Nickelback, 2016

I know, I know, everyone hates Nickelback, or at least that’s what the media would have you think. Every time they release a new track, the hate posts come out in force. The problem is, they really don’t deserve it.

I have always liked Nickelback and I’m not afraid to admit it. To be fair, I don’t really care if other people don’t like the same music – that’s what makes the world go round! Given my fondness for their music, I was quite happy to get a ticket for their last show.

What I expected was a good show packed full of Nickelback songs. What I got was all that and more. I can honestly say that they were probably one of the most fun acts I’ve ever seen!

With a solid balance of crowd pleasers, sing-along ballads and heavy rock, there was something for everyone. What came across clearly throughout the gig was that the band were having huge amounts of fun. Swigging drinks and cracking jokes, they were hilarious on stage and injected a real sense of fun into the performance whilst playing on some of their more cheesy lyrics.

What might also surprise you is that they were actually pretty heavy at times. So all those comments about Nickelback being sell-outs or a ‘pop act’ were obviously started by people who have never seen them live. Those comments were the first things I’d hear whenever I told people that I was going to the gig. I’d almost got to the point where apologising each time I talked about it was expected. However, their comments almost always then went on to mention one or more or Nickelback’s songs that they loved. Think about it – I bet you can name a few of their songs that you genuinely like. I bet you can think of at least two songs that you actually pretty much love, and if I questioned you about why the band receive such a negative reaction, I bet you couldn’t answer.

So let’s have a rethink about our attitude to Nickelback, let’s all step out of the shadows and show our appreciation. Because live, they are bloody brilliant!

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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?

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.

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.

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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