Monday, 29 May 2017

Iron Maiden - Live at the O2 Arena - May 27-28, 2017

Well if the legends that go by the name of Iron Maiden are playing twice in a row you might as well make the most of it and see them both times. Splash the cash, bite the bullet and be a good sucker haha! It'll be a couple of years at least before I get a chance to see them again that's for sure and probably it'll be closer to 3 or 4 years before another chance so make hay while the sun is out as they say or some such thing!

The first night was sold out in double quick time but I got priority tickets but unfortunately I missed the really closer seats and got some on the top tier but directly in front of the stage. I missed most of Shinedown but it was no great loss really. Brent Smith has a great voice and they have some cool tunes but it's just not a good fit for Maiden at all really. There's general apathy from most of the crowd although they are treated well enough compared to some bands I've seen supporting Maiden. I remember Trivium getting terrible abuse a few years ago when they were more in their metalcore days.

Going back to Shinedown Brent Smith really talks far too much between the songs but I already knew that having witnessed his preachy banter a couple of times before in their smaller gigs. It really gets a little too much to be honest when you're talking for more than 5-6 minutes and not playing songs. I figured I'll see the whole of their set on the Sunday and wasn't worried about the Saturday set as I was with a friend for Saturday. Shinedown were OK but forgettable in the main. The sound wasn't too great for them either being bass heavy and echo-y. Brent's vocals were fine though. The man is a powerhouse singer that's for sure and a commanding front man.

Finally at 8.50pm on the dot the familiar opening to Doctor Doctor starts up through the PA and the Maiden nutters start to get psyched for the old warriors return to London after having last played at this very venue back in 2013. The set list then was about as far removed from now as it's possible to get. Of course this is still the Book of Souls tour that started way back in 2016. Still you know what you're gonna get before you buy your ticket. Songs from Book of Souls and yet more songs from Book of Souls with a few classics in between.

I was quite enthusiastic about that album when it came out but I think hearing the songs live now, I think I may have been a bit over generous in my enthusiasm for it. The set opens with If Eternity Should Fail which in my eyes is just an OK song with an OK chorus. However the band is energised and does a sterling job of convincing you that they really mean business. The first night I sat in my seat over 60-70 meters from the stage it's hard to get over excited or head bang too hard but the second night I was stood 5 meters from the stage and you can see the band is truly enjoying themselves. This feeds into your enjoyment more as the crowd member and helps create a better feeling on certain songs in any case.

The set continues with more songs from BoS of course, With the ripping Speed of Light coming across better live than on record. The first departure into ancient realms occurs with the coming of the hellbent and aggressive Wrathchild played very ferociously which I witnessed at first hand much closer on the second night. All the better for viewing up close on this particular song.

The band continues with another old classic in Children of the Damned. The old bastards in the house which number plenty obviously lap that one up. Bruce sounds great on that epic and very cool it seems that song is a perfect fit for his modern voice and doesn't test him greatly. It seems the song is quite a comfortable song for him to sing unlike say The Trooper which is a real test. Bruce talks in between songs about this and that, etc and obviously about recent events in Manchester etc. Every concert the world over is gonna mention that one.

It's funny when you go to a concert two nights in a row. You wonder will he mention the same things again and he does pretty much but he does change it around a bit. I guess he realises that many people attend both nights so he doesn't want to completely repeat himself all the time with the same old cliches.

They move on from the old school and revert back to BoS material soon enough as we get Death or Glory, a tune which does little for me to be honest but it's OK and nothing I positively dislike. I'd just so much rather hear a classic, but it's the BoS tour and we must hear those songs. The first actually great song from BoS, namely the mid album epic The Red and the Black soon surfaces and is the first long song of the night. The instrumental section is a sight to be hold, the crowd wooaahh woaahs on cue and the melody is captivating. The first night sitting in my seat it was a great sight to see a 20,000 crowd singing as one to that one. That's one thing you miss when you're right up close as I was on the second night. It almost feels like you are in a small crowd of about 500 down the front or something and although you can see the whites of their eyes you somehow miss the full atmosphere behind you. The good thing is I sampled both on consecutive nights. So TRaTB was a real great effort and the first truly cool moment from BoS which every one loved.

We had to delve into classic territory after that with The Trooper and Powerslave.  The Trooper has been played thousands of time by now but it still gets you pumped as hell even though I'm sure it's a real test for Bruce and he does sound a touch strained but no one cares and the energy is through the roof. Powerslave's melodic gallop follows and is a song that every Maiden fan loves. Let's mention Mr Harris since we haven't already. Band leader extraordinaire is a truly inexhaustible guy. He runs heer and there pointing his bass machine gunning as usual and mouths near enough all the lyrics at the front rows. The guy is Maiden's spirit personified. His subtle bass licks are of course very prominent and make the Maiden songs the classics that they are.

Since were' talking about the instrumentalists let's quickly mention them all. Adrian is "Steady Eddie" of the group, playing rocking riffs with no shenagins and ripping leads with not too much smiling. He's the anchor in the band keeping it real as they say haha! Dave Murray is understated Mr Smiley doing a few pirouettes and generally "Mr Grin features" although out of all the guitarists he's the one who looks the most tired of all the touring maybe. His leads sound a bit one dimensional too at times but he's very much adored by the fans for his genial stage persona. That leaves Janick to act the band clown. Pull shapes, dance, play backing and have the odd solo. He mainly does guitar tricks and acts the complete fool, but you know what there's nothing wrong with that. It's actually funny to watch and he doesn't seem to take everything that seriously. That leaves Mr McBrain on the drums or Mr one foot wonder as some call him but all I know is that the guy is solid. Let's just say he's Mr Dependable. No one complains about Nicko and he does his job with an affable smile and has a whale of a time.

Moving on we have two more BoS songs to get through. The Great Unknown and the title track. The former track is a recent addition to the set list but sadly it's not a great song and seems to pass by without much fanfare at all. Another classic would have been so preferable indeed. The title track however is a monstrous epic and must be played of course in a tour of that name. The song builds and builds and the band sounds great as the song pounds away and then the hammering speedy riff takes the song to a great end from the halfway point onwards.

The song is followed up by the crowd pleaser that is Fear of the Dark. It seems this song is sacrosanct and can never be dropped from the modern Maiden set list. I must admit I have heard it every time I've seen Maiden which is at least 8-9 times and if it was dropped it wouldn't be the end of the world. But you know what - when those familiar opening strains start off it's still magical and the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. It's probably one of the best Maiden songs in a live setting. Just when you thing nahh this shit's getting old you still get that amazing pumped feeling with the energy and woooaahh section and the Fear of the Dark chanting section. Epic!

The main set ends with another song that they seemingly find impossible to omit, which is of course the self titled song from the debut. I can see why they play it as the fans just love it. The energy, the melody and the slightly punky feel. Steve Harris bellows the lyrics with immense gusto on that one. The crowd participation is again extravagant. People just love this song. Personally I'd prefer to hear the return of 11.58 or Aces High but I guess that's for another tour.

The second song in the encore sees a fairly long speech by Bruce on both nights, pontificating the same thing about unity etc and not caring what colour creed or religion we are and that we're all blood brothers that's why we're here. You get the drill! Having said that the band backs it up and the song sounds immensely powerful with the whole arena singing that one back at Bruce. The song itself has emotional melodic sections and very nice delicate solos. I must admit it is one of my fave live songs of the night and well worth to hear it sung by near enough the whole crowd. I actually enjoyed it more from my seat on the first night for this particular song as you can see the whole arena participate.

At the end of Blood Brothers, Adrian quickly starts that melodic motif and you know we've reached the final song of the night which is the very melodic and catchy Wasted Years. Indeed one of the best and most sung with choruses on the night. But the song doesn't have a last song of the night feel about it. The end song should of course be Hallowed but the band has decided to drop it from the set list due to the ongoing court case with regard to copyright infringement. From everything I've read the guy suing Maiden has never said the band can't play the song but it turns out every time they do play it they have to pay a few hundred quid royalties to this guy or something along those lines so they've made the decision to drop it for the time being. I read another rumour on Maidenfans forum saying that Bruce was having difficult singing the song and maybe they used the litigation case as a front for dropping the song. It's probably a bit of both who knows, but all i do know is that the song voted the best Maiden song of all time and my personal fave song by them ever is not currently part of the set list. This is absolutely a shame and it better restored soon as a Maiden gig however great it may be, is incomplete without Hallowed IMO. It may have been played to death but we go to Maiden gigs to hear Hallowed. Simple as. Sort this shit out haha!

Anyway I enjoyed my 2 night stint with the mighty Maiden. They may be knocking on a bit and the movement around the stage is not as rapid and slick as it once was but the ambition and power of delivery is as good as ever. Next time do a greatest newer hits set list with the best songs from 2000 onwards and I'll be there like a shot. Who am I kidding..I'll be there like a shot next time whatever the fuck they play! Up the Irons!

Doctor Doctor
(UFO song)
If Eternity Should Fail
Speed of Light
Children of the Damned
Death or Glory
The Red and the Black
The Trooper
The Great Unknown
The Book of Souls
Fear of the Dark
Iron Maiden

The Number of the Beast
Blood Brothers
Wasted Years


Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Inglorious Live at the Islington Assembly Hall

I am a latecomer to the Inglorious camp. The first album failed to make any significant impact on my listening habits but then I heard a new song and then another and slowly slowly I started to fall for this classic English rock band fronted by the amazing vocalist Nathan James. When I saw that they would be playing IAH and launching their new album, the safely titled "II", I thought I better grab a ticket for this. Good job too as the gig was more or less sold out with what must be not far from 800 in attendance.

I had seen the support band listed as Mason Hill and Gypsy Heart and I actually checked both out on youtube beforehand to get a handle on their music. GH sounded a bit soft and countryish whilst MH sounded really, heavy groovy and cool.

Gypsy Heart it turns out only played as a duo as two other members of the band were absent. That left a young gal with a nice earthy voice and a guy on acoustic guitar. Pleasant and nice on the ear overall with heartfelt emotional songs but people were here for ROCK and GH didn't quite provide that this time but nice vocals anyway from the young lady.

Scots Mason Hill were up next and were a whole different kettle of fish. These guys know how to rock and then some. Big old grooving riffs and emotional classic vocals was the order of the day. Part modern and part old school but never dull at all. The singer held the tunes together wonderfully well whilst the two guitarists churned out classic bendy riffs and solos galore. This band really deserves to get much bigger and I think most of the Inglorious crowd were well chuffed with their performance. The singer may lack some of Nathan's charm and melodic swagger but they have so much power and attitude that it easily makes up for any shortcomings they may have vocally speaking. They dedicated one song to Chris Cornell and soon enough their short but excellent set came to a close and was received with a great response from a packed floor.

At 9.30 precisely the intro music started out over the PA and strangely enough it was the theme tune to Grandstand! UK sports fans will know that tune inside out haha. The band took to their positions and finally the larger than life big man with the huge voice Nathan James took his spot and started belting out opener Read All About It which is from the debut I believe. Not being a fan of the debut I didn't know these songs well or even at all but I was still blown away by the delivery and poise within the band.

Inglorious are one of those bands were the live vibe far super cedes the recorded output. They just seem to come "alive" so to speak. On CD they can tend to sound a bit weak or lacking in bite or energy but no such issue exists in the live arena. The two guitarists are ace in the holes as is the rhythm section who bolster the riffing with a solid heavy backing.

In the end it's all down to Mr James who has the crowd eating out of his hand from the first note till the last. To say the guy is a confident front man would be an understatement. The guy has a booming and commanding soulful voice though some of his dance moves are a bit "dad dancy" but I'll forgive him!

The voice is just too good for words. The guy oozes class and brings so much power and soul into his lyrics and with a fantastic set of new tunes you couldn't go wrong with this gig. More than half the new album was played including some of the more rocking tunes which I love like Hell Or High Water and the rollicking great High Class Woman which closed the main set. In between we had a rather poignant and glorious two song acoustic interlude including a beautifully heartfelt tribute to Chris Cornell with Black Hole Sun and then a great cover of Purple's Burn as well. Both were majestic and the crowd really loved them.

Inglorious is definitely a band going places that's for sure and Nathan says that their manager told them that if they sold out tonight they would be in a bigger venue still for their next date in London at the larger Electric Ballroom and of course the IAH gig was pretty rammed.

The encore started with the super catchy I Don't Need Your Loving which was actually sang back at Nathan by most people in the crowd as loud as ppossible. Nathan even ended up in the crowd for one song singing with everyone as he was serenaded by everyone close by. Like I said before Inglorious is a new and upcoming classic rock band to be reckoned with. I'll be at their show at the Ballroom in a heartbeat after this awesome album launch. Anyone who enjoys soulful vocals halfway between Coverdale/Hughes seriously needs to give Inglorious a listen and catch them live too as they fully come into their own in that environment. Inglorious? Simply glorious!

Read All About It
High Flying Gypsy
Black Magic
(Live Debut)
Making Me Pay
(Live Debut)
Change Is Coming
(Live Debut)
Hell or High Water
(Live Debut)
Black Hole Sun
(Soundgarden cover) (Acoustic, tribute to Chris Cornell)
(Deep Purple cover) (Acoustic)
Taking the Blame
Girl Got a Gun
(Live Debut)
High Class Woman
(Live Debut)

I Don't Need Your Loving
Holy Water
Until I Die

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Smash Into Pieces Live

A very late decision was made to attend this gig which was originally billed as 2 bands but ended up being four. It turns out the other two bands were supposed to play another gig altogether at Islington Academy 2 but that one was merged with this one. Even with the merge the crowd did not reach 3 figures the whole night.

First band was one of the additional bands called Youngblood. They were sort of indie rock with a quirky female singer with odd dance moves. They were ok but not exactly my cuppa. Her vocals were rather fun and sweet though as was she.

Next band were called Royal Tusk from Canada as were Youngblood by the way. These guys started off with a nice heavy groovy song with decent melodic vocals. The rest of the set was pretty decent too. I didn't hear any amazing songs but the music was quite catchy and riffy. Not bad and better than Youngblood.

Next band were the original support to headliners Smash Into Pieces and went by the name of Blind Channel. It seems they had a fan club of a few guys at the front plus two little blond gals in Blind Channel shirts. To say these guys sucked would be an understatement. They played a mix of rap, chant, rock riffs, dance beats and Ibiza house or whatever it is. They were a bunch of Finnish kids all dressed in white as their gimmick. Like I said they had a small and vociferous fan club down the front but they are literally one of the worst bands I've ever seen on the hallowed Underworld stage.

I endured BC and waited for the Swedes modern rockers Smash Into Pieces. I like their new album and also the previous one hence giving them the time of day with my attendance. The stage was cut in half with a board which at the time was mysterious but it turns out it's one of those scoreboard type electronic displays. Bizarre! I suppose it reflects the band's very modern style which is almost like street modern rock as is their look. They may not rap but the band sounds and looks like it's from the street. The singer sways from side to side and looks like one of those white rapper types but damn the guy can sing.

The sound mix they used was also the weirdest I have ever heard in the Underworld. The guitars had no crunch and the mix was bass and vocal heavy with a lot of re-verb or echo on the mics. Strange and rather interesting sound! However they still had plenty of great songs and the singer sounded very cool singing the catchy melodic songs. The drummer also wears the Apocalypse DJ mask and prances around behind the scoreboard display. A unique thing to see indeed that a band uses so much modernity and things that are part of the dance and house scene if anything but brings them into the rock scene.

Quite an odd spectacle watching SiP indeed but I still enjoyed the catchy grooving melodic rock songs even though the band takes the boundaries of modern rock to the extreme edge of modernity. Interesting gig!

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Napalm Death - Live @ the Electric Ballroom

A 4 band bill of aggressive extreme metal on a Friday night in good old Camden Town. And let me tell you the Electric Ballroon is rammed tonight with more than a 1000 punters. the place is literally heaving from my vantage point on the balcony. When I initially bought my ticket this was a 3 band bill with initial support being Iron Reagan a crossover band. They couldn't make it and were replaced by another crossover type band in power Trip and as it turns out Lock Up were also added to the bill meaning that Napalm bassist would be doing triple duty. Has a band member ever played for three different bands in one night? That must be nearly a first.

First up were super fast grind merchants Lock Up  and they play like men possessed. They manage to make Napalm look positively sedate at times! Skinsman Barker's hands are like a blur of motion. Feet the same though we obviously can't see but you can nut imagine. Shane's bass rumbles like a mountain. Right hand of both guitarist and bassist is moving like RSI is guaranteed in future life! Songs are mostly indistinguishable from one another almost. Still this does not matter a jot. They rule and crush and devastate the early birds and that's nearly most of the crowd anyway as the floor is already pretty full. A few nice groovy parts but subtlety is for when you play the album. The live setting is just about pure and absolute rage for 30 minutes!

Power Trip stood out a bit from the other 3 bands on the bill being more or less a straight up thrash band with a touch of crossover. I actually dismissed their album earlier this year but it looks like I have to give it another shot at glory. They had a great sound, some great head banging grooves allowing the music to breath a little more. Let's call them the "monsters of chug" for they were in love with pulling those kind of breakdowns mid song with synchronised head banging from all band members. They still had the hell for leather sections but the lead work was totally average and from the Slayer school. I enjoyed their set and so did the floor with lots of circle pits and mass neck wrecking for the chug sections. Good change of support for the colossal grind of Lock Up before and the insanity to follow.

Brujeria - well that was a mad fucking set! I have always more or less ignored this mysterious side project since their inception way back in the early 90s. Fuck knows who's in the band apart from Shane from Napalm of course. I've always seen them as a cult band of Mexican bandit crustcore of little musical value. Not that the massed floor gave a fuck. They still lapped it up. The band's music is made up of incoherent riffs, rumbling bass grooves and drum battery topped off with dual Spanish barks and yells probably telling me "Eh Amigo! Give me back my marijuana or I slice your throat eh hombre!" Their barks and yells are rhythmic and monotonous as fuck but somehow get everyone pumped up. I don't really see the appeal to be honest but people love it. First and last time I'll probably see these unless they support someone I like again. Crazy band overall, no musical value for me apart from the odd catchy vocal rap or riffy groove but I guess they make for a good time for some with their notorious bandit metal.

Finally at just gone 9pm the old warriors of "Napalm Death from Birmingham" as Barney always says, strode on and prepared to do what Napalm does best. In other words annihilate the massively packed Friday night Ballroom crowd. And I'm not saying packed lightly. The Ballroom is rammed with and the stage front was a heaving mass of bodies. It seems ND are at their biggest ever level of fandom and they're treated like long returning sons every time they play here.

The Napalm set list is mainly based around old school grind classics and newer incendiary cuts. The mid period which I favour so much is completely ignored more or less. Most songs sound the same when played at this colossal volume. Barney is always an interesting chap to look at whilst singing. He sounds and looks like one of those ADHD suffering kids in youtube who get their xbox taken away from them. Completely mental in other words! Flailing limbs, nodding head, inadvertent leg movements like someone is using a voodoo doll on him. Complete nutter! His growls are completely indecipherable live but with the massive riff and bass rumble it all fits like a glove. I've lost count of how many times I've seen ND now but the urge to see this juggernaut live never diminishes. What I get out of it musically is debatable but the spectacle is something else. The floor is a jam packed sea of limbs and hair while all the old cunts nod and fist pump at the back like loons. Napalm fucking Death - still grinding our bones into dust after all these years!

Apex Predator – Easy Meat
Evolved as One
It's a M.A.N.S. World!
The Wolf I Feed
Smash a Single Digit
Stunt Your Growth
On the Brink of Extinction
Stubborn Stains
The Kill
You Suffer
From Enslavement to Obliteration
The Code Is Red... Long Live the Code
Twist the Knife (Slowly)
Dear Slum Landlord...
I Abstain
How the Years Condemn
Suffer the Children
If the Truth Be Known
Nazi Punks Fuck Off
(Dead Kennedys cover)
Persona Non Grata
Smear Campaign