This Week, I’m Mostly Obsessed With……Michael Jackson

Forgive me. I know that this blog is about gigs but I really want to talk to you about a show I saw recently. Stick with me as this is the reason I’m playing MJ’s back catalogue on repeat this week.

I went to see Thriller Live: a show all about MJ’s huge hits and most captivating dance routines. Now I know that it wasn’t a gig and therefore doesn’t have a place in this blog – so I’m not going to review it or make any comment on the actual show. The reason I want to talk about it is because it reminded me of the vast amount of work that MJ has to offer.

Sifting through Spotify after the show, I was reminded of hit after hit and now I can’t stop playing them! My favourite MJ tracks have always been ‘Smooth Criminal’ and ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’. Even as a kid, I would sing along and practice the moves (I now realise I wasn’t ever going to be able to do the Smooth Criminal ‘lean’ – it’s much more than just practice! For those of you who don’t know how it’s done, you can find spoilers here).

A couple of years ago, I went to see ‘One’ in Vegas – a Cirque Du Soleil show which put a totally different spin on his music and made me think of how excited I was at seeing his actual hat from the Smooth Criminal video in Cairo’s Hard Rock Café. He’s one of the artists that I wish I’d had a chance to see live.

After the show had finished, I felt like I’d fell in love with MJ’s music all over again, and Thriller Live made me feel exactly the same.

I’m off to dig out my glove and hat, I’ll be moonwalking before you know it.

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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.

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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