Live Photos Credit: Anna Zurek
Live Gig Review by Mark Dean (Journalist/Writer/Contributor) Myglobalmind Webzine
Sonisphere Festival has only been on the summer calender since 2009-it is an international festival in that it is not exclusive to just the Uk like Download is. However in that short space of time it has achieved credible status and this summer Myglobalmind were lucky to attain media accreditation for our staff to attend and review. Truly a worthwhile achievement which underlines the growing credibility of our website in the face of an increasingly competitive market. Following the festivals cancellation in 2012 at a late stage , and no festival last year the organizers were determined to return bigger and better than before. Thus headliners were the Prodigy, Iron Maiden and Metallica over the weekend of 4th-6th July.
Unfortunately the Festivals first day clashed with the Black Sabbath Hyde park festival which we were also covering (see review link). We rolled up to the historic Knebworth Park venue then on Saturday after circumnavigating directions and our passes-which proved more difficult than we had allowed time for. One thing about a massive festival that will always be an issue is bands clashing. Despite organisers trying to avoid this, several stages over the huge arena and massive crowds ensured that this would occur. I am therefore focusing this review on the bands that we were both able to see and photograph over the two days that we attended.
Entering the site just in time to catch Ghost’s set our first port of call was to get an official itinerary and plan our days entertainment. Winery Dogs on the second or Saturn stage were first up. A supergroup featuring Billy Sheehan of Mr Big, Mike Portnay Dream Theater and singer/guitarist Richie Koetzen. I had heard favorable reports regarding their recent album release, and with their combined musical pedigree it came as no surprise that their quality shone through. They presented a very entertaining set with songs, great versatility and talent-even a cover of Talas/David Lee Roth tune”Shy Boy”
Sebastian Bach has been much maligned in recent years with his controversial and outspoken views. However his musical performances never falter whether on stage or on cd release. We managed to secure a prime vantage point in the Bohemia stage front (well it was a large tent) and awaited his performance. It was clear that many fans felt the same way as the tent was packed to bursting point and many fans were unable to gain access. Basing his short set largely on standards by his former band ensured a great response to the anthems of my youth. Pleasantly surprised to witness many thrash fans sporting shirts from Megadeth, Slayer and Metallica singing along to Skid Row songs. Technical issues halfway through resulted in the band having to end on a new song “All my friends are dead” which certainly was a poor substitute for the classic”Youth gone wild “anthem. Sebastian and the band put in a great performance and left many with smiles on their faces. He still seems to enjoy performing live, and delivered fully on an entertainment level. Myglobalmind also managed to secure an interview with the man himself at his follow up London show.(live review-interview links)
Having missed thrash metal legends Slayers two recent shows in my home country of N.Ireland I was really looking forward to their Sonisphere set. Slayer are a band that I have seen many times over the years both indoors and at festivals. One thing however has remained consistent-the band never fail to deliver and satisfy live. Never the same was again true on this showing. From the opening of “Hell Awaits”through to encores “South of heaven”and the epic”Angel of death”.Dark, brooding and terrifyingly heavy-nobody can compare to the legends in full flow. Circle pits, stage diving and much headbanging ensued-just business as usual for the eighties thrash veterans. My neck was still experiencing whiplash two days later .
Headliners Iron Maiden were wrapping up the Maiden England tour almost three years after it started. With a set list and stage show based around the classic Seventh Son album. Despite having also headlined Download already this summer, the Maiden die hards were out in force-Displaying their colours on more T-shirts than I ever thought it was possible for 1 band to have created. There were some slight adjustments to the bands Download set. It was nice to have “Revelations”included in the set-a track which I had personally not heard live for quite some time. Rest of the set was all the hits that we know and love “The Trooper”,”Aces High” ,”Number of the Beast “etc. Bowing out with the classic “Sanctuary” Maiden are true British metal legends-and that billing was just further consolidated by this show. They are still untouchable,never equaled and never bettered.
Not wanting our debut Sonisphere experience to end we were off then to check out more legends but of a different musical genre. Returning back to the Bohemia stage to witness goth rockers the Sisters Of Mercy. It seemed that many others didn’t want to stop their partying as once again the tent was packed full. Not being a die hard fan much of their set passed me by. Visibility for both photographers and fans was largely rendered restricted by the huge clouds of onstage smoke throughout the bands set. I recognised a few anthems such as “Dominion”which sounded solidly competent. Thus ended our debut visit to Sonisphere, weather hadn’t been great-but the quality and variety of rock presented to us fully satisfied our insatiable appetite for rock and metal music. Off to recharge our batteries and already anticipating day two.
Sonisphere day 2 dawned bright and sunny and matched our moods. Arriving earlier at the arena also ensured that we obtained a prime spot with great visibility for Devin Townsend. Though I had been aware of the eclectic musician for quite some time I wasn’t very familiar with his musical back catalogue. His performance however was very entertaining. Combining eloquent musical soundscapes of emotional beauty with more brutal and heavier tunes. I was very surprised how much I enjoyed the performance. Devin himself proved to be a great show man, and utilized the walkways of Metallica to good effect to engage as much as possible with his audience.
Aussies Airbourne are an act that have never really impressed me. Having seen them live on several occasions it is essentially the same flat effect that I find myself left with at the end of their sets. Far too derivative of another and more famous Australian band also beginning with “A”. To be fair on a sunny and hot festival crowd their party anthems did generate a great response. Circle pits formed, beer was consumed and many engaged in their sing a long anthems. Airbourne entertained many but just not myself. After three albums I feel that the band should start to create their own individual sound and not merely ride on the coat tails of another Antipodean brand.
Continuing with the theme of rock bands beginning with “A”next up were grunge legends Alice in chains. Having witnessed the band both with Layne Staley and without, I feel that the new brand is growing on me. As a fan of the band in their heyday I was initially reluctant to embrace the new version. However the more I have seen them the more accepting I have become. William Duvall has certainly made the front man position his own. Looking around I was not alone as many of varying age categories enjoyed the bands performance which combined new and recent material with their legendary standards.
Dream Theater are also a band that I am not a huge fan of. While there is certainly no doubting the bands individual and collective musical talents-live I feel that there overplaying and instrumentation induces a personal snooze fest. However while the last time I witnessed their show at High Voltage in 2011 it had failed to deliver, this show was different. I felt that it delivered much more for me personally. Despite not being at all familiar with any of the tunes played I did enjoy the set.
Final night headliners Metallica had promised a “by request”set which they had been doing throughout their current tour. While that presented the potential for many fan favourites and rarely played tunes to be included it actually failed to live up to the hype. The set didn’t differ too much from that which the band had entertained the Glastonbury audience several weeks before. Essentially that meant a band greatest hits selection-which for a band of the caliber of Metallica wasn’t a bad thing. Fan involvement ensured some lucky people were invited onstage to introduce their favourite songs No surprises then, just Metallica doing what they do best- delivering fire and brimstone from a heavy metal hell.
In closing I would just also like to mention another personal highlight as a band from my own country N.Ireland Therapy? delivered a “Infernal Love”album set amid the surroundings of the Bohemia stage tent-band were on fire, audience was passionate and singing arm in arm with like minded die hards from a variety of global nations made me proud of one our small countries finest musical exports.
So in conclusion my first Sonisphere was an excellent experience, sun, fun and many musical delights from both established artists and also artists that were new to me. Bring on next year!!
Other shots courtesy of © thenoisecartel