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?

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.

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.

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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