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.

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.

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.

Korn, 2017

Loud and enthusiastic. The set from Korn, although fierce, also carried a level of humour which was hard to deny. There was a fun feeling to the set and even a casual fan like myself was bouncing along.

Bagpipes echoing across the field, the cover of Queen’s ‘We will rock you’ was an interesting twist, but it was hearing ‘Freak on a Leash’ that really had me hooked.

I wasn’t sure that late afternoon on a Sunday was the perfect slot for their music, however a group at the front had a mosh pit going, so maybe I was wrong!

Guns ‘n’ Roses, 2017

Such a hugely anticipated gig – everyone you spoke to thought that it would either be amazing (Slash and Axl back on the same stage – what’s not to love?) or terrible (Axl throwing a diva tantrum and not turning up until 11pm). Well, at about 7.25pm (as I was  stood in the line for drinks) the familiar sound of Slash’s guitar echoed through the stadium – they were on time! Hurriedly grabbing the drinks, I ran out to the arena floor and dived straight into one of the best rock gigs I have ever been to.

It wasn’t just that I was hearing some of the most iconic rock songs being played live and it wasn’t just that Axl and Slash were both on the same stage, riding the same beat – it was the atmosphere they cast across the crowd. There was a feeling of awe in the stadium and the effort they were putting in was palpable. The audience could feel the intensity coming off the stage and it was infectious – everyone was rocking out and I was carried along with the vibe. Adrenaline was pumping and it felt like rock would let us take on the world and win.

November rain, You Could Be Mine and the tribute to Chris Cornell (Black Hole Sun) were stand out moments of the night, as was the heat of the sun, burning down on 66,000 rockers, revelling in the reunion of one of the greatest rock groups on the planet.

All of the band put in 100% and there was something about the feral nature of the guys on the stage that gave the gig an edge, a feeling that we were halfway between a riot and a carnival. It felt like we were all part of rock history just by being in the same venue and I can’t wait for the next time around.

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