Eminem, 2017

From the moment the lights went down, the anticipation was palpable. Bouncing on to the stage, Eminem’s energy was contagious. More than any other time I’ve seen him live (and there have been a few) his performance was electric. He seemed entirely in his element, hands keeping time to the beat and lyrics spit with true meaning behind every word.

Eminem at Leeds Festival 2017

I had the sense that his performance was truly genuine and he had seemed to pick out the tracks that would give him the best platform to connect with the crowd, rather than simply perform the ones that are the most well known.

The performance came across as one where he was truly present, which hasn’t always been the case in past tours. He was enthusiastic and didn’t hesitate to deliver his performance with impact. Hidden beneath a dark cap, it was hard to make out any facial expressions, however that didn’t dampen the emphasis of the words.

Against a simple backdrop of a projected boom-box, the lyrics stood out as complex, taking all the credit without any fancy distractions.

A boombox projected on to the stage provided the backdrop for Eminem at Leeds 2017

Hearing him perform some of the older songs like ‘Soldier’ took me back to the reasons that I started listening to Eminem, way back in the day. Yes, he says things to shock and I don’t agree with all of his lyrics, but he is authentic. His words and rhythms helped me to get through some really tough times and as I stood there in the crowd, it seemed like everyone around me was using his music as an outlet, a release for all of the struggles we have to deal with daily.

The angsty, teenage me was in her element, shouting the words along with the performance in the same way that I’d learnt the words to the tracks whilst back in school. This time, however, it felt like there was less of Shady’s antisocial antics and much more of Eminem ripping through politics, poverty and inequality.

Despite the change of focus, Eminem’s skills are just as pronounced and polished, without loosing the raw nature of his performance. Stepping up a gear, his performance of ‘Rap God’ never fails to amaze, throwing out words with incredible speed. Every time I hear it, I get chills and for me, it cements his title as one of the best in his business.

Despite mix reviews of his last couple of albums, I felt that Eminem’s performance showed that he isn’t ready to hang up his hat just yet. In his own words ‘Mr Don’t Give A Fuck just won’t leave’ and I for one couldn’t be happier.

Eminem shares his political views at Leeds 2017

Were you there? What was your experience of Eminem’s set?

Tom Misch, 2017

I’m behind the curve with this one. I hadn’t heard of Tom Misch until I happened upon him at a festival in between two of the acts I wanted to see.

We were waking though the site and the chilled out sound caught my attention. We sat down on the grass and started to debate the music.

In turn, the music was likened to Jamiroquai, Ed Sheeran and jazz – each correct but each not quite capturing the essence of the sound. In truth, it didn’t matter. Tom had grabbed the attention of three people with varying tastes in music, who were on our way to listen to something very different, and got us to listen to the rest of his set. That’s an achievement.

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Some of our conversation was about where we would listen to his music. Wedding music, a night out with friends, chilling at home, it seemed to fit well with any occasion. On that particular day, it fit well with a group of friends. chilling out and feeling the positive vibe of discovering new music.

Royal Blood, 2017

Loud, raw and dirty, this gig was incredible. Stripped down, other than some fancy lighting, there were no gimmicks for the crowd – but they truly didn’t need them. The music did all of the speaking and it was screaming to be heard!

Making the transition from smaller venues to their first arena tour, it felt like I was seeing them at a true transition point, no longer just big, but on the cusp of becoming incredibly huge artists. Their sound was still raw enough to feel intimate, yet polished enough to be amazing all the way through the show. The crowd interaction was limited in the early part of the gig, but it truly felt like they were lost for words at the size of the crowd rather than any lack of showmanship. Their rawness shone through and it make me feel privileged to be seeing them at this point in their career.

Proclamations of how gobsmacked they were to see so many people turn out to the gig showed just how quickly they had gone from small venues to huge arenas. The drummer’s crowd- surfing helped to solidify the band’s appearance as down-to-earth, humble people.

All edges and angles, the music pushed a sense of dichotomy on the crowd, light and dark, loud and soft, fear and power. It felt amazing and was one of those gigs where every song gave you goosebumps. Using the lighting to create a cage-like effect added to the sense of power coming from the music, barely held in check and making you feel like the roof could cave in and we’d all still be stood there, rocking out and screaming the words. Three huge mosh pits formed and looking at it from above, it was almost beautiful to watch, people creating living whirlpools in the crowd.

From the low-slung guitar stance to the twirling of drumsticks, every inch of Royal Blood screamed ‘rock gods’ and I felt like I was getting to watch a snippet of their history as they fully step into the role.

This Week, I’m Mostly Obsessed With..’The Way You Used To Do’

Since going to the Queens of the Stone Age gig recently, this song has been bouncing around my head with no signs of disappearing. I can’t describe how perfect this song is: amazing lyrics and that rhythm just grabs you and rockets you into a groove that’s hard to let go of. I’m finding myself humming throughout the day and turning it up in the car whenever I have a chance. As soon as the music starts, I can’t help turning up the collar on my (imaginary) leather jacket and building an extra swagger into my step – it’s pure rebellion packaged in a song. I just can’t hear it without dancing along – switch it on, turn it up and make your body move!

Which song never fails to get you moving? Let me know in the comments!

Queens of the Stone Age, 2017

When you spend most of the gig with a smile on your face, you know it must have been good!

The first sounds of the guitar echoing through the arena accompanying the band walking on stage had everyone up on their feet. Starting the gig by kicking over the free-standing lights (admittedly they were designed to do a weeble – wobble and not fall down!) QOTSA made it clear that they don’t mess around.

With clever vocal intros into each track and excruciatingly cool guitar and drum solos, I found myself closing my eyes at points just to ride the music.

Cigarette in mouth, Josh strutted around the stage like he owned the place, whipping the crowd to their feet. With their biggest hits placed throughout the set rather than located within a traditional encore, it felt like we were at a party that, for once, wasn’t waiting for the end to show us how to rock out.

The band walked the fine line between ‘rebels without a cause’ and the cool kids at school. Either way, they are absolutely at the top of their game. There was a sense of being on the edge of loosing control and as Josh screamed out “It’s not Sunday evening, it’s fucking Saturday night!” it felt like he was 100% right.

Marilyn Manson, 2017

I’ve mixed feelings about this one. The show was great, however there wasn’t as much of the show as I’d hoped. It was an intimate venue and the crowd was a really mixed bag – old, young and everything in between. Manson was due to be on stage at 9pm. Although lots of acts keep people waiting, I always feel like it’s fairly self indulgent to do so. In this case, Manson didn’t come on stage until 9.45pm and only performed for around an hour.

I get that performing is hard, however I’ve paid less for other tickets where acts have performed for much longer. Given that there were many breaks in the performance where Manson changed outfits or moved around, it felt fairly disjointed, which stopped me really getting into the evening.

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When Manson was actually performing, he was great – angsty, loud and outcast, exactly as you would expect. Even in a cast, Manson put on a good performance, incorporating his ‘helpers’ into the show, dressed as nurses. His movements in a motorised chair were somewhat comical, but despite this, he still held everyone’s attention. His biggest hits were performed really well, complete with audience sing-alongs. The Beautiful People was saved for the last track of the evening, and was the one track that actually encouraged the whole room to get involved.

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Throughout the gig, there was a mixed reaction, some people 100% invested in the music, moshing, bouncing and yelling along. Others looked more lost, seemingly less connected to the music. I fell somewhere the middle, bouncing along but not totally swept away. At times, I felt that my attention was wandering somewhat (particularly in between songs) and the disjointed nature of the show made it feel a little unprofessional, particularly when Manson would gesture for the rest of the band to stop playing mid song so that he could talk to the crowd. Again, it was a little ‘diva-like’ which I felt interfered with my experience of the music. I like to be swept away, feeling every heartbeat of a song, however I don’t think that it truly captured my attention enough to engage fully. As Marilyn Manson is on the billing for another gig next year, I hope that it was a one off and a festival appearance will make me sit up and take more notice next time.

Green Day, 2013

Billie Joe’s usual energy and infectious persona spread throughout the crowd from the outset. One thing you can always count on with Green Day is that you get 100% every time. This translated to the audience and we lapped it up eagerly. I dare you to go to a Green Day gig and try not to sing along – its impossible!

Green Day know how to have fun and they certainly did, whipping the crowd up into a punk-fuelled frenzy – almost everyone was thrusting their fists in the air in time to a rousing ‘hay, hay’ cry. The call and response (ayyyyy, ohhhh – if you were there, you’ll know what I mean!) between the band and the crowd works perfectly every time, breaking down barriers between those on the stage and those in the cheap seats. Everyone became one team, united by the words of the songs.

Political focus was always hovering in the background (sometimes pushing rudely to the front) as with every good punk rock gig and the shouts of a whole arena united in their condemnation of everything discriminatory was incredibly uplifting.

I have no good photos of this gig – mainly because my phone was firmly in my pocket as I bounced, yelled and cheered my way along with everyone else. There was no time for photos, only movement. We were a positive riot and it felt amazing.

As usual with Green Day, it was an incredible gig. Yes, they can be guilty of the same things popping up in their shows (King for a Day sing-alongs, Longview sung by fans, lots of fan interaction) but damn, they do it so well that I didn’t even care! Sign me up for the next gig, I’m in.

This Week I’m Mostly Obsessed With…Radioactive

This song is epic. Yes I know it’s been out for ages – but that’s the way I work. Often I’ll hear a song first time and not really be that interested. Then bam, all of a sudden, it slams back into my consciousness and I can’t stop pressing repeat. That’s what happened with Radioactive by Imagine Dragons. It makes me think of explosions, power and surviving anything – it’s become one of my ‘go to’ songs when I need a little boost. It’s perfect for shaking off the dust and pushing forward with something new.

You can watch the video and hear the song here.

Metallica, 2017

Metallica – one of the ‘big gigs’ on my list, rock royalty and long time performers and we were looking forward to the gig.

They delivered big time – musically they were on point, sounding amazing and every note was perfect. Adding extra solos and elements to the songs, they managed to make even the older stuff sound fresh. The use of lighting and video was inspired and helped to transform the stage into something different for each song. In particular, the use of the light boxes to suggest people trapped in the boxes was brilliant – it really emphasised the emotion of the songs and created a great atmosphere.

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But….and there is a big ‘but’ hovering and I’m going to put it out there – it was all a little clinical for me. The older stuff sounded great but the newer songs felt a little formulaic – a song in a box, straight off the shelf. There didn’t seem to be the same emotional connection for me with the lyrics or music. I was left feeling like something was missing, that little spark that music brings to connect with your soul and make it fly.

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The bits that, to me, were the most heartfelt were the drum beats on the light boxes in the middle of the stage. It felt fresh and had a rhythm and emotion which carried through to the audience. The tribute to those lost in the Manchester bomb was well received and it brought the crowd together in song, all for the same cause.

For me, the best parts of the gig were the well worn songs that are already part of our life’s fabric.

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