Saturday, 30 May 2015

Toto - Live at the Hammersmith Apollo 26th May 2015

Well I can never claim to be the biggest Toto fan the world's ever seen but who can say they don't love the classic hits of these old timer legends of the rock game? When I read that they would be playing the Hammy Apollo I nabbed a ticket for said show although the ticket price was of course not cheap but this was the first time for me with these old codgers so I begrudgingly paid up my cash and waited for showtime.

The show was billed as an Evening with Toto and no support was listed which was ok by me as we get to see and hear more Toto for our money. What can I say about these guys as an opening statement. They were bloody superb! I didn't expect to enjoy the gig this much but they were truly awesome at times and played with so much conviction and style. The new album has taken time to reveal it's charms to me but it's getting there and I'm starting to love many of the songs now and hearing them live as well has helped no end. I've since gone back to the album in the days after this gig and I have a whole new appreciation for the songs that I heard live. Some of the jazzy parts to the songs still don't resonate with me but the melodies really are superbly crafted.

Hearing the band live in all their pomp and glory was a spectacular sight as the curtain fell and the band launched into Running out of time from the new album, a song I've grown to love with repeated plays. The band played a mix between old and new and I must admit I did not fully recognise some older songs as a result. All the new tunes played went down superbly well with the crowd. I loved Orphan and especially the awesome progressive track Great Expectations from the new CD. Of course no Toto gig is complete without the big three, you know the ones, ok I'll spell it out - Hold The Line, Rosanna and set closer Africa, and all were played and sang to perfection by Joseph Williams. Steve Lukather of course sang a couple of songs with help from the crowd as he was suffering a bad cold and his voice was failing him somewhat but he did ok. On his guitar, he was in shit hot form and played up a storm including a blistering lead solo section doing Hendrix's Little Wing.

On bass was their old bassist David Hungate whose bass was actually on a stand as his back couldn't take carrying a guitar for more than two hours bless him. The guy played well though. For me the star of the show though was definitely lead singer Joseph Williams. the guy was flawless throughout and nailed every note. His voice was pitch perfect and went high and low as the song needed with effortless ease. A commanding performance by the man really.

At the end of a two and a quarter hour set the band were greeted like Gods by the crowd and left with huge cheers ringing in their ears. They put on a great show with all members playing and singing their hearts out.

I can't say if I would ever go and see Toto again should they come this was again but I'm glad I saw them this time and it was well worth the money in the end to see these legends still going and strong and delivering what their fans expect and want.

Running Out of Time
I'll Supply the Love
Stranger in Town
I Won't Hold You Back
Holy War
Hold the Line
Takin' It Back
Bottom of Your Soul
Caught in the Balance
Without Your Love
Little Wing
(The Jimi Hendrix Experience cover)
The Road Goes On
Great Expectations

On the Run
Child's Anthem
Goodbye Elenore

Encore 2:
The Muse
White Sister

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Flotsam and Jetsam live at the Camden Underworld

Well it's always good to see older bands for the first time and so it proved to be with the Flotsam and Jetsam guys. I can never admit to being a huge fan of these guys that's for certain but I thought it would be really cool to see how they played live and they didn't disappoint at all.

There were two support bands to get through before Flots ripped us a new one. First band were an English mob by the name of Desolator. I think I heard and dismissed them as average in the past but I was hoping to be entertained by them but alas they didn't float my boat. The bass sound was kind of interesting with it's twangy loud rumbles but the riffing and song writing was bog standard in this band. I guess if you're drunk enough you can enjoy this simplistic Motorheadish thrash but it didn't do anything for me though they weren't completely horrible either.

Second act were a female fronted thrash band called Bliksem. I have actually heard their album last year I believe but it was rather plain but not terrible by any means. In the live setting these guys were pretty tight and the chick's vocals were ok but their song writing is just mundane to my ears. They were at least respectable though and went down a bit better than the first band if nothing else.

The turn around between the main support and Flots was pretty quick and soon the stage was set up. I must admit the turn out for Flots was pretty disappointing but probably around a 150 or so but it was a Monday night and the band just doesn't have enough of a profile and remains a cult phenomena no doubt. Anyhow the band sounded good and as Eric said they concentrated mainly on their first two albums. Not that I could tell you what's what as I'm not hugely familiar with any of their material. The band has two shit hot riffers though and with an excellent vocalist like Erin A.K. on the mic there was lots to enjoyed. Only problem was the PA was a little too loud and Eric's vocals were drowned out sometimes and it was hard to hear him clearly. The band were tight as hell and played for almost 90 minutes and were applauded loudly by the crowd as they returned for the encore.

No doubt I will never be a huge fan of the band but it was good to tick them off the "bands that I've yet to see live" list if nothing else. Plus their musicianship is second to none with awesome guitar acrobatics throughout their songs. I just wish I could hear Eric's great vocals a little bit clearer but that's live metal for you. Everything louder than everything else!



Flotsam and Jetsam

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Hammerfall Live at the Islington Academy

The gig that almost wasn't! Well for me in any case. I had a hell of a day trying to get there as the tube conspired against me in every form possible. I finally managed to get there but I missed Neonfly completely and saw most of Skarlett Riot whom unfortunately I didn't like. I was disappointed to miss Neonfly as they are a great band and have released their best album yet last year. Next time!

Skarlett Riot are a modern melodic metal band with a girl singer. Reasonably catchy tunes but out of place for a support act to a band like Hammerfall and it was hard for them to get a great response from the true metalheads although everyone was polite and there were no catcalls from what I heard.

An early curfew for a Saturday night gig meant the show was supposed to start at 8 sharp but they started about 8.10pm so no biggie. Let's get the true metal party started with anthem after anthem of true melodic heavy metal and new song Hector's Hymn didn't disappoint. The band has a new drummer in the ranks and he didn't miss a beat of course. The band sounded super tight and the Academy had a real punchy and solid sound mix. Very similar actually to the records. The band started well with energy and lots of smiles and the rather packed floor was soon bobbing along. Unlike for Sonata a week ago, a mosh pit even started on the faster and heavier numbers and continued for most of the night. It was probably just boisterous moshing at best and nothing violent or thrash like with bodies flying every where or circle pits or out of place bullshit like that.

Joacim goaded the crowd like the veteran front man that he is and had us eating out of his hand all night. I still enjoy the Legacy of Kings material most of all when it comes to Hammerfall. Hence Let the Hammer Fall and Heeding the Call gaining a big reaction from the assembled true metal warriors. They played a medley of their own tracks which was quite cool as well. The main set ended with their namesake song Hammerfall sung by all and of course ended with their night with the anthemic Hearts on Fire. To be honest the set was a little mixed and could have been better. I would have actually preferred more new tunes to be honest as (r)Evolution is an awesome album. Live LIfe Loud from the new album was fantastic and I would have loved to have heard Origins from the newie as well. Still Hammerfall are true pros at the metal game and deliver the goods with smiles and plenty of style so you won't get bored at a Hammerfall gig that's for sure!

Hector's Hymn
Any Means Necessary
Blood Bound
Heeding the Call
Let the Hammer Fall
Live Life Loud
400 Meter Medley
(Medley with parts of Genocide, Hero's Return, The Dragon Lies Bleeding and Riders of the Storm)
Raise the Hammer
Last Man Standing
Glory to the Brave
We Won't Back Down

Templars of Steel
Hearts on Fire

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Sonata Arctica - Live at the Islington Academy

Would you believe I have managed to avoid seeing the Finnish masters of melodic metal in all my gig going days. Not that I haven't had chances but I've sort of fallen out of love with the band over the years. I loved their first two albums religiously and have liked many songs here and there since but they've never fully been able to capture the magic of those first two albums by my reckoning.

Any how not to see them live again would be churlish on my part and so I nabbed a ticket for this gig and the support bands Freedom Call and Twilight Force swayed me further still in to thinking this would be a cool night. Good job too as the gig ended up selling out completely. Must be close to 800 or so punters in the end. I managed to get fairly close to the stage on one side but unfortunately standing behind a tall guy didn't help things one iota when it came to capturing decent photos or videos.

Twilight Force were up first and I must admit I was looking forward to seeing these guys the most. Their album is super cheesy but I'm up for that kinda OTT power metal mayhem any day of the week. The band took to the stage in full medieval garb with the two guitarists even going with the Ninja style face cover and even Elvish fake horns! If you're gonna do cheese you might as well do it proper justice and Twilight Force do that and then some. Good job they've got the songs to back it up as well. They had a crystal clear mix as well but the bass was a little loud for my taste at the expense of the guitars and was making my rib cage rattle.

The vocal mix was one of the best I have ever heard at a gig. The lead singer's voice rang loud and clear and his highs were perfectly delivered. They only played 30 minutes including a new song but their album is only a little bit longer in any case so they basically played everything they've got. I was surprised how many of the audience seemed to know their songs and they got an amazing reception from the early packed crowd. The "Twilight Force!!" chants soon started up in between songs and with their final song the band left to huge cheers. These guys are going places in the world of power metal let me tell ya!

Next up were Freedom Call who are celebrating 666 weeks since the release of the Eternity album. I think you're clutching at straws a bit when you've come up with such a milestone but heck they're here to play and have fun so who am I to complain. They played most of the songs from that album but no new songs that I recall. Considering I reckon their latest album is their best ever that's a bit of a shame. Still they always get a good response do the FC lads and this time was no exception. They played with smiles and left to cheers though I'm thinking the crowd was definitely here for the main act Sonata Arctica.

Now I know Tony Kakko's mob are very popular indeed but I was a little surprised how popular they really are these days. They're not releasing their best material yet their fan base is huge and this gig was easily sold out and they could have probably sold out a venue twice as big is my bold guess. This is billed as Ecliptica over Europe tour or some such name, as basically it's a 15 year celebration of the release of their debut and still best album in my humble opinion. They would of course be playing the album in it's entirety over the course of a 90 minute set with a two song build up and a longer encore with newer songs.

The band had easily the best sound of the night with everything balanced perfectly and Tony's vocals wonderfully balanced right at the centre of the mix where they should be I must admit I wasn't expecting his live vocals to be that good but he really surpassed himself and sounded superb all night, never missing a note. Plenty of in between song banter as well and possibly too much sometimes lol. The whole of the Ecliptica album was played from start to finish and sounded perfect to be honest and pretty much exactly like the album. They got a huge response from the crowd with literally almost every one singing the lyrics back at Tony. There's almost some sort of adulation within the power metal community for this band and they are much loved it seems. I knew they were a well loved band but this was more than that with the amount of love being poured from the crowd to the band. I loved Blank File and My Land, Destruction Preventer later was great. Letter to Dana got the biggest sing along of the night as did my favourite song Replica.

The set ended with some newer songs and the great Don't Say a Word from a couple of albums back. The huge and tightly packed crowd loved every minute and left well happy. I am glad I've finally broken my Sonata-less gig count although I'd probably not go and see them again unless they were part of a really cool bill or something.

Can-Can Jaakolla
White Pearl, Black Oceans...
X Marks the Spot
Blank File
My Land
8th Commandment
Kingdom for a Heart
Letter to Dana
Picturing the Past
Destruction Preventer
The Wolves Die Young
Don't Say a Word
(with Vodka outro)