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Concerts I've seen

Magnum The Astoria, London
Kick 6th December 2002

Magnum advert Magnum ticket I remember the last time I saw Kick, I was impressed with the fact that they played in front of a huge banner proclaiming who they were. Too many supports just come on stage, play, and then leave, without the audience knowing who they are. It was a shame then, that Kick did exactly that tonight, and it wasn't until afterwards that I found out who they were. Perhaps it was just as well, though, because they were very bland and unmemorable. But then they were last time as well. Fortunately, Magnum more than made up for it. I wasn't sure what to expect, as this was the first time I'd seen them with the new line up after they'd reformed. I needn't have worried, though. They were always a good live band, and it was great to see them back after the bleak years of Hard Rain. Bob Catley may be good as a solo artist, but it's not the same as seeing Magnum. A welcome return.

Danny & The Doo Wops The Marquee, London
The Altar Girls 27th November 2002

Danny & The Doo Wops ticket So, an end of tour show for Thunder and The Quireboys. I'd been disappointed with both bands when they supported Alice Cooper, but I suspected that was mostly due to Wembley's awful acoustics, and sure enough, both bands wre much, much better tonight. This was the first time I'd been to the new Marquee, and while it was an OK venue, it was too open, and too bright, and lacked the atmosphere of the old venue. Both bands were much more enthusiastic on a small stage, the sound was better, and both bands put on an excellent show.

Diary Of Dreams The Underworld, London
The Faces Of Sarah 23rd November 2002
The Venus Flytrap

Diary Of Dreams advert Diary Of Dreams ticket The Venus Flytrap I'm afraid were just dull. Two people on stage apparently trying too hard to be "alternative". While they were certainly different, they weren't something I'd want to listen to for any length of time. Although being billed as the main support, on the night The Faces Of Sarah were shunted down to third on the bill. Although not as strong as when they supported Inkubus Sukkubus last year, they once again put on a good performance. I'd never heard Diorama before, but it was easy to see why they were on the bill, as they were very similar in style to Diary Of Dreams. Sadly, though, they don't have the strenth of songwriting to match the headliners, and ultimately were a little repetative. Diary Of Dreams put on probably their weakest show of the times I've seen them. This wasn't helped by them playing virtually no songs that I recognised, playing only Chemicals and Butterfly:Dance right at the end of the set.

Dark Tranquillity The Garage, London
Sinergy 18th November 2002

Dark Tranquillity ticket I'd heard of Griffin through the Sinergy message board, but didn't know what they sounded like. As it turned out, they were quite good, and although I won't be following their every move, I'll go and see them if they play in London again. Sinergy came on stage to the sounds of Kool And The Gang's "Celebration". A little bizarre, but as Kimberley said, she wanted to hav ea little fun. It's a shame the sound quality wasn't better, as I suspect Sinergy would have been excellent, rather than just the good that they were. They got off to a bit of a shaky start, and the crowd weren't really getting into it, but things swiftly improved, and even the material from their comparatively weak new album, "Suicide by my side" came over very well in a live setting. I wasn't sure what to expect from headliners Dark Tranquillity. They've done a range of stuff, some of which I liked, some I really didn't, and some about which I was just ambivalent. Unfortunately, I don't think they really work as a live band, and for the most part I was unimpressed. They were monotonous, and lacking anything to maintain my interest. There were some signs of improvement in the form of a couple of the tracks from "Haven" which were performed better than the rest. There was also the curious exception of "Punish my heaven" which stood out as easily the best track of the night, and signifcantly better than the rest of their material. Dark Tranquillity may have had the best track of the night, but overall honours for band of the night go to Sinergy.

Doro The Underworld, London
Messiah's Kiss 17th November 2002

Doro ticket I'd never heard of Messiah's Kiss before tonight, but they turned out to be very impressive. Traditional power metal, good musicianship, and a frontman with a great voice. Definitely a band I'll keep an eye on in the future. Doro is one of the few people left that still wears traditional studs and leather on stage, and I have to say she was once again looking stunning. More importantly, she was sounding great, too, belting out all the classics at breakneck pace. Both Doro and long time bass/keyboard player Nick Douglas were full of energy, and the net result was another memorable performance. The Doro live experience is not something to be missed.

Monsters Of Rock Wembley Arena, London
Alice Cooper 16th November 2002
The Dogs D'Amour

Alice Cooper ticket Every time I go to Wembley, I make a mental note not to return, yet by the time the next Wembley gig comes around, I've forgotten just how bad it is. The sound's crap, the view is awful, and the venue just doesn't produce a good atmosphere for a gig. Still, here I was, in seats that could only be described as "limited view", yet naturally (being Wembley), they were still full price. So while I was quite close to the stage, I was high enough up that the main house speakers obscured 90% of the stage, and so for most of the show, I got to see a few pairs of feet protruding out of the bottom of a speaker stack. Anyway, onto the music. Dogs D'Amour started playing pretty much as soon as the doors opened, and as far as I can tell, they only played one track. By the time I made it to my seat, they were already part way through. Not bad, but I didn't really hear enough of them to pass judgement. Both the Quireboys and Thunder suffered from apalling sound quality, which hampered things somewhat. Neither were bad, but neither performance was that great either. Alice himself had slightly better sound, but still far from good. Again, the performance was OK, but I've seen better. Perhaps I shouldn't expect too much from a pair of ankles! Oh, and today was also reusing (abusing?) the legendary "Monsters of rock" tag. I'm afraid that to me, that'll always be associated with Donnington, and no matter how big a name Alice Cooper is, the lineup today didn't really live up to the name. I like all four bands, but...

ZZ Top Hammersmith Apollo, London
Headway 1st November 2002

ZZ Top ticket Headway reminded me of Redefine. Not musically, more in the fact that they were "nice". A very presentable bunch, but sadly lacking in musical terms. They didn't do anything wrong, but they failed to do much right either, and I just found their set dull and uninspiring. ZZ Top lived up to every cliché you'd expect from them. There was a minimal stage set -- a drum kit, bunch of amps, decorated with some cacti, some tumbleweed, and an old television. But the music was all that mattered, and we got all the classics, such as "Gimme all your lovin'", "Legs", "Sharp dressed man", "Pincushion", "Tubesnake boogie" and in the encore, "Tush". There were the obligatory fluffy guitars, but sadly no Eliminator. Still, a great night out.

Sentenced The Astoria, London
Lacuna Coil 31st October 2002

Sentenced advert Sentenced ticket Although originally due to be at The Mean Fiddler, this gig was moved to the main Astoria, apparently because of high demand for tickets. I'd never heard of openers Blackshine until tonight, but they put on quite a presentable performance. Kind of like a more melodic Motörhead. Despite being billed as a Sentenced show with Lacuna Coil supporting, tonight was the other way around. I'm assuming that's because Lacuna Coil have sold more records in the UK, but whatever the reason, it meant that Sentenced were the next band to play. I've always been a bit indifferent to their earlier material, but tonight was very, very good, with some strong songs from their latest album "The cold white light". Lacuna Coil were much as I expected them to be. The material from "Comalies" came across better live than I think it does on CD, and the older tracks went down well. Not as good as their Borderline performance, but better than when they supported Dimmu Borgir.

Dragonforce The Underworld, London
Falconer 5th October 2002

Dragonforce advert Dragonforce ticket Openers Intense started the evening off, and while they were OK, they weren't very, erm.. intense. In fact, they were remarkably dull, given the name. When I found out Falconer were going to be supporting, I was a little concerned for Dragonforce. Falconer are a stunning band, and stood a very good chance of blowing the headliners off stage. Sure enough, they hit the stage, and while frontman Mathias Blad may have all the charisma and stage presence of a wet sponge, he does have an incredible voice. Things were a little subdued at first, but when they rolled out stunning renditions of "Royal galley", "Mindtraveller", and "Clarion call" (amongst others), the crowd were really buzzing. But for me, the highlight was a superb "Entering eternity". An excellent show. So on to Dragonforce. My concerns were valid, but fortunately, Dragonforce were on good form tonight, and put on a solid performance. There were the obligatory technical problems, and the bizarre end to the show where the band just left after the final song. No "Thank you and goodnight", nothing. The audience, unsure what was happening weren't exactly clamouring for an encore, but shortly thereafter, the band came back out for said encore, only to find a technical problem meant Herman's guitar wasn't coming out through the PA. After all manner of on stage shrugs, the band leaving the stage and returning and leaving and returning, they eventually got to play their encore some 10-15 minutes later. But by that time, the atmosphere had gone, and it was all a bit subdued. While I was right to be concerned about Falconer outshining Dragonforce, they acquitted themselves well enough, but the farce at the end did take the shine of an otherwise enjoyable night.

Dio The Astoria, London
Oliver Dawson Saxon 4th October 2002

Dio ticket In time honoured rock 'n' roll tradition, the original Saxon lineup split, and the two parties both tried to claim the name. That resulted in the situation here, where one half is playing under the name "Oliver Dawson Saxon". Sadly, though, they have none of the professionalism, and none of the stage presence of Biff's Saxon. In fact, OD Saxon look more like a parody of an aging metal band than they do the real thing. Kind of like a mix between Spïnal Tap and Bad News. The music is adequate, and the crowd seem to like it, but for me me it was just a bit lacking, and I'm afraid that in my mind, Saxon will always be Biff. So on to Dio, who I'm convinced has now reached a fixed age and stopped. He hasn't aged at all since I last saw him. He bounds around the stage with endless energy, and his voice is as strong as ever. While he'll struggle to repeat the glories of his first few solo albums, the last two are certainly a step in the right direction, and once again, he put on a strong show tonight. New guitarist Doug Aldridge has some pretty big shoes to fill, and manages to do so pretty well. I don't think he's quite as good a guitarist for Dio as Craig Goldy was, but an admirable performance nonetheless.

Threshold The Underworld, London
Biomechanical 3rd October 2002

Threshold ticket Threshold were the surprise act of this year's Bloodstock for me, and were good enough to prompt me to see them at this headlining show. Openers Biomechanical were sadly much the same as at Bloodstock. Perhaps the vocals were a little better, and the sound quality a little clearer, but they still didn't really do anything for me. Fortunately, Threshold were also much as they were at Bloodstock, which is to say pretty good! A solid showning, and an enjoyable night.

Primal Fear The Scala, London
Rage 22nd September 2002

Primal Fear ticket I'd been particularly looking forward to seeing Rage. Not only have I liked the band for ages, but they're touring in support of probably their strongest album to date, "Unity". Consequently, it wasn't a huge surprise that they put on a great live show. All three band members are outstanding musicians, and that showed tonight (although I wasn't too keen on the excessive soloing). My only criticism was that they sounded a bit thin at times. While Victor was able to hold his own, and make an impressive amount of noise from a single guitar via the use of various effects pedals, I just felt that a second guitarist might have improved things a little. But that's not to take away from a great performance, with highlights being "All I want", "Down", and an excellent "Higher than the sky" in the encore. On the basis of the two times I'd seen them previously, Primal Fear had earned the distinction of being the best live band in the world at the moment in my mind. Sadly, though, tonight's performance didn't match up to the awesome displays they'd previously delivered. It wasn't a bad show by any means, but perhaps my expectations were just a bit too high. Starting the set with "Chainbreaker" was a definite mistake, though. If they weren't going to open with a track from "Black Sun", then to choose anything other than "Angel in black" is bordering on the criminal. Still, that came later, along with all the other favourites (but still no "Into the future"!). A good night of metal, then, but against the odds, I think Rage were the better band on the night.

Bloodstock '02 The Assembly Rooms, Derby
Blind Guardian 31st August 2002
Return To The Sabbat
Gamma Ray
Bal Sagoth
Diamond Head
Balance Of Power
Enemymaker 888
Freedom Call

Bloodstock '02 flyer Bloodstock '02 flyer Another year, another Bloodstock. Last year's event was one of the highlights of 2001, primarily due to an out of this world performance by Primal Fear. Would this year's show be able to compete? It didn't get off to a good start. I arrived in Derby in plenty of time, but the car parks were all either full, or closed early in the evening. By the time I finally parked and made it into the venue, I'd missed Infobia's set, and Biomechanical had just started theirs. Sadly, it wasn't really my thing. Too much noise, and not enough melody. I'd never heard Twelvepointhead before, and from the name, I was half expecting a Kerrang! wannabe band, but in actual fact they weren't bad, if somewhat unmemorable. The first band to impress on the day, then, were Freedom Call. Having seen them twice before, I knew what to expect, and they didn't disappoint, playing probably their strongest show to date. Absolutely outstanding, and a reminder to all of what heavy metal should be all about. Cheesy? Perhaps, but no one in Derby seemed to care, and rightly so. My only complaint is that once again, they closed the set with "Hymn to the brave". I've always felt this to be a bit lacklustre, and they'd be better off ending with a more uptempo track, such as "We are one".

This year, at least, they seemed to have staggered the bands, so it was possible to alternate between both stages, and get to see all the bands. At least, that was the theory. For unknown reasons, Freedom Call's set started late, which threw it all out of kilter, so from there on, I had to juggle bands, seeing part sets of each. I saw Enemymaker 888 when they were still called Rainmaker 888 (no, I don't know the reason for the change). I caught the last few songs of their set here, and I'd remembered them as being better last time. Today, they were just noisy. Balance Of Power, on the other hand, were the complete opposite. Very melodic, but somehow lacking in any stage presence, and unable to provoke any significant reaction in the crowd (in stark contrast to Freedom Call). Primordial were billed as an Irish black metal band, and while they certainly looked the part, and are definitely in the extreme metal camp, I don't know if I'd call them black metal. They didn't quite have the epic qualities that I usually associate with black metal. Still, they were quite reasonable nonetheless. I'd never heard of Threshold before, and was pleasantly surprised. They put on a strong show, and I came away impressed. Elvenking's vocalist, Damnagoras, had quit the band the week before the show for medical reasons. Rather than cancel their appearance, Martin Walkyier had stepped in at the last minute, and they performed a set of Skyclad covers. I only caught the last couple of songs, but they seemed pretty good. I felt their album was a bit lacking in the vocal department, so it'll be interesting to see what they're like with his full time replacement.

Diamond Head were next on the main stage. I was hoping for good things from them, but sadly, they didn't deliver, and I left part way through their set to catch Bal Sagoth. Apparently, they improved in the second half of their set, and included an excellent verions of the obligatory "Am I evil". I, however, was watching Byron and co. on the other stage. Bal Sagoth are an epic band by any definition of the word. As the "Black dragons soar..." intro music played, the band stode majestically onto the stage, and it looked promising. However, that was all ruined somewhat when Byron arrived wearing a baseball cap and padded jacket. Come on... we expect loincloths and longswords, not someone looking like a Manchester car thief! Musically, they were excellent, but sadly Byron's voice leaves something to be desired when performing live. He was just resorting to shouting, and might as well have been in Slipknot.

Gamma Ray put on another strong performance, albeit hampered by poor sound. The standout song was "Valley of the kings", and although I was slightly disappointed not to hear "Short as hell", it was another strong showing. I do feel that they could potentially play a shorter version of "Somewhere out in space" to leave room for an extra Helloween-era track, but that doesn't detract from the fact that Gamma Ray put on a textbook performance of how to play power metal. Great stuff. I hadn't been particularly impressed with Sabbat the first time round, but a decade or so seems to have improved things, and they're much better than when I saw them supporting Manowar all those years ago. Finally, it was time for Blind Guardian's set. It was everything I hoped it would be, and they were stunning throughout. It's hard to pick out particular highlights, but for me, "Lord of the rings", "Time stands still", "Mordred's song" and "Imaginations" were all superb. Hansi's voice sounds just as good live as it does in the studio, and the rest of the band were on top form too. A great end to a great day. Band of the day was very close, but I think Blind Guardian probably just edged out Freedom Call, with Gamma Ray and Threshold following closely behind. I look forward to next year...

Deeds The Underworld, London
Seven Deadly Sins 30th August 2002

Deeds advert Deeds ticket Openers Seven Deadly Sins are the latest vehicle for Steve Grimmet, former frontman for Grim Reaper, Onslaught and Lionsheart. Now I've been to a lot of gigs. But this is the first time I've been to one where the band outnumbered the audience. At the start of Seven Deadly Sins' set, there were 5 of them on stage, and only 4 of us in the "crowd" (and I'm fairly sure two of those were with the band). What makes it worse is that they're a great band, who really deserve to do well. Fortunately, a few more people arrived throughout the set, but in many ways, it made me feel ashamed of the London rock scene. Surely we should be able to turn out to show our support for bands, even for a poorly promoted show like this one? Anyway, I can't recommend Seven Deadly Sins highly enough. If they're playing in your area, then go and see them. In addition to their own strong material, they threw in a cover of Grim Reaper's "Rock you to hell". Deeds are for some reason no longer dirty. Perhaps to avoid being mistaken for an AC/DC tribute band? Whatever the reason, they're still a great live band. New guitarist Richie Faulkner acquited himself very well, and is a welcome addition. Furthermore, the material from the new album is pretty strong, too. A great night, but it's just a shame more people weren't there to see it.

Inkubus Sukkubus The Underworld, London
Manuskript 10th August 2002
The Faces Of Sarah

Inkubus Sukkubus advert Inkubus Sukkubus ticket This was the first time I'd seen The Faces Of Sarah with female vocalist Iside. I'm not convinced she adds significantly to the band, but she certainly doesn't detract, either, and TFOS were very, very good tonight, by far the best I've seen them, including a duet with Candia at the end of the set. Oddly, though, I thought "Baby one more time" wasn't particularly great tonight. Manuskript, on the other hand were somewhat disappointing. Not as good as the last time I saw them, and a bit lightweight. It's not that they were particularly poor, it's just that they weren't very inspiring either. Inkubus Sukkubus were, well, Inkubus Sukkubus, really. Nothing new, perhaps slightly less enthusiastic than normal, and like Manuskript, a bit uninspiring. Neither Manuskript or Inkubus Sukkubus were poor, but The Faces Of Sarah were easily the best band of the night. Of course, my girlfriend disagrees, and thinks that Manuskript were, but I guess that just illustrates that different people have different tastes...

The Rock & Blues Show Penritch, Derbyshire
Doro 17th June 2002
Rose Tattoo
Riffmaster General
Saor Patrol

Six bands at an outdoor bike festival. Openers Saor Patrol consisted of a piper and four drummers. Not too bad, but it gets a bit wearing after a while. Fortunately, they didn't drag their set out too long. Riffmaster General started the main procedings off with a competent, but not particularly inspiring performance. Girlschool, on the other hand, were much better. There have been a few exceptions, but in general, I've found them to be a bit nondescript on their studio recordings. Live, however, they're an entirely different proposition, and I was very impressed. Next up were Blaze, who once again put on a great performance. There's little I can say about them that I haven't already said in previous reviews. It's nice to see them play in front of a sizeable crowd. I'd always thought Rose Tattoo a bit lacking in substance, and tonight's performance did little to alter that. There was nothing bad about them, but nothing to maintain any level of interest either. Headliner Doro once again impressed. Although lacking the energy of her London show (probably due to the difference in venues), she was nonetheless on good form. My only complaint was that her set seemed very short for a headlining act.

Overkill The Underworld, London
Blaze 17th June 2002
Wicked Mystic

Overkill ticket Overkill advert Overkill advert Until arriving at the venue, I'd thought there to only be two bands on the bill, so Wicked Mystic were something of a bonus. Although I'd heard the name before, I had no idea what they sounded like, and was impressed enough to buy the album at the merchandise stand. A very strong show, and definitely a band to watch for in the future. Blaze just seem to keep getting better and better, every time I see them. While they're unlikely to make a huge impact on the world of rock, it certainly won't be through lack of talent or effort (although Blaze's on stage gurning may have at least a helping hand :-) The band's enthusiasm is infectious, the material's strong, and after that, nothing much else matters. On to Overkill, a band that I'd never really been hugely into, but who I liked enough to go and see what they were like live. There's only one word to describe them adequately, and that's fast. I'd almost forgotten how intense late 80s thrash could be. They really make most modern music sound slow and diregeful by comparison. The problem I had with them, and which I've always had, was Bobby's vocals. They may be unique (although even then, I noticed a curious similarity to Chris Boltendahl that I'd never noticed before), but I just don't particularly like them. Still, a high intensity show, but for me, both Wicked Mystic and Blaze eclipsed the headliners.

Rockbitch The Ace Cafe, London
Trash 7th June 2002

Rockbitch flyer Trash are apparently what's left of Neon Bomb, who I last saw supporting Faster Pussycat. It seems they've taken my advice and dumped the female vocalist, and have ended up as an average pub covers band. Not great, but passable enough. Rockbitch finally took the stage at 23:00, somewhat later than I was expecting. Musically, there was something different about tonight's show. The guitars seemed to be not quite in tune, and more grungy than normal. Overall, though, pretty similar to the other times I've seen them. Once again, way too loud for the size of venue, and once again with "Tic toc" as the only particularly memorable track (although Evelyn was better tonight, too). They do, however, get a prize for one of the more memorable on stage quotes I've heard for some time, with Babe saying to Julie, "Please stop fingering my asshole while I'm trying to make a speech. It's very, erm, distracting" :-)

Virgin Steele The Underworld, London
Dragonforce 6th June 2002
Area 54

Virgin Steele ticket Virgin Steele ad I arrived at the venue, and on seeing the Area 54 merchandise, feared that they'd replaced Dragonforce as openers. Once again, they put on a solid performance, and definitely seem to be gaining in stature each time I see them, even if they're never going to be one of my favourite bands. Fortunately, it turns out they'd been added to the bill, rather than substituted in. This was Dragonforce's first gig since signing with Noise records, and also their first with a new bassist. They put in a great performance, with Sam and Herman on top form, and ZP's voice sounding much better than when I've seen them previously. I don't think the new bassist is up to the same standards as Diccon, but time will tell, and it didn't detract from an excellent set. Virgin Steele turned out to be much as they were when I last saw them. An amazingly strong start, but as the set progressed, the tracks started to sound tired and not particularly inspiring. The whole band has an amazing aura of professionalism (not suprising when you think they've been doing this for over 2 decades now), but sadly it wasn't enough to raise the set above merely good, although it definitely picked up towards the end.

Waterglass The Underworld, London
Seventh Harmonic 1st June 2002

Waterglass flyer I don't remember much about Firefly, other than that they weren't bad. Obviously not that memorable, though, either! The only thing I'd heard about Seventh Harmonic was that they had the French barmaid from the Devonshire Arms (whose name I can't remember) on vocals. Either that was a completely false rumour, or she's left the band. Whatever, she wasn't on stage tonight. What we did get, though, was a female three piece playing a fairly lightweight and occasionally off the wall ethereal set. Not bad, but not particularly inspiring live, and the material is perhaps better suited to studio recordings. I went to this gig to support a friend, Rose, who is the (relatively) new keyboard player for Waterglass -- which I found out thanks to Matt literally carpet bombing our party with flyers :-) Sad to say, but to my ears, Waterglass are yet another band desperately in need of a new vocalist. True, her voice did get much better towards the end of the set, so maybe it was just a temporary blip. Musically, they're not really my sort of thing, sounding a bit too washed out and lacking power for my tastes. However, the audience generally seemed to like them, and it was a successful launch party for their new album.

HIM The Mean Fiddler, London
Redefine 23nd May 2002

HIM advert HIM ticket Redefine were somewhat odd, and not at all what I was expecting, particularly as their flyers mentioned that they'd been give the single of the week award in Kerrang! They came onstage, and the singer was well spoken, and overall the band just seemed "nice". The sort of people you'd be quite happy to take home and meet your parents, and in contrast to pretty much every support band I've seen recently, moderately melodic. Sadly, though, they were just way too bland to have any impact. The songs were dull and lacking energy, and the band just did nothing for me overall. HIM, on the other hand were much better. Ville looked somewhat daft on stage in his hat, but I guess looking daft is part of being a rock star :-) For someone that chainsmokes as much as he does, I'm amazed that his voice is so good, and that he doesn't sound like Lemmy. While I sometimes feel that HIM songs are somewhat lacking in places, they're nonetheless enjoyable, and the same goes for their live performance. Not great, but I'd see them again if they return to London.

Rockbitch The Peel, Kingston
Labrat 22nd May 2002

Rockbitch advert Labrat. Ermm.... interesting. I thought it an ominous sign when the bassist was wearing an Akercocke T-shirt, and sure enough I was proved right. Imagine if you will a bunch of random people handed instruments and put on stage and told to play. Add to the mix a "vocalist" who literally just screams, not even making the token attempt at growling so prevalent among most of today's bands. There you have Labrat. Almost comedic, in a Wayne's World kind of way, but in terms of a live experience, they're right up there with Fony, Godflesh, Defenestration and Sona Fariq at the top of my list of bands to avoid seeing again. Rockbitch were much better, but then again, pretty much anyone would seem good following Labrat. Musically, they seemed better than the previous times I've seen them, but I still feel their repertoire consists of a bunch of average songs, one awful song ("Situation normal"), and one very good song ("Tic Toc"). If they'd write more songs like the latter, they'd be a much better band.

Dokken The Underworld, London
Area 54 19th May 2002

Dokken ticket Dokken advert The published support band, Contagious, had been inexplicably replaced on the night by perennial openers Area 54, who were pretty much as every other time I've seen them. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from Dokken. While there are several bands that I haven't listened to in a while, I hadn't heard any Dokken for over a decade, mostly due to the fact that the only material I had was on tape. Furthermore, I'd heard snippets from a couple of tracks from the new album from the Dokken web site, and they sounded very washed out and uninspiring. However, live they were not only extremely good, but far more powerful than I remembered them. Don's voice was in good shape, particularly given the fact that his monitor wasn't working, so he couldn't hear what he was singing. Wild Mick was, well, wild! Lynch and Pilson may be gone, but John Norum and Barry Sparks are more than capable replacements. Overall, a great show.

Rammstein London Arena, London
American Head Charge 16th May 2002
Raging Speedhorn

Rammstein ticket Rammstein advert Raging Speedhorn are one of those bands I'd read about, and was aware of the name, but had no idea what they sounded like. Given how frequently they're mentioned in Kerrang!, I wasn't expecting much, but I wasn't expecting them to be as bad as they were. Tuneless noise, with unintelligible barking vocals. As if the vocals weren't bad enough already, they felt the need to employ two vocalists, for added effect. Truly awful. I had heard some of American Head Charge's material before, so I knew pretty much what to expect. They weren't good either, although following Raging Speedhorn almost certainly made them look better than they actually were. But the supports weren't why I was there, and eventually, the opening strains of "Mein herz brennt" blasted out from the PA, pyros detonated, and Rammstein hit the stage. The set list and the effects were pretty much identical to when they played at Brixton. However, for some reason, they didn't seem to have the same intensity that was present last time. The pyros were bigger, to make use of the larger venue, but there seemed to be fewer of them. The lighting was better, though, probably the most impressive use of lights at any gig I've seen. Although it didn't quite match the high standards of Brixton, this was far from a bad show, and still probably the best concert I've seen so far this year. The highlight track was a spine tingling "Links 2 3 4", and "Feuer Frei!" also had the same effect.

My Dying Bride The Mean Fiddler, London
Rotting Christ 27th April 2002

My Dying Bride ticket My Dying Bride advert I'd heard a couple of Rotting Christ tracks before, and was moderately impressed. Tonight, their music was better than I had imagined, but sadly the vocals let them down, being too difficult to pick out. Still, a relatively strong set, and significantly better than the headliners, My Dying Bride, who were tedious beyond belief. It's hard to put a finger on exactly where they went wrong, but they were just dull and completely unispiring. There was no energy, no stage presence, none of the usual buzz you get at a concert.

Mike Tramp The Underworld, London
Bonfire 22nd April 2002

Mike Tramp ticket Mike Tramp advert I hadn't heard anything of Bonfire since nearly a decade earlier, and didn't realise they were still going. I'm glad they are, though, because tonight they put on an amazing show. I'll definitely be seeing them again next time they play anywhere near London. Mike Tramp is the former lead singer of White Lion, and one of only 3 Danes to have any significant impact on the world of rock (the other two being Lars Ulrich and King Diamond). I last saw him performing with White Lion in 1990. Part way through the set, he was reminiscing about his career, and said "the hair may be shorter now, but the rock's the same". Well that's not quite true. While he certainly was putting everything into the music, it was still lacking the energy that they had a decade earlier. Still, there was plenty of strong material on show tonight, such as "Wait", "When the children cry", and tonight's highlight by a significant margin, "Broken heart". I was suprised not to hear "Radar love", though, and disappointed, but not altogether suprised that we didn't get "Lights and thunder". A great evening, then, although I have to say that Bonfire were the better band on the night.

Immortal The Mean Fiddler, London
Hypocrisy 10th April 2002

Immortal advert Immortal ticket No sign of published openers Warhammer, so the evening started with Hypocrisy. Sadly, a dull and tedious set, holding no interest for me whatsoever. Fortunately, Immortal were much better. Musically, they were stunning, but the vocals were hard to make out, and I could barely understand what Abbath was saying when he was talking to the crowd, let alone when he was singing! Nonetheless, an enjoyable night, with "Tyrants" being the standout track.

Gilby Clarke The Underworld, London
Love/Hate 4th April 2002
Area 54

Gilby Clarke ticket Gilby Clarke advert Area 54 are desperately plugging themselves everywhere they can, and have landed numerous support slots. This is the fourth time I've seen them, and although they've never been particularly inspiring, they're definitely improving, and I think this was probably the best I've seen them. If they continue in the same direction, they stand a reasonable chance of getting somewhere. Love/Hate were one of those bands that I thought never quite got things right first time around. They had a few notable tracks, such as "Blackout in the red room" and "Wasted in America", but on the whole the rest weren't up to the same standard, and tonight just reinforced that. The above mentioned tracks were indeed good, but the rest were merely average. Jizzy Pearl is an accomplished front man, though, and I feel he deserves more success than he's received, even if he can't trim his beard to be straight :-) One other notable appearance tonight was hired gun guitarist Keri Kelli, who seems to be playing for half the bands I see these days! Gilby Clarke, one time guitarist with Guns 'n' Roses, is one of those artists, that I've been aware of, but never really heard much of their material. Tonight he proved himself to be more than capable, and his time in G'n'R has given him an above average stage presence. Not being familiar with the material, I was nonetheless impressed by the set, with notable tracks including a cover of "Knocking on heaven's door", and one of his own called "Tijuana jail".

Moonspell The Mean Fiddler, London
Tiamat 25th March 2002
Flowing Tears

Moonspell ticket I arrived about half an hour after the doors had opened, yet openers Flowing Tears had already played their set and left the stage. So next up were Tiamat. The only previous exposure I'd had to the band were their cover of "Sympathy for the Devil", which isn't exactly representative of their style. Musically competent, but somewhat uninspiring. I wouldn't go out of my way to see them again, but they're not someone I'd avoid seeing, either. Much the same could be said of Moonspell. An enjoyable show, but nothing outstanding.

Iron Maiden Brixton Academy, London
19th March 2002

Iron Maiden advert Iron Maiden ticket I'd been wondering why I continue going to see Iron Maiden. As a live experience, they've been getting progressively worse every time I've seen them. As is usual for a Maiden gig, the sound quality was awful, with the bass being mixed way too high, and the vocals too low. At times, I could barely hear Bruce at all, and if I hadn't known the songs, I wouldn't have been able to tell what (if anything) he was singing. But oddly enough, tonights show bucked the trend somewhat, and they were significantly better than the last few times I've seen them. Not as good as when I first saw them, or when I saw them with Blaze, but a definite improvement, and easily the best I've seen them since Bruce and Adrian rejoined the band. They still bias their live set too far in favour of the new album, but I think it was less obvious than on previous occasions. Of the classic material, "Number Of the Beast" was well represented, possibly because tonight was a benefit gig for former drummer Clive Burr, and that was only album on which both he and Bruce played. However, there was very little played from the other albums, with the first two albums, "Piece Of Mind", "Powerslave" and "Seventh Son" only having a lone track played from each, and "Somewhere In Time" being completely unrepresented. So, a better set list, but still with plenty of room for improvement. Equally, the performance was better tonight, but again there's potential for improvement. Highlight of the show was "The trooper", and had the sound quality been better, I'd probably have added "Children of the damned" and "Fear of the dark" to that. They have much to work on, but this is a definite step in the right direction, and enough to convince me to see tham again in the future.

Savatage The Garage, London
Blaze 13th February 2002
Vicious Rumours

Savatage advert Vicious Rumours had sadly pulled out of the show for unspecified reasons, which left Blaze with a slightly longer set than they would otherwise have had. They were much the same as when I've seen them previously, although this time, they have another album from which to draw material. Not only that, but the new material is pretty strong, and this was probably the best I've seen the band apart from their Underworld show. Similarly, Savatage were much the same as when they supported Judas Priest the previous year. However, since then, Damond Jinaya has found a sense of timing from somewhere, and Jon Oliva's vocals were significantly better tonight. The rest of the band were all on form tonight as well. Most bands would be ecstatic to have a guitarist as accomplished as either Chris Caffery or Jack Frost, and Savatage have the fortune to have them both. An excellent show, with the highlight of a very long set (over 2¼ hours) being a superb "When the crowds are gone" in one of the encores.

Kamelot The Underworld, London
Axxis 7th February 2002

Kamelot ticket Kamelot advert
Cyberya are a rare occurrence in two respects. Firstly, they're the only metal band I can recall seeing that don't use a live drummer. Secondly, they're a support band that not only had I not heard their material before, but I hadn't even heard of the band at all, yet came away impressed. They play an odd mix of electronic metal. The closest I can get is that this is what Rammstein would sound like if they played power metal. An excellent start to the night. Axxis are a band I hadn't really heard of since the late 80s, when I'd heard (and liked) "Kingdom of the night". I vaguely knew they were still around, but due to the woeful lack of rock press or radio in the UK, that was pretty much it. As with Cyberya, they put on a strong performance, and I was very impressed. I just wish they could have more exposure over here. Kamelot were something of a surpise. While I'd liked their studio material, I'd always felt it was a bit washed out, and lacking substance. Live, however, they are a totally different band. They've managed to find a heaviness that's competely absent on their CDs. A vast improvement, and a great show. If they can find a way to harness their live sound in the studio, they would have an amazing record on their hands. I still feel that while Roy has a great voice, he doesn't necessarily have the power behind it to do the band justice. However, that didn't really detract from the show, and overall, an excellent evening, with strong performances from all three bands.

Faster Pussycat The Underworld, London
Pretty Boy Floyd 4th February 2002
Neon Bomb

Faster Pussycat ticket I'd been warned by friends that Neon Bomb were awful. However, when they hit the stage, I didn't think they were that bad at all. Yes, their songs were a bit repetative in places, but they played a decent enough set of sleazy rock. The problem, however, is that they have one too many members. In addition to the lead singer, who was actually quite competent, they have a female vocalist, who really can't sing very well at all. Perhaps she was wearing so little in the hopes of distracting the audience from that fact, but she has the air of being a friend of the band, rather than being there because of any musical talent. I wasn't aware the Pretty Boy Floyd were supporting tonight until I got to the venue. One of the later entrants to the LA glam metal scene, I nonetheless felt they were one of the stronger bands of the genre. What can I saw? They simply oozed quality. I was expecting time to have done them no favours, but unlike most of the 80s glam bands, they've aged very well. An amazing set, with "Toast of the town" and "Rock and roll (is gonna set the night on fire)" being obvious highlights, but the band didn't put a foot wrong all evening. I'll definitely try and see them if they play in London again. Unlike PBF, Faster Pussycat really haven't aged well at all, either in terms of looks or music. They opened with a muddy, barely recognisable rendition of "Bathroom wall", and throughout the set, were generally mediocre. The set included the obvious Faster Pussycat trakc, plus some from their various side projects like The Newlydeads and Motochrist. In fact, they were probably at their best for the Motochrist track, the only one for which Taime wasn't on stage. Things picked up towards the end of the set, and the band redeemed themselves somewhat with a much better version of "Bathroom wall" and a good rendition of "House of pain". If Taime Downe's association with the Cathouse hadn't allowed the band to promote themselves easily in the late 80s, I wonder if Pretty Boy Floyd would have been the headlining band tonight instead. On the basis of tonights performances, they certainly deserved to be, and they outclassed Faster Pussycat in every respect.

Toilet Boys The Garage, London
Sonic Boom Boys 26th January 2002
Suicide Milkshake

Toilet Boys flyer I was surprised about the choice of venue for this one. I wouldn't have expected the Toilet Boys to be able to fill a venue the size of The Garage, and I'd have expected The Underworld to be a more suitable venue. Sure enough, Suicide Milkshake took to the stage in front of an almost negligible crowd. Sound quality was pretty grim, but towards the end of their set, it seemed to improve, and they were actually quite passable, albeit not particularly memorable. The same could be said of Sonic Boom Boys. In fact, they were sufficiently unmemorable that I can't remember anything much about them, other than an impression that they were more professional than the openers. By the time the Toilet Boys took to the stage, the venue had filled up considerably, much more than I had expected. Last time I'd seen them, they'd set the venue on fire with their pyrotechnics, and the building had to be evacuated, so I was hoping to avoid a repeat tonight! Musically, they were much the same. Significantly better than the two supports, with more energy on stage, and generally better stage presence. And then to the pyros... the initial ones from the ends of the guitars went down well enough, but by the time they tried to do their firebreathing, security had decided that enough was enough, and were covering the band in a cloud of CO2 in the hopes of extinguishing the various fires. Despite that, Sean did somehow manage to breathe fire over the audience, but the band were ushered off stage and that was the end of the show. An eventful night, then, and although they didn't manage to actually set fire to the venue this time, it certainly wasn't through lack of trying!

Iced Earth The Scala, London
20th January 2002

Iced Earth ticket No support for this one, to allow Iced Earth to play a longer set. The Scala is an odd venue, quite small, and split over several levels. However, it was bigger than The Underworld, where this show was originally scheduled, and allowed the band sufficient room on stage to have a curtain to cover the stage, to allow for set changes. The show was split into three parts, with a 10 minute or so interval between each. The first part had a very dull backdrop, appearing to be just paintings of ceramic tiles on sheets of cloth. The second had an Egyptian theme, and unsurpisingly, contained a lot of material from the "Something Wicked" album. The third set had a horror theme, in support of their latest album, "Horror Show". Tracks from their other albums were sprinkled throughout all three parts. Musically, they were unfortunately very repetative. Much of the criticisms I have of their studio recordings applied to the live show. They are always on the cusp of doing something amazing, but rarely manage to make that final leap from "nearly there" to greatness. That said, it wasn't a bad show by any means, and in places, the quality really shone through. Notable tracks for me were "I died for you" and "Watching over me", although I was somewhat disappointed that they didn't play "Burnt offerings". I just wish they could be more consistently of that quality.

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