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Concerts I've seen

****- Magnum The Astoria
8th December 2005
Magnum ticket Magnum photo Magnum photo Magnum photo This was a reprise of their "On a storyteller's night" 20th anniversary show earlier in the year. Given that they'd committed to playing the whole of that album, I was disappointed when they filled 50% of the rest of their set with tracks from "Vigilante", which is in my opinion on of their weaker albums. Thus we once again were subjected to the dreadful "Back street kid", plus "Need a lot of love" and "Vigilante". In addition, they played an excellent "Soldier of the line", with "The spirit" and "Sacred hour" before launching into the "Storyteller's night" album. The encore saw "Kingdom of madness". Another reasonable showing, then, but the obsession with "Vigilante" that they've had for the last few times I've seen them is doing them no favours. After all, it's not as if they have a shortage of material from the rest of their back catalogue.

****- The Quireboys The Mean Fiddler
***-- Planet Of Women 2nd December 2005
The Quireboys advert The Quireboys ticket Planet Of Women photo Planet Of Women photo The Quireboys photo The Quireboys photo The Quireboys photo I'd never heard of Planet Of Women before tonight. They turned out to be a quite passable blues rock band. Nothing special, but pleasant enough with it. The lead signer looks like Tina Turner, and sounds like Janis Joplin. The Quireboys were once again out to have some fun. As I said after the last time I saw them, they're like AC/DC in that they deliver exactly what you'd expect. Once again, their set was a mix of the classics and some new material. Tonight we saw "7 o' clock", "Tramps and thieves", "I don't love you anymore", "Sex party", "Misled" and "Hey you". I keep hoping that one of these days, they'll play "Whippin' boy" live, but tonight wasn't the night. Still, another good performance.

***/- Motörhead Brixton Academy
**/-- In Flames 19th November 2005
***-- Girlschool
Motörhead advert Motörhead ticket Girlschool photo In Flames photo Motörhead photo Motörhead photo Girlschool were, well, Girlschool. They seem to like playing on the larger stages, and tonight was no exception. They probably weren't quite as good as the last time I saw them supporting Motörhead, but they still put on a perfectly respectable performance. Highlights were "Race with the devil" and "Emergency". As somewhat of a surprise, they dragged Lemmy out for a rendition of "Please don't touch", as the last track of their set. In Flames have never done much for me, and I didn't much like them when I saw them back in 2001. However, some of their more recent studio output has shown promise. Sadly, though, that didn't translate into a live show, and I just found them to be desperately in need of a vocalist that could sing (or rather, was prepared to sing -- I suspect Anders Fridén can sing if he wants to, but he doesn't do so when on stage with In Flames). Like Girlschool, Motörhead came out and delivered exactly what you'd expect from one of their shows. Although perhaps lacking somewhat compared to their 30th anniversary show earlier in the year, they still put on a good show. My highlights were "Iron fist" and "Killed by death". The encore saw an acoustic "Whorehouse blues", and the obligatory "Ace of spades" and "Overkill". Unlike their last show, the bomber rig was absent tonight, as indeed was the song itself. Strangely the band didn't play "Motörhead" either.

**--- My Dying Bride The Astoria
**--- Novembre 18th November 2005
My Dying Bride ticket Novembre photo Novembre photo My Dying Bride photo My Dying Bride photo Novembre were are rather dull doom band. The only highlight was a cover of Depeche Mode's "Stripped", but apart from that, there was little to sustain my interest. Much the same could be said of My Dying Bride. I wasn't particularly impressed the last time I'd seen them, and if anything they were worse this evening. It was quite frustrating, because in places they seemed to threaten to break through into something worth listening to, only for them to lose whatever momentum they'd gained shortly afterwards, and return to navel gazing. A dull evening, with poor performances from both bands.

****- Billy Idol Brixton Academy
11th November 2005
Billy Idol advert Billy Idol photo Billy Idol photo Billy Idol photo Billy Idol ticket It had been 12 years since I'd last seen Billy Idol, at a time when he was experimenting with beaded dreadlocks. Tonight, he was back to his trademark bleached blonde flat top. Tonight also marked his first UK show since reuniting with guitarist Steve Stevens. He has no shortage of well known songs to choose from, and tonight he played pretty much all of them. I felt "Rebel yell" to be a bit disappointing, but "White wedding" was excellent, as was "Blue highway". Also present tonight was a nod to his past in the form of a rendition of Generation X's "Ready steady go". His voice is as strong as ever, Stevens' guitar playing was top notch, and the two resulted in a great evening.

***-- Stratovarius Koko
****/ Hammerfall 7th November 2005
***/- Shakra
Stratovarius ticket Shakra photo Shakra photo Hammerfall photo Hammerfall photo Hammerfall photo Stratovarius photo Stratovarius photo Stratovarius photo Stratovarius photo I'd never heard of Shakra before tonight, but they opened up procedings with a competent display of European power metal. There's nothing groundbreaking about them, but they're good enough at what they do, and I enjoyed their set. Hammerfall had impressed me enormously at Bloodstock, and I was looking forward to this performance. They didn't disappoint, pulling out all the stops, and giving a near flawless performance. They even had foam snow sprayed out over the audience. Highlights were "Hammerfall", "Fury of the wild", "Heeding the call", and a rendition of "Twinkle, twinkle, little star" as part of Anders' drum solo! They were always going to be a tough act to follow, but even allowing for that, Stratovarius were dull. There were certainly high points, such as "Twilight symphony", "Father time" and "Hunting high and low". But for most of the set, they were just pedestrian. Timo Tolkki looks healthier now though, and even seemed to be enjoying himself on stage, which is a good sign. They've managed to find an excellent bass player in the form of Sinergy's Lauri Porra, too. But sadly I just wasn't impressed with the majority of what they played, and the evening belonged to Hammerfall.

****/ Lacuna Coil The Scala
26th October 2005
Lacuna Coil photo Lacuna Coil photo Lacuna Coil photo Lacuna Coil photo Lacuna Coil ticket This was billed as an evening with Lacuna Coil. There was to be no support, but instead, Lacuna Coil would perform a short acoustic set before playing a full normal set. The acoustic songs worked well enough, but I felt they were a little tame, and the material really deserves to be given a fuller sound. Which is exactly what it got in the main set. Absolutely stunning, from start to finish. The band were really on top form tonight, and the only reason this show didn't get the full five stars was the somewhat criminal omission of pre-Halflife material. But I really couldn't fault what they did play.

****- Graham Bonnet The Underworld
****- Rockstar 25th October 2005
***-- The Dean Howard Band
Graham Bonnet ticket The Dean Howard Band photo Rockstar photo Graham Bonnet photo The Dean Howard Band are essentially a rock and blues pub band. They're quite accomplished with it, and are probably better than most of their peers, but just didn't really do anything to stand out. Rockstar turned out to be an '80s metal cover band. Not what I expected, but they do a good job with it, and after opening with Bon Jovi's "We let it rock", they rattled out a great selection of tunes from the likes of Dokken, G'n'R, Def Leppard and Whitesnake. As it became apparent, Rockstar were also Graham Bonnet's backing band for his set. Bonnet found worldwide fame when he replaced Ronnie James Dio in Rainbow. Unsurprisingly, we were treated to a fair selection from the one album he recorded with them, with the highlights being "Lost in Hollywood", an excellent rendition of "Eyes of the world" and the obligatory "Since you've been gone" and "All night long". But he's done a lot of other things, too, and tonight also saw his solo hit "Night games" as well as "Dancer" from his time with MSG and "God blessed video" that he recorded with Alcatrazz. A couple of decades of drinking have left his voice sounding strained and not up to its previous standards, but still recognizable, and still with plenty of power.

****- Dio The Astoria
22nd October 2005
Dio advert Dio ticket Dio photo Dio photo Dio photo There was no support for tonight's show, just an extra long set from Dio. A packed Astoria was kept around waiting, and the set didn't start until over an hour later than the published time. But it didn't matter, and we were treated to a great show. After the first three tracks, a short computer generated animated video introduced the "Holy diver" album, which the band then played in its entirety from start to end. Ronnie's voice is quite simply outstanding, and even though he's obviously getting on a bit now, he's showing few sings of slowing down. Aside from the "Holy diver" album, the set featured only two other Dio songs, "One night in the city" and the traditional set closer, "We rock". The rest of the evening was filled with songs from Ronnie's time in Rainbow and Black Sabbath. Highlights for me were "Rainbow in the dark", "Heaven and hell" and "Long live rock 'n' roll". There was a somewhat disappointing version of "Gates of Babylon", which just didn't capture the feeling of the original. Also, according to the set list, 3 songs were dropped on the night, presumably due to the late start; "The last in line", "Mob rules" and "Neon knights". However, that didn't detract from a great evening, and another demonstration of how Dio acquired such a good reputation. There are few that can put on such a consistently good live performance.

?-?-? The Breath Of Life The Underworld
?-?-? Demeter 21st October 2005
?-?-? The Faces Of Sarah
The Breath Of Life advert The Breath Of Life advert The Breath Of Life ticket I wasn't too concerned about the two main bands on the bill, but I was looking forward to seeing The Faces Of Sarah. However, I arrived at the venue only to find that the show had been cancelled :-(

Female Voices Of Metal 2005 The Peel, Kingston
****/ Season's End 9th October 2005
****/ Mercury Rain
***-- Crimson Altar
****- Liquid Sky
***-- Crimson Tears
Female Voices Of Metal advert Female Voices Of Metal advert Crimson Tears photo Liquid Sky photo Liquid Sky photo Crimson Altar photo Crimson Altar photo Mercury Rain photo Mercury Rain photo Season's End photo Season's End photo Crimson Tears had been receiving good reviews, so I was looking forward to their set. The singer has a good voice, sounding a bit like Toyah in places, but looked to be a bit inexperienced on stage, and consequently came over as looking nervous. The set closed with a cover of Maiden's "Moonchild". Liquid Sky hadn't particularly impressed me at Bloodstock last year. This time around, the singer looked an awful lot younger. A bit of digging around after the gig showed that this was because she's new, having replaced the previous singer last year. This seems to have been a good change for the band, as she's brought with her an on stage energy and enthusiasm that's hard to match. The whole band seems to have stepped up a gear, and I was very impressed. A huge improvement over their performance 12 months ago, and I'll definitely be looking out for them the next time they play in or around London. Tonight's show had been organised by Allan Lesser, the driving force behind Crimson Altar. Although the band had lost both Judy and Kat since I last saw them, their replacements had left the band a couple of weeks before the show, so they'd both been asked back for this evening. They sounded quite slow and sludgy in comparison to the previous two bands. Still, "Sick of shadows", "Blood on the hawthorns" and "Falling" were all well performed tonight. Mercury Rain just didn't do it for me. Although they weren't actively bad, there was just something missing from their performance, and with the exception of "Bride of the dark", they were just a little uninspired. Season's End on the other hand seem to be able to do little wrong these days. Tonight was another strong performance, with the band back on form, featuring all 6 tracks from the debut album (in order, I think), and closing with the new track "Into the flames". This really is a band destined for bigger and better things.

****- Nightwish Hammersmith Apollo
**/-- Paradise Lost 25th September 2005
Nightwish ticket Paradise Lost photo Nightwish photo Nightwish photo Nightwish photo Nightwish photo Paradise Lost had been the epitome of tedium at Bloodstock '03, so I wasn't expecting too much. Tonight they were a definite improvement, with more stage presence, and more apparent enthusiasm for what they were doing. They initially had very poor sound, although it did improve throughout the set, and their newer material was definitely better than the older stuff. But even so, I still found them dull. Perhaps they were just looking good in comparison to Cathedral's recent support slots. Nightwish had brought plenty of pyrotechnics along tonight, and used them liberally throughout the set. Musically, they were much as they've been in the past. Both "Nemo" and "Ghost love score" was dull, but the rest of the set was very good. Highlights for me were "Planet hell", "Bless this child", and "Slaying the dreamer". The mid set break was once again Floyd's "High hopes", and once again, the set was closed with a great "Wish I had an angel".

**--- Atrocity Electrowerkz
***-- Leaves' Eyes 18th September 2005
***/- Season's End
Atrocity advert Atrocity ticket Season's End photo Season's End photo Season's End photo Leaves' Eyes photo Leaves' Eyes photo Atrocity photo Atrocity photo Electrowerks is a horrible venue. It was never up to much as the setting for the Slimelight club, but this was my first time seeing a live band play there. Sadly, it was just as bad. The acoustics are terrible, the stage is tiny, and the lighting is poor. With that in mind, then, Season's End did reasonably well. This was probably the weakest I've seen them, but they made the most of the circumstances, and still put on a decent show. I'd quite liked Leaves' Eyes most recent album, "Vinland saga". I wasn't convinced it would translate well into a live setting, though, and that was certainly the case tonight. There was little bad about their set, and Liv has a great voice. However, there was also little outstanding about it, and it just plodded along. The sole exception to this was "Elegy", which was a welcome improvement over the rest of their set. I also didn't like their overuse of taped backing harmony vocals, which were just unnecessary. Atrocity were much like Leaves' Eyes, only without the benefit of a good catalogue of songs from which to plunder. Alexander's vocals were too harsh, and the music just left me cold. They finished with their cover of Tears For Fears' "Shout". All three bands suffered from the poor conditions, though, and I'd be interested to see what the two foreign bands would be like in a decent venue.

***/- Dragonforce The Monarch
***/- Mendeed 15th September 2005
Mendeed photo Mendeed photo Dragonforce photo Dragonforce photo I didn't know what to expect from Mendeed, and having seen them, I'm still not quite sure what to think. Musically, they were very good. In places, there were Maiden like guitar harmonies on speed. The black vocals were a bit too extreme for the music, though, although the rare clean vocals were good. An interesting experience, if nothing else. Somewhat surprisingly, for a venue like The Monarch, Dragonforce were blessed with a much better sound than they normally have, and it helped enormously. Highlights were "Revelations" and "My spirit will go on". No obvious Spïnal Täp moments, tonight, either!

****/ Within Temptation The Astoria
*/--- Cathedral 4th September 2005
Within Temptation ticket Cathedral photo Cathedral photo Within Temptation photo Within Temptation photo Within Temptation photo Cathedral kicked off the evening with a set that was even more dull than yesterday's performance. They're blatantly the wrong support for Within Temptation, and it's no suprise that they went down like a lead balloon. Within Temptation, on the other hand, were better than yesterday. A much stronger performance all round. The set list was almost identical, as far as I could tell, with perhaps one or two tracks changed. This time, the video was properly synced with the music, which helped. Once again, "Stand my ground", "Ice queen" and "Deceiver of fools" were the standout tracks. As with their Bloodstock performance, the emphasis was very much on the later albums, with only "Enter" and a poor rendition of "The other half (of me)" from their earlier material. It would have been nice to hear "The dance", but overall, a great performance, and I look forward to seeing them again.

Bloodstock '05 The Assembly Rooms, Derby
****- Within Temptation 3rd September 2005
**--- Cathedral
***-- Amon Amarth
****- Soliloquy
****- After Forever
????? Balance Of Silence
***-- Bob Catley
***/- Jesus Fix
***/- Raven
**/-- Kingsize Blues
***-- Kyrb Grinder
**/-- Dreadnought
****- Iron Saviour
*---- Mfkzt
***-- Suidakra
***-- Pro-jekt
****/ Season's End
****- Osmium
****- Rise To Addiction
Bloodstock advert Bloodstock ticket Rise To Addiction photo Osmium photo Osmium photo Season's End photo Season's End photo Season's End photo Pro-jekt photo Suidakra photo Mfkzt photo Iron Saviour photo Iron Saviour photo Iron Saviour photo Dreadnought photo Kyrb Grinder photo Kingsize Blues photo Raven photo Raven photo Jesus Fix photo Bob Catley photo After Forever photo After Forever photo Soliloquy photo Amon Amarth photo Cathedral photo Within Temptation photo Within Temptation photo Within Temptation photo

Saturday saw Rise To Addiction given the daunting task of opening up the day's proceedings on the main stage, and they proved themselves to be more than up to the task. New vocalist Leigh Oates (formerly of Ninedenine, who played Bloodstock in 2003) is a huge improvement, and with the current lineup, the band have all the ingredients necessary to make a big impact. They took the rather brave step of avoiding playing any Blaze songs, choosing instead to concentrate on their own material. Such is the quality of the band that it didn't matter, and even the new material that was unfamiliar to the audience went down well. The highlight was "Falling as one", and I'm expecting big things from this band in the future. Osmium were a decent trad/power metal band. Despite the vocalist wearing a backwards cap on stage, and looking somewhat out of place, he turned out to have a decent voice, which combined with some strong guitar work and good songwriting made for an enjoyable set. Season's End are one of my favourite bands at the moment. They're gathering themselves quite a reasonable fanbase, and based on this performance, it's not hard to see why. Today we were treated not only to new arrangements of "Nothing after all" and "Touch", but also a couple of new tracks. We even got some pyrotechnics. My only negative comment would be that Becki's headbanging looked forced, as if she'd been told she ought to do it to fit in with the image of the band, but wasn't really comfortable doing so. This was probably exaggerated by being next to Dave Stanton on guitar, who looks every inch the natural born rock god on stage. The standout track was once again "A ghost in my emotion", but once again, the whole set was very impressive. Pro-jekt were always going to struggle at Bloodstock, being somewhat different from the mainstream metal that most of the crowd were looking for. This wasn't helped by a terrible drum machine. Where the samples should have been crisp and clear, they sounded horribly muted. As one reviewer said, it sounded like it was wrapped in cotton wool. In addition, the bass was all but inaudible. That aside, they've made a decent image for themselves, with the chain link mic stand, and the cobweb effects on the monitors, and they certainly have the songwriting talent to do well. But this wasn't their day, and although I think they were let down by the sound, it was still a decent performance. Suidakra were a fairly generic thrash band. Nothing to write home about, and nothing particularly memorable, either, save the need for some clean vocals here and there. Mfkzt. Oh dear. Yes, a festival has to cater to all tastes, and they're obviously not mine, but I struggle to see the value in bands like this. It's just mindless noise, without any apparent redeeming features, in that respect much like Bumsnogger from 2003's festival.

Iron Saviour are one of those bands that I've been aware of for a while, but don't own any of their studio output. On the evidence of this performance, that will soon be remedied. The band are extremely accomplished, and with a selection of decent songs to call upon, they put on a great performance, better than would be suggested by the few tracks I've heard before. Highlights were "Crimson red" and "Battering ram". It's hard to believe that the band were nervous about performing here in front of a native English speaking audience. They needn't have worried. Dreadnought were a so so thrash band. Like Suidakra, they were a bit bland, and not very memorable. Kyrb Grinder were something of a surprise. Kingsize Blues were apparently stuck in traffic and late getting to the venue, so despite not being listed on the bill, Kyrb Grinder were given a brief slot to take up the slack. A three peice, featuring the drummer from Threshold, who was also the singer, and notable for being black, a fact he joked about on stage "A strange thing happened to me at Bloodstock today -- I saw a black dude!". It's true that it's somewhat of a rarity in the metal world. All three turned out to be very accomplished musicians, and although their music wasn't exactly to my tastes, it was interesting enough. Kind of a high speed blues. Kingsize Blues, when they finally turned up, proved to be a bit of a let down. Although they were heavy enough, there was little trace of blues anywhere, and the vocalist was crap. I'd have preferred a full length set by Kyrb Grinder, to be honest. Raven were this year's NWOBHM band. What can I say? They're utterly mad. I've rarely seen a band with as much energy on stage, let alone one that's 25 years into their career. This isn't a reunion gig, either. Unlike some of their contemporaries, Raven trudged on through the lean years of the 1990s, and here they are at Bloodstock, still with a sound that's recognisable as stemming from the NWOBHM, yet still fresh and modern sounding. A welcome surprise. Jesus Fix, like Pro-jekt, were always going to find a performance at Bloodstock tricky. A goth metal three peice, with the emphasis tending a bit more to the goth than the metal, they have the virtue of hailing from Whitstable, a town where I used to live. But that aside, I felt they did well here, and I enjoyed their set quite a bit. They also win this year's best on stage quote award. When the drummer screwed up one of the songs, the vocalist quipped that he knew he should have just brought the drum machine instead. Jesus Fix were sufficiently good that I stayed in the Darwin Suite to catch the end of their set, and thus only got to catch the end of Bob Catley's acoustic set. There was decent musicianship, and of course Bob's great voice, but nothing to set the world on fire.

Balance Of Silence were the only band I missed on the Saturday, due to scheduling conflicts between the two stages. After Forever put on a good performance. Floor obviously has a great voice, which she put to good effect tonight. However, as with their studio output, I just feel that the band are somewhat lacking in the songwriting department, particularly since Mark Jansen's departure. They're obviously very accomplished and experienced live performers, though, and put on a good show including the festival's second cover of Maiden's "The evil that men do". Like Osmium, Soliloquy were another of the festival's surprise hits. I'd heard nothing from either band before this weekend, and both managed to impress me greatly. They played a fairly straightforward trad/prog metal set, featuring some good songwriting, and strong vocals. Amon Amarth played a viking metal set, and obviously have a lot of fans. I'm not really one of them, though. The music's reasonable enough, but the vocals really need to be more intelligible, and I wasn't overly impressed. They were, however, significantly better than Cathedral, who were headlining the Darwin stage. Quite how the band have garnered such a large following is a mystery, as their performance here really doesn't justify it. Just plain dull. The headliners, then, were Within Temptation. They'd put on a good showing at The Scala last year, although if I had one complaint it was that they didn't rock enough. That seemed to have been remedied tonight, and they put on another good performance. They obviously relish the large venues, and made full use of it with a large stage set. The set was heavily biased towards their latest album, "The silent force", particularly for the first 45 minutes or so, and I feel they'd have done better by mixing the tracks in a bit better. The video projections were also out of sync with what the band were playing, which didn't help. Highlights were "Stand my ground", "Running up that hill", and "Jillian". For the encore, we were treated to excellent renditions of "Deceiver of fools" and "Ice queen".

Another great festival from the Bloodstock organisers, then. Bands of the weekend were Hammerfall on the Friday and Season's End on the Saturday. Strong showings too from Rise To Addiction and the big name European bands, and also from Osmium and Soliloquy, two bands that I'll be looking out for in the future.

Bloodstock '05 The Assembly Rooms, Derby
****/ Hammerfall 2nd September 2005
**/-- Conquest Of Steel
***-- Stormwarrior
***/- Warchild
****- Metalium
**--- Deliverance
***/- Reckless Tide
????? Zillah
Bloodstock advert Bloodstock ticket Reckless Tide photo Deliverance photo Metalium photo Metalium photo Warchild photo Stormwarrior photo Kai Hansen photo Conquest Of Steel photo Hammerfall photo Hammerfall photo Hammerfall photo

I'd missed both opening bands at Bloodstock last year, and I'd missed the opener in 2002, as well. This year I was quite determined to make it in time. But as is wont to happen in such circumstances, a series of unfortunate events resulted in me not making it, and thus I missed Zillah's set. On the main stage, Reckless Tide were the first band up. I'd seen them at Camdenstock earlier in the year, and had been reasonably impressed. Tonight was a similar, but perhaps slightly better performance. Highlights were a brief snippet of the Imperial death march during "Lebende organverpflanzung", and a great rendition of "Death train". I'd heard good things about Deliverance, but if this performance is representative, it's hard to see why. Fiarly generic thrash, with a whiny vocalist, and a variable speed drummer who appeared to be struggling to keep time. A poor showing. Next up were Metalium, playing their second ever UK gig (the first having been a warm up show the previous evening). I'd only got their first album, and wasn't sure what to expect. As it turned out, they were rather good. Henning has a great voice, and uses it well, and the whole band were obviously enjoying themselves. Highlights were "Metalium" and "Fight", Sadly their best song in my opinion, "Free forever" was let down by a poor mix, and the guitar melody was drowned out which ruined the song somewhat. They finished with their obligatory cover of "Smoke on the water" and even a brief snatch of "Balls to the wall" before leaving the stage. A good performance, then, and I hope to see them again should they return to the UK.

Fortunately Warchild were blessed with better sound than they'd had at Camdenstock, and they made good use of it. The vocals were still mixed a bit low, but a decent enough performance anyway, including a cover of Maiden's "The evil that men do". Stormwarrior were sadly lacking. Although in theory they had all the right ingredients, somehow it just didn't hang together, and they were quite dull. They were rescued by a guest appearance by Kai Hansen, performing songs from Helloween's back catalogue. An excellent "Ride the sky" and a decent enough "Judas" followed. Sadly there were no tracks from the "Keeper" era albums, and even worse, their set had to be cut short due to timing constraints, and so they didn't get to perform the set closer, "Heavy metal is the law". Conquest Of Steel were a big disappointment. After their show at The Peel last year, I'd been looking forward to seeing them at Bloodstock. But tonight's performance just wasn't there, and just didn't have the intensity of their previous show. Very disappointing, as I know they're capable of better. Tonight's headliners, Hammerfall, had been due to play in 2003, but were forced to cancel due to Oscar breaking his arm in a motorcycle accident. Their only previous performance in the UK had been a mediocre affair, and although I love the band on CD, I wasn't expecting this to be a great show. To my great surprise, they proved me completely wrong, and just as Sonata Arctica had done at Thirteenth Day, Hammerfall put on a performance that far exceeded my expectations. The band were very competent musically, and looked to be completely at ease on stage. Highlights were "Hammerfall", a cover of "Enter sandman", "Glory to the brave", "Fury of the wild", and strangely enough, "Hearts on fire", which isn't one of their stronger studio tracks. Despite the absence of the promised pyrotechnics, the band put on a great show, and hardly put a foot wrong all evening.

Thirteenth Day 2005 Birmingham Academy
****/ Sonata Arctica 24th July 2005
**/-- Norther
**/-- Finntroll
****- Epica
**--- Dragonland
***/- Intense
?-?-? Season's End
Thirteenth Day advert Intense photo Dragonland photo Epica photo Finntroll photo Norther photo Sonata Arctica photo Sonata Arctica photo Thirteenth Day ticket

I'd been in two minds about going to this show, with only Season's End holding any real pulling power for me. But then Epica were added to the bill, and that swung the balance. It was somewhat of a disappointment, then, when heavy traffic on the M1 up from London resulted in a late arrival at the venue, and me missing Season's End's set entirely. They were half of my reason for coming, but all I could do was enjoy the rest of the evening. Sean from Intense had complained that I always slated his vocals in my reviews. It's true that I don't think his voice has necessarily been a match for the music, so I was wondering what to write about this show. Fortunately, the decision was made for me by the band. They were significantly better than when I last saw them, and Sean's vocals seemed to fit the music much better. This is the first time I've seen the band and been impressed with their set. A very pleasant surprise. I'd never heard any Dragonland before this evening, and hence didn't know what to expect. They turned out to be a fairly generic power metal band. Normally that would be my sort of thing, but there was just nothing to grab my interest. They were just too bland and nondescript, and failed to make any kind of impact whatsoever. The sole exception to that was a track they introduced as "Starfall", which was head and shoulders above anything else they played. But it wasn't enough, and they left me cold. Next up were Epica. The last time I saw them, they were absolutely amazing. I was hoping for a similar perfomance tonight, and I wasn't disappointed. The only downside was that I felt their second album to be somewhat weaker than the first, and the inclusion of tracks from that album lowered the overall average, but still a great show. Highlights for me were "Sensorium" and "Façade of reality".

Finntroll were much the same as the last time I'd seen them. Musically they put on a decent show, but they're let down by the vocals, which work well enough in the studio, but don't really cut it in a live environment. The best track by far was the excellent "Trollhammaren", but as with Dragonland, a single good track wasn't enough to rescue the performance. Norther were a bit of an improvement over Finntroll, but only just, and the band were mostly just noise. Petri seems to be much more at home in Ensiferum than he does in his main band, Norther, which is a shame. So on to the headliners, Sonata Arctica. I'd seen them a couple of times before and had been disappointed both times. So it was that my expectations were low for this show. The band had so much promise in the form of their studio output, but had failed to realise it in a live environment. Until now, that is. This was the first time I'd seen them with decent sound, and they were absolutely amazing. From the very beginning, I could tell it was going to be a great show, and with strong performances of "Victoria's secret", "Broken", "8th commandment", "Replica" and "My land", there was little room for improvement. I only hope they can continue with the high standards they set tonight.

* * * | - MT:TV The Ace Cafe
2nd July 2005
MT:TV are the current incarnation of the band formerly known as Rockbitch. This time around, though, they're keeping their clothes on. I'd never really liked Rockbitch's music that much, and wouldn't have gone to this gig at all, but a friend had bought me a ticket, assuming I'd want one, so I went along. I was pleasantly surprised. Not only do they have a new image, but they also have new songs, playing none of the old Rockbitch tracks. The new material is noticably better than the old, and is a definite step up. There's nothing outstanding here, but there is a songwriting talent that hadn't previously shown itself, and they did enough that I'll probably go back and see them the next time they play.

* * * * - Y&T The Mean Fiddler
* * * - - Avenger 29th June 2005
Y&T advert Y&T ticket Avenger are one of those bands that I'd heard of in the '80s, but had never actually heard what they sounded like. Although they're definitely showing their age now, they played a set of NWOBHM tracks with enthusiasm, and pulled it off reasonably well. A decent, if not earth shattering performance. Y&T are a band that's been around for a long time. Although they're no longer the huge stars that they were a couple of decades ago, they still retain all the professionalism that they learned at the peak of their career. Two decades on and they're still great musicians, with a strong back catalogue of songs, and who have mastered the art of stagecraft. Dave Meniketti is every inch the sterotypical guitar hero, in places reminiscent of Malmsteen, but without the ego. Highlights for me were "Mean streak", "Lipstick and leather", and half of "Contagious".

* * * * * Mötley Crüe Wembley Pavillion
* * - - - Killing Joke 19th June 2005
? ? ? ? ? The Black Velvets
Mötley Crüe advert Mötley Crüe advert Mötley Crüe ticket Mötley Crüe photo Mötley Crüe photo Mötley Crüe photo Mötley Crüe photo Mötley Crüe photo Mötley Crüe photo Mötley Crüe photo Mötley Crüe photo Mötley Crüe photo Mötley Crüe photo

Wembley suck. This is not the first time they've advertised a door time, and then put the support bands on before that time. I have no idea whether The Black Velvets were any good, as they'd been and gone by the time I'd got there. Similarly, Killing Joke were already part way through their set when I arrived. Sadly, they were very poor, and just resorted to shouting and chanting, rather than singing. Their material sounded nothing like the one track of theirs that I was familiar with, "Love like blood", their only real chart hit, and they didn't even play that. I'd last seen Mötley Crüe 14 years earlier, at the peak of their commercial success. Since then they'd lost Vince Neil and Tommy Lee, made some passable records, but nothing great. This was the big reunion tour with the original lineup. Would it work? Oh yes. They were absolutely outstanding. Mick Mars is obviously struggling, and his spine is twisted and affecting his ability to move on stage, and there was some concern over whether he'd be physcially up to a full world tour. But it doesn't seem to have affected his playing ability, and he appeared to cope OK. The set list was very obviously a crowd pleaser, with a selection of tracks that could only be described as a greatest hits list. Highlights for me were "Shout at the devil", "Ten seconds to love", "Live wire" and "Red hot". Then came a brief interlude, presumably to let Mars recover a bit, during which an animated video was shown on a projection screen. After that, the band returned to the stage for the second half of the set, which saw notable performances of "Girls, girls, girls", "Kickstart my heart" and "Primal scream". The set didn't feature any material from the post-breakup era, aside from one track they've just recorded called "Sick love song". There was an ongoing circus theme throughout the show, encompassing not just set design and stage props, but also midgets, acrobatic fire eaters, and plenty of pyrotechnics. The encore saw "Helter skelter" and "Anarchy in the USA" round off an excellent evening. Had I not seen Rammstein at Brixton, this would easily have been my gig of the year. As it stands, the two are very evenly matched, and both bands know how to put on a stunning rock show.

* * * * - Motörhead Hammersmith Apollo
* * * | - Saxon 16th June 2005
* * * * - Girlschool
Girlschool photo Saxon photo Motörhead photo Motörhead photo Motörhead photo Motörhead ticket I'd seen Girlschool for the first time in years a couple of weeks earlier, and had been reasonably impressed. Tonight, they continued in much the same manner, but seemed a bit tighter, and generally seemed to do better in a larger venue with a bigger crowd. An excellent start to the evening. Saxon haven't been doing much for me in terms of live performances recently, and this was no exception. They gave a reasonable showing, but nothing special. Of note was a guest slot for Mikki Dee. Now Saxon's Jörg Michael is a very accomplished drummer, with a CV that reads like a "Who's who" or European power metal. But when he stepped aside to let Mikki Dee play for a track or two, it became apparent that Dee is really in a class of his own, and when Lemmy claims he's the best rock 'n' roll drummer in the world, it's not just hype. This was Motörhead's 30th anniversary show, and as you might expect of a band that's been playing for that long, they know what they're doing on stage. They're helped by the fact that their last few studio albums are the strongest they've done in years, so they have plenty of decent material to mix in with the classics. The bomber rig was brought out once more, and served as an obvious highlight.

* * * | - Vixen The Mean Fiddler
* * * | - Girlschool 3rd June 2005
* * | - - Dante Fox
Dante Fox flyer Vixen ticket Dante Fox photo Girlschool photo Girlschool photo Vixen photo Vixen photo Dante Fox were a name from the past (and hence fitted in quite nicely with the other bands on the bill). While I'd heard the name from a decade and a half ago, I hadn't heard any of their material. It transpired that they basically play pub rock. Inoffensive, but uninspiring. Girlschool, on the other hand, were much better. They were very lively on stage, and I'd forgotten quite how much like Motörhead they sounded. The highlight track was "999 emergency". Of the classic Vixen lineup, only guitarist Jan Kuehnemund is left. They had less energy on stage than Girlschool, but made up for it to a large extent by having a better back catalogue to plunder. The new vocalist has a good voice and is a worthy replacement for Janet Gardner, and the other band members are equally competent. Highlights for me were "Edge of a broken heart", "Cryin'" and "Love is a killer". The encore brought a weak cover of "Suffragette City", but the rest of the set was good enough to make up for it. All three bands suffered from poor sound tonight.

Camdenstock The Underworld
* * * - - Panic Cell 9th May 2005
* * | - - Fourwaykill
* * * * - Season's End
* * * | - Reckless Tide
* * * - - Warchild
Camdenstock flyer Warchild photo Reckless Tide photo Season's End photo Fourwaykill photo Panic Cell photo Tonight was a showcase evening for Bloodstock, giving a chance for some of the festival's bands to play in London. Warchild were another band I'd never heard before, but that had been getting rave reviews in Northern parts. Tonight, they were badly let down by poor sound, but even so, the promise showed through, and I look forward to hearing their brand of power metal at Bloodstock later in the year. Germany's Reckless Tide had been touted as the next big thing in the world of thrash, and were at this gig as a result of Bloodstock's collaboration with the Wacken Open Air festival, the promoters of which are apparently pushing the band. I'd downloaded a few samples from their web site beforehand, and to be honest was a little underwhelmed. Live, however, they were a much more interesting proposition. Despite being German, they feature an English vocalist (and a German one, too, just for good measure). Another band that I'll be looking out for at Bloodstock, then. Season's End were the band that held the most interest for me, and they were the primary reason I turned up to the gig. It was a big disappointment, then, when the poor sound that had plagued Warchild continued into their set. The guitars were almost inaudible through the start of "Touch", and Becki's voice was flat through the same song, apparently due to the lack of monitors. Fortunately, the problems were quickly rectified, and the band returned to their usual high standards. "A ghost in my emotion" was once again the standout track, and was probably performed better tonight than I've seen them play it before. The only remaining downside was the criminally short length of their set. Fourwaykill have always missed me. They bill themselves as "face shredding metal", but to me they're mostly just noise. Tonight was probably the best I've seen them, but they were still mediocre, and the vocals were just shouting. Somewhat worryingly, headliners Panic Cell seemed to continue where FWK left off. Fortunately, though, they improved throughout their set. They were also somewhat heavier than when I've seen them before. But really, the first three bands were head and shoulders above the two bands at the top of the bill. A decent enough night out, but the bands were on stage in the wrong order.

A Storyteller's Night 20th Anniversary The Astoria
* * * * - Magnum 23rd April 2005
Magnum photo Magnum photo Magnum photo Magnum ticket Tonight was a 20th anniversary retrospective of the "A storyteller's night" album. No support, just two sets from Magnum. The first being a regular mix of tracks from their career. Then, after a short break, they returned to the stage to perform said album in its entirety. Neither set was particularly outstanding, but nor were they bad. It did highlight for me the fact that "A storyteller's night" has a few very good tracks on it but also a reasonable amount of filler.

Clive Aid 2005 The Ruskin Arms
? ? ? ? ? Ironically Maiden 19th March 2005
* * * | - Soar Patrol
* * * | - Chariot
* * * * - Stray
Stray photo Chariot photo Soar Patrol photo Clive Aid ticket Clive Aid, then. A charity gig to raise money for former Iron Maiden drummer Clive Burr. Although an all day show, I arrived in the early evening, so the first band I saw were Stray. Usually when I see bands from the NWOBHM era, I'm left feeling a little udnerwhelmed. Not so with Stray, who put on a great show, and even though I knew none of their material, I enjoyed their set a lot. Next up were Chariot. The last time I'd seen them, I came away wishind Deeds were still together. This time around, Chariot had improved immensely, and were much more melodic than before. Not up to Deeds at their best, but a much better showing than their previous show at the Underworld. I'd seen Soar Patrol a few years earlier at the Rock 'n' Blues show. Tonight, they were confronted with a PA failure. But that didn't really matter. Their pipes and drums were easily heard in a small venue like the Ruskin Arms. The only thing you couldn't hear was their banter between songs. A good showing, though. The headliners tonight were tribute band Ironically Maiden. There had been rumours before the show that Iron Maiden themselves would be showing up. I thought that unlikely, but you can never rule these things out. Sadly I never got to find out. The show was running very late, and although I left it as late as I could, I had to leave before the headliners took to the stage, and made my last train home with minutes to spare.

* * | - - Nevermore The Underworld
* * * | - Firewind 18th March 2005
Nevermore advert Nevermore ticket Firewind photo Nevermore photo Firewind are a Greek band (with a Norwegian drummer!) and are the latest band to feature Dream Evil's Gus G. While I'd heard the name before, I didn't have a clue what to expect, and was treated to a healthy dose of European power metal. They've found themselves a decent vocalist, which definitely helped, but their set was marred a little by dirty sound throughout - perhaps a loose connector somewhere. Nevertheless, I'll be looking out for them again. I'd been very impressed with Nevermore the last time I'd seen them. Tonight, though, they were nowhere near as good. They were just too thrashy, and not melodic enough, and I didn't enjoy their set much at all, with the exception of "The heart collector", which was head and shoulders above the other tracks they played.

* * * * | Judas Priest Hammersmith Apollo
* * * * | Scorpions 16th March 2005
Scorpions photo Scorpions photo Judas Priest photo Judas Priest photo Judas Priest photo Judas Priest ticket Somewhat unusually for a support band, Scorpions were allowed a backdrop, and full use of the lights. All too often these days, a support band at a big venue is shrouded in darkness due to the low number of lights they're allowed to use. Not so here, and it makes for another strong showing by Scorpions, who have been doing this a long time (indeed, some claim that they're the world's oldest heavy metal band, having formed in 1965). Klaus' vocals are still among the best to be found anywhere, and Rudy and Matthias are one of the world's classic guitar pairings. Highlights were "Coming home", "The zoo", "Coast to coast" and "Blackout", with "Still loving you" and "Rock you like a hurricane" being seen in the encore, again a rarity for a support band. Judas Priest are apparenltly sufficiently sure of their own performance to allow such things, and justifiably so. This was their first UK show since Rob Halford's return, and they opened with "The hellion / electric eye", to a large eye shaped backdrop, with Halford appearing in the pupil to rapturous applause. Their reunion album, "Angel of retribution" is classic Priest, and they can do little wrong. A selection of songs from that album are mixed in with the classics to make for an unforgettable evening. Halford's voice is sounding a little strained in places, but he can still hit the high notes when it counts. Standout tracks were "Breaking the law", "Beyond the realms of death", "Turbo lover" and "Painkiller". For the encore, there was only one way to round the evening off -- the Harley, serving as an intro to "Hell bent for leather", which was followed by "You've got another thing coming". Strong performances from both bands to make for a great night of classic metal.

* * * | - Inkubus Sukkubus The Peel, Kingston
* * * * - NFD 5th March 2005
* * * | - Crimson Altar
* * * * | Season's End
* * * - - Moriarti & The Sith
* * - - - Karn8
Inkubus Sukkubus ticket Karn8 photo Moriarti & The Sith photo Season's End photo Season's End photo Crimson Altar photo NFD photo NFD photo Inkubus Sukkubus photo Inkubus Sukkubus photo Karn 8 kicked off the day's activities, but since the female vocalist was singing flat for most of their set, they didn't make a particularly good impression. Moriarti & The Sith were an improvement, though. With a horror film meets black metal image, it was a bit of a surprise when the music turned out to be straightforward metal, with vocals that reminded me a bit of Danzig. Additionally, their drummer was particularly impressive. Season's End followed, with another strong set. They also took the award for tonight's largest keyboard on such a small stage! Highlights were "Touch" and "Ghost in my emotion". Crimson Altar were up next. One of their guitarists looked familiar, and it was only later that I reaslied I'd seen him when he was in The Sleeping Myth (also supporting Inkubus Sukkubus, incidentally). The other guitarist was musically competent, but reminded me a bit of an aging rock star, trying to relive former glories. They played a quite reasonable gothic metal set, with Judy's rich mid range vocals working well, but a promising start was let down a bit by the rest of the set, which tailed off in quality towards the end. NFD were conspicuously better equipped than the rest of the bands on the bill, and looked very professional. Musically, they were a little less heavy than the last time I saw them, but that appeared to suit them, and theirs was another strong performance. Inkubus Sukkubus suffered from a poor mix, and also from Candia's voice sounding very rough. Not their best performance, with only "The rape of Maude Bowen" standing out. Bands of the day, then, were NFD and Season's End.

* * * | - Dragonforce The Mean Fiddler
* * * * - Angra 21st February 2005
Angra photo Angra photo Dragonforce photo Dragonforce photo Dragonforce advert Dragonforce ticket Angra were somewhat of a revelation. I'd been a bit underwhelmed by their "Fireworks" CD. It was OK, but nothing special. I was surprised, then, when they came out and performed an excellent set of power metal, far exceeding anything they'd done on the aforementioned CD. They have an intensity and depth than was almost completely missing on their recorded output that I'd heard previously. A highlight was the track "Acid rain". An excellent performance. Dragonforce suffered from poor lighting, which is somewhat surprising for a headlining act. Most of their set was backlit, leaving the band as shadowy outlines to the crowd. "Revelations" and "Evening star" were the standout tracks tonight. This evening's Spïnal Tap moment was the rendition of "Valley of the damned", for which Sam was mysteriously absent from the stage for most of the song. They're a great bunch of musicians, but a little more professionalism would go a long way.

* * * * - The Quireboys The Mean Fiddler
* * * * - Tokyo Dragons 18th February 2005
* * * - - Waysted
Tokyo Dragons photo The Quireboys photo The Quireboys photo The Quireboys advert Quireboys ticket Waysted played a traditional rock set. Well executed but nothing special. I'd hoped for a bit more from a band with as much history as they have. Tokyo Dragons had been being promoted heavily, but I had no idea what they would sound like. The answer was something like a cross between AC/DC and UFO. They were surprisingly good, high energy rock. Quireboys put in another strong performance. There were no suprises, but like AC/DC, they're a band where you know exactly what you'll be getting when you turn up. Highlights included "Hey you", "7 o' clock" and "Black moria". The encore consisted of "I don't love you anymore" and "Sex party", a track they haven't played live for ages.

* * * * - Nightwish The Astoria
* * | - - Tristania 12th February 2005
Tristania photo Nightwish photo Nightwish photo Nightwish advert Nightwish ticket Tristania had been great supporting Therion, so I was looking forward to seeing them again. Since then, however, they'd released a new album, "Ashes", which is very poor in comparison to their previous output, and brings with it a change in sound for the band, one that's less melodic than before. Sadly this was reflected in their live performance, and there was very little there that I enjoyed, with only "Selling out" and "A tender trip on Earth" being worth listening to. A great shame. Nightwish, on the other hand, were better than the last time I'd seen them. Their incessant touring seems to have paid dividends, and they now seemed to be more comfortable and relaxed on stage than they have previously been. Tarja's traditional mid set break was this time filled with a cover of Pink Floyd's "High hopes". Highlights included "Slaying the dreamer", "Planet hell", "Wishmaster", "Phantom of the opera" and the set closer, "Wish I had an angel".

* * * | - Fozzy The Mean Fiddler
* * * - - Head On 11th February 2005
Fozzy advery Fozzy ticket Head On photo Fozzy photo Fozzy photo Head On were a reasonable opener, playing straightforward rock/metal. Nothing much to write home about, but passable enough. The vocals were a bit flat, though. Fozzy were much better than on CD. Chris Jericho has apparently unlimited energy to bounce around the stage, and actually quite a decent voice. They played a mix of their own material and a bunch of covers, such as "Freewheel burning" and "Live wire". Overall a pretty decent showing. Better than I was expecting, and I'll go and see them again.

* * * * | Megadeth The Astoria
* * * | - Diamond Head 9th February 2005
Diamond Head photo Megadeth photo Megadeth advert Megadeth ticket I hadn't been particularly impressed with Diamond Head when they played at Bloodstock. Tonight, however, was a big improvement. They seemed to be more cohesive, and put on a much better show overall. The obvious highlight was "Am I evil?", but also some of their new material sounds quite strong. Megadeth were touring with a completely new lineup, but also on the back of their strongest album for many years. It seems that Dave's arm injury has now well and truly healed, as he didn't appear to have any problems playing a wide selection of tracks at breakneck speed. Particular highlights were "Skin o' my teeth", "The scorpion", and "In my darkest hour". Dave's homage to the glory days of metal, "Back in the day", saw Diamond Head come back out on stage to take the applause and contribute to the backing vocals. There are many ingredients that make for a great metal show. Good sound and lighting, strong songs and a clean performance. But of course it helps if you have one of the greatest metal riffs of all time in your back catalogue, and "Symphony of destruction" showed that off here. "Peace sells" stopped at the mid point while the band played "Mechanix" before finishing off the second half of "Peace sells". The encore brought a cover of Sabbath's "Paranoid" to round off a great evening.

* * * * * Rammstein Brixton Academy
* * * * - Apocalyptica 3rd February 2005
Rammstein ticket Apocalyptica photo Rammstein photo Rammstein photo Rammstein photo Having seen a great Apocalyptica show the previous weekend, I was hoping for another strong performance here. However, while they certainly put on a worthy show, I felt they weren't quite as good as at their headlining show, and they were definitely hampered by being given a criminally short set. After an astounding show at Brixton Academy on the Mutter tour, and a strong followup performance at The London Arena, Rammstein were on my list of "must see" bands. To say they didn't disappoint would be a huge understatement. They made full use of an elaborate stage set, and used even more lights and pyrotechnics than before, if that's possible. There were highlights throughout the show, but to mention a few: "Ich will", "Links 234", and "Du hast" were all excellent. "Morgenstern" had an excellent heaven and hell theme with fire falling from the top of the stage to light an inferno when it hit. The ritual humiliation of Flake in "Bück dich" had been replaced on this tour by "Mein teil", where he was chased around the stage by Till wielding a large butcher's knife, and eventually cooking him in a huge cauldron. "Feuer frei!" saw the return of their head mounted flamethrowers. "Los" saw Flake playing his keyboard while speeding around the stage on a Segway. "Amerika" brought a huge lighting rig in the form of the American flag, and the crowd being showered in red, white and blue confetti. "Rammstein" saw the biggest and hottest pyros of the evening, as Till had a huge shoulder mounted bear claw style device shooting flames up to the ceiling. The evening was completed with their cover of Depeche Mode's "Stripped", and with Oliver crowd surfing in the dinghy. The only omission was "Engel", which was reserved for the outro music, but that didn't detract from an awesome night. Once again, Rammstein have proved that they really know how to put on a great show, and I'll definitely be going to see them next time they return here.

* * * * | Apocalyptica The Mean Fiddler
* * | - - Breed 77 29th January 2005
* * - - - Amplifier
Apocalyptica advert Apocalyptica ticket Amplifier opened the evening up with some fairly bland and uninspiring guitar pop. Breed 77 were not quite what I was expecting. Although there were some obvious Kerrang! tendencies, they were also quite reasonable in places, and had an odd mixture of metal and latin sounds, which they described on stage as "flamenco metal". Odd. Apocalyptica's gig at the Marquee was one of my highlights of 2003, so I was looking forward to this show immensely. It seems I wasn't alone, as the Mean Fiddler was packed to the gills for a sold out show. Consequently, my view wasn't that great, but that didn't really matter. They've now slimmed down to a 3 piece, since I last saw them, a move which I'm not convinced helps. But that didn't prevent them from putting on another excellent performance, I'd have liked to have seen "Cortège", but that aside, we were treated to a great selection of self penned tracks and Metallica covers, culminating in the obligatory "Hall of the mountain king". If I had to pick a particular highlight, it would probably be an excellent "Heat".

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