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)