good bye and yet captivate the crowd with every note, taking their already sensational albums to a new level, you know you are in the presence of greatness.

Mastodon walked on stage, then played one set which comprised of every song of their latest album Crack the Skye, before playing an assortment of greatest hits in the second half. Each piece was played with precision, aggression and such a unique feel that it was hard to really view it as a set list and more as a giant piece of awesomeness. I’ll never forget as the started up “The Last Baron” thinking that they would naturally avoid the wierd King Crimson time-signature bit in the middle where it goes all over the place like a jazz track, but when they hit that part, nailed it without breaking sweat my jaw hit the floor. Just incredible.

The second half included “Where Strides the Behemoth” (heavy heavy heavy) and a frankly sensational version of “Mother Puncher” in which Brent Hinds nearly headbanged his own head off and Brann Dailor produced a drumming performance than was utterly ridiculous and incomprehensibly impressive. Doesnt happen often, but this was perfect.

10 out of 10

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Porcupine Tree 6th Dec 2009 – Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton

This was a strange one. My curiosity to see Porcupine Tree was half due to their interesting progressive sound and half due to Steve Wilson and his contributions as producer to many Opeth albums (not to mention the Storm Corrosion project. The wired bit was when an official announcement came out a few minutes before they took to the stage instructing that anyone attempting to record, take photos or videos of the band would be physically ejected from the venue as the band find that it distracts them from their performance. The way it was put, it felt like we were at a Simon Rattle concerto, not a rock concert...

Anyway, they were good. Played their latest concept album in its entirety (I think) then stuff from past albums including “Fear of a Blank Planet.” They were actually far less pretentious than the original announcement had suggested and are fantastic musicians. Well worth the time to see.

7.5 out of 10

Thursday, 14 August 2014

The Dead Weather 26th October 2009 – Carling Academy Birmingham

Another great gig – this time back at the Carling Academy. Strange band The Dead Weather. First album is awesome and I had high hopes, but the second was a bit “meh.” Still, as a gig this was really engaging – the vibe felt quite off-the-cuff and spontaneous. Alison Mosshart has got a great presence and together with the other excellent musicians on show, the sum was even greater than the individual parts.

Standouts include “I Cut Like a Buffalo,” “So Far From Your Weapon” and “Treat Me Like Your Mother.” Seemed to capture the Zeitgeist, which is a rarity for me.

9 out of 10

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Kasabian, 25th Aug 2009 – Civic Hall, Wolverhampton

What a great gig. I genuinely mean that – if I had to detail the component parts of a great gig this would be it...a really good band who you are looking forward to see, but with no particular expectations with regards to set lists. A venue not too far away. Seats at the top, but still nice and close to the action, where it’s possible to soak up the atmosphere below and casually observe the crowd surfing but without being soaked by beer bottles. A smart bar a couple of metres away. Space in front and behind. Great sound. I could go on – my point is that this was a really good evening in a venue that seems to have received some investment!

The support band were quite surreal (think they may have been French) and played a kind of sixties Zappa-style set. Kasabian were brilliant – played all the best stuff from their first three albums including “Processed Beats,” “Club Foot,” “Reason is Treason” and “Shoot the Runner.” Tom Meighan was excellent – the drummer was excellent, the songs were brilliant and the crowd were great. And I just sat on my backside and soaked it all up.

10 out of 10

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Opeth, 19th November 2008 – Carling Academy, Birmingham

Twice in one year? Yes. The fourth time in total.

This was on the back of the recent Watershed album, in which their style had shifted a little to include blast beats and slightly less structured progressive pieces (if that makes sense?).

Set List as follows:

  • Heir Apparent
  • The Grand Conjuration
  • Godhead’s Lament
  • The Lotus Eater 
  • Hope Leaves
  • Deliverance
  • The Drapery Falls
  • Demon of the Fall

“The Lotus Eater” stood out, if only for the blast beats, as well as the supreme “Deliverence” which always entertains as it reaches its outro (and the new guy on the drums did justice to both). Having taken a long time to finally appreciate Still Life, it was also a nice touch to hear “Godhead’s Lament.” Wonder when I’ll see them for the fifth time?

8 out of 10

Friday, 8 August 2014

Queen with Paul Rodgers, 17th October 2008 – National Indoor Arena, Birmingham

This was a last minute ticket that I was given by someone who couldn't go – a great opportunity to see the remaining members of Queen with another great vocalist standing in for the late great Freddie. Actually, I recall a man who resembled Mr Mercury almost identically (and dressed in his famous yellow trousers and jacket) stood in front of us. Maybe it was him, who knows. He leaped into action when a teenager fainted during the set.

Anyway, I digress. They were very good. Queen didn't try and match their original act which meant that material such as “Bohemian Rhapsody” was performed in part with supporting video material in place. They even threw in a couple of Bad Company covers for good effect. Clearly not a patch on the original Queen, but still a great substitute.

8 out of 10

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Circulus (supported by Zag & the Coloured Beads, Pamerla Wyn Shannon & High as Flames), 7th September 2008 – Tutbury Castle, Staffordshire

One month after we were married, we ventured up to Tutbury Castle in Staffordshire to a very unusual concert. I’d been a fan of Circulus for a couple of years and noticed that they had a gig booked via MySpace.

What an incredible day. Tutubury Castle is basically a ruined medieval curtain wall punctuated by towers and a big empty moat. Once inside, we were greeted by a big colourful beer pavilion and the bands were set to play in a jousting tent against the backdrop of the castle walls. There must have been thirty people there are most. We could just sit on a picnic rug, casually walk across the set to the cake shop, or to get a beer or hog roast whilst a “town crier” read old poems, ditties and generally talked a load of magnificent shite before announcing each act. First there was the graceful Pamela Wyn Shanon on acoustic guitar. Then Zag and the Coloured Beads (can’t recall much about them). Then High as Flames – an awesome psychedelic rock band...then some guy who had rigged electric guitar pickups into a lute (that’s right – a frickin LUTE), then ran it all through a Marshall stack with fuzz and wah and proceeded to play a minstrels version of Voodoo Chile. It was extraordinary.

Finally, Circulus began their set, dressed as the Spanish Inquisition and (I assume) high on some cocktail of life. Or drugs. Or both. They played stuff from their new album (including “Sumer Is Icumen In”)as well as the fantastic “Miri It Is.” If all festivals were like this, Id be a convert. Hardly any people, awesome music, cheap entertainment and complete escapism from reality – albeit for a few golden hours. Doesn’t get much better than this.

9.5 out of 10 (half a mark deduction because I had to drive there and back and was unable to simply wander off into a meadow, drinking mead and humming a medieval tune).

Monday, 4 August 2014

Dempsey’s Lot, 1st August 2008 – Birtsmorton Court, Worcestershire

It is a little strange to review one’s own wedding, but we did pay Dempsey’s Lot to play in the evening because we like Irish folk music. And they were very good.

Can’t really recall too much as I was drifting from one location to another, talking to people, drinking and generally soaking everything up. We were forced to dance at one point which threaten to ruin it, but we soon escaped that particular horror and got back to listening. Id quite like to obtain one of their CDs one day but I'm not even sure if they’re still going now to be honest.

10 out of 10 (they probably merit an 8 but it was the best day ever so go figure)

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Joe Satriani, 12th May 2008 – Symphony Hall, Birmingham

The weird thing about this concert is that the overriding memory is fiddling with new newly-acquired earplugs trying to work out if I actually need them at the Symphony Hall, given that the acoustics are so balanced. What a dull and pointless memory...

Anyway, some weird virtuoso guitarist on stilts with glasses opened up before Joe Satriani came on to play an extended set of his solo material. As you might expect, his playing is exceptional but what I like about him is that he rarely descends into to the self-indulgent excess of people like Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen and that creature Michael Angelo Batio (who frankly should be assassinated for crimes against the guitar).

Probably the only piece I actively recall was “Cool #9” but it was all pretty mesmerising and ultimately very impressive to think that this guy has taught so many lead guitar players of the last couple of decades.

7.5 out of 10

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Opeth, 23rd April 2008 – Carling Academy Birmingham

This was the third time I saw them and they had just been joined by Fredrik Akesson from Arch Enemy. In fact, Arch Enemy opened for them so presumably there was some sort of deal going on. Cant recall much about them though.

Opeth were good – though not as much so as the previous two occasions as the set list failed to contain anything spectacular. We were waiting for the new album with eager anticipation. 

I recall a rare version of “Wreath” and also “Serenity Painted Death from Still Life. Opening with "Demon of the Fall" was interesting as that’s usually a set closer...

7 out of 10

Monday, 28 July 2014

The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, 6th December 2007 – Robin Hood 2, Bilston, Wolverhampton

Not sure what to say here. The Sensational Alex Harvey Band played at the Robin 2 with a Scotsman (whose name escapes me at this moment) taking on the vocal duties from the late Alex Harvey. He was okay but a little bit punk in style verses Harvey’s more theatrical approach.

Anyway, the vocals were not the memorable bit. The volume was incredible, and it was this gig that led me to purchasing a set of professional DJ earplugs for future concerts as my right ear had only just recovered from the Foo Fighters the month beforehand. They arrived on stage one-by-one to open with “The Faith Healer” and if ear damage was not a concern then the volume of Zal Cleminson’s guitar was at an unbelievable level. Ear damage IS a concern, however, which is what led to the venue’s manager approaching him discretely on stage and asking him to turn down a little. He responded by turning it up. An argument ensued. They played “Midnight Moses” and “Compliments to the Chef” and finished with “Delilah.” He then had a complete barny and finished by saying it was the worst gig he’d ever played.  I believe it was his last ever. Not sure if he still wears the face paint, but he did sport it that night.

9 out of 10 (3 point deduction for the ridiculous volume and hissy fit, 2 points added on for the ridiculous volume on reflection. I don’t know what to think, but I’ll make damn sure I sue them if I’m deaf by the age of forty.)

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Foo Fighters (supported by Serj Tankian), 6th November 2007 – NEC Arena, Birmingham

Awful traffic....awful, awful, awful. Still, such is the way of things at the NEC.

Anyway, we  watched casually as Serj Tankian performed a few obscure tracks – kind of a Frank Zappa meets System of a Down. I’m sure he was ranting on about something or other but I wasn't that interested. What concerned me more was my angle to the stage: the NEC is divided into three stands which sit at right angles to each other, meaning that the sound was hitting my right ear exclusively and I was left with partial deafness for the next couple of week in my right ear only.

The Foo Fighters were great – they had just released the excellent Echoes album (much better than the previous double album in my view). Opened with track two (can’t recall the name of the song and then played “The Pretender.” Pat Smear was on stage so it was weird listening to three guitarists, but they made it work. Great song selection from all the albums and good showmanship from His Excellency Mr Grohl and Taylor Hawkins also.

Final we made our way out into the car park I was reflecting happily on the fact that we hadn’t had our enjoyment marred by more punch-ups or obnoxious Australians – only for a passing stranger to walk into Lee and cause a hefty row. Just goes to show – it’s the Foo Fighters fault after all.

8.5 out of 10 (1 mark deduction for the bad traffic and another half for my deafness).

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Metallica (supported by Mastodon, HIM & Machine Head), 8th July 2007 – Wembley Stadium, London

The day after Live 8, Metallica played again at the new Wembley stadium, this time with a handful of support acts similar in structure to the Foo Fighters Hyde park event the previous year. Except that this was a metal gig in an arena. And there were no moronic Australians. Or at least I didn’t see any. 

Anyway, aside from the expensive beer, chips and burgers, Mastodon were excellent, Him were a bit rubbish and Machine Head were fine (although seemed a little out of place). Metallica arrived in the usual fashion to that piece of music from The Good The Bad and The Ugly, opened with "Creeping Death" (at a high volume) and played a really balanced set with tracks from almost all their albums – highlights included “And Justice For All,” “Disposable Heroes,” “One” and the awesome “Orion.”

I seem to recall a rousing “Sandman” followed by “Seek and Destroy” and an avalanche of huge inflatable Metallica balls bobbing around the arena. Incidentally I've deducated one quarter of a mark due to the snidey comment Lars made regarding England’s footballing ability (even though he was probably quite accurate. Maybe I'm still getting over his non-show at the 2004 Download Festival.)

The new Wembley Stadium is huge, clean, modern and overall vastly better than that rotting concrete heap that used to be there. So worth the money in my book.

9.75 out of 10

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Jethro Tull, 26th March 2007 – Alex Theatre, Birmingham

The second time I saw Tull, they played a full acoustic set including memorable renditions of “Fat Man” and the "Henry VIII Madrigal" composition. I recall Ian Andersen waxing praise on Martin Barre’s acoustic skills, having set his stall out as a purely electric player in the seventies and eighties.

The Alex Theatre was naturally older and quainter than some of the other venues in and around the Birmingham area but had its own idiosyncrasies. I recall at one point popping to the gents during which I overheard the sort of conversation usually associated with Tommy Saxondale – along the lines of “I don’t remember taking so long in the gents forty years ago.” Not sure if that was depressing or simply pithy. Either way it was a stark reminder that I’ll be an old “has been” one day.

What am I saying “one day”?

8 out of 10

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Opeth (supported by Paradise Lost), 8th November 2006 – Carling Academy, Birmingham

The second time I saw Opeth was the best to date and probably one of the best gigs I’ve ever witnessed. The excellent Paradise Lost opened and played “Embers Fire,” before Opeth took to the stage with a perfect set list that was a close resemblance to the subsequent CD and DVD show filmed in London (The Roundhouse Tapes), with “Bleak” having been replaced with “The Grand Conjuration.”

I full recall the complete set list as follows:

  • The Ghost Reveries
  • When
  • Under the Weeping Moon
  • Face of Melinda
  • Night and the Silent Water
  • The Grand Conjuration
  • Windowpane
  • Blackwater Park
  • Demon of the Fall (Encore)

“The Night and the Silent Water” is a rare example of a band playing a song I rate highly, having ignored it for many years, yet having suddenly encountered a change of heart. Michael Akerfeldt described his change of mindset, having warmed to the album over the years and that he contemplated recording the track using a lute. It’s possibly the best live version of a song I’ve heard (though Mastodon compete for this as you will soon read when I get to them shortly...)

10 out of 10 (not even the departure of Martin Lopez before this tour impacts the perfect score)

Thursday, 17 July 2014

The Rolling Stones (supported by the Kooks), 29th August 2006 – The Milenium Stadium, Cardiff

I shall ignore the shockingly poor support band in the name of The Kooks. Enough said. 

I would have far rather seen The Stones in 1967 or failing that, in the early seventies, but regardless, it was amazing to see them, such as they are now. They opened with Keith Richards shuffling out of a giant pair of lips to open Jumping Jack Flash, before playing a plethora of songs from across the vast span of their career. Highlights included "Lets Spend the Night Together" and the moveable stage that transported them across the stadium, whilst low points included Keith’s vocal performance during the midway point (cue drinks break). Mick Jagger has to be the fittest man on earth…of that age. By fit of course I mean athletically fit and that isn't in any way a homosexual remark. Got back very late (early the following morning) but it was very much worth it.

I've typically avoided full set lists on this blog, however, I can at least confirm that the following were played:

  • Jumping Jack Flash
  • Paint it Black
  • Let’s Spend the Night Together
  • Midnight Rambler
  • Brown Sugar
  • I Can’t Get No Satisfaction
  • Honky Tonk Woman
  • Start Me Up
  • Sympathy for the Devil

8 out of 10 (the Kooks, Ronnie Wood gurning and Keith Richards vocals all combine to knock off one point. The other point is because it wasn’t 1972.)

Tuesday, 15 July 2014


In terms of the worst appointments in political history (and I make this statement from a politically agnostic standpoint), Michael Gove as Education Secretary was up there. It would have been like making Dennis Skinner Foreign Secretary or asking Arthur Scargill to offer his thoughts on wealth management schemes. You are talking about a position that is going to be met with burning torches regardless of policy from all teaching unions and most teachers simply due to the nature of their roles, the experience they've had with policy changes and the general leftward leanings that most of that profession hold. Asking a humourless “Tory boy” to come in and try and establish 1950s principles without any consultation could be viewed as brave but ultimately was political suicide and its probably just as well that he’s been pushed away...

What I would say is that having read some of the utter drivel that is spouted by the NUS pamphlets and magazines, is that irrespective of who is in charge of education (or which party wins the next election for that matter), teaching bodies need to better engage with the government on policy. It is better to work with rather than against people and there will always be a system in this country whereby needs and leadership changes so creating divisions is ultimately going to create one winner and that isn't schools. Politics shouldn't be brought into influencing the classroom – whether that be from teachers or the government or both.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Foo Fighters (supported by Queens of the Stone Age & Motorheard), 17th June 2006 – Hyde Park, London

I travelled down to London on my own and met up with my now-wife and a friend on a hot day in Hyde Park. Juliet Lewis’ band was fairly forgettable. Queens of the Stone Age were brilliant but the sound was terrible and let them down to an extent. There was another band I can’t remember, then Motorhead played their usual set (in which every song sounded like "Ace of Spades") whilst we ate a £10 burger. Remember, this was London so that was a reasonable price. They did actually finish with "Ace of Spades" and "Overkill," so there was some sense of the greatest hits being played out. The Foo Fighters were great – opened with “In Your Honour” and played a cross section of songs, though focusing a little too strongly on the weaker double album in my view. However, they had Brian May and Roger Taylor on the stage, as well as Lemmy and finished with the excellent “Everlong,” which rounded it off well. 

As for the Australians present, it simply served to confirm my argument that they have little to offer other than drinking tasteless beer, stumbling around aimlessly and making moronic comments. Then not even having the bottle to follow it up. The bars of London must have been empty that day (along with their skulls).

9 out of 10 (2 marks deducted for the various gripes I've mentioned, 1 added back in for the entertainment)

Friday, 11 July 2014

Jethro Tull, 2nd March 2006 – Symphony Hall, Birmingham

This was the first time I had seen them and it was their anniversary Aqualung tour, which meant that they played every song of that classic album as part of the gig (35 years?!) plus a few additional songs along the way. Highlights include “Living in the Past,” “Mother Goose” and “Life’s a Long Song.” 

Ian Andersen is a highly engaging and witty frontman who takes the time to introduce each song and provide some context. He’s also a versatile flautist and guitarist who improvises well off some excellent musicians – this is how he compensates for the clear degeneration of his vocal chords (you can tell he visibly struggles to reach certain notes and the effortless strength of the seventies is long gone). I recall a very jazzy/bluesy piano solo at the start of "Locomotive Breath" and a crescendo of huge balloons raining down at the encore.

Once again, the Symphony Hall provided a perfect balance of comfort and sound

9.5 out of 10 (a rendition of "Minstrel in the Gallery" would have resulted in full marks)

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Opeth 6th September 2005 – Carling Academy 2, Birmingham

The day before I was due to tour Somerset with the cricket team I played or at the time (and if memory serves a few days before the final Ashes Test in that great series), Opeth played on the tiny C2 (stuffed into the far corner of the academy!) 

However, it was the first time seeing this great band and it was not disappointing. With no support band, Opeth opened with “Deliverance” (outro sensational) and played “The Drapery Falls,” “Baying of the Hounds” (from new album Ghost Reveries), “Blackwater Park” (absolutely superb in its eeriness), an Iron Maiden cover, “In My Time of Need,” plus several tracks from albums 3 and 4 that I did not recognise at the time. I recall having to travel to Weston-Super-Mare the following in my second choice shoes as my main trainers were caked in beer. The floor there has always been like that...

8 out of 10

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Ravi Shankar 21st June 2005 – Symphony Hall, Birmingham

As an extreme stylistic contrast to the rock and metal related gigs of the previous twelve months, we booked tickets to see the great Ravi Shankar at the Symphony Hall that summer. Despite his advancing years, he clearly translated as a great (and humble) musician, joined on this occasion by his daughter Anoushka (a successful musician in her own right) and two excellent accompanying musicians.

I can’t possibly state track titles as the compositions were all Indian / sitar related and I am not as familiar with the origins/original pieces, but the music was fantastic. I recall a particularly impressive tabla solo and the ending reached a really uplifting, progressive crescendo. The venue should also be noted – really relaxing, modern setting with awesome acoustics and a balanced arrangement. Bit different to the Wulfrun Hall of the mid-nineties!

8.5 out of 10

Friday, 4 July 2014

Green Day, 22nd January 2005 – National Indoor Arena, Birmingham

A few days after the magnificence of seeing Duff, Matt and Slash, I have to confess at being a little disappointed with Green Day. For a start it was full of screaming teenage girls and felt more like Top of the Pops than a rock concert! Green Day played virtually every song of American Idiot plus a selection from their previous albums, including “Basket Case” and “Welcome to Paradise.”

For me it was an average gig from a band who were receiving huge adoration for that album at the time (I’m pretty indifferent about it – it’s okay I guess but their earlier stuff is much better). The highlight was when they “made” a band from random audience members, though this has been done more impressively by other more talented bands since. Perhaps their biggest crime was to convince nearly every band for the next decade to make a politically-themed concept album. Yawn.

Incidentally, the "£4.00" on that ticket slip is the booking fee. Not sure where the actual stub went, but it does confirm to me that I should have forged a career as a middle man for live concerts and sporting events - they must make a killing for doing nothing.

5.5 out of 10

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Velvet Revolver (supported by The Dhatsuns), 18th January 2005 – National Indoor Arena, Birmingham

This was a great gig – certainly one of the best at the time. Velvet Revolver came on with great presence and played all the best stuff from the first album (including the awesome “Slither”), plus a Stone Temple Pilots song and “It’s So Easy,” “Mr Brownstone” and “Used to Love Her.” Slash played some great individual solos and more importantly wore his top hat, so everyone was happy. The Dhatsuns were not bad either. 

All round, there were some great musicians on show – I particularly recall a section where they all sat down and went acoustic for a few songs – it genuinely felt like it could have almost been a Gun’s N’Roses concert had idiot face been shorn of his indulgence and hadn't broken up the band.

9.5 out of 10 (not quite GNR of old but more so than GNR of today)

Monday, 30 June 2014

Machine Head, 3rd December 2004, Carling Academy, Birmingham

This was the “Through the Ashes of Empires” tour., which in many ways was a comeback event for them. It was the first time I had been to the Carling Academy and was impressed with the venue (aside from the sticky floor) as it had quite a nice modern vibe and was a decent size (not too big or too small. 

They played most expected stuff, including "The Burning Red," which was excellent. I also recall a Pantera cover (possibly "Walk"?) and perhaps even a bit of "Battery." I’ll mark this higher than the previous time I saw them because it just seemed a broader show and they had dispensed with the ridiculous skater look.

8 out of 10

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Lost Prophets, 15th November 2004 – Civic Hall, Wolverhampton

I seem to recall attending this half-heartedly as a copy of their album made its way into my collection. They played every song from Start Something album, including “Last Summer” and also the very cool “Shinobi vs Dragon Ninja.” I can’t even remember who was supporting – probably nobody. 

I'm now wondering if i should down-weight the score in line with what has happened to their singer, but then that would be unfair on his innocent band mates. It was an okay gig I guess.

6.5 out of 10 

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Slipknot & Slayer (supported by Mastodon & Hatebreed), 5th October 2004 – National Indoor Arena, Birmingham

Played the Birmingham NIA, October 2004. Criminally missed Mastodon due to a copious intake of alcohol in a Broad Street bar (have seen them twice since), before witnessing “South of Heaven,” “Seasons in the Abyss,” “Hell Awaits” and “Angel of Death.” Slayer were tight, machinegun-esque and a spectacle to behold - I recall sprinting along the canal side to enter the arena literally hearing Slayer echo around the city. 

Slipknot played all the “hits” (is that the right word?), including the “Heretic Song,” “Duality” and “People=Shit” (along with a great body of material from their recent and most excellent third album). When Corey told everyone to crouch down and jump up in unison, everyone obeyed and then the whole of Birmingham shook.

“If you’re 555 then I’m 666. What's it like to be a heretic?!” I was dying for the loo on the way back home, but it was worth it.

9 out of 10 (If we’d seen Mastodon and the start of Slayer then it would have been a 10)

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Download Festival, 5th – 6th June 2004 – Castle Donnington Park

Saturday: The Dillinger Escape Plan, Opeth, Monster Magnet, Cradle of Filth, The Distillers, Iggy Pop, Sum 41, Linkin Park
Sunday: Breed 77, Turbonegro, Ill Nino, Soulfly, Damageplan, Machine Head, Slipknot, Korn, Metallica

And so 8 years on from the ‘96 festival we found ourselves back at the racetrack, this time on the Friday in order to camp over, as the festival had moved to a 2-day event. It had actually been brought back the previous year, with Audioslave playing, and Metallica making a surprise appearance on a second stage, and the latter had been chosen the headline the final night. 

The Saturday line up was one of the most disjointed in the festival’s history. We watched Monster Magnet (incredible – “Im never going to work another day in my life!”) and Iggy Pop (fantastic) as well as Cradle of Filth (interesting) and bits of Sum 41 (totally forgettable). Missed the Distillers (not fussed) and caught only a snippet of Opeth (curious – had little knowledge of them, only to discover their magnificence fully the following year). Worst of all, however, was Linkin Park. Bland, dull, nu-pop metal. Terrible.

On Sunday, having packed early and avoided the leaking sewerage of the campsite, we caught snippets of Turbonegro, Il Nino and Breed 77 – all three were fairly forgettable and I only recall a fat man in a top hat (Turbonegro) and a dreadlocked foreign guitarist (Il Nino?). Soulfly were quite good, as were Machine Head (set list: “Imperium,” “Ten Ton Hammer,” “The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears,” “Take My Scars,” “Descending the Shades of Night,” “Davidian,” and “Block”) and Slipknot. However, Slayer were moved to the second stage due to a late arrival and swapped with Damageplan, who were fantastic. Probably the highlight of the entire festival was their cover of “Walk,” together with a blazoning improvised solo from Dimebag on a silver Dean guitar that threw off sunlight onto the crowd. His final UK performance? 

Korn played “Right Now,” “Falling Away From Me,” “Got the Life,” “Here To Stay,” “Freak on a Leash,” “Blind,” “Shoots & Ladders,” “Dead Bodies Everywhere” and “Fagot.” Jonathon Davies wore a strange black kilt, whilst Head was not far off leaving the band, so it was probably the last chance to catch them with their original line up.

Then the two hour wait for Metallica during which time my sunburnt head was smashed with an assortment of urine-filled bottles. Little did we know that their tardiness was due to Lars being ill and it was only as a result of Dave Lombardo and Slipknot's Joey stepping in that saw the gig fulfilled with most material coming from the first two albums and the Black album. Not their best performance, but one of their most memorable.

9 out of 10 (a decent headliner on day one would have pushed it up to full marks)

Sunday, 22 June 2014

The Wildhearts (supported by Strapping Young Lad), 17th June 2001 – JB’s Dudley

On completing my second year at Plymouth University, the Wildhearts played at Dudley JB’s. They were supported by the excellent, if not bizarre choice of Strapping Young Lad, who played a style of metal somewhere between that of Metallica and Deicide (complete with blast beats), fronted by an apparent lunatic who looked like Bill Bailey. The second support band was useless, characterised only by a singer who wanted to be unpredictable and exciting, but simply came across as a retarded monkey whose only contribution was to swing across the rafters scratching his armpits. I recall pondering if he should be put down. 

The Wildhearts were good, though sadly their original line up lasted only half a dozen songs before bassist Danny exposed himself, then was led off stage, too high on heroin/some other erroneous narcotic to continue playing. Nevertheless, the bassist of the crap support band stood in heroically, and Ginger carried on, playing “Shitville,” “Wonderland,” “I Wanna Go Where the People Go,” and “TV Tan,” among others. A decent effort in tough circumstances.

7 out of 10 (for the quirky entertainment alone)

Friday, 20 June 2014

Rockbitch, November 2000 – Plymouth Cooperage

Rockbitch played the Plymouth Barbican towards the end of 2000. True to their name and reputation, they walked on naked (seven women members), and proceeded to play an array of awful songs in a style somewhere between insipid goth and bland rock. This was immaterial, however, as the majority of the audience were more preoccupied with their obscene sexual stage performances, cumulating with an invitation to a female audience member to walk on stage and have sex with them. Their encore involved a golden condom being tossed into the crowd with which the lucky recipient “winning” the chance to use it on them backstage. I recall Brian constructing a very wide net to no avail...

0.5 out of 10

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

The Lightening Seeds (supported by Rootjoose), Plymouth University Summer Ball, May 2000 – A field somewhere near Plymouth

The Lightening Seeds, Rootjoose played at the Plymouth University May Ball in 2000. It was interesting to see Rootjoose, given my band’s previous offer of a support slot with them, and they were an impressive force live, without being spectacular. The Lightening Seeds, in the other hand, were awful. They have some okay pop songs, but most of them rely on electronic backing in order to differentiate the mundane acoustic strumming from song to song, and without that, they sounded like dull pap live. Did they play Three Lions? I dunno. David Brent’s “Freelove Freeway” would have been better. 


2 out of 10

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Pantera (supported by Satiricon & Powerman 5000) 26th April 2000 – Civic Hall, Wolverhampton

A gap then ensued between school and university before the arrival of Pantera in Easter 2000. An awesome day spent in a local Wolverhampton pub was followed by supports bands Satyricon, and Powerman 5000, who both held their own, whilst being watched by the monstrous presence of Phil Anselmo on the side of the stage complete with ludicrous beard and inked arms. It was also partially memorable for the fact that Dave made a fool of himself when speaking to Napalm Death bassist Shane Embury in a backstage bar (though I can’t truly recall he did that or 2. whether I've embellished this memory through the filter of alcohol). 

Pantera were awesome, although they tended to favour the more recent songs, and neglected the Trendkill album completely, which is the reason for the half a point deduction on the score. “Yesterday Don’t Mean Shit,” “Revolution is My Name,” “Walk,” “A New Level,” “Hostile,” “Domination,” “PC Sledge,” “Becoming,” “Hellbound,” and “Cowboys” were all blasted out to perfection. Vinnie’s drumming was impressive, whilst watching Dimebag on guitar was spellbinding, particularly in light of his tragic death a few years later.

9.5 out of 10

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Gunz N’ Rozes Some Point in 2000 – Plymouth Cooperage

As my band were regular attendees (and occasionally performers) to the Monday evening jam sessions at the Plymouth Cooperage down by the Barbican, we tended to become aware quite quickly of up and coming performances. For the most part, this involved tribute acts and during the first year at Plymouth we saw this GNR tribute band who happened to feature “Gary Crowley” as Axl Rose who had apparently performed on Star in their Eyes. I think that was supposed to be some sort of claim to fame.

Anyway, they were okay. They looked vaguely the part, except that Slash looked a little more like Joe Perry with a wig and the guy playing Izzy was actually a better guitarist. They at least arrived on time and didn’t start a riot or take two hours between songs, which immediately placed them above the real GNR for reliability.

5 out of 10

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Therapy? 6th May 1998 – Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton

Following a relatively dry patch concert-wise during the second year of High school, Therapy? played the Wulfrun in 1998. Their support acts were not particularly memorable, however they played a solid show, the highlights of which included the obvious choices of “Screamager,” “Die Laughing,” and an extended version on “Diane,” complete with electric cello backing, and atmospheric lighting.

I've never really owned much Therapy? apart from the obvious Troublegum album and a "Best Of" but they struck me from this gig that they are a band who should have received more mainstream success – either that or perhaps they are just better live than on record.

8 out of 10

Monday, 9 June 2014

Silverchair 26th June 1997 – Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton

In June, Silverchair also played the Civic Hall. It was good show, including “Tomorrow,” “Israel’s Son,” “The Door,” and “Freak”. The only strange thing about it was Daniel John’s odd stage act, which seemed to be awkward and embarrassing, threatening to detract from the quality of the gig. He's a talented guy with a great voice but I got the impression that he would rather be doing other stuff.

Silverchair went a bit downhill after that album and maybe this was the start of all his weirdness. I have no recollection of the support band or if there even was one.

7 out of 10 (for "Tomorrow" if nothing else)

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Machine Head (supported by Coal Chamber & Napalm Death) 22nd April 1997 – Civic Hall, Wolverhampton

Machine Head undertook a UK tour at the beginning of 1997 on the back of their slightly disappointing second album, The More Things Change. They were supported by Korn rip-offs Coal Chamber, who were not bad live, and the excellent Napalm Death. Machine Head themselves were very heavy and very intense with a great, atmospheric opening. They played most of their best material, including “Old”, “Davidian,” “Take My Scars,” and “Violate”. 

The only criticism was that their original drummer, the incredible Chris Kontas had been replaced by someone mortal. Dave McClain is a good drummer, but very few individuals could match the drumming of a man who recorded "Blood for Blood". I also recall they were entering their “skater” / nu-metal” phase which was a bit irritating at the time and now looks a little desperate given they've decided to go prog-metal.

7 out of 10

Friday, 6 June 2014

The Offspring (supported by various rubbish acts) 16th April 1997 – Civic Hall, Wolverhampton

The Offspring played at Wolverhampton as part of their spring ’97 Ixnay on the Hombre album, possibly their best to date. They were supported by an array of abysmal bands, who were so poor that I can’t even remember what they were called. Awful. I just remember that one was an all girl band, which portrayed themselves as a rock equivalent of the Spice Girls. Well, what a great concept to base an artistic offer around. 

The Offspring were good, not great, and not memorable. Among the songs that stood out were “Self-Esteem”, “Bad Habit” and “Gone Away”. Seem to remember coming away with a poor-quality long-sleeved t-shirt that I wore intermittently for a year or so.

4.5 out of 10

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Korn (supported by Incubus & The Urge) 26th January 1997 – Civic Hall, Wolverhampton

There was a second chance to see Korn around the same time, when they toured with funk rock band The Urge, and up-and-coming soul rock band Incubus. Both these bands were fairly average live as I recall. Korn, however, were again fantastic. They played all their best songs, plus the pick of material from their (not quite so good) second album, Life is Peachy, including “Good God” and “Kill You”. 

The sequined tracksuit had already started to take a life of its own and through the five musicians were on their way to stardom, the gig retained enough intimacy for it to linger in the memory. I also came away with a ridiculously large poster with low-resolution print (well, what do you expect for a couple of quid off a street seller?)

8.5 out of 10

Monday, 2 June 2014

Sepultura (supported by Floodgate), 15th December 1996 – Civic Hall, Wolverhampton

In December 1996 I had the chance to see Sepultura at Wolverhampton on what was to be their penultimate ever gig as the original line up on their final tour (Max left soon after). Having had most of their performance at Donnington blocked out by Korn’s legendary showing, it was a chance to see them play for an extended period of time and perform practically all their major songs. 

I recall that this was one of the most intense crowds I have ever been in, though I remember wishing they would have played more of their earlier stuff from Beneath the Remains and Arise. Sepultura were also joined by extra musicians to give backing to songs such as “Roots” and “Kaiowas”. Floodgate were also very solid in support, and played about 40 minutes worth of bluesy heavy rock.

This was a Sunday night gig and I look back now wondering how I managed to do any work in sixth form. Not sure I did that year in fact – looking back I can’t quite believe how many live performances I went to in 1996. Incidentally, I seem to have lost this ticket somehow...

7.5 out of 10

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Monsters of Rock, 17th August 1996 – Castle Donnington Park

Second Stage: Cecil, Honeycrack, 3 Colours Red, Everclear, Type O Negative, Korn
Main stage: Fear Factory, Dog Eat Dog, Paradise Lost, Sepultura, Ozzy Osbourne, Kiss

Donnington 1996 was to be the last of its kind for several years until Kerrang were to revitalise it with Download seven years later. Over seventy thousand people massed for a day of good, old fashioned heavy metal at Castle Donnington. The event was divided into the main stage, to be headlined by Ozzy Osbourne and Kiss, and the Kerrang stage, to be headline by Type O Negative. However, it was rumoured that at the last minute, Korn were to added to the bill. At the time, Korn were only just breaking through, but were receiving critical acclaim off the back of their cult debut album, and so demand to see them was sky high. As the two stages were to be run simultaneously, it was impossible to see all the bands on the bill. Fear Factory started the event with a great performance, which suffered only slightly due to their sound being more suited to an indoor show. Their highlight was undoubtedly “Scum Grief”. Dog Eat Dog were fantastic in every sense: their choice of songs being very well suited to a festival, audience, and their stage presence (particularly front man John C) was masterful. “Pull my Finger” and “Whose the King?” were well received. Paradise Lost played up to their gothic style well, particularly on “Once Solemn” and “Embers Fire”.

Having seen Paradise Lost, we managed to catch the end of Everclear’s set, which was very grungy, but not spectacular. Type O Negative played two songs, lasting over 30 minutes. They were interesting, but no more than that, particularly seeing as they were so inanimate and downbeat on stage. The crowd then dispersed for the stage set to be changed over and the sound checks to take place. Korn were due to headline the second stage around 20 minutes after the previous band and it was amazing to see that around fifty thousand of the crowd had gathered to see this almost unheard of band play. The sound check was the most bizarre I've ever heard, with all sorts of noises emulating from the guitars, and the bass was so low and down tuned that it shook the ground all the way back over the hill. Each band member entered one by one to play their opener “Blind” – I heard that twenty people were taken to hospital on this set alone. They played “Balltongue”, “Divine”, “Shoots & Ladders” and “Fagot”. It actually went on for longer than we had anticipated, and so we missed the musicians coming onto the main stage for Sepultura slot. Their show was marred by the death of Dana Well’s, meaning that Max couldn’t be present. Instead, guitarist Andreas Kisser stood in on vocals and did a good job, considering. They played a lot of materials off the Roots album, plus favourites such as “Kaiowas”, “Territory”, and “Refuse Resist”. 

Ozzy Osbourne is a legend. For a fat guy from Birmingham who can’t speak properly and waddles when he walks or runs, he has the most amazing stage presence. Kind of the opposite of Axl Rose in terms of grace, appearance and self-deprecation. “Perry Mason”, “No More Tears”, “War Pigs”, “I Just Want You” and “Paranoid”, were all fantastic. True he was aided by musicians such as Mike Inez and Mike Bordin, and his trusty water cannon, but it was a great set. There was a long pause before Kiss arrived, during which they blew up 4 massive inflatable Kiss dolls, and an aeroplane flew over the stage. Kiss themselves put on a typical stadium rock concert, complete with drum and guitar solos, and lights and explosions. They played (among several hundred other songs), “Shout it Out Loud”, “Black Diamond” and “God of Thunder”. Around midnight or sometime after, it all came to a close for another year (well, it was to be another seven years, but that’s another story).

9.5 out of 10 (the single day knocks off full marks on this occasion)

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Fear Factory (supported by Manhole & Drain), 2nd July 1996 – Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton

Having met two member of Fear Factory at the Exposure Rock Club in Merry Hill during Easter, I jumped at the chance to see them during their summer tour of the UK in 1996. I actually met them once more prior to the gig at an in-store signing session. I recall Burton C Bell signing my arm and telling me not to get any tattoos done as he regrets some of his (not sure if that was a joke or not). They were joined in the store by Drain, a female equivalent of Alice in Chains – who also happened to sign a copy of their debut album for me. In fact, I have a letter from their drummer, the only result of having sent a number of letters to various bands during this period. Manhole, a rap metal act fronted by Tarrie B also played and were solid, if unspectacular. Bit of a RATM rip off...

Fear Factory were brilliant, and were ideally suited to a loud, crisp sound that is possible in an average size indoor venue such as the Civic Hall in Wolverhampton. Highlights included "Dog Day Sunrise", "Replica" and the still-awesome "Self-Bias Resistor". 

8.5 out of 10

Monday, 26 May 2014

White Zombie, 13th May 1996 – Civic Hall, Wolverhampton

Sadly I could not procure tickets to see the Smashing Pumpkins during their tour of Easter 1996 (particularly as they subsequently disbanded), so I decided to catch White Zombie. The decision was proved a correct one as they have also since split, and they were fantastic on the night. Despite the sound not being particularly crisp, Rob Zombie put on a brilliant stage show with all the extras, and they even threw in a cover of Black Sabbath’s “Children of the Grave” for good measure. 

Highlights include "Super Charger Heaven" (DEVIL MAN!) and "ThunderKiss 65". Oh and I bought a WZ T-Shirt that I still have to this day - pretty good quality unlike some of the illegal cheap tat they used to flog outside the place.

7 out of 10

Friday, 23 May 2014

Napalm Death (supported by Crowbar & Face Down), 5th April 1996 – Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton

At the start of 1996, the bass player in the first band I played in obtained 3 tickets for one of the Heaviest gigs one could possibly wish to attend. It was a spontaneous choice rather than pre-planned (to date I don’t own material by any of the three bands), yet it was well worth the trip. Face Down were a solid nineties heavy metal band in the style of Machine Head (NWOAHM - although not US), Crowbar (the self proclaimed “Heaviest Band in the World” – i.e their collective weight rather than their sludgy sound) originated from New Orleans and a personal favourite of Phil Anselmo. 

Napalm Death were, and I would argue to this day, one of the more interactive live metal bands one could see, due to their local connection, and also the lead singer, Barney Greenway’s, sense of humour. I recall "Greed Killing" being a pretty cool song, along with "My Own Worst Enemy."

7 out of 10 (the “metal” experience raises this a point)