Friday, 27 February 2009

Metallica @ Manchester MEN Arena (Feb 26 2009)

FOREWORD - (I never intended to write this much about this gig. I have been to much better shows in the past year and never spent even a tenth as much time writing about them. Sorry Megadeth, sorry Maiden.)

I went along to see METALLICA on their current European tour last night, this was only the 2nd date of the current leg of the tour, so I didn't know (or want to know) the setlist before I showed up. I'll try to keep this as a positive review as much as possible; I could easily turn into an old school grouch over this show, as they played mainly new material that I am not familiar with. But I am trying to see it from the band's P.O.V. and it must be refreshing for them to not have to go through the same old back catalog of songs that they have been playing for the past 25 years again and again. So there as only a handful of Metallica "staples" played at this show. I think they played 1 song off each of the first 3 records, 2 off "And Justice" and 3 off "The Black Album".

One more thing before I kick off - And this is a kind of admission here I guess - I have not heard ANYTHING from the last Metallica album, "Death Magnetic". Nope, not one single song. Does that make this review kind of pointless? Probably. One thing that it does mean, I can't give you a proper setlist (not without copy/pasting it from somewhere else on the internet first) because I genuinely don't know the names of the stuff that they played!

Anyway, here's what I recall.

First things first - I never arrived at the venue until after the 2 support bands had already been on stage. I never saw THE SWORD. I never saw MACHINE HEAD. My loss I guess, right? Oh well. I got into the arena just as Metallica's road crew where on stage setting their stuff up, as well as sound checking.

I walked into the arena area to see that the stage was directly in the centre of the place - not at one end of the arena, as is the usual for these kinds of shows. So, if you had a "Standing area" ticket (like me), you could pretty much stand anywhere around the degree perimeter of the stage area. I guess that means the people at the MEN had to have extra stage security at hand. Also, there was a huge lighting rig directly above the stage. I mean HUGE as in RIDICULOUSLY HUGE! The rig was clearly custom built for this tour, with 4 coffin-shaped boxes incorporated in it, each bearing about 20 lights inside. Also, there were another 4 identical coffin light rigs in each corner of the arena. This is a huge tour, the money being spent on the road crew and the transport costs for the stage and rig must be enormous. So much for the economic meltdown huh!

More about the actual stage area - As the stage was in the center of the arena, this kind of makes it "frontless", or should I say, every side of the stage is surrounded by crowds.. so every side of the stage was the front at some time or another. Once they were on stage, the band had to run around quite a lot to cater to each side of the arena. More about that later. The stage had 8 microphone stands placed around the perimeter (1 in each corner and 2 more along each side). The drumkit is in the centre stage and turns around to face a different edge of the stage periodically. Also the lighting rig drops up and down... to begin with it was way up as high as 50 feet in the air, then at one point it was literally dropped down as close as 10 feet from the stage. (I haven't even told you about the lasers or the flamethrowers yet!)

Okay, this is where it gets difficult. As I said earlier, I don't know any of the newer Metallica stuff, that is to say, I don't know any of their new material since they became arena rock gods. It's kind of been intentional that I haven't bothered with the newer stuff. Sorry. But, that said, the songs that they played at this show were really fast and had their "trademark sound" to them, you could clearly tell it was in the Metallica mould. If I was to sit down and listen to their new record I am sure that there would be a few tunes there that I could really come to appreciate. However, that doesn't change the fact that I didn't know ANY of their new stuff played last night.

Okay, I just did a quick search online and found the complete setlist:

  • That Was Just Your Life
  • The End Of The Line
  • For Whom The Bell Tolls
  • Wherever I May Roam
  • One
  • Broken, Beat And Scarred
  • Cyanide
  • Sad But True
  • Turn The Page (Bob Seger cover)
  • The Judas Kiss
  • The Day That Never Comes
  • Master Of Puppets
  • Blackened
  • Nothing Else Matters
  • Enter Sandman

  • See what I mean about "all new songs?". They played a bunch of them. Granted, the band gets to play pretty much a whole new set (with a couple of exceptions) and so everything gets to sounds really fresh. But let's be honest, how many people go to see Metallica specifically to hear the classics? It's a double edged sword of sorts. But their performance cannot be faulted... more about that below.

    The REAL gig, for me at least, began with the encore.

    Okay, this got me joining in for the 1st time all night - Metallica came back on stage and played BLITZKRIEG. I have never heard them play this song live before.... man, do they EVER play Blitzkrieg live? Fucking awesome rendition of it too, every solo in place. They redeemed themselves hugely by playing this song. And if that made things all better, then the next song made this old hack even more of a believer...

    Next up Metallica played THE PRINCE!!! The fucking Prince! They could have played any old cover as an encore and I would have been happy... Breadfan... Stone Cold Crazy... Am I Evil... The Wait... Crash Course... any of those. But they chose The Prince?! How obscure can you get? Most Metallica fans at this gig will have walked away at the end of the show saying "Oh man, that was a great gig! They played Blitzkrieg and Blackened!". Which is a fair shout, by all accounts. And I would wager that the newer fans there will have been very happy to have got such a huge number of the newer tracks played live by Hetfield & co... but really, the highlight of this concert is that METALLICA played THE PRINCE. I wager that this song went way over the heads of most people at this show... they won't have appreciated that Metallica gave an airing to one of their least-played tracks here tonight.

    The last song of the night (as usual) was SEEK & DESTROY. Metallica often close by playing that one. Strangely they decided to play this one with the house lights turned up high, supposedly so that the band could check that the crowd was all joining in with the chorus (what?).

    But then, in a bizarre development, about 1 minute into the song, about 100 massive inflatable balls of all of sizes were dropped down onto the crowd. Surreal and unnecessary, this ended up with the stage area being swamped with huge black inflatable balls - the band then proceeded to wade their way around the stage to finish the song, kicking balls back into the crowd as they went. This then descended into farce, as people in the crowd became "Souvenir hunters", fighting with each other to catch a ball, pin it to the ground and uncork it and deflate it to take home. What the fuck is all that about??? This stunt has got to be costing a lot of money, all for the sake of a spectacle at the end of a Metallica live show? A ball drop? I've seen it all now.

    Considering that this is a big tour and that each date of the tour is going to be a "big event", Metallica have a lot of work to do on each and every night from now until the last night of the tour (they won't be finished in Europe with "The World Magnetic Tour" now until August, that 6 months of shows!), so this is going to be an expensive and techincally extravagant show to keep on the road for such an extended period of time. I hope that they are paying their road crew well (ha, yeah right).

    The set began with a prolonged beams of laser light, for the entirity of the 1st song the stage (and so the whole arena) was flooded with the most amazing light displays. It was like something from the circus rather than a heavy metal gig, it was almost TOO much. Later in the set (during "One" I do believe) we had our 1st taste of the flamethrowers that are lined across the centre spread of the stage (either side of Ulrich's drumkit). That's a lot of propane right there. The heat off the flames went right across the arena like a wave, watch out for those James lad! Laser beams and flame throwers... being at this gig was like being in a 2 hour long rock video, with sore knees as a result.

    Once on stage the band had a lot of work to do, the 3 guitarists must have covered some ground up on that stage, running about from one side to the other, entertaining each face of the arena. Hetfield looked especially sweaty up there under those hot stage lights, running across to and fro like a sprinter at times. There was a lot of time when they were all facing in the opposite direction to where I was stood, but then 2 minutes later Hetfield or 1 of the other guys would run back across and play a solo to another corner of the arena to "wow the crowd". So I have got to applaud their effort in that department, they will be fitter than ever by the end of this tour. The same must go for other bands (Iron Maiden comes to mind) who hit the road with a massive and elaborate stage show.

    One thing wrong with the central stage situation - There is no designated area that you could call a moshpit. The stage took up so much of the floor area that there wasn't much room between the seating area (up each side of the arena) and where the stage began... 5 to 10 metres of room in between, tops. So that area was being used to both watch the band and to make your way around the arena to get to the toilets and to the bar. It made thrashing out to The Prince nearly impossible.

    Okay, I've had enough reviewing this gig for today. I won't go into a long diatribe about the people in THE CROWD, I would only end up sounding bitter and twisted. It was a good show, but FAR too many new songs in the setlist. That's pretty much all you need to know about this gig.

    Monday, 23 February 2009

    Calling Card

    Sunn @ Corsica Studios, London (02/22/09)

    1) DRONE
    2) THEME
    3) THEME 2
    4) DRONE
    5) JUIBLEX (R)
    6) A DRONE
    7) EARTH
    9) EPIC RIFF (L)
    10) ISENGARD
    11) D DRONE
    12) DRONE
    13) BWYTCH
    14) MUSTAINE
    15) BW
    16) ETC.

    Many thanks to Stephen & Greg for photo accreditation.

    Friday, 20 February 2009


    PRIEST FEAST, Manchester Apollo, 17/2/09
    Testament, Megadeth and Judas Priest.
    by H...

    This gig was originally supposed to be held at the much larger Manchester Evening News Arena but the word on the street is that they couldn't sell all the tickets so hence the move to the much smaller (and better!) Apollo Theater!!!!

    After a quick drink with some good old mates of ours in the pub round the back of the apollo (can't remember the name of it) we headed into the Apollo and could hear Testaments opening intro tape just starting so we watched them from up by the sound/light desk on the slope near the rear of the crowd and had an excellent view, see Testaments full setlist as posted by SJW on the last post.
    Testament had a better sound this time around, but never had the intensity of the liverpool show last week, they had a 45 minute set which could have done with more old songs but they've got a new album to plug to the masses I guess, a very good new album might I add and still a good setlist!

    We got right the front for Megadeth, it had to be done. I've never seen Megadeth play a bad show and with Testament sounding really good, I really couldn't wait for Megadeth!!!!
    Megadeth were tight as fuck, that's the only way I can describe it, they played for an hour but left me wanting a proper headlining set!

    Megadeth's set was...
    01. Sleepwalker
    02. Wake Up Dead
    03. Take No Prisoners
    04. A Tout Le Monde
    05. Washington Is Next
    06. She Wolf
    07. In My Darkest Hour
    08. Hangar 18
    09. Symphony of Destruction
    10. Peace Sells
    11. Mechanix
    12. Holy Wars

    I'm not a big fan of "She Wolf" or "A Tout Le Monde" but they worked well with the rest of the songs.
    I can't pick a favourite song of this particular set but "Take No Prisoners" and "Mechanix" made me bang my head the hardest!!! Mechanix's intro of Dave Mustaine saying, "If there's one thing i want you to leave here tonight with, it's that this is NOT the Four Horsemen...this is MECHANIX!!" Fucking Awesome, I hope Mustaine keeps this line up for a while longer!!!!

    Megadeth were always gonna be a hard act to follow, or so I thought...

    I witnessed Judas Priest's Graspop performance in belgium last year, it was quite disappointing, there was no energy, no power, band members looked knackered and looked like they couldn't be arsed playing, the crowd were shit and fast classics seemed slower than usual.
    Priest have ALWAYS been in my top 3 metal bands since I was a kid, after Graspop I felt like I couldn't be bothered with them anymore, I kept saying to myself "If they can't be arsed then why should I?" A few weeks later when I gave them another chance with an airing of their classic 1984 album "Defenders Of the Faith" it did exactly what it said on the case and that was Defend The Fucking Faith!!!! I couldn't stay mad at them any longer. It's an amazing album and some of the tunes from it have been dusted off for their current tour!!!!

    Judas Priest fucking ruled at Priest Feast, the energy, the speed, the effort and showmanship was back, it looked like they were having a ball up there which made the crowd feel more involved!!!
    The setlist was the same as the Graspop but played with lots more enthusiasm and they had more leather changes! Halford had a different leather jacket for every song!!!!

    Priest's Setlist was....

    Dawn Of Creation/Prophecy
    Metal Gods
    Eat Me Alive
    Between The Hammer And The Anvil
    Devil's Child
    Breaking The Law
    Hell Patrol
    Dissident Aggressor
    The Hellion/Electric Eye
    Rock Hard, Ride Free
    Painkiller (the best live version I've ever heard of it!!!)
    Hell Bent For Leather
    The Green Manalishi (with the two pronged crown!!!!)
    You've Got Another Thing Coming

    That setlist contains some obscure tracks which seems to me it's been picked for proper Priest fans, I just wished they'd added "Freewheel Burning" and "Victim Of Changes"!!!!

    They intend to play their new album "Nostradamus" in its entirety at selected shows on the next leg of their next tour, apparently complete with costume changes and actors on stage like a proper theatrical play and I'm not sure what to make of that rumour but I think Priest might make an amazing job out of it!!!!

    Tuesday, 17 February 2009

    Priest Feast: Manchester, England

    Stage Time: 18:15
    For The Glory
    Over The Wall
    The New Order
    More Than Meets The Eye
    The Persecuted Don't Forget
    Three Days
    Practice What You Preach
    The Formation Of Damnation

    Saturday, 14 February 2009

    Happy Birthday Hank

    2 more years and it's Hawaii 5-O time, how the fuck did that happen? Have a good birthday, and don't overdo the booze okay (heh heh).

    Get the guys together and come over to see us in England again soon, okay man. That means a gig, not stand up! Spoken word is all good and well but we need some WEIGHT.

    Thursday, 12 February 2009

    Testament - Liverpool O2 Academy, February 12th 2009

    The 1st "big metal tour" to hit the UK this year has swung past our hometown, albeit only a third of it. FUCKING TESTAMENT!

    Here is the set list from TESTAMENT's show in Liverpool tonight (February 12th 2009):

    1) For The Glory of...
    2) The Persecuted Won't Forget
    3) Over The Wall
    4) The New Order
    5) First Strike Is Deadly
    6) Dangers Of The Faithless
    7) Into The Pit
    8) Practice What You Preach
    9) Alone In The Dark
    10) D.N.R.
    11) 3 Days In Darkness
    12) The Formation Of Damnation
    13) More Than Meets The Eye
    14) Dog Faced Gods
    15) Disciples

    This was a TESTAMENT-only show in amongst the current PRIEST FEAST tour dates, so the Liverpool show had a much longer set than is being offered elsewhere.

    They played a great set, 15 songs in a row, no encores. They never played Trial By Fire, they never played Apocalyptic City... but hey, you can't have everything! I thought that the mix wasn't very clear, the vocals seemed a bit muffled. That aside, it was nice to see a proper old school thrash band playing in Liverpool. I put the performance up their next to MORBID ANGEL's show that we saw in Wolverhampton last summer. 25 years after they formed and TESTAMENT are still out their, still touring and giving a fucking great show. Well in lads!

    Many thanks to the good people of Liverpool's O2 Academy for arranging photo accreditation for THEE CLAW.

    Question: Do TESTAMENT always close their shows by playing a tape of "I Left My Heart In San Francisco" by Tony Bennett as they leave the stage? If so, nice touch!

    Monday, 9 February 2009

    Sunn To Play London Again

    It's been a while since we saw Sunn play a gig now.

    December 2007 in fact. That was the last time I think, in London when they played a special show with Boris & Earth, that was the night they played the material from Altar.

    Well O'Malley & Anderson are in London again on Feb 22nd (a Sunday) and guess what, it's another one-off concert, this time being held at a place called Corsica Studios. As of yet I have never been to that venue, but from what I hear it's quite small (a capacity of 200 or so people) which is about the same size as the venue where I saw Sunn for the first time in Liverpool (a now defunct club called Roadkill). That was "small" as well... not really that small to be truthful, its just how I like my gigs to be in fact.

    This year THEE CLAW has changed its priorities, we've made a decision to take our collective foot off the pedal and let things happen without forcing it. That's pretty much how we kept things for 18 months at one point, non stop gigs. It sounds like a ball, and it surely was, but we aren't professional journalists and we're not backstage luvvies, all of our gig tickets were paid for out of our own damn pockets and we travelled to venues across Europe under our own steam, no freebies here. And after a while we realised that we had put gigs first and everything else was left to rot. There's only so long that you can do that for.

    BUT - you can't deny the call of the claw for very long. We have fucking missed being deaf for too long! We're live music junkies. And what better fix is there than to go to London and listen to doom drone via tube amplifiers? Fuck yeah, we need some of that.

    Tuesday, 3 February 2009