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Concerts I've seen

Judas Priest Brixton Academy, London
Saxon 19th December 2001

Judas Priest advert Judas Priest advert Judas Priest ticket
The venue was barely half full by the time Saxon took to the stage. However, they still managed to get a decent amount of support from the crowd, and performed well. Unsuprisingly, the classic material went down better than the newer tracks. The highlight for me was "Princess of the night". I get the impression, though, that Saxon are always somewhat resentful that don't enjoy the same level of support in the UK that they do in the rest of Europe, and perhaps that's reflected in their performances. Either way, they were significantly better than when I saw them at Bloodstock, but not as good as their NWOBHM anniversary show. Judas Priest were filming tonight's performance for a DVD, which is a shame, as they'd have been much better off filming their excellent Astoria performance from earlier in the year. Tonight's show, in comparison, seemed half hearted and lacking energy. This was no doubt not helped by the lack of a sell out crowd, making the venue seem very empty (particularly when compared to Rammstein's packed gig at the same venue a couple of weeks earlier). Not a great concert, by any means, but not a bad one either. At times, though, I got the impression they were playing for the cameras, and not for the audience.

Tyla The 12 Bar Club, London
14th December 2001

Tyla ticket Tyla advert While I've been to some small venues in my time, this one really is tiny. It literally is smaller than my living room, and even comes with a balcony large enough to hold a handful of people (Tyla commented, "It's like playing to a split level grill"). Last time I'd seen Tyla, he'd been supporting Hard Rain, and had just had an acoustic guitar and a microphone. This time, he had a backing band as well, although they weren't always familiar with the material he was playing, and at times, the drummer was relying on cues from someone in the audience to know when to start and stop playing! Tyla himself was on good form, and played a variety of tracks, both with and without the backing band (who I'm told were members of Anti-Product). A strong performance from a great frontman. It's not easy playing to an audience with just you and a guitar, but Tyla manages it with ease.

Steve Vai The Astoria, London
Eric Sardinas 6th December 2001

Steve Vai ticket Eric Sardinas was exactly as he was when I last saw him supporting Steve Vai, playing (as far as I could tell) the same tracks, with the same on stage mannerisms. Enjoyable, but nothing to write home about. Steve Vai, on the other hand, was much better than last time. Whereas before, he seemed dull and lifeless, and to be just going through the motions on stage, this time there was much more energy on stage. This was possibly helped by the stellar lineup of his backing band, which included both Tony Macalpine and Billy Sheehan. But whatever the reason, it made from a much better experience than last time, although I felt that Tony Macalpine in particular was underused somewhat...

Devin Townsend The Garage, London
Godflesh 5th December 2001
Kill II This

Devin Townsend ticket Kill II This were much as I'd remembered them from last time. Strong musicianship, but let down by the lack of decent vocals. If they'd just get someone fronting them that could sing, then they'd have a very bright future indeed. Godflesh, sadly, were also much as I'd remembered them -- unable to write a decent song, unable to play anything technically challenging on their instruments, and unable to entertain the audience. Devin Townsend has had a very varied musical career, from Ocean Machine though to the extreme noise of SYL. Sadly (from my perspective), tonight seemed to concentrate more on the SYL material, which I'm not particularly keen on. Which is not to say I didn't enjoy the concert. I did, and the material from Ocean Machine, Infinity, and to some extent Physicist, was well done. But overall, nothing outstanding.

Rammstein Brixton Academy, London
Clawfinger 2nd December 2001

Rammstein ticket Clawfinger were predicatble, dull Kerrang! fodder. If the purpose of a support band is to warm the audience up, and to get them in the right mood for the main attraction, then Clawfinger definitely failed. Rammstein had cancelled their previous London show on the night, when they were prevented from using their pyrotechnics. On tonight's evidence, that was without doubt the right decision, and one for which I'm eternally grateful, as it meant that I got to witness the full show tonight. They're one of the few currently active bands that understand the value of entertaining the audience, rather than just performing. The pyros were spectacular, from the firecrackers going off in time with the drums in "Feuer frei!" to the head mounted flamethrowers and the walls of flame at the front of the stage. Combined with an awesome amount of lights, some, errrr, liquid entertainment during "Büch dich", and, of course, stunning music all made for an excellent night. They even had a new take on crowd surfing -- with the keyboard player making a trip out into the audience in a rubber dingy. Highlights were the obvious "Du hast", as well as "Mein herz brennt" and "Sonne", but there wasn't a single bad track. An unforgettable night, that ranks high in my list of best gigs that I've been to.

Gamma Ray The Underworld, London
Edguy 27th November 2001

Gamma Ray / Edguy ticket I don't know what it is about Gamma Ray, but they seem to have a habit of putting together stellar lineups for their concerts of late. Once again, four bands I liked, and one I'd never heard of. First up were Nostradameus. I'd bought the first album, and thought it good, but not outstanding. So I was very pleasantly suprised when, like Freedom Call, they turned out to be far, far better live than they are in the studio. They were absolutely on top form, and on the strength of that excellent performance, I bought their second album as well, which I'd probably have passed on without seeing them live. Freddy proved to be an admirable frontman, and the whole band are very musically adept. Next were Finland's Lullacry, the one band I hadn't heard before. Not bad, but definitely nothing to write home about. At the start of the 1990s, there was a trend in rock music away from the traditional heavy metal of the late 80s, toward a different, less inspiring sound, and sadly, that's the category in which Lullacry fall. There's certainly enough potential there for them to turn into something worthwhile, but for now, they've got a way to go. Next were Heavenly. I'd thought their debut album was OK, but a bit unimaginitive, and live they were much the same. While Ben certainly has an excellent voice, he doesn't always use it as well as he might, and in places it is noticably lacking in power. However, it was by no means a bad perfromance, and an improvement on Lullacry, but not up to the high standards set by openers Nostradameus. Co-headliners Edguy were next. They're another band that I'd liked on CD, but not felt were particularly outstanding. Live, however, they're almost a different band. Much heavier, much more impressive, and on the strength of tonight's performance, I'll definitely be expanding my Edguy CD collection. Tobias uses his excellent voice very well live, and the whole band put on a great show. Highlights were probably "Vain glory opera", and "Avantasia", from Tobias' side project of the same name. Gamma Ray hadn't particular impressed me when I'd seen them in Germany the previous month, so I was a bit wary of them this time round. Fortunately, they were much better tonight. The songs were slower, the sound quality was better, and you could actually hear what was being played. They even played "Valley of the kings" tonight, which was a glaring omission last time. Overall, an excellent evening, with Nostradameus just beating Edguy for the honour of best band of the night. Excellent, and I hope to see more lineups of this calibre in London soon.

Graham Bonnet / Don Airey The Underworld, London
Demon 26th November 2001

Bonnet / Airey ticket Arrived at the venue, only to find a notice explaining that the headliners had cancelled because of Graham Bonnet having throat problems. Support band Demon had been promoted to fill the vacant slot, but I was never a huge Demon fan, so decided to hold onto my ticket for the rescheduled date a week later. Sadly, that date was later cancelled altogether :-(

Diary Of Dreams The Garage, London
Assemblage 23 24th November 2001
Cut Rate Box

Diary Of Dreams ticket Diary Of Dreams advert Cut Rate Box were a bit too dance-oriented for my taste. Too much bass, and not enough on top of it. Assemblage 23, on the other hand were just the other side of the line. Yes, there were still some dance elements there, but the music was there as well, and particularly towards the end of the set, the mixing was much improved. They fall into the category of support band that I've never heard of before, yet came away impressed. Diary Of Dreams were very different visually to when I last saw them. Gone are the long trenchcoats and traditional goth image, to be replaced with a more stark, futuristic look. The music, however, was just as good as ever. Particular highlights were "Butterfly:dance!" and "Mankind", and their new single, "O' brother sleep". Possibly not quite up to the standard of their performance at Gotham, but an excellent show nonetheless.

Rockbitch The Horn Reborn, St. Albans
21st November 2001

Another week, another Rockbitch concert. Most of my comments about the last show hold true for this one. If Julie would make more use of her voice, they could be a much more interesting band. She certainly can, and in places does, but IMHO, not often enough. Musically, though, I felt they were noticably better tonight. Once again, "Tic toc" was the standout track. And my girlfriend was presented with the golden condom tonight, too :-)

Rockbitch The Peel, Kingston
Obsidian 14th November 2001

Rockbitch ticket
Published openers Frustrum had been replaced on the night by Obsidian. Individually, they were musically competent, but together, they just made an awful racket, epitomising everything that's bad about death metal, and showing very few of the good points. No doubt others will disagree, but this is my review, so I get to say if I think a band's crap, and this one was! Rockbitch have been banned from performing in numerous venues, and it's easy to see why. Their stage show is almost as much a lesbian sex show as it is a rock show. I was always a bit underwhelmed by them on CD, and live they were much the same. Good, but not great, although they do have an extremely accomplished bass player. At times, though, particularly on set closer "Tic toc", they showed that they have real musical potential.

Needleye Upstairs At The Garage, London
Interlock 9th November 2001
Lost End

Needleye ticket Needleye flyer
I missed the first band, and don't remember much about the second, other than that I wasn't particularly impressed with them. Interlock were much better, although I feel they could do better without the female vocals. Needleye were very brutal, far more extreme than I remember them being. Not my sort of thing, really, and if I hadn't known their vocalist, I probably wouldn't have been there. Sound quality was quite poor, and I definitely think they were better the last time I saw them. Overall, then, Interlock were the best band of the night for me. Sorry, Duncan! :-)

Fear Factory The Astoria, London
Godflesh 8th November 2001
Janus Stark

Fear Factory ticket I arrived too late to catch Janus Stark, so the first band I saw were Godflesh. Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. I have virtually no musical talent whatsoever, so it's really hard for me to respect any band where I can look at them and genuinely believe that I could play every note of every song. They've concentrated on sounding heavy, but have forgotten that a distorted guitar does not a good band make. You need to have decent songwriting, and to be able to play the thing properly in the first place. Godflesh had neither of these two attributes. Simply awful. Fear Factory have never been one of my favourite bands, but nonetheless, I like some of their stuff, and felt it was worth seeing them live. Quite how Dino manages to stay so fat indicates he must have some kind of serious hormonal problem. With the amount of energy he was expending running around the stage like a madman, by rights he ought to be as thin as a rake. Musically, they were competent, but nothing special, although in a few places, such as for "Self bias resistor", they showed a lot of promise.

Gamma Ray LKA Longhorn, Stuttgart
Primal Fear 7th October 2001
Sonata Arctica
Freedom Call
Vanishing Point

Gamma Ray ticket With a lineup like that, how could I resist? Of the five bands on the bill, only Gamma Ray were going to be playing in the UK for the foreseeable future, so I didn't have to think too hard before boarding a plane and heading off to Stuttgart. After an enjoyable few days in Stuttgart, the night of the concert arrived, and I ended up at the curiously named LKA Longhorn venue. First up were Australia's Vanishing Point, the only band on the bill that I hadn't heard of. They played a quite presentable, if perhaps somewhat uninspiring set. While I won't be rushing out to track down everything they've released, I'll definitely go and see them again if they ever come and play in London. Freedom Call had impressed me immensely when I saw them opening for Hammerfall, and tonight they once again put on an amazing set. Perhaps not quite as good as last time, not helped by poor sound quality, but Freedom Call are an excellent live experience, and I'd recommend any power metal fan to go and see them at the earliest opportunity. Next were Sonata Arctica. Unfortunately, they were plagued by appalling sound quality throughout the whole of their set, easily the worst of the night. The guitars kept fading out, at times, the bass would suddenly be mixed up full, drowning out the rest of the band for no apparent reason. The band didn't look too pleased by the sound quality either. However, they did their best in difficult circumstances, and managed a great performance of "Replica". I hope to see them again when they're not so hampered by the sound quality. Realistically, had Primal Fear not been playing, I probably wouldn't have gone, despite the strength of the rest of the bill. While they were always one of my favourite bands, their performance at Bloodstock proved them to be quite possibly the best live band around at the moment. I was hoping it wasn't a one-off fluke, and tonight they proved that it wasn't. An outstanding show, and it's hard to fault it at all. Once again, the sound quality wasn't great, but that didn't really detract from the show, and from the moment the intro to "Angel in black" arrived, I knew it was going to be a night to remember. Once again, I would have liked to have heard "Into the future", but that's only a minor nitpick, and they even did a cover of Priest's "Metal Gods", as if to prove once and for all that Ralf would have made the perfect replacement for Halford. While I certainly don't think Ripper's a bad frontman by any means, on tonight's evidence, it's hard to see why they chose him over Ralf. Still, had he joined Priest, we wouldn't have witnessed the phenomenon that is Primal Fear, so perhaps it's all turned out for the best in the end. Highlights once again were "Angel in black", and the title track from the latest album, "Nuclear fire". Headliners Gamma Ray hit the stage apparently determined to prove wrong those who think they're a bit lightweight. Pretty much every song was played at monstrous speed, and significantly heavier than on the studio recordings. Sadly, I don't think this did them many favours, particularly given the general poor sound quality (which seems to have affected all the bands with the curious exception of Vansihing Point). Only "Somewhere out in space" really stood out, and I was disappointed that they didn't play "Valley of the kings". For the encore, they brought out Ralf Scheepers (who used to be their lead singer before he joined Primal Fear) to do a Helloween medley. A great end to a great night, but once again, Primal Fear stole the show.

Megadeth The Astoria, London
Apocalyptica 16th July 2001

Megadeth ticket Megadeth advert Megadeth advert
I was looking forward to seeing Apocalyptica, but they had to cancel because Max Lilja had broken his arm a few days before (which, when you're playing a cello, I imagine would be a bit of a hinderance!). That left openers Defenestration with a longer set than they would presumably otherwise have had. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the audience would have preferred them to have had a significantly shorter set (myself included). I was surprised to see they had a female vocalist, and even more surprised to hear the noises that were emanating from her mouth -- death/black metal growls in the finest tradition of Emperor or Immortal. About 50% of the time, though, she sang with clean vocals, if singing is the right word -- she was horribly out of tune. Grim. For various personal reasons, I was in a really miserable mood for this concert, and very nearly didn't go at all. Despite that, Megadeth managed to put on a decent show, even if I wasn't exactly in the right frame of mind to fully appreciate it. Notable performances came in the form of "Hangar 18" (and to a lesser extent, "Return to hangar"), "Almost honest", "Symphony of destruction", and of course, "Peace sells". However, the real highlight was their warp speed rendition of "She wolf". I hope they return to the UK when I'm in a more favourable mood. As is stands, this was one of the least enjoyable concerts I've ever been to, but it was through no fault of the band, and doesn't reflect on their performance.

Pist.On The Underworld, London
Landmine Spring 2nd July 2001

Pist.On ticket Fony are typical Kerrang! fodder -- noisy, tuneless, and they haven't yet learned how to pull their (baggy) trousers up to their waists. The singer sounded like he was coughing up a hairball for most of the set, yet at times, he showed that he could actually sing, and I wonder what he'd be like in a different band. All in all, they're coming close to rivaling Sona Fariq for the title of worst band I've seen recently. Next up were Landmine Spring, who sadly turned out to be more of the same. Musically, perhaps, they were slightly better, but this time, the vocalist definitely couldn't sing, so no redeeming features there. Headliners Pist.On had always missed me a bit. There's nothing wrong with them, but I've never been particularly inspired by them either. A couple of things struck me when they came on stage. Firstly, how much thinner both Val and Henry looked, and secondly, how much younger Val looked. Completely ignoring my lack of enthusiasm for the band, they put on a storming set, despite playing to an Underworld that was prety much as empty as I've ever seen it (apart from Blaze). They were far, far better than I was expecting, and to be honest, they really deserved a bigger crowd.

Judas Priest The Astoria, London
Savatage 15th June 2001

Judas Priest advert Judas Priest advert Judas Priest advert
Savatage are one of those bands that have been really inconsistent. They've done some absolutely stunning stuff, and some that's just not up to the same standard. Part of that is the difference between the tracks on which Zach Stevens sings, and those on which Jon Oliva sings. Zach has now left the band, but his replacement, Damond Jiniya proved to be an excellent find, and I'll even go as far as to say he's the best vocalist Savatage have had to date. Jon Oliva proved to have an even worse voice live than he does in the studio, but fortunately left the majority of the vocal duties to Damond. Jack Frost also proved to be an admirable replacement for Al Pitrelli, and the prospects are looking very good indeed for the next Savatage album. The difference between the Stevens era vocals, and the Oliva era vocals was highlighted here tonight, and even Damond's vocals couldn't make "Of rage and war" into a decent song. However, the majority of the tracks were excellent, with "Edge of thorns" and "Gutter ballet" particularly standing out. Judas Priest were in theory touring in support of their new album, Demolition. For marketing reasons, however, the European release of the album was delayed, which meant that they were limited in the amount of material from the album that they could sensibly play. The two tracks they did play were an improvement over Jugulator, but still lack the strength of earlier Priest albums. Still, they managed to do an impressive rendition of Jugulator's "Burn in Hell", a track which I've always been somewhat indifferent to on CD. Unsurprisingly, the classic Priest material went down well, with "Victim of changes", "Beyond the realms of death" and "The ripper" standing out. Ripper has an excellent voice, but "Touch of evil" showed that he doesn't always use it as well as he could (and perhaps more the the point, as well as Halford does). A great show, and probably an improvement over the last time I saw them, but they really need to come up with some extremely strong new studio material, if they're to avoid turning into a classic Priest covers band.

Rammstein The Astoria, London
Clawfinger 10th June 2001

Rammstein ticket The doors were supposed to open at 7:00. I'd already been queueing for over an hour, and was near the front. It's not unusual for the doors to open late, but tonight was really over the top. We waited and waited, and then waited a bit more. We could hear the soundchecks through the walls, and at about 7:45, we managed to find out from The Astoria staff that there was a technical problem which was why they weren't opening the doors. The queue by this time had grown to an unbelievable size, far surpassing that of the Dimmu Borgir concert that I had thought was extremely long. It snaked down the side of the Astoria, round Soho Square, up onto Oxford Street, and along to Tottenham Court Road tube station. Sometime around 8:40, we were informed that the show had been cancelled at the last minute. It seems that on the night, the venue had banned Rammstein from using their pyrotechnics, despite giving assurances in advance that they would be allowed to use them. The band felt that as they were such a large part of the show, it would be unfair to the fans to perform without them, and so refused to play. It's very disappointing, but they have said they'll try to reschedule the show for another venue at a later date. You can't help but feel sorry for some people, though. I was in the queue next to some fans that had travelled up from Portsmouth, and some friends were speaking to someone that had flown over from New Zealand just to see Rammstein.

Yngwie J. Malmsteen The Mean Fiddler, London
Spirit Of Rush 7th June 2001

Yngwie advert Yngwie ticket
The openers tonight introduced themselves as "Spirit Of Rush". I thought that sounded ominously like a Rush tribute band, and sure enough, that's what they turned out to be. I'm not a great Rush fan at the best of times, but when they manage to screw up even the few Rush songs that I do like, you know there's something wrong. Yngwie was reunited with Mark Boals once more, following Jorn Lande's untimely departure. I'd been very impressed with Boals' solo album, "Ring Of Fire", and equally unimpressed with Yngwie's latest effort, "The War To End All Wars". However, live, Boals was relegated to the sidelines, and it was once more a case of Yngwie Malmsteen playing a solo show, rather than as a band. There was vastly more soloing than when I've seen him in the past, and much fewer actual songs. Sadly, it was just too much. Although Yngwie's a stunning player, even he can't keep interest through a whole show of soloing. That said, the songs he did play were well done, and he even managed to make the WTEAW material sound good live. Overall, though, very disappointing, and I hope he's better next time.

Bloodstock '01 The Assembly Rooms, Derby
Saxon 28th May 2001
Glenn Hughes
Primal Fear
Dirty Deeds
Area 54
Shadow Keep

Bloodstock ticket 16 bands on two stages -- after many long bleak years, are we looking at the start of a heavy metal revival in the UK? We can only hope so. Fortunately, the bands I wanted to see were all on the main stage, so I stayed in the large hall for the whole show. Shadow Keep have long been championed as the top British power metal band, but I've always had a problem with their vocalist, and felt that DragonHeart are a lot more deserving of that title. True to form, their set here today was OK, but they really need to get themselves a decent vocalist. Area 54 were much as they were when I last saw them. Passable, but nothing memorable. Dirty Deeds put on the first decent performance of the day, but as with their last gig, the lack of new material is starting to show. I'd been very impressed by Primal Fear's last couple of albums, and was eager to see them live. What can I say? Primal Fear epitomize, more that any other band in 2001, everything that heavy metal is and should be. They were absolutely stunning from beginning to end. The only flaw I could find was that they didn't have a long enough set, and that they didn't play "Into the future". This was about as close to the perfect concert as you're ever likely to see. I've always been a bit indifferent to Skyclad, and on this, Martin's last ever show with the band, I was hoping for something a bit special. However, they didn't really produce it, and Martin's vocals definitely work better in the studio than they do live. On to Blaze, who at last had the chance to play to a decent sized crowd. That aside, this was probably the weakest I've seen him live, and although it was still a great show, it wasn't as good as his earlier gigs. Glenn Hughes just completely missed me. I've never been a big fan of his voice, but coupled with the wall of discordant noise coming from the band, I felt this was an awful show, and also completely out of place in this lineup. Sorry, Glenn. There was an abnormally large gap between Glenn Hughes and Saxon, presumably to allow Orange Goblin to finish their set on the second stage. The last time I saw Saxon was one of the best gigs I've ever seen, and I was expecting good things from them here. However, they really didn't live up to my expectations, and although there wasn't much wrong with tonight's performance, there wasn't a great deal right with it either. They had none of the energy present at their last show, and it was all a bit dull and lifeless. Maybe it was the long gap between bands. Maybe I was starting to get tired by then. Maybe it was the particularly strong set by Primal Fear. Whatever the reason, Saxon weren't all that I was hoping for. Still, overall a great day, with strong performances from Dirty Deeds and Blaze, and a stunning one from Primal Fear. I hope the next Bloodstock is this good.

Gotham 2001 The Mean Fiddler, London
Inkubus Sukkubus 27th May 2001
Star Industry
This Burning Effigy
Killing Miranda
House Of Usher
Two Witches
Descendents Of Cain

Gotham advert Gotham ticket

Another night of goth at The Mean Fiddler. This years Gotham started off with Descendents Of Cain. They've always been one of those bands that I never have much enthusiasm for, because if nothing else, I can always go and see them at Tenebrae each month. The fact that I can go and see them for some reason means that I never actually get round to doing so. However, tonight, they were on really good form, despite the awful sound quality, and I'll definitely make an effort to see them again sometime. Their lighting effects were also very good, particularly for the opening band on an 8 act bill. Next up were Squid, the obligatory dance oriented cybergoth band. Yawn. I'd recently bought the Two Witches album, and was quite impressed with it. Live they were good, but not stunning, again let down by the sound quality, a sentiment that also applied to House Of Usher. I'd heard that Killing Miranda had moved to a more electronic dance oriented sound, partly prompted by Richard acquiring a new cybergoth girlfriend. Sure enough, he walk on stage wearing luminous green hair extension, and I wasn't particularly looking forward to their set. Bizarrely, though, this was easily the best I have ever seen them. Unlike the earlier bands tonight, the sound quality was crisp and clear, and Richard even appeared sober, and wasn't slurring his words at all (a recurrent theme at previous KM shows). Furthermore, the music seemed more guitar oriented than before, perhaps as a result of Irish Dave taking over from Chris on bass, leaving no permanent keyboard player. Either way, a very strong set, and I can only hope they keep it up. Next up were This Burning Effigy, who again were let down by poor sound. A good show, but Ger's vocals sounded really muddy, and for much of the time, I couldn't hear Steve's guitar work at all. Star Industry were next, and put on a great performance. Finally, Inkubus Sukkubus, who were almost identical to their last show at The Underworld. Bands of the day, then, were Killing Miranda, Star Industry and Inkubus Sukkubus. The only downside was that I was nominally there as a guest of Steve from This Burning Effigy, who had his guitar stolen from backstage just before their set :-(

Alice Cooper Wembley Arena, London
Dio 18th April 2001
Orange Goblin

Alice Cooper ticket The doors for this concert opened at 7:30pm. I'd been delayed at work, so I didn't arrive until just before 8:00. I wasn't particularly bothered, because I'm not a huge Orange Goblin fan anyway, so missing them was no great hardship. However, when I arrived, to my dismay, Dio was already on stage and partway through his set. I assumed that Orange Goblin had pulled out, and Dio had been given a longer opening set to fill the time out. However, I later heard that Orange Goblin had indeed played -- they'd been on stage at around 6:15, and played to a handful of friends and family that were allowed in before the doors opened. Whatever the reason for this, the upshot is that I came in halfway through "Don't talk to strangers". Dio went through a set list similar to the one he played at The Forum last year, but with slightly less material from the Magica album. It's was a good performance, but the Wembley sound quality really didn't do him any favours, and he's definitely come across better in smaller venues. Alice Cooper also suffered from the poor sound quality, although it was somewhat better than for Dio. The set and stage show were almost identical to his recent Hammersmith show, even down to the complaining about a guy in the front row wearing a Marylin Manson T-shirt before the start of "The little things". Towards the end of the set, the band broke into a rendition of Queen's "We will rock you", and a tall curly haired bloke in a white shirt wandered onto the side of the stage. He wasn't moving quite right, and at first I thought it was a Brian May lookalike, but as soon as he started playing, it rapidly became apparent the it really was Brian May. A nice end to a good night.

A Metal Odyssey The Astoria, London
Dimmu Borgir 1st April 2001
In Flames
Lacuna Coil

Dimmu Borgir ticket For some reason, this gig was originally destined for the LA2 / Mean Fiddler. Unsuprisingly, it quickly sold out, and hence was moved to the main Astoria. Although I'd expected it to be a popular gig, I wasn't expecting the scene that I saw when I arrived. It was the longest queue I've ever seen at the Astoria -- so long, that by the time I'd made it into the building, the first band, Susperia, had already played their set, and left the stage. So it was, then, that the first band of the night (for me at least) was Nevermore. I'd been a bit wary of Nevermore for a while, as they'd always seemed to be a band (much like Iced Earth) that show great promise but never quite managed to do anything with it. However, tonight they put on a great performance, and for being 4th on the bill, they managed to get an amazing reaction from the crowd. Next up were Lacuna Coil. When I saw the date for this gig, and the lineup, I assumed it was an April Fool's joke -- Lacuna Coil are completely out of place on this bill, and it showed. Their performance wasn't quite up to the high standards they set at The Borderline last year, but it was far from bad. However, the crowd really wasn't there to hear that sort of music, and gave Lacuna Coil a lukewarm reception. Following swiftly on came In Flames. I'm afraid tonight's performance simply reinforced my opinion of the band. The music's fine, but they're in dire need of a vocalist that can sing. As they stand at the moment, it's mostly just noise. I should point out that I'm obviously in a minority here, because the crown were loving it, but it's really not for me. Finally then, headliners Dimmu Borgir took to the stage. A strong performance, and easily the best sound of the night. There was plenty of material from their newest album, "Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropy" (with the orchestral opener, "Fear and wonder" moved to the middle of the set, and working remarkably well live), and some from earlier albums as well. The only slight disappointment was the use of Vortex's clean vocals. Given that they've gone to the effort of making him a full time member of the band, I wish they'd make more use of his vocal talents. Still, that's a minor complaint, and overall, it was a very strong performance.

Inkubus Sukkubus The Underworld, London
The Faces Of Sarah 31st March 2001

Inkubus Sukkubus ticket Openers D.U.S.T. played a quite presentable set, but the sound levels were awful. I later heard from others that the people at the sound desk were holding up notes to the crowd saying "this band is crap", and randomly playing with the faders, which probably explains the sound levels. They deserved better, and it would be nice to see them again in a less hostile environment. Second up were The Faces Of Sarah, replacing the advertised Attrition. They were pretty much as I remembered, them, again playing quite decent rock oriented goth, but I think they overdid the effects on the vocals for most of it. The parts where the effects were faded down a bit sounded much better than the rest. Highlight of the set was easily their excellent cover of "Baby one more time", which is to be found on their latest album, "Twentyfour". Finally, we get to Inkubus Sukkubus. I'd been a bit wary of them, as I didn't think much of the last album at all, and live they've been sounding very repetative recently. However, this was the launch party for the new album, "Supernature", and I was very pleasantly suprised to hear a marked variation in style from their previous material. This was probably the one of the strongest sets I've seen them perform, and the new material sounded great alongside the older stuff. It's good to see them back on form.

Doro The Kings Head, London
Psycho Squad 27th March 2001

Doro flyer Doro ticket Doro autograph Nick Douglas autograph

Chalice have supported Doro for the rest of the European tour, but for unknown reasons (probably financial), they didn't make it to the UK. Instead, we get Psycho Squad. Oh dear. You're never going to endear yourselves to an indifferent audience by spitting at them. They tried to cover their lack of musical competence by playing tuned down mallcore / "nu-metal", but it didn't work, and they failed to win anyone over. To top it all off, they played the worst cover of "Crazy Horses" I think I've ever heard. However, Psycho Squad weren't why I was there, and after a while, Doro came on. Wow. All I can say is that her pictures really don't do her justice. In person she is one of the most stunningly attractive people I've ever seen. But aside from that, she's also playing some of the best music of her career. I remember reading a review years ago in the UK rock press of her "True at heart" album. In it, the reviewer said that she'd obviously been badly hurt in the past and that he wished she'd just write a whole album of songs about how bad men are, so it was out of her system, and she could get on and write the traditional rock songs we all know she's capable of. Well, it took 9 years, but with the release of her "Calling the wild" album, I'd say she's done just that. Not only is it her best album in years, I'll stick my neck out and say I think it's quite possibly the best album she's ever released, eclipsing even Warlock's awsome "Triumph and agony". High praise indeed, but would she be able to carry it off live? The answer is without doubt yes! For two hours, we were treated to some of the best live metal I've ever seen. Stunning, and I can't wait for her return to the UK.

Helloween The Mean Fiddler, London
Blaze 18th March 2001

Helloween advert Helloween ticket For some reason, the LA2 has been renamed as The Mean Fiddler. Whatever the reason, it was packed tonight, and I was pleased to see Blaze able to play to a decent sized audience compared to when I last saw them. Once again, they put on a great show. It's a shame they didn't have time to do a full set, because they were certain on form tonight. Perhaps not as good as last time, but very strong nonetheless. Then came Helloween, touring on the back of an excellent new album, "The dark ride". I don't know what it was, but although they put on a good performance, it wasn't a great one. The crowd seemed to notice, and the lack of crowd response probably contributed to the lack of enthusiasm from the band. Everyone's entitled to an off night every now and again, and I guess this was Helloween's. With the exception of a stunning rendition of "Revelations", then, a fairly average show, but I'm sure they'll improve again. Update: I later heard from others that went to multiple dates on the tour that they were indeed much better elsewhere, and just had a bad night in London.

Hammerfall The Underworld, London
Virgin Steele 26th February 2001
Freedom Call

Hammerfall ticket Hammerfall advert Hammerfall advert Stefan Elmgren's plectrum Stefan Elmgren's plectrum
A night of gumby metal -- what more could anyone want? I was looking forward to openers Freedom Call, as I'd thought their "Stairway to fairlyland" album was excellent. Fortunately, the merchandise stand was selling the new album "The crystal empire", as well as their "Taragon" EP, which hasn't been available in this country. The real revelation is that they're even better live than they are on CD. Absolutely stunning for the whole of their set. Virgin Steele are one of those bands that I've been meaning to get round to listening to for years. Well tonight, I finally got the chance. They took to the stage with David looking like a cross between Joey DeMaio and Ronnie James Dio, but they put on a very strong set. Although it lacked the energy present during Freedom Call, they were good enough to convince me to buy the CD, and I'll see them again if they return to the UK. Hammerfall are probably the single band that did most to convince me that metal had a future. When I heard their debut album "Glory to the brave", it was the first album I'd heard in ages that had all the elements of traditional heavy metal, after the long years of darkness where grunge reigned supreme. I've been following the band ever since, so naturally I came to see them at their first ever UK gig. They didn't disappoint, and even if I don't feel their latest album, "Renegade" is quite as good as their first two, the tracks on it work well live. I hadn't realised until tonight just how good a guitar player Stefan Elmgren is. Overall, an excellent evening with strong performances from all three bands. If pushed, I'd have to say Freedom Call just edged out Hammerfall for performance of the night.

The Sisters Of Mercy The Forum, London
Tinstar 22nd February 2001
David Thomas And Two Pale Boys

The Sisters Of Mercy advert The Sisters Of Mercy advert The Sisters Of Mercy ticket
So, opening support band, David Thomas And Two Pale Boys -- hmmmm. An overweight man wearing a red PVC apron, and wielding an accordion-like squeeze box of some variety. Things weren't looking hopeful from the start. That said, musically, they weren't that bad, playing something that I guess I'd call vaguely blues based, but couldn't really describe any better than that. The problem was that it wasn't what I wanted to be listening to before a Sisters show. Perhaps in a different environment, I'd have been more receptive, but as it was, they were unable to sustain my interest past the first couple of songs. Next came Tinstar, who started out quite promisingly, with a sort of "Fear-Factory-toned-down-for-the-masses" electronic pop/rock. Too many dance-orientated bass lines for my tastes (and mixed way too high), but interesting enough nonetheless. Sadly, that didn't last long, and although the later songs in the set lacked the dance-oriented parts, they also lacked anything else either, detoriorating into Oasis-like bland indie pop, which was far worse than the earlier material in the set.

The Sisters took to the stage in the midst of their traditional clouds of dry ice, but noticably less than normal. I could see them quite clearly, and even stranger, Andrew Eldritch actually seemed to be visibly enjoying himself! The sound quality was also better than I've heard from them before, and the show got off to a great start with superb renditions of "First and last and always" and "Ribbons". The only downside is that they played too much new material, and I wasn't familiar with much of it. Sure, the new tracks are all available on various bootlegs, but I'm not a big enough Sisters fan to go to the effort of tracking them down. I wish they'd just release a CD with the new material (like "Summer", "We are the same, Susanne", "Romeo Down" etc.) on it. I admire The Sisters for both varying their set list every night and for being prepared to deviate from playing a greatest hits show each night, but as time progresses, more of their touring material is unfamiliar to all but the most hardcore fans, and it'd be nice for the rest of us to have a chance. Oh, and I still haven't seen them on a night when they're playing Jolene :-(

Iron Maiden Shepherds Bush Empire, London
Dirty Deeds 7th January 2001

Iron Maiden ticket This was the fifth time I'd seen Dirty Deeds, and they seem to have recovered from their dip in form that they had when I last saw them. Tonight was much better, even if the sound quality wasn't up to much. They really need to get the third album out, though, so they have some new songs to play. Tonight was a chance to see Iron Maiden in a small venue, and tickets were initially only offered to the fan club. The unsold tickets were then offered to the general public, and I was fortunate enough to get some. Unfortunately, in common with every Iron Maiden show I've seen, the sound quality was appalling -- even worse than for Dirty Deeds. I could barely hear Bruce's voice at all. The set seemed to be a much better mix of the old and the new than when they played at Earl's Court, but several people were saying it was identical, apart from two extra songs in the encore. Perhaps they just came across better in a smaller venue. Overall, a good show, but not a great one. Apparently the mix was better further back in the venue, but at the front it was just awful :-(

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