Tag Archives: Bristol

Tour Of Misrule

The latest concert outing saw another trip to Bristol – probably the closest big city that has a reasonably regular supply of decent acts appearing. This time it was to a new (to me) venue, and quite likely the smallest venue that I’ve attended a show at to date, the Louisiana, to see psychedelic occult rock band Blood Ceremony on their latest UK jaunt in support of latest album “Lord Of Misrule”.

The Louisiana, Bristol

The show took place in the small upstairs room (capacity just 140) at the pub. The event was billed as a sell-out by the promoters, but when I went up and presented my ticket ten minutes before show-time I had doubts about this as I found myself alone in the room with just a set-up-and-ready-to-go stage area for company!

Stage At The Louisiana, Bristol

Feeling more than a little self-conscious I took a photo of the stage and then chose a vantage point along the side of the room, propping myself up on the bar / shelf that ran along the wall as a few other folk began to troop into the darkened room. One downside of this positioning was that as the room filled up I had a less clear view of the low stage and was unable to get any decent photos – hence all the remaining piccies used here were found out there in internet land.

Steak

When tickets had gone on sale the support act hadn’t been announced and although heavy rockers Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell were mentioned on the tour poster they weren’t down as appearing at the UK dates in London and Bristol. Shortly before the show date I discovered that the support on the night would be London stoner rock band Steak.

Steak

Bang on 7:00pm the four members of the band – vocalist Chris “Kip” Haley, guitarist Reece Tee, James Cameron (bass) and Sammy Forway (drums) – made their way through the expanding audience (the dressing room area is at the opposite end of the room to the stage) onto the stage and launched into riff-heavy opening track “Pisser” from their 2014 debut album “Slab City”.

Steak

Numbers such as “King Lizard” and “Overthrow” from their new album “No God To Save” left me with a definite sense of Soundgarden being channelled and Kip himself struck me as being a mixture of the aforementioned Soundgarden’s late Chris Cornell, Jim Morrison (The Doors) and Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam) – which is certainly no bad thing.

Reese Tee

A band that are often compared to stoner rock legends Kyuss, Steak have bags full of heavy and groovy riffs being belted out of Tee’s fuzz-drenched Les Paul and went down pretty well with the crowd. Kip mentioned that they’d had a five-hour journey to play the gig, and with a slot of just thirty minutes I hope that they felt it was worth it – I’m sure most of those who witnessed them first-hand did. Impressive stuff…

Setlist:

1. Pisser / 2. King Lizard / 3. Living Like A Rat / 4. Liquid Gold / 5. Hanoid / 6. Overthrow

1, 4 and 5 originally from “Slab City” (2014) / 2, 3 and 6 originally from “No God To Save” (2017)

Blood Ceremony

After Steak had dismantled their gear and carried it through the thinned-out audience (many of whom had disappeared downstairs for liquid refreshment) the members of psychedelic / occult rockers Blood Ceremony and their one roadie / driver (I think) ensured that their gear was ready for their own set, which began at 8:00pm.

Alia O’Brien

By that time the room was absolutely packed and the reception afforded to the headliners was more than a little enthusiastic! The focal point of the band is undoubtedly vocalist / keyboardist / flautist Alia O’Brien, and with her long dark tresses, make-up, velvet catsuit and witchy hand gestures she certainly looked the part of mistress of occultic ceremonies!

Alia O’Brien & Sean Kennedy

Following opener “Old Fires” the band turn to classic “Goodbye Gemini” from 2013’s superb “The Eldritch Dark” album – an album that is justly very well represented tonight, accounting for five of the thirteen songs aired. “Drawing Down The Moon” is up next and is, like “Goodbye Gemini” a textbook example of the group’s potent mixture of psychedelia, groovy 70s riffs and O’Brien’s vocalising interspersed with evocative keyboard work, with flute being prominent too in the earlier track.

Sean Kennedy

The next two tracks are among my favourites from last year’s record before the Black Sabbath worshipping “Return To Forever” which boasts more flute and some great axe work from guitarist Sean Kennedy and, like everything the band did, received a fantastic response from the hairy rockers, gothic girls and assorted others – so many of whom knew every word and sang along – filling the room. Unlike other shows I’ve been to of late there was precious little chatter amongst the audience too.

Lucas Gadke & Alia O’Brien

“Lord Summerisle” was book-ended by a couple of songs from “Living With The Ancients”, the album that introduced me to this great band. Bass player Lucas Gadke took the mic for “Lord Summerisle”, which is surely a track that would fit nicely amongst the soundtrack for “The Wicker Man”, the film that inspired it.

Alia O’Brien

The main portion of the set was closed by the brilliant “Witchwood”. Once the initial guitar riff and keyboard atmospherics had given way to the groove of the song the room resembled a scene from some cool 60s horror movie where a club full of people get down to the infectious sounds of the house band. In fact a good number of folk had been grooving throughout, illustrating just how accessible the group’s songs are and the reaction that it provokes, as whilst Blood Ceremony might just be the perfect band for a 60s / 70s Hammer Horror type film they are also very much for today and have clearly made a connection with the audience.

Michael Carrillo & Alia O’Brien

Rather than trying to make their way through the audience only to return for an encore the quartet (completed by drummer Michael Carrillo) elected to remain on stage and get straight into the final two numbers of the evening, “I’m Coming With You” from their debut record and finally the magnificent “The Magician”. A (black) magical and spellbinding performance to be sure and a band that I’d love to see go onto bigger and better things in the near future…

Setlist:

1. Old Fires / 2. Goodbye Gemini / 3. Drawing Down The Moon / 4. Loreley / 5. Half Moon Street / 6. Return To Forever / 7. My Demon Brother / 8. Lord Summerisle / 9. Oliver Haddo / 10. Lord Of Misrule / 11. Witchwood / 12. I’m Coming With You / 13. The Magician

1, 4, 5 and 10 originally from “Lord Of Misrule” (2016) / 2, 3, 8, 11 and 13 originally from “The Eldritch Dark” (2013) / 6 and 12 originally from “Blood Ceremony” (2008) / 7 and 9 originally from “Living With The Ancients” (2011)

 

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Into The Woods Tour

On Wednesday, with my ears just about having stopped ringing after last Sunday’s fantastic Iron Maiden show, it was time for another gig. The venue this time was the somewhat smaller O2 Academy in Bristol, to see psychedelic legends Hawkwind.

This was to be a very different proposition from the aforementioned show. I arrived at the venue before the doors opened and while there was not yet much of a queue and finished reading Cathi Unsworth’s “Weirdo” novel while I waited.

Magnus Martin, Richard Chadwick, Michel Sosna & Haz Wheaton

The doors opened at 7:00pm and, having perused the merchandise stall, I made my way into the main concert area and found a decent enough spot (practically exactly where I was for last year’s Gov’t Mule show) from which to observe proceedings. At 7:30pm the support act strolled unannounced onto the stage in front of a half-empty O2 Academy. Said act was in fact Hawkwind Unplugged – basically the headliners with acoustic guitars. Seemingly a little disorganised there was a fair bit of in-band discussion throughout their thirty minute set.

Richard Chadwick

Somewhat bizarrely this also included the appearance of a badger hand-puppet wielded by drummer and occasional vocalist Richard Chadwick… Anyway, musically the set was a pretty decent quick trip through Hawkwind history – mainly from the 70s, with one track from this year’s “Into The Woods” album and “Get Yourself Together” from leader Dave Brock’s pre-Hawkwind days that eventually saw the light of day on a 90s archive release.

Setlist:

1. Quark, Strangeness And Charm / 2. Get Yourself Together / 3. Age Of The Microman / 4. Ascent / 5. We Took The Wrong Step Years Ago / 6. The Watcher

1 originally from “Quark, Strangeness And Charm” (1977) / 2 originally from “Dawn Of Hawkwind” (1999) / 3 originally from “25 Years On” (1978) / 4 originally from “Into The Woods” (2017) / 5 originally from “In Search Of Space” (1971) / 6 originally from “Doremi Fasol Latido” (1972)

Hawkwind Live

After a half-hour break the band were back on stage – again unannounced – for their main electric set, and by now the O2 was fuller than it had been, but was curiously still less busy than at any previous gig I’d been to at this venue. Kicking off with “Earth Calling” into a lengthy “Born To Go” and with various trippy images projected onto the back of the stage, this was more like your archetypal Hawkwind.

Mr. Dibs & Haz Wheaton

The band are completed by Mr. Dibs (vocals / synthesizer), Magnus Martin (keyboards / guitar), Haz Wheaton (bass) – the latter bearing a strong resemblance to 70s era Lemmy, right down to the Rickenbacker bass guitar, I thought – and Michel Sosna (saxophone).

Haz Wheaton & Dave Brock

The set was heavily drawn from what many people would argue is the group’s golden era, 1972-76, with the remaining numbers coming from albums released in the last two years, completely missing any material recorded between 1977 and 2015. If you discount the 1977/78 songs aired in the opening acoustic set that’s something in the region of twenty albums worth of songs ignored. That’s something of a shame, but even with nearly two hours on stage there were still plenty of classics (“Silver Machine”, “Masters Of The Universe”, “Sonic Attack” etc.) that couldn’t be fitted into the show so one can’t complain really and it does show that Brock and his troops have belief in their new material to include four recent tracks.

Hawkwind – Into The Woods

I have mentioned before, I believe, about audience noise as people chatter when bands are playing. Despite the relatively small crowd this one was easily the noisiest between songs, in terms of talking, and not just between songs either. Between “Steppenwolf” and “Warrior On The Edge Of Time” Martin stepped out from behind his keyboards to play some acoustic guitar. I could only guess that this was some kind of interlude as the crowd noise was so loud that it rendered his playing virtually inaudible, but I have since deduced it was likely “Darkland” from “Into The Woods”. To make matters worse the folk around me had to endure a chap who alternated between enthusiastic hands-in-the-air appreciation of each new tune with then spending most of the songs talking – very loudly – to the people closest to him. Why do these people spend good money on a concert ticket, only to spend most of their time taking practically no notice of the goings-on on stage?!

Dave Brock

So, rant over… Brock’s Hawkwind do not put on a spectacle like that displayed by Iron Maiden etc., but then they do not have the financial support or resources to do so either. What they do do is concentrate on playing immersive and hypnotic music accompanied by some decidedly psychedelic images – and they do it jolly well.

Hawkwind Live

In view of the audience noise issues I would have to say that whilst I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of Hawkwind live, I will likely stick to their recorded output in future when I can really hear what’s going on and lose myself in the music…

Setlist:

1. Earth Calling / 2. Born To Go / 3. The Awakening (First Landing On Medusa) / 4. You’d Better Believe It / 5. Have You Seen Them / 6. Vegan Lunch / 7. Steppenwolf / 8. Darkland / 9. Magnu / 10. Golden Void / 11. Synchronised Blue / 12. Into The Woods / 13. Brainstorm / 14. Welcome To The Future / 15. Brainbox Pollution

1, 2, 3 and 14 originally from “Space Ritual” (1973) / 4 originally from “Hall Of The Mountain Grill” (1974) / 5, 6, 8 and 12 originally from “In The Woods” (2017) / 7 originally from “Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music” (1976) / 9 and 10 originally from “Warrior On The Edge Of Time” (1975) / 11 originally from “The Machine Stops” (2016) / 13 and 15 originally from “Doremi Fasol Latido” (1972)

Like An Arrow Tour

Time for a word or three about the latest gig attended by myself and my good lady wife. Thursday 6 April saw the pair of us setting off for Bristol to see southern rockers Blackberry Smoke at the O2 Academy.

We left home just after 4pm, keen to avoid the issues that we’d had on our last concert trip to the city, when heavy traffic on the M32 had caused us to miss all but one song by the opening band when we went to see Dutch metallers Epica at the O2 Academy.

Taking the alternative route from the Severn Crossing meant that we travelled south briefly on the M5 before heading into the city via The Downs. The result of this was time for a visit to Pizza Hut before the show and still left enough time (just!) to make it to the O2 before the doors opened at 7:00pm.

From From The Access Area At The Bristol O2 Academy

As before, the venue staff were very good and soon had us in the access area for disabled customers and carers. Sadly this was where we encountered the low point of the evening. This show was clearly a popular one and the access area filled up very quickly. Unfortunately, however, it was obvious that a number of the seats were being taken by the able-bodied carers which meant that some of those with access needs were unable to get into the area. I appreciate that it is a help for the disabled person and carer to be close to one another – I stand behind my wife’s chair if room permits – and have no problem with the carers sitting if space allows, but on this occasion there were one or two who were clearly oblivious to the needs of others, whether this was by being unaware or just simply ignorant… well, only they will know for sure but I wonder if there is a better way for these areas to be allocated to customers so that those with genuine need get the seats first?

Biters – The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be

Anyway, on with the show… First up, from the same American town as the headliners – Atlanta, Georgia – were Biters. A rather different proposition than the headliners, Biters offer hard rock with a definite Seventies vibe. You can hear echoes of bands like Cheap Trick in their sound and a few of the songs, such as “Heart Fulla Rock ‘N’ Roll” were very reminiscent of Marc Bolan’s T. Rex. This is not a bad thing, as the band’s songs are original yet instantly kind of familiar.

Tuk Smith At The Bristol O2 Academy

Fronted by singer / guitarist Tuk Smith (“he looks like Noel Fielding”, said my wife, who’s probably not the first person to make the comparison), Biters are the kind of band that remind you why rock music can be such fun and make you want to pick up an instrument and play. To be honest I don’t think their records to date have really done the band justice in terms of getting their sound across and tracks like “Low Lives In Hi Definition” and the excellent closer “1975” hit far harder in the live arena. Songs were aired from their debut album as well as a few from their upcoming second full length release “The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be”.

Matt Gabs & Tuk Smith At The Bristol O2 Academy

Smith was an engaging front man and told a couple of funny road stories which I’m sure helped the audience warm to the band. Ably assisted by seriously impressive guitarist Matt Gabs – how could he see to play those great solos with his face almost constantly obscured by hair?! – bassist Philip Anthony and rock solid drummer Joey O’Brien, Smith’s band got the night’s entertainment off to a great start and went down very well with the Bristol crowd.

Setlist:

1. Restless Hearts / 2. Low Lives In Hi Definition / 3. Gypsy Rose / 4. Hallucination Generation / 5. So Many Nights / 6. Going Back To Georgia / 7. Stone Cold Love / 8. Heart Fulla Rock ‘N’ Roll / 9. 1975

1, 2, 8 and 9 originally from “Electric Blood” (2015) / 4 and 5 originally from “Last Of A Dying Breed” (2012) / 3, 6 and 7 originally from “The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be” (2017)

Blackberry Smoke At The O2 Academy

Once Biters and their small crew had cleared their gear from the stage and we’d had an interval it was time for the lights to go down again as singer / lead guitarist Charlie Starr led his band Blackberry Smoke into a storming rendition of “Fire In The Hole”. If you thought Biters had gone down well – and I did – then the response to Blackberry Smoke was nothing short of ecstatic.

Charlie Starr At The Bristol O2 Academy

Starr comes across a little like he’s part-rock star and part-evangelist preacher, which is no huge surprise when you realise that he comes from a very musical family with his dad being a guitar player and singer and his paternal grandmother teaching him all about gospel singing and harmony. The latter shines through on Blackberry Smoke material where every song is catchy and memorable, whether it’s one of their acoustic tunes like the hillbilly country of “I Ain’t Got The Blues”, the harder rocking stuff like “Up In Smoke” or the likes of “Pretty Little Lie” which sits somewhere in between. Large sections of the crowd seemed to know practically every word and sang along with great gusto!

Paul Jackson At The Bristol O2 Academy

Completing the line-up of the band are the ever-smiling Paul Jackson (guitar / vocals), Brandon Still (keyboards) and the hat-wearing duo of Brit Turner (drums) and steady-as-a-rock Richard Turner (bass, vocals).

Blackberry Smoke’s music evokes the spirit of bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Black Crowes (whose Chris Robinson gave Starr’s group their name), Blackfoot and The Allman Brothers Band.

Richard Turner At The Bristol O2 Academy

In fact the latter are given a nod during the extended rendition of “Sleeping Dogs” with a snippet of their “Mountain Jam” in the jam section that also features a blast of Led Zeppelin’s “Your Time Is Gonna Come”. I was slightly concerned that this lengthy workout would fall on deaf ears with my wife, as she doesn’t always enjoy that aspect, preferring the more country music elements at play. I needn’t have worried though. Shortly before the band left the stage prior to returning for a well deserved encore she leaned back in her chair and looked back to me asking what time the band had first come on stage. When I told her she looked at her watch and declared that she’d slept through about an hour of the group’s set – her pain medication taking effect as it had done during our previous visit to the venue, but for rather longer this time!

Brandon Still At The Bristol O2 Academy

In a setlist heavy with tunes from the group’s breakthrough album “The Whippoorwill” and last year’s release “Like An Arrow”, my personal highlights from the show, which didn’t have a duff moment in it, would be the superb one-two of “Six Ways To Sunday” and “Good One Comin’ On”, the aforementioned “Sleeping Dogs”, the simply brilliant “Pretty Little Lie” and an energetic cover of The Move’s “California Man”.

Blackberry Smoke

A mate of mine has seen Blackberry Smoke a number of times and been regularly enthusing about their performances. Although I’ve enjoyed their records before the show I hadn’t appreciated quite how good a band they are and will certainly look out for them on tour in future.

Jessica Simpson In The Dukes Of Hazzard

This was a top quality Southern-flavoured show that meant I just had to get my guitar out the next day and attempt to jam along to 2012’s “The Whippoorwill” album and also inspired me to dig out the “Dukes Of Hazzard” movie remake (nothing to do with Jessica Simpson’s greatest hits, honest guv!) and see if I can track down the original TV series too.

Blackberry Smoke – a great band giving us a great soundtrack on a great night out…

Setlist:  (I’m not 100% sure that this is right. The list on www.setlist.fm has changed a few times since the first person uploaded it and I’m positive it’s still missing one song that was definitely played, “Ain’t Got The Blues”, which I’ve used an educated guess to place at track 14!)

1. Fire In The Hole / 2. Six Ways To Sunday / 3. Good One Comin’ On / 4. Waiting For The Thunder / 5. Scare The Devil / 6. Like An Arrow / 7. Leave A Scar / 8. Rock And Roll Again / 9. Sleeping Dogs / Your Time Is Gonna Come / Mountain Jam / Sleeping Dogs 10. Shakin’ Hands With The Holy Ghost / 11. Pretty Little Lie / 12. Up In Smoke / 13. Let It Burn / 14. Ain’t Got The Blues / 15. Payback’s A Bitch / 16. Sunrise In Texas / 17. California Man / 18. One Horse Town / 19. Ain’t Much Left Of Me

1, 8 and 15 originally from “Holding All The Roses” (2015) / 2, 7, 10, 11, 14, 18, and 19 originally from “The Whippoorwill” (2012) / 3 and 12 originally from “Little Piece Of Dixie” (2009) / 4, 6, 13 and 16 originally from “Like An Arrow” (2016) / 5 originally from “Bad Luck Ain’t No Crime” (2004) / 9 originally from “The Whippoorwill” (2012) / cover of Led Zeppelin song from “Led Zeppelin” (1969) / cover of The Allman Brothers Band song from “Eat A Peach” (1972) / 17 cover of The Move single (1972)

 

Europe Tour 2016

20160514_095051Friday 13th May 2016. Friday the 13th may be unlucky for some, but it certainly wasn’t for me as I got to see the American blues rock band Gov’t Mule live in concert for the first time. I’ve mentioned before, when discussing the latest solo release from the band’s main man Warren Haynes that it was a track called “Bad Little Doggie” that got me into Gov’t Mule, some sixteen years ago, and I’ve enjoyed every record that they have released since then so when a small UK tour (just three shows) was announced which included a gig at the O2 Academy in Bristol I just had to go!

Bristol O2 Academy
Bristol O2 Academy

Meeting up with my mate in the queue outside, just before the doors opened, I have to confess that I was pleasantly surprised by the number of folk that had turned out for the band, as I had assumed that their profile was relatively under the radar here in England.

Gov't Mule At The Bristol O2 Academy
Gov’t Mule At The Bristol O2 Academy

Having found a decent position on a slightly raised section of the main standing area we chatted whilst waiting for the band to come on. Just after 7:30pm the house lights went down, the cheer of the crowd went up and the band appeared on stage, backed with an illuminated sign declaring “Gov’t Mule – Kicking Ass For 20 Years”.

Warren Haynes
Warren Haynes

Kicking off with a cover of blue legend Robert Johnson’s “32/20 Blues” the quality was immediately apparent. Aided no end by an excellent sound mix guitarist / vocalist Haynes lead his band through a two and a half hour set that genuinely seemed to fly by.

Backing Haynes were co-founder Matt Abts on drums, keyboardist Danny Louis who joined the group in 2001 and the most recent recruit bassist Jorgen Carlsson who came on board in 2008.

Matt Abts
Matt Abts

Haynes remarked early on that this was their first visit to Bristol and so they would play a wide range of their material. Noting also that there was a strict 10:00pm curfew at the venue he promised that rather than performing two sets with an interval, as is their normal routine, they would play right through. Sure enough at least one track was aired from each of the band’s studio releases, plus a clutch of covers, and they only took a very brief break over two hours later before returning to the stage for a well deserved encore.

Gov't Mule At The Bristol O2 Academy
Gov’t Mule At The Bristol O2 Academy

All four musicians were excellent. Carlsson ever-busy with intricate bass runs, Abts hitting the skins like a reincarnated John Bonham and Louis filling out the sound with some superb keyboard work, as well as playing lead guitar and soloing in “Funny Little Tragedy”.

Danny Louis
Danny Louis

In truth, however, my attention was mostly taken by Haynes. His soulful singing is perfectly suited to the band’s material and his guitar playing is sublime. Whether using a pick or finger-picking (and often switching between the two throughout a song), employing the use of a slide, hammering out some fabulous riffs or soaring through ever-impressive solos, the man is fascinating and inspiring to watch.

Gov't Mule At The Bristol O2 Academy
Gov’t Mule At The Bristol O2 Academy

This is a band that is renowned for making each show unique, and a quick check online proves this fact as there was very little repetition from show to show, in fact I think only one song was performed at more than one gig, meaning they played something in the region of fifty different numbers over the course of the three nights.

Jorgen Carlsson
Jorgen Carlsson

Highlights from this particular show would have to be “Game Face” with a middle section that included jazz classic “Birdland”, “Mule”, a stonking “30 Days In The Hole”, the gentler “Soulshine”, “How Many More Years” and the aforementioned “Bad Little Doggie” – was I over the moon to witness that one!

Gov't Mule At The Bristol O2 Academy
Gov’t Mule At The Bristol O2 Academy

The encore was the delicate “Beautifully Broken” which included a tribute to the late Prince with part of his “When Doves Cry” slotted in, followed by a brilliant rendition of “Railroad Boy”. The latter was my mate’s favourite song of the night. He’s not overly familiar with Gov’t Mule’s back catalogue but, as a fellow guitar lover, enjoyed the top quality musicianship on display from start to finish. Then it was out into the still-warm Bristol evening and a post-gig drink in a local pub before I made the journey back across the Severn Bridge.

On the merchandise front, a tour shirt was out of the question – £30!?! You must be joking! – but the band make audio recordings of all their shows available to buy through their website for around US$10 and I will definitely be making a souvenir purchase of this particular gig. A top class show from a top class band…

Setlist:

1. 32/20 Blues / 2. Wandering Child / 3. Child Of The Earth / 4. Temporary Saint / 5. Game Face / Birdland / Game Face / 6. Forsaken Savior / 7. Million Miles From Yesterday / 8. Whisper In Your Soul / 9. Monkey Hill / She’s So Heavy / 10. Soulshine / Tupelo Honey / Soulshine / 11. Funny Little Tragedy / 12. Bad Little Doggie / 13. How Many More Years / 14. About To Rage / 15. 30 Days In The Hole / I Don’t Need No Doctor / 30 Days In The Hole / 16. Mule / 17. Beautifully Broken /  When Doves Cry / Beautifully Broken / 18. Railroad Boy

1 cover of Robert Johnson single (1937) / 2 and 12 originally from “Life Before Insanity” (2000) / 3 and 7 originally from “High & Mighty” (2006) / 4, 9 and 16 originally from “Gov’t Mule” (1995) / 5 originally from “Dose” (1998) / cover of Weather Report single (1977) / 6, 8 and 11 originally from “Shout!” (2013) / 9 cover of Beatles song from “Abbey Road” (1969) / 10 and 17 originally from “The Deep End – Volume 1” (2001) / 10 cover of Van Morrison song from “Tupelo Honey” (1971) / 13 cover of Howlin’ Wolf single (1951) / 14 originally from “Deja Voodoo” (2004) / 15 cover of Humble Pie single (1972) / cover of Ray Charles single (1966) / 17 cover of Prince single (1984) / 18 originally from “By A Thread” (2009)Mule-Europe-2016-Poster-980x1272

Thunder And Lightning Tour

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Phil Lynott
Phil Lynott

On 4 January of this year it was thirty years since Phil Lynott, leader of Irish hard rockers Thin Lizzy, passed away. Today marks thirty-three years since I saw the band on their farewell tour of the UK, at the Bristol Colston Hall.

Mama's Boys
Mama’s Boys

Support on the tour came from fellow Irishmen Mama’s Boys. A three-piece featuring brothers John McManus (vocals / bass), Pat “The Professor” McManus (guitar / fiddle) and Tommy McManus (drums), their second album “Turn It Up” was released in 1983, following the previous year’s debut “Plug It In”.

I recall very little of the band’s performance after so long, and haven’t got a clue what their setlist was, but I am positive that they left a favourable impression on me and that they played their single “Needle In The Groove”, which is still a great track to listen to, and likely “Crazy Daisy’s House Of Dreams”.

Thin Lizzy Live In 1983
Thin Lizzy Live In 1983

The main event, however, was of course Thin Lizzy. Promoting their heaviest ever album “Thunder And Lightning”, the lineup saw Lynott joined by longtime members guitarist Scott Gorham and drummer Brian Downey, alongside keyboardist Darren Wharton (who’d joined in 1981) and the new boy, hotshot guitarist John Sykes.

3199222419_5bf7b7b6a0With the “Thunder And Lightning” album not released until the day after the gig, and no fewer than six of the new album’s nine tracks in the set, there was a lot of unfamiliar material performed. The exception being the single “Cold Sweat”, which had hit the charts in February.

The remainder of the set was heavy on classic material, including “Jailbreak”, “Cowboy Song”, “Emerald” and “The Boys Are Back In Town”.

Thin Lizzy Live In 1983
Thin Lizzy Live In 1983

Lynott and his boys were on top form, giving no clue (at least to an innocent teenager like myself) of the substance abuse issues that were plaguing various band members. My personal highlights on the show were the atmospheric “Angel Of Death”, Brian Downey’s drum solo at the end of “Sha La La” and the ever beautiful “Still In Love With You” with its timeless guitar solo. Magical stuff and a great night…

Setlist: (probable – I haven’t been able to track the info down for certain but this seems to have been the set at a number of shows on the tour)

1. Thunder And Lightning / 2. Waiting For An Alibi / 3. Jailbreak / 4. Baby Please Don’t Go / 5. This Is The One / 6. Angel Of Death / 7. Are You Ready / 8. The Holy War / 9. The Sun Goes Down / 10. Cold Sweat / 11. Cowboy Song / 12. The Boys Are Back In Town / 13. Suicide / 14. Sha La La / 15. Drum Solo / 16. Emerald / 17. Baby Drives Me Crazy / 18. Still In Love With You / 19. Rosalie / 20. Whiskey In The Jar / 21. Dancing In The Moonlight (It’s Caught Me In Its Spotlight)

1, 4 , 5, 8, 9 and 10 originally from “Thunder And Lightning” (1983) / 2 originally from “Black Rose : A Rock Legend” (1979) / 3, 11, 12 and 16 originally from “Jailbreak” (1976) / 6 originally from “Renegade” (1981) / 7 and 17 originally from “Live And Dangerous” (1978) / 13 and 19 originally from “Fighting” (1975) / 14 and 18 originally from “Nightlife” (1974) / 20 originally a single (1972) / 21 originally from “Bad Reputation” (1977)Thin+Lizzy+Thunder++Lightning++Ticket+Stu+558066

Motörizer Tour

Hearing of the sad news that heavy metal legend Lemmy passed away yesterday I have been listening to his work with both Hawkwind and Motörhead today, and it seemed like as good a time as any to have a look back at when I saw the latter in concert.

Motörhead - Motörizer
Motörhead – Motörizer

It was during the Motörizer Tour of the UK back in November 2008 and, despite being a fan of the band for years, was the first time I had seen Motörhead in the live arena. So, for the second time in a week, I headed off to Bristol and to the Colston Hall, where I had seen a number of bands in my youth.

Danko Jones
Danko Jones

From the balcony I watched as the first band of the night, Canadian trio Danko Jones, hit the stage. Promoting their fourth album “Never Too Loud” I hadn’t heard anything by the band prior to the gig so was unfamiliar with their material. I do recall that the band were tight and impressive and had a set full of catchy melodic AC/DC-like tunes. Likely playing tracks like “Baby Hates Me” and “Still In High School” I do remember that they finished their brief set with a note-perfect excerpt of the Rush instrumental “YYZ”.

Biff Byford
Biff Byford

Next up were Yorkshire legends Saxon who were gearing up to the imminent release of their eighteenth studio album “Into The Labyrinth” in January 2009. This was the second time I’d seen this band live, the first being way back in 1982 in the very same venue as headliners.

Saxon - Into The Labyrinth
Saxon – Into The Labyrinth

As main support band Biff and the boys were obviously unable to perform a full set but managed to cram two tracks from their most recent album, “Let Me Feel Your Power” and “Ashes To Ashes” into a set containing some stone-cold classic heavy metal tunes such as “Denim And Leather”, “And The Bands Played On” and “747 (Strangers In The Night)” and still find room for brand new single “Live To Rock”. Fantastic to see them live again so long – a superb performance.

Setlist:

1. Motorcycle Man / 2. Let Me Feel Your Power / 3. And The Bands Played On / 4. Live To Rock / 5. Heavy Metal Thunder / 6. Witchfinder General / 7. Denim And Leather / 8. Ashes To Ashes / 9. Princess Of The Night / 10. 747 (Strangers In The Night)

1 and 10 originally from “Wheels Of Steel” (1980) / 2 and 8 originally from “The Inner Sanctum” (2007) / 3, 7 and 9 originally from “Denim And Leather” (1981) / 4 originally from “Into The Labyrinth” (2009) /5 originally from “Strong Arm Of The Law” (1980) / 6 originally from “Lionheart” (2004)

Motorhead - Motorhead
Motörhead – Motörhead

Following the interval it was time for the main event. I recall my first Motörhead record being the live version of “Motörhead”, backed with “Over The Top”, issued to promote the live “No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith” album. I don’t think I’d heard anything quite like it before!

Lemmy Kilmister
Lemmy Kilmister

Anyway on came vocalist / bassist Lemmy, guitarist Phil Campbell and drummer Mikkey Dee, with Lemmy announcing “We are Motörhead and we play rock and roll” and bang! – we were headlong into “Iron Fist”.

Motörhead
Motörhead

A set full of classics from throughout the band’s career followed, including two songs from the oft-maligned “Another Perfect Day” record that was made when ex-Thin Lizzy guitarist Brian Robertson was briefly a member of the group.

Mikkey Dee
Mikkey Dee

Campbell’s guitar riffs and solo flourishes were bang on the money, under-pinned by Lemmy’s unique bass playing style and Dee’s incredible drumming. To play a track like “Overkill” with the energy that he did at the tail end of a long set is no mean feat!

Phil Campbell & Lemmy Kilmister
Phil Campbell & Lemmy Kilmister

Lemmy himself proved to be every inch the icon and force of nature that I expected him to be and was the very personification of Motörhead and their music. A cover of Bob Seger’s”Rosalie” – many will be more familiar with Thin Lizzy’s cracking version – was a surprise inclusion but slotted nicely into the middle of the set. “Stay Clean”, “Rock Out” and “Metropolis” were other highlights.

Motorhead
Motörhead

The encore began with “Whorehouse Blues”, an acoustic foot-stomper that saw Campbell and Dee playing acoustic guitars, with the latter also handling percussion at the same time, and is one of my favourite latter-day tunes from the band’s extensive catalogue.

Motörhead & Friends
Motörhead & Friends

Then it was onto the home straight with the one-two finale of signature song “Ace Of Spades” and then “Overkill”. Stunning and, frankly, rather deafening. What a great show!

Setlist:

1. Iron Fist / 2. Stay Clean / 3. Be My Baby / 4. Rock Out / 5. Metropolis / 6. Over The Top / 7. One Night Stand / 8. I Got Mine / 9. Guitar Solo / 10. The Thousand Names Of God / 11. Rosalie / 12. Another Perfect Day / 13. In The Name Of Tragedy / Drum Solo / 14. Just ‘Cos You Got The Power / 15. Going To Brazil / 16. Killed By Death / 17. Born To Raise Hell / 18. Whorehouse Blues / 19. Ace Of Spades / 20. Overkill

1 originally from “Iron Fist” (1982) / 2, 5 and 20 originally from “Overkill” (1979) / 3 and 7 originally from “Kiss Of Death” (2006) / 4 and 10 originally from Motörizer (2008) / 6 originally b-side from “Bomber” single (1979) / 8 and 12 originally from “Another Perfect Day” (1983) / 13 and 18 originally from “Inferno” (2004) / 14 originally from “Rock ‘N’ Roll” (1987) / 15 originally from “1916” (1991) / 16 originally from “No Remorse” (1984) / 17 originally from “Bastards” (1993) / 19 originally from “Ace Of Spades” (1980)motorsaxjones

The Ultimate Enigma

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The week before last my wife and I went to the O2 Academy in Bristol to catch the opening show of Dutch symphonic metal band Epica‘s short UK tour.

Epica-A3The night before the show we received word that the timings had changed so that the doors would now be opening at 6:30pm instead of 7:00pm. This seems to be a recurring theme with gigs lately, as this was the third in a row I’ve been to where the timings shown on the ticket was subsequently changed.

Having arranged a babysitter for the kids for the evening we headed off to Bristol in plenty of time to arrive for 6:15pm. We were aiming for that time as we had arranged for a disabled access ticket for my wife and were therefore able to enter the venue before the official time.

However, traffic on the M32 into Bristol had other ideas, and it was nearly 7:00pm by the time we arrived at the car park behind the venue. The door staff were excellent and arranged for a medical person to come and escort us to the area reserved for the disabled and their carers immediately. I must say that this was a huge help to my wife, enabling her to sit in a usually standing-only venue, with a good view of the stage as she wouldn’t be able to manage a standing event.

Scar Symmetry
Scar Symmetry

The first band of the night were Scar Symmetry, a Swedish death metal band, and the one I suspected that my better half would enjoy least. As it turned out the traffic delay meant that we arrived in time to witness the band’s final song “The Illusionist” so neither of us had time to make much of a judgement – though my wife did say that she thought the band’s singer had smeared his arms in baby oil to make himself look sweaty!

Eluveitie
Eluveitie

After a fairly brief interval it was time for band number two, Swiss folk metal act Eluveitie. An eight piece, the band feature two electric guitarists (Rafael Salzmann and Ivo Henzi), bassist (Kay Brem), drummer (Merlin Sutter), violinist (Shir-Ran Yinon), a hurdygurdy player / occasional vocalist (Anna Murphy), a guy who played tin whistle and bagpipes (Matteo Sisti) and a lead vocalist (Chrigel Glanzmann) who also played mandolin. Quite an eclectic mix of instrumentation resulting in a sound that I described on the night as sounding like they could have been the offspring of The Corrs and Slipknot.

Chrigel Glanzmann
Chrigel Glanzmann

The group had the audience well and truly enthralled, with Glanzmann and Murphy (who took the lead on the atmospheric “Scorched Earth”) being the focal points – there were even a couple of girls in the audience dressed somewhat like Katheryn Winnick’s character in the TV series “Vikings” – so much so that they had an encore at the end of their set, which is something that I’ve never seen a support act do in all the years I’ve been attending concerts.

Anna Murphy
Anna Murphy

Unfortunately guitarists Salzmann and Henzi were not very audible, I would imagine it’s rather tricky trying to get a good balance of such a range of instruments. I thought that Sisti had his work cut out too, simply because it can’t be easy trying to look all rock and roll when you’re holding a tin whistle and it’s not your turn to be playing!

A side effect of the  pain medication that my other half has to take is that she often falls asleep rather quickly mid-evening. This one was no exception and she did indeed fall asleep during Eluveitie’s set, albeit only briefly rather than completely. I don’t imagine that this is something that occurs often when they are playing!

Eluveitie
Eluveitie

Ultimately the band had nearly as much stage time as the headliners, and to be honest I felt that, enjoyable though their music is, it became rather samey after a while, with the Celtic reels tending to sound much the same from song to song. There’s no denying that the band went down really well on the night though.

Setlist:

Intro – Origins / 2. King / 3. Nil / 4. Luxtos / 5. Omnos / 6. The Call Of The Mountains / 7. From Darkness / 8. Brictom / 9. Scorched Earth / 10. Kingdom Come Undone / 11. Neverland / 12. Tegernakô / 13. Havoc / 14. Alesia / 15. Inis Mona

1, 2, 6 and 7 originally from “Origins” (2014) / 3 and 10 originally from “Everything Remains (As It Never Was)” (2010) / 4, 9, 11, 14 and 15 originally from “Helvetios” (2012) / 5 and 8 originally from “Evocation I : The Arcane Dominion” (2009) / 12 originally from “Spirit” (2006) / 15 originally from “Slania” (2008)

Epica
Epica

Before we knew it the lights went down again for Epica as the intro tape “Originem” from their most recent album “The Quantum Enigma” boomed out through the PA. This was just the first of seven tracks taken from that album given an airing during the set, demonstrating perhaps just how strong the band believe the record to be.

Ariën Van Weesenbeek, Simone Simons & Rob Van Der Loo
Ariën Van Weesenbeek, Simone Simons & Rob Van Der Loo

The band entered the stage – first drummer Ariën Van Weesenbeek, then keyboard player Coen Janssen, bassist Rob Van Der Loo and guitarists Isaac Delahaye and Mark Jansen – and they plunged headlong into “The Second Stone”, with singer Simone Simons last, but certainly not least, onto the stage.

Coen Janssen
Coen Janssen

From the off it was clear to see that here was a band thoroughly enjoying what they do. Janssen was very entertaining spinning his keyboard around to face different directions, sometimes strapping on a portable keyboard and interacting well with the rest of the band and the audience with a humour filled performance.

Isaac Delahaye, Simone Simons & Mark Jansen
Isaac Delahaye, Simone Simons & Mark Jansen

Delahaye and Jansen’s guitar playing was top-notch and fit seamlessly with one other, whilst also involving the audience through smiles and gestures.

Mark Jansen
Mark Jansen

Band founder Jansen’s harsh vocals came across clearly too. This is the one thing that my wife is less keen on, but she commented that it worked much better live than on record because she felt that the band’s instrumentation and vocals actually meshed better and made the experience more enjoyable as a result.

Isaac
Isaac Delahaye

Van Der Loo and Weesenbeek anchored everything brilliantly. It did seem a bit odd to see the drum kit positioned stage left (the keyboards being stage right) rather than centrally, but it was quickly clear that the central riser was for Simons to use in addition to the front of stage.

Simone Simons
Simone Simons

And what of Simons?  Well, her vocals were superb. Admittedly she was supported by pre-recorded backing vocals, but given the often choral nature of Epica’s backing vocals that really was the only way to achieve the fullness of sound that you hear on their recordings.

Isaac Delahaye, Cohen Janssen, Rob Van Der Loo & Simone Simons
Isaac Delahaye, Coen Janssen, Rob Van Der Loo & Simone Simons

Nonetheless, it was clear what was her live vocal and what was pre-recorded and her performance was flawless. Not as operatic as some singers in this particular genre, Simons has a purer sound to my mind making the lyrics clearer and more intelligible than some of her contemporaries.

Simone Simons
Simone Simons

Of course, speaking for myself, it doesn’t hurt that she is so easy on the eye too – though I wasn’t madly keen on the skirt chosen for this performance as it didn’t make the most of her legs – but that’s me being an old-fashioned sexist male I expect!

It’s hard to pinpoint specific highlights of the band’s set as it really was of a uniformly high standard from start to finish and the whole group performed excellently and with a clear sense of enjoyment and fun. This was illustrated perfectly by the rendition of “The Phantom Agony” at the end of the main set.

Epica
Epica

Simons prefaced it by asking if we’d all brought our dancing shoes and then said that they’d prepared a disco number for us. Naturally, as the song started I presumed she’d been joking. However, when a couple of minutes into the song the band broke into a disco beat and started dancing around it became clear that she was not! A video is currently available on YouTube. I’ve subsequently discovered that this isn’t the first tour that the band have done this on, but it was great entertainment on the night.

Mark Jansen & Coen Janssen
Mark Jansen & Coen Janssen

After keyboard teases from Janssen offstage the band returned for a well deserved encore before we headed off into the night for the journey home. A fabulous gig by a great band, with some excellent lighting and perfect sound – thoroughly enjoyable!

Epica & The O2 Audience
Epica & The O2 Audience

Again praise must be given to the staff at the O2 who were on hand to ensure that my wife and I were able to exit the building safely, even offering the opportunity to get to the merchandise stall quickly too. It’s also worth mentioning that all of the fans that we (or more specifically my wife) encountered were polite and respectful and did their best to give any help that they could. This all added to an already great night that will live long in the memory…

Setlist:

1. Intro – Originem / 2. The Second Stone / 3. The Essence Of Silence / 4. Sensorium / 5. The Fifth Guardian / 6. Chemical Insomnia / 7. Unleashed / 8. Martyr Of The Free World / 9. Cry For The Moon (The Embrace That Smothers, Part IV) / 10. The Obsessive Devotion / 11. Victims Of Contingency / 12. Design Your Universe 13. The Phantom Agony / 14. Sancta Terra / 15. Unchain Utopia / 16. Consign To Oblivion (A New Age Dawns, Part III)

1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 11 and 15 originally from “The Quantum Enigma” (2014) / 4, 9 and 13 originally from “The Phantom Agony” (2003) / 7, 8 and 12 originally from “Design Your Universe” (2009) / 10 and 14 originally from “The Divine Conspiracy” (2007) / 16 originally from “Consign To Oblivion” (2005)d6796a99ae794ff74612e4357654072b17339e2ca6a742cb46a9fe472ab18149_large

Inquisitional Tourture

20151017_103455Last Saturday night number two son and I travelled down to Bristol to catch the second date on black metal legends Cradle Of Filth’s current “Inquisitional Tourture” UK tour.

cofAlthough advertised as being at Motion, the gig was actually in the Marble Factory (part of the same site) where I saw Enslaved recently. On that occasion the doors opened later than advertised. This time the tickets stated 7:00pm but whilst we were queuing we saw a list of times pinned up outside stating that the first band was on stage at 6:45pm! It would seem that someone, somewhere has an issue with getting the door times right at this venue.

Joe Sinclair
Joe Sinclair

That first band was new metalcore band She Must Burn. They were already on stage by the time we got in but we were able to find room at the crowd barrier just to the right of the stage left P.A., giving a somewhat restricted view across the front of the stage.

Aimy Miller
Aimy Miller

Singer Joe Sinclair interacted well with the sparse crowd, and the band’s brutal sound went down pretty well. The pace let up a little part way through to allow keyboardist Aimy Miller take centre stage by taking lead vocals on the balladic “Into Light”. The band’s brief set flew by with much headbanging – particularly from guitarist Terry Clarke and new bassist Frankie Keating – and before we knew it they were onto their final song “Eclipse”.

The P.A. had obscured my view of the drums and keyboards, but number two son was certainly impressed with the sight of Ms. Miller as well as the actual music! We moved into a more central position during the intermission whilst the gear was being changed over on stage.

Ne Obliviscaris
Ne Obliviscaris

Next up were main support band, Australian extreme progressive metal band Ne Obliviscaris. Apparently the group’s name is Latin and means “forget not”, and this is entirely appropriate for this band.

Xenoyr
Xenoyr

There are six members of the band – vocalist / lyricist Xenoyr, vocalist / violinist Tim Charles, guitarists Benjamin Baret and Matt Clavins, bassist Brendan “Cygnus” Brown and drummer Dan Presland.

Xenoyr, all in black and looking very gothic, handles the harsh vocals with Charles (who resembles a smiley heavy metal Jesus!) providing fantastic clean vocals, soaring violin work and the between-song interaction with the audience. It’s worth mentioning here, as I may have commented on before, one of my pet hates at gigs. During the quieter moments of the band’s set the noise of people talking in the audience was quite off-putting for anyone that was interested in the performance taking place. Why go to a gig only to talk all the way through the support act? It’s pointless and frankly disrespectful!

Tim Charles
Tim Charles

Anyway, back to the band. A unique mixture of death , black and progressive metal with elements of jazz and avant-garde thrown in, Ne Obliviscaris have some rather lengthy songs, and in fact just four tracks were aired during their slot, and they are full of changes of pace and dynamics. I hadn’t been too aware of their material prior to the gig but have been listening to their two albums to date quite a bit since Saturday night. I have been really impressed with Presland’s quite sublime drumming too.

Setlist: (probable – I didn’t know the material but this seems to be their regular set of late)

1. Devour Me, Colossus (Part I) – Blackholes / 2. Of Petrichor Weaves Black Noise / 3. Painters Of The Tempest (Part II) – Triptych Lux (Movement I – Creator / Movement II – Cynosure / Movement III – Curator) / 4. And Plague Flowers The Kaleidoscope

1 and 3 originally from “Citadel” (2014) / 2 and 4 originally from “Portal Of I” (2012)

Marek
Marek “Ashok” Šmerda & Martin “Marthus” Škaroupka

Then at 8:30pm came headliners Cradle Of Filth. As the intro tape “Humanity Inspired To Nightmare” rolled the band trooped out onto the stage. First, drummer Martin “Marthus” Škaroupka took his place behind his large kit which was partly shielded behind an acoustic screen, something I haven’t seen at a gig before.

Dani Filth
Dani Filth

He was followed by bassist Daniel Firth, guitarists Marek “Ashok” Šmerda and Richard Shaw and keyboardist Lindsay Schoolcraft, before main man Dani Filth strode onto the stage replete not only with corpse paint but also black contact lenses, horns and a staff.

Richard Shaw Daniel Firth
Richard Shaw & Daniel Firth

The horns only lasted until the end of the first track proper “Heaven Torn Asunder”, but the black contact lenses stayed for the duration and really gave Mr. Filth a demonic look which was perfectly in keeping with his band’s material.

Lindsay Schoolcraft
Lindsay Schoolcraft

“Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids”, with introduction from Schoolcraft was greeted with a roar by the crowd, which seemed both bigger and more enthusiastic than that at the previously mentioned Enslaved show, and from then on it was a mix of classic Cradle tracks and material from the band’s most recent “Hammer Of The Witches” album.

g
Marek “Ashok” Šmerda

Musically the band were tight and ferocious. The two guitarists prowled the front of the stage along with Filth, but the drums seemed to be shoved into the corner (an impression heightened by the use of the acoustic screen) and Schoolcraft was also rather far back from the front of the stage.

Dani Filth
Dani Filth

Filth didn’t seem overly impressed by the noise generated by the audience, which was very underwhelming at times – especially when he dedicated the track “Nymphetamine” to the ladies of Bristol and was greeted by, as he remarked, “silence” more or less!

Mind you, having subsequently discovered that the previous night’s show in Nottingham had benefitted from pyro, stage props and an on-stage video screen – none of which appeared in Bristol, one might argue that the crowd were a little shortchanged. I can only presume the size of the Marble Factory stage was the reason behind this.

Cradle Of Filth
Cradle Of Filth

Despite this we thoroughly enjoyed the show, and I thought the visuals were very good. Perhaps not quite up to the standard of Behemoth last December but not far off…

Setlist:

1. Intro – Humana Inspired To Nightmare / 2. Heaven Torn Asunder / 3. Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids / 4. Blackest Magik In Practice / 5. Lord Abortion / 6. Right Wing Of The Garden Triptych / 7. Malice Through The Looking Glass / 8. Deflowering The Maidenhead, Displeasuring The Goddess / 9. Queen Of Winter, Throned / 10. Walpurgis Eve / 11. Yours Immortally… / 12. Nymphetamine / 13. The Twisted Nails Of Faith / 14. Her Ghost In The Fog / 15. Outro – Blooding The Hounds Of Hell

1, 2 and 7 originally from “Dusk… And Her Embrace” (1996) / 3 and 13 originally from “Cruelty And The Beast” (1998) / 4, 6, 8, 10, 11 and 15 originally from “Hammer Of The Witches” (2015) / 5 and 14 originally from “Midian” (2000) / 9 originally from “V Empire” (1996) / 12 originally from “Nymphetamine” (2004) 

cof2

In SaxoNorse Times Tour

ticketWednesday 23 September – my first all-metal gig of this year. Billed as a co-headlining tour between Norwegian progressive black / Viking metal band Enslaved and Swedish heavy metal band Grand Magus, I caught the tour’s first show at the Marble Factory in Bristol.

12036636_10153061013447201_6026187745346209760_nAlthough the ticket (I say ticket, but it was one of those horrible e-tickets, not like a traditional proper ticket where you get the stub ripped off on the door!…) said doors at 6:30pm and show start at 7:00pm, when I arrived I heard the people in front of me being told that the doors wouldn’t be opening until 7:00pm. As it was spitting with rain I made myself comfortable back in my car and watched the queue start to form along the pavement past the next door tyre fitters.

Bristol Marble Factory
Bristol Marble Factory

Shortly before 7:00pm security staff appeared at the gates, and around ten minutes later started to let people through. Now a problem with e-tickets is that they are supposed to be scanned but many folks, like myself, were told that the qr code was too big to be scanned, meaning that we had to be manually ticked off a list! The upshot of all these delays was that opening band Heaven Asunder (who weren’t even listed on the bill) had started their set – probably in front of a mere handful of people!

Heaven Asunder
Heaven Asunder

A Bristol-based metalcore band, Heaven Asunder certainly had a few fans in attendance, making plenty of noise in support of the band. I must confess that their particular brand of metal, metalcore, isn’t really my thing but they were clearly musically tight and enjoying what they do. Guitarist Lewis Blake did look slightly like he’d dropped in from another band but I was impressed with his fretwork, even if not moved by the band’s material as a whole.

Grand Magus
Grand Magus

After a short break for an equipment change it was time for Grand Magus to hit the stage. I had seen this bunch previously, third on the bill when I went to see Behemoth last December.

At that time I commented that the lack of a second guitar player left a hole in their sound when vocalist / guitarist Janne “JB” Christoffersson played a guitar solo, and that is still the case.

Janne
Janne “JB” Christoffersson

The group, completed by bassist Fox Skinner and drummer Ludwig “Ludde” Witt, are a great band to have on a mixed genre metal bill as their material features an accessible traditional metal sound – not unlike Manowar – with lots of anthemic sing-along qualities. They perform their Viking tales with conviction and with good humour too, and interact well with the audience.

Fox Skinner
Fox Skinner

In truth, though, I found that their set tended to drag a little towards the latter stages as a result of what I felt was a lack of variety in terms of tempo and style. Still, that never hurt bands such as Motörhead, and the band went down very well with the crowd (which had filled out to a few hundred I would guess), so it was probably just me!

Setlist: (probable – I didn’t have anything to make notes on!)

1. I, The Jury / 2. Sword Of The Ocean / 3. Kingslayer / 4. On Hooves Of Gold / 5. Steel Versus Steel / 6. Iron Will / 7. Valhalla Rising / 8. Like The Oar Strikes The Water / 9. Drum Solo / 10. Wolf’s Return / 11. Hammer Of The North

1 and 11 originally from “Hammer Of The North” (2010) / 2 and 7 originally from “The Hunt” (2012) / 3 and 10 originally from “Wolf’s Return” (2005) / 4 and 5 originally from “Triumph And Power” (2014) / 6 and 8 originally from “Iron Will” (2008)

Enslaved
Enslaved

Another gear change was followed by a roar from the assembled crowd as Enslaved entered the stage, blasting headlong into the opening track from this year’s excellent “In Times” album, “Thurisaz Dreaming”.

Grutle Kjellson
Grutle Kjellson

Bizarrely, the band – led by frontman Grutle Kjellson – were only lit from behind for the whole eight minute number (and quite often throughout the set) leaving the audience looking at silhouettes of the band and lots of red lighting. Whilst this may be, perhaps, atmospheric it is somewhat frustrating to go to “see” a band play live only to spend much of the time only being able to see them in silhouette – that said, maybe the effect was better further forward in the room?…

Cato Bekkevold
Cato Bekkevold

Musically the band were excellent. Cato Bekkevold, the drummer, had some equipment problems with his kick drums which disrupted the flow for the band a little, but I imagine there are always likely to be teething problems on the first show of a tour.

Herbrand Larsen
Herbrand Larsen

Bassist / lead vocalist Kjellson was an engaging frontman and capable of some ferocious extreme metal vocals, which were offset superbly by keyboardist Herbrand Larsen’s clean vocals. Incidentally, on the small Marble Factory stage Larsen’s keyboard riser was so high that he towered over the rest of the band (including Bekkvold and his mammoth drum kit) and looked to have his head rather near the ceiling!

Ivar Bjørnson
Ivar Bjørnson

Guitarists Ivar Bjørnson and Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal were intense and concentrated on producing a wall of sound from their instruments, and it’s here that I think the biggest problem with the band’s show lay (lighting issues aside). On record, particularly with the band’s more recent output, it is quite easy to distinguish between guitar parts and focus on individual elements of the band’s sound should you want to. In the live arena, however, although the bass, drums and keyboards are all crystal clear, the two guitarists disappeared into a kind of audio fog with even guitar solos getting lost in it.

Arve
Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal

That’s a shame, as on record Enslaved are brilliant. Following the aforementioned Behemoth concert, this was my second “extreme” metal gig and whilst I most certainly enjoyed it I would have to say that in terms of both visuals and musical performance the Polish black metal band produced the better show. That said, I’m glad I went to this show as, even with my reservations, it was definitely worth the price of admission…

Setlist : (again probable – for the same reason as above)

1. Thurisaz Dreaming / 2. Fusion Of Sense And Earth / 3. Death In The Eyes Of Dawn / 4. Building With Fire / 5. Ruun / 6. Ethica Odini / 7. Convoys To Nothingness / 8. Allfǫðr Oðinn / 9. Isa

1 and 4 from “In Times” (2015) / 2 and 5 originally from “Ruun” (2006) / 3 originally from “RIITIIR” (2012) / 6 originally from “Axioma Ethica Odini” (2010) / 7 originally from “Monumension” (2001) / 8 originally from “Hordanes Land” (1993) / 9 originally from “Isa” (2004)

enslaved-magus-uk2015

A Super Pass

Momentous day today as number one son passed his driving test! Having passed the theory test some weeks ago he managed to pass the practical test with just a few minors.

Number One Son
Number One Son

He’s already on his second car, having sold his first days before taking the test and replacing it with something much more boy-racer like. Now road legal, thanks to his driving instructor at Superpass, I wonder how he will take to driving solo…

I remember way back in 1986 when I took my driving test. I also passed first time, but back then there was just one test which involved both driving and answering questions on the highway code.

Vauxhall Chevette (The Same Colour As My Parents')
Vauxhall Chevette (The Same Colour As My Parents’)

I can only hope that number one son’s early driving experiences are better than mine, as one of my earliest driving memories once qualified was borrowing my parents Vauxhall Chevette one evening to go on a cinema date with a girl from Gloucester. Inexperienced driver + unfamiliar city roads + pre-date nerves = turning right at a set of traffic lights into the path of an oncoming Transit van and getting hit squarely on the passenger side of the car.

Naturally (!) I carried on to my destination, had the date and then returned home to Bristol, trying my best to sound casual the following morning when informing my parents that I’d had a “slight” bump. Turns out the car’s sub-frame had been damaged and it was declared an insurance write-off. The fledgling relationship with the girl from Gloucester didn’t fare any better either!

Ford Escort Mk I (Same Colour As Mine Was)
Ford Escort Mk I (Same Colour As Mine Was)

The first car that I owned was a 1971 green Ford Escort Mk I that I bought for approximately £200 in 1987. It turned out to not be in the best condition as when it rained water collected in the passenger footwell through a hole in the front wing and it wasn’t too long before the brakes went. In the time I had it though I managed to not only make completely ineffective repairs to the water leak, but also install a sports steering wheel and electric radio aerial.

I can vividly recall driving from Bristol to Bath via Keynsham listening to A-ha’s “Scoundrel Days” album on cassette. Not entirely sure why but it may have had something to do my fascination with a girl who lived out that way. I’m pretty sure I slept in it, reclining in the driver’s seat, at a motorway service station one night – but haven’t got a clue why!

Opel Manta B (Same Body Colour As Mine)
Opel Manta B (Same Body Colour As Mine)

Car number two was better. A white 3 door Opel Manta B 1.6 hatchback, I can’t remember the year, with red upholstery and dashboard. It also had very cool doors that had no frame around the windows so when the windows were wound down and the door was open it felt even more like a sports car and allowed me to indulge in my Sonny Crockett (“Miami Vice”) fantasies. OK it wasn’t a Ferrari Testarossa, but still…

Vauxhall Cavalier CDi (My Actual Car)
Vauxhall Cavalier CDi (My Actual Car)

Next up was a 1982 brown 5 door Vauxhall Cavalier Mk II 1.8 CDi hatchback. This one had luxuries like front spotlights, headlamp wipers, electric mirrors etc. and felt like a real step up to (what was to me) a luxury car.

Having the Cavalier enabled many more hours driving round the roads of Bristol, the country roads and lanes surrounding the city and up and down the motorways – particularly at night – and included numerous trips to Gordano service station on the M5 for hot chocolate (phew, rock ‘n’ roll eh?!!). Night driving is something that I still enjoy, though responsibilities and the cost of fuel do restrict this somewhat. The Cavalier also saw me up and down to the Birmingham N.E.C. and other venues for numerous concerts before the advent of a significant other etc. saw its departure for pastures new.

Ford Capri 2.0S (Same Colour As Mine)
Ford Capri Mk III 2.0S (Same Colour As Mine)

Those were the cars that got me through my early driving days – many miles covered and enjoyed every one of them!Next up was a green Ford Capri Mk III 2.0S…