Concerts I've seen

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Blaze The Underworld, London
Area 54 22nd December 2000

Blaze advert Blaze ticket Blaze advert Tonights openers, Sanctum, were pretty unmemorable. Too much noise, not enough music. Area 54 were much as they were when I saw them earlier in the month. Perhaps not as strong a performance, but good enough, and the drummer didn't seem so out of place tonight either. And so on to Blaze. I have to say that I was appalled by the size of the crowd. The Underworld is not a large venue, yet it was all but empty tonight. If rock fans can't be bothered to come out and support bands, then the bands will simply stop playing here. What's even more surprising is that Blaze is touring on the back of a very strong solo album, and even without the support of the British rock press, I'd have expected more people. Still, it's their loss because Blaze put on a really great show, particularly when you take into account the lack of atmosphere due to the emptiness of the venue. He seems to be enjoying himself as a solo artist, and I think he's better off out of Iron Maiden, even if he'll probably miss the commercial success that he had before. Hell, he even managed to turn "Como estas amigos" into a good song live, and that's probably one of the weakest tracks Maiden have done in years. Great songs, great performance, it's just a shame about the audience. Not only was it a great show, but he even brought Steve Harris on for "Man on the edge" during the encore.

Bob Catley The Underworld, London
Kip Winger 19th December 2000

Bob Catley ticket Bob Catley advert Tempest were a typical pub band -- nothing wrong with them, but not going anywhere fast. They were perhaps not helped by Kip Winger, who followed them on stage, and probably highlighted their amateurish nature. When the ticket said Kip Winger was supporting, I didn't realise they meant it literally. I was expecting a backing band, but it was just Kip with a guitar. His experience showed, and the lack of a backing band didn't detract from an excellent set. Finally on to Bob Catley. As before, he put on a good show, but again I was disappointed with his selection of Magnum songs. He didn't play anything from earlier than "Storyteller's Night". Perhaps that's related to the rumours of a forthcoming Magnum reunion. I hope they turn out to be true -- while Catley solo is certainly better than Hard Rain, neither hold a candle to classic Magnum.

Stratovarius The Underworld, London
DragonHeart 10th December 2000

Stratovarius advert Stratovarius ticket Stratovarius advert

As they did last week, DragonHeart put on another great performance here, although I think they were a bit better supporting Halford. Plus, of course, they had their share of Spinal Tap moments tonight -- Herman's hair getting tangled up in the headstock of the bass guitar, and Z.P. tripping up over the microphone lead as he left the stage :-) This was Stratovarius' first ever UK show, and The Underworld was packed. It's great to see metal finally get to the stage where bands see the UK as a financially viable place to tour, even if a large proportion of tonight's crowd seemed to consist of Germans and Greeks! Hopefully we'll get more foreign bands touring here. Stratovarius themselves were excellent, although I hadn't realised how short Timo Kotipelto was! The personal highlight for me was "Speed of light". I look forward to their return...

All About Eve Union Chapel, London
9th December 2000

All About Eve ticket All About Eve are not a band I'd have gone out of my way to go and see -- I'm not familiar with much of their material, and what I have heard has generally seemed a bit bland, as if it threatened to turn into something quite good, but never quite managed it. Still, I was invited to go, and was pleased I did. The venue is absolutely stunning. It's a chapel, still in active use, and they hold events there to raise money for its upkeep. The band were much as I expected, but the music also seemed more varied than I remembered it. They were obviously enjoying themselves on stage, and that always makes for a good show.

Halford LA2, London
DragonHeart 6th December 2000

Halford advert Halford ticket Mike Chlasciak's plectrum

Originally, the support tonight was going to be Overkill (not Everkill, as incorrectly printed on the tickets). However, they had to pull out due to financial difficulties, so DragonHeart were called in at the last minute. I'd bought the DragonHeart CD a few months earlier, and although I was quite impressed by it, it was lacking that spark that separates the competant from the truly great. Live, however, that spark was present in buckets. If they can find a way to capture the energy of their live show in the studio, they have a very bright future ahead of them. Tonight, they were absolutely stunning.

Rob Halford is starting to look old, but his voice is still in fine form. He played a varied selection from his excellent new album, a couple of tracks from his Fight days, and of course some Priest tracks. I didn't feel his vocals were mixed high enough at times, but it wasn't bad enough to be a real problem. I was slightly disappointed with the Priest tracks he chose (for example, I feel "Tyrant" to be one of their weaker offerings), but no doubt there were others who wouldn't have been happy had he chosen others. That said, there were some great choices, too — "Jawbreaker", "The Hellion / Electric Eye" and "Beyond The Realms Of Death", for example. The first encore (of a total of 5, I think!) was "Breaking The Law", sung entirely without a microphone, effectively turning it into a great crowd participation exercise. The highlight, however, was the final encore. There had been rumours that Halford were going to be joined on stage by Bruce Dickinson and Dave Mustaine. In actual fact, we got Bruce Dickinson and Geoff Tate. Three of the greatest metal vocalists of all time sharing the same stage — what more can anyone ask for?

Area 54 The Borderline, London
GF93 2nd December 2000

Area 54 ticket I was only really here to see openers Angelwhore. Although the sound quality was better than last week, the performance didn't quite have the same level of energy, although it was far from poor. I'm guessing that the smaller crowd in a larger venue contributed quite significantly to that. GF93 started out reasonably, but deteriorated from there, with the lead singer resorting to Rage Against The Machine style chanting/rapping. Nice looking bass player, though :-) The GF apparently stands for "goth fest", although quite why, I have no idea — there's nothing even remotely goth about them. The headliners, Area 54, just confused me. I was expecting a nu-metal noise band, but was confronted with something far more melodic. Twin guitar harmonies were even reminiscent of Iron Maiden in places. The drummer, however, while obviously very talented, is in the wrong band. He played every song flat out, as if it were the fast section of a drum solo. The drums were simply too overpowering for the songs, and he would be much more at home in a black metal band. Definitely a band to watch out for, but a bit strange, nonetheless.

U.F.O. The Astoria, London
Uli John Roth 1st December 2000

UFO advert UFO advert UFO ticket

Sadly, this concert was cancelled due to internal friction within the band (although it was diplomatically blamed on Phil Mogg having a throat infection). At the Manchester gig earlier in the week, Michael Schenker was openly arguing on stage with the other members of the band, and was apparently so drunk that he could barely stand, let alone play guitar. That's a shame, as I was looking forward not only to seeing UFO, but also Uli John Roth who was supporting :-(

Angelwhore The Devonshire Arms, Camden Town
Little Match Girl 24th November 2000

Angelwhore flyer The support band, Little Match Girl, had pulled out earlier in the day, so it was just Angelwhore. I'd remembered Angelwhore primarily as being welcome relief from the noise of K-Nitrate when I saw them supporting Killing Miranda. However, tonight they proved to be worthy in their own right, and I was really quite impressed, even if the sound quality could have been better. Either way, I was roped into going to see them again the following week :-)

Whitby Gothic Weekend 7.5 The Spa, Whitby
Clan Of Xymox 4th / 5th November 2000
The Screaming Dead
Mist Of Avalon
Inkubus Sukkubus
Emma Conquest

Whitby ticket My first trip to Whitby, and although the other activites over the weekend were very good, it was the strong lineup of bands that persuaded me to go. On the Friday, things started out well with Emma Conquest, who put in a good, solid performance. Next came Inkubus Sukkubus, who were pretty much as you'd expect. Their performances tend to be very similar, but sometimes it works better than others. Tonight was one of the times when it worked, and even if they've been better before, they came across well tonight.

The Saturday kicked off with the only band I hadn't heard of before. I try to have an open mind when confronted with an unfamiliar support band, but I'm almost invariably disappointed. Mist Of Avalon proved to be the rare exception, and they put in a very strong performance, enough to persuade me to buy the CD. Next up were Screaming Dead, who I've seem often enough to know that I really don't like them that much, so I sat that one out in the bar. Finally, Clan Of Xymox put on another solid performance. I don't know what it is about Xymox, but they just don't seem to excite me that much. They have all the right ingredients, and on paper, I should really get on with them, but live, they just seem a bit too bland. It's not that they're bad, it's just that they fail to stand out. Highlight of the weekend, then, was Mist Of Avalon -- an unexpected suprise, and I look forward to hearing more from them.

The Sisters Of Mercy The Forum, London
Sona Fariq 5th September 2000

Sisters advert Sisters advert (with extra date added) Sisters ticket I'm not entirely sure who decided to book Sona Fariq as support for the latest Sisters tour. Perhaps it was Andrew Eldritch showing his sense of humour, or maybe just a misguided promoter. Either way, their tuneless "nu-metal" really, really doesn't work in front of a crowd of traditional goth fans. It's a well known fact that Sisters live shows are one of two extremes. Either they're absolutely awful, or they're stunningly brilliant. Tonight's performance, however, dispels that myth, because in truth they were pretty average, although they were only just hovering above bad. Their set list certainly didn't do them any favours, and the sound quality was pretty grim. Nevertheless, the tracks that I actually recognised were performed reasonably well. It's a shame they didn't live up to the excellent standards they set the last time I saw them play, but I guess everyone is allowed an off night. That point was proved by the fact that the show they did the following night at the same venue was apparently much better, complete with a more traditional set list.

Manuskript The Underworld, London
Passion Play 19th August 2000

Manuskript ticket The first band, Swarf, were a real surprise. Very impressive for a support band, and definitely one to watch out for in the future. Although I'd heard Passion Play before, they didn't really pull it off live, and weren't particularly memorable. And so on to the headliners Manuskript, who put in an excellent performance. If there's any justice in this world, Manuskript will be heading on to bigger and better things.

The Mission Shepherds Bush Empire, London
Kane 10th August 2000

The Mission advert The Mission ticket Yet another gig where the support were so unmemorable that I can't remember them. I later found out there were called Kane. Not the same Kane that I saw at The Carlisle in Hasting many years ago, but nothing special, obviously. The Mission started out heading towards being one of the most disappointing bands I've ever seen live. The first half of the concert was utterly dull and lifeless, the sound was awful, and there was no atmosphere whatsoever. Fortunately, however, they managed to pull something out of the bag as the evening wore on, and by the end, they were really very good. One of the most variable concerts I've ever seen...

Alice Cooper Hammersmith Apollo, London
??? 19th July 2000

Alice Cooper advert Alice Cooper ticket Another gig where there was either no support or they were so unmemorable that I can't remember them. Alice Cooper, on the other hand seems to get better every time I see him. This tour was on the back of his Brutal Planet album, a good album albeit not his best. The stage show was excellent, and Alice's vocals were as good as they've ever been.

Thee Midsummer Event Charlton House, London
Inkubus Sukkubus 24th June 2000
The Sleeping Myth

Inkubus Sukkubus ticket Not a gig in the traditional sense, this was a couple of bands playing in a room at the end of a pagan midsummer celebration. First up was The Sleeping Myth, who had been described to me in advance as a kind of pagan Quo. They played fairly traditional '70s rock, much like Leadfoot. It's a shame the vocals weren't clearer, though. Halfway through their set, the smoke machine set the fire alarms off, and although the band carried on playing, we eventually all had to leave the building. After the alarms had been turned off, we were allowed back inside, and Inkubus Sukkubus started their set. They were much better than the last time I'd seen them, and I look forward to seeing them again at a more traditional venue. Due to the fire alarm interruption, they had to cut the set short, which was a shame, as they cut it off just as the intro to probably my favourite Inkubus Sukkubus track, "Vampire Erotica", started.

Christian Death The Underworld, London
Killing Miranda 17th June 2000
Sneaky Bat Machine

Christian Death ticket Christian Death advert

The first band, Sulpher, were very good, although I'd prefer them to have cleaner vocals. One to watch out for in the future, though. Sneaky Bat Machine, on the other hand, were that particular brand of "nu-goth" that bears little resemblence to anything vaguely goth. It's just dance music, and really doesn't belong here. Third up were Killing Miranda, who were good, but sadly plagued by technical problems. As a result, they cut their set short, although they did manage to play a reasonable smattering of songs first. Finally, headliners Christian Death, who were sadly crap. I've never really liked their earlier material, but some of their newer stuff is much better. Unfortunately, I couldn't recognise any of the newer stuff, and on the whole, I'd sum them up in one word: awful.

Metal 2000 Earls Court, London
Iron Maiden 16th June 2000

Iron Maiden ticket Iron Maiden advert

Iron Maiden's first official gig in the UK since reuniting with Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith. It was billed as "Metal 2000", supposedly an indication that heavy metal has returned. Strange, then, that they chose such poor support bands, particularly when they've had such strong support throughout the rest of Europe, and went on to have absolutely stunning support (in the form of Queensrÿche and Halford) on the American leg of the tour.

First band Entombed were very disappointing. I'm not a big fan anyway, but they were pretty poor tonight -- barely audible vocals, over a wall of noise. Slayer were actually better than I expected them to be, given that they haven't done anything worth listening to for the last 12 years or so, but still, their whole set was just too repetitive, and it just did nothing for me.

Finally, Iron Maiden took to the stage in front of 20,000 screaming fans. I'd forgotten how much energy Bruce Dickinson had on stage, but he was leaping around as if he was 15 years younger than he actually is. I'd been looking forward to hearing how Bruce would sing "The Clansman", one of my favourite Blaze-era songs, but somehow it just didn't suit his voice. "Sign of the cross", on the other hand, was much better -- odd, because I never really rated it with Blaze singing. At the end of the show, people were complaining about the set list, but I felt they managed a reasonable mix of their old and new material, although I'd have liked to have seen "Run to the hills" or "Phantom of the opera". My only complaint would be about the order in which they played them. I think there were too many blocks of new songs, and they'd have been better interspersing them with some of the older ones. Highlight of the evening was probably "Hallowed be thy name", or maybe "2 minutes to midnight". I look forward to seeing them again when they return later this year.

Gotham LA2, London
Clan Of Xymox 28th May 2000
In The Nursery
Diary Of Dreams
Altered States
Killing Miranda
Mechanical Cabaret
The Faces Of Sarah

Gotham advert Gotham ticket

This was the third night in a row that I'd been to the LA2, and I was starting to feel like I lived there! Gotham was an all day festival of goth bands, of which I'd heard 3 before (The Faces Of Sarah, Killing Miranda and Clan Of Xymox), all of which I liked. With 8 bands playing, it was always going to be extremely unlikely that I'd like them all, but I was pleasantly surprised when only two of them, Greenhaus and In The Nursery, turned out to be no good. Greenhaus, in particular, were just playing dance music. How people can call it goth, I'll never know (much as I don't understand how The Prodigy can be called rock). In The Nursery were just a bit odd. They weren't bad, but they were just too mellow, particularly following Diary Of Dreams. Highlight of the day, for me, was definitely Diary Of Dreams, who were very impressive, and very, erm... goth :-)

Saxon LA2, London
??? 27th May 2000

Saxon ticket Saxon live photo

And so onto the second night of the NWOBHM 20th anniversay celebrations. I assume there was a support band -- it says there should have been on the ticket. However, if there was, they were obviously pretty uninspiring, because by the time I came to write this review, I can't remember who they were, or anything about them.

Not that it matters, because Saxon put on one of the best live performances I've seen in a long, long time. They absolutely rocked. Unlike yesterday's bands, on tonight's evidence, it's hard to see why Saxon didn't achieve the same level of success as Iron Maiden et al. Perhaps it's because they don't seem to come across as well in the studio as they do live. Maybe that's changed in recent years, and I confess I haven't heard any of their recent albums. It doesn't really matter what the reason is, but one thing's for certain -- I will be going to see them the next time they play in or around London.

Samson LA2, London
Angel Witch 26th May 2000
Praying Mantis

Samson ticket Samson advert

This was the first of a two date celebration of the 20th anniversary of NWOBHM, the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. Due to a family bereavement, openers Praying Mantis didn't show up, but that had the side effect of allowing Angel Witch to do a longer set. Since they were the band I was primarily there to see anyway, I wasn't too bothered by the absence of Praying Mantis, although it would have been nice to see them.

I hadn't actually heard any Angel Witch for about 10 years before this gig, and so I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. They appear to be one of the few bands that are getting heavier with age, and the performance was very powerful and impressive. Of the tracks I remembered (probably about a third of what they played), the highlights were "White Witch" and obviously "Angel Witch". Oh, and the fact that they're the only band I'm aware of that have a Klingon playing bass :-) The only downside, as has always been the case, is that Kevin Heybourne just doesn't have a good enough voice to front a band like this.

Samson were plagued by poor sound quality through the PA, but despite that, managed to put on a reasonable show. Paul Samson is a very talented guitar player, but I've always felt that Samson lacked punch in the songwriting department. All though there are a few exceptions, it's all a bit too bland and nondescript. At the end of the day, it's easy to see why neither of these bands went on to achieve the success of their contempories in the NWOBHM scene (such as Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, or even Saxon). That's not to say they're bad, but neither have that spark that elevates them above the competition. Of the two, Angel Witch definitely had more potential, and perhaps with a different singer, they might have got somewhere, but I guess we'll never know...

Dio The Forum, London
Speedball 17 7th May 2000

Dio ticket Dio advert

Speedball 17 arrived on stage looking like rejects from the Manchester indie scene, complete with a bassist wearing a Liam Gallagher style hat. Odd, really, because their music is nothing like their image! It was actually quite presentable rock. The only problem was the vocalist, who was screeching away in an incredibly high pitched whine.

So on to Dio. In a very refreshing change, he played an untypical set, performing a lot of stuff that he rarely plays live -- "Sunset superman", "Invisible", "Gypsy", "One night in the city", and so on. After half an hour or so of that, he moved on to tracks from his new album, "Magica", his strongest in years. As a concept album, I was almost expecting to hear the entire album from start to end, and although we didn't get that, we got a large percentage of it. Then it was on to the classics. I was beginning to wonder if the show would consist entirely of Dio material, but in the encores, we were treated to Sabbath's "Mob rules" and Rainbow's "Man on the silver mountain" and "Long live rock and roll". Great stuff, and it's good to see Dio back on form. The only downside was the omission of "Don't talk to strangers", but the rare stuff played at the start of the show mostly made up for that.

Great White The Underworld, London
Dirty Deeds 22nd April 2000

Great White advert
Great White advert
Great White ticket Great White advert This was the fourth time I'd seen Dirty Deeds, and this was probably the weakest I've seen them. That's not to say they put on a bad show -- far from it. It's just that I think they've been better in the past. As for Great White, I was surprised at how popular they are. I'm so used to going to see bands in half filled venues, but tonight the Underworld was completely packed, and they obviously reacted well to that -- any band tends to play better to an appreciative audience. The only downside was a long and rather dull Led Zeppelin / Jimi Hendrix interlude in the middle. The bass player was very impressive, though.

Bob Catley The Underworld, London
Native Cain 17th April 2000

Bob Catley ticket I'd seen Sindicate before, so I had a fair idea of what they'd be like and as expected, they put on a good performance. They were slightly stronger than the last time I saw them, too, so I look forward to seeing them again. I was convinced I'd seen Native Cain before, too -- at least, until they came on stage, when it became apparent that I hadn't! Native Cain are basically Bob Catley's backing band. They're reasonable, but uninspiring. Bob Catley still looks like a goldfish on stage. That said, his solo material is significantly stronger than the somewhat mediocre output of Hard Rain, and it shows. He seems to be enjoying himself much more as a result, and that makes for a better show for everyone. The only disappointment was that the Magnum songs he played were, IMHO, among their weaker ones. There was no sign of "The spirit", "Soldier of the line" or "Sacred hour", for example. Still, a welcome return to form, and a thoroughly enjoyable show.

Lacuna Coil The Borderline, London
Downward Thing 15th April 2000

Lacuna Coil advert Lacuna Coil ticket

I wasn't even aware that there was going to be a support for this gig, and when they arrived on stage, I managed to miss them announcing who they were. I was later told that they were Downward Thing. They were musically competent, but the singer was way too monotonous for my liking. If he'd learn to vary his voice slightly, they'd be a much more interesting band. As it is, they're just too bland. Although I like Lacuna Coil, I wasn't expecting a great show, merely something good. Fortunately, I was mistaken. They were very impressive, and the songs had a bit more bite than I had remembered. Highlight of the evening was probably "Cold", the track that first intriduced me to the band, but to be honest, they didn't put a foot wrong all night, and I couldn't fault any of the songs. I'll be seeing them again when they return to the UK.

Steve Vai The Astoria, London
Eric Sardinas 8th March 2000

Steve Vai advert Steve Vai ticket

Eric Sardinas started the evening off pretty well, playing very sleazy slide guitar based blues. I'd have preferred a little more precision on his part, but I guess that's just the style of music. Steve Vai is is a great showman. However, there was something about his music that just left me cold -- it was completely lacking the energy that was present the last time I saw him. I spent much of the evening thinking about how to improve my web site, rather than concentrating on the gig, which is probably an indication that something wasn't right.

Killing Miranda The Underworld, Camden Town, London
Angelwhore 13th February 2000

Killing Miranda advert Openers K-Nitrate got the evening off to a bad start by basically being crap. Fortunately, Angelwhore put things back on track, with a fairly strong set. While I'd heard Killing Miranda before, I'd obviously not heard many representative tracks, and was somewhat indifferent to them. Live, however, they were very, very good. I'd recommend them to those that like that sort of music, and I'd certainly go and see them again.

Queensrÿche Brixton Academy, London
The Tea Party 6th February 2000

Queensrÿche advert Queensrÿche ticket Kelly Gray's plectrum Kelly Gray's plectrum
The Tea Party were obviously very musically competent, but they were just far too dull to be supporting a band like Queensrÿche. I kept expecting them to break out into a decent rock song, but sadly they never quite did. Queensrÿche were on form, though, and despite Geoff Tate having developed something of a beer gut, he can still sing just as well as ever :-) New guitarist Kelly Gray acquitted himself well, and the others all gave solid performances. Unsurprisingly, the material from Operation: Mindcrime, and to some extent, Empire went down better than some of the newer stuff. I'd have liked to have seen them do some of the earlier stuff, though − perhaps "The lady wore black" or "Gonna get close to you".

U.D.O. The Underworld, Camden Town, London
Grave Digger 5th February 2000
Rainmaker 888

U.D.O. ticket U.D.O. advert
Rainmaker 888 started the evening off well, with a good, if very short set. Next up was Grave Digger. Although I like U.D.O., I was really there to see Grave Digger and they didn't disappoint. Every heavy metal stereotype you can think of was up there on stage, right down to the Judas Priest style studded leather outfits, and it was utterly, utterly awesome. I only wish they'd played some material from "Tunes Of War". U.D.O. were always going to have a hard time following that, at least in my eyes. Given that, they did surprisingly well, and I bought their latest album on the strength of their performance. Udo's voice still grates a bit, even if it has mellowed with age. Sadly, three members of the crowd saw fit to try and bounce off the rest of the crowd, knocking them to the floor, but other than that, a superb evening.

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