couple of GRTR! reviewers (and a photographer) still recovering
from High Voltage the three-day Sonisphere event may have seemed
formidable. In the best GRTR! traditions they took it all in their
Jim Rowland writes
Knebworth - a venue steeped in rock history. Floyd, Genesis, The Stones,
Zappa, Zeppelin, Purple, Queen and..er.. Robbie Williams ...
have all graced this place over the years. Now that the good guys at
Sonisphere have dragged it kicking and screaming into the modern era,
and back to pure Rock, is it still an event worthy of the legend?
Friday eases the amassed rock hordes into the weekend by kicking off the
music at 5.00, giving everyone and chance to arrive, set up and chill
out before the madness commences.
The impressive Bohemia Stage, a giant, if a little too hot, marquee is
my first port of call as U.S. prog sensations Bigelf get things
Only a half
hour set allotted for them today, but Bigelf give an extremely good
account of themselves. Last week at High Voltage they were amongst old
friends on the Prog Stage, today they make a whole lot of new friends
with the classic rock riffage of The Evils Of Rock'n'Roll impressing the
metalheads who may not have checked them out before.
Black Spiders are a band spreading their web all over the place
at the moment, building a loyal and dedicated fanbase. All the more
impressive considering they are yet to release a full album.
Just Like A
Woman, a full on rocker from their latest EP, proves why this band are
kicking up a bit of an underground storm.
Black Spiders manage to weld a lot of 70's classic rock influences
together, and there's a strong hint of Black Sabbath to them, but the
end result is something that definitely works in the here and now.
brilliantly titled 'Kiss Tried To Kill Me', about the singer's nightmare
of Gene Simmons being after him with evil intentions, is definitely
worth a recommendation. With a first album in the can and awaiting a
release, expect the Black Spiders to come up and bite you in the very
certainly seem hell bent on taking head on any preconceptions about
them, judging by the way they followed last year's Bloodstock appearance
by playing another festival full of uncompromising metalheads.
in black and de-glammed from their heyday, they wisely stuck to heavier
material such as the title track 'Last Look at Eden' and 'No Stone
Unturned' from last year's album, both having a retro feel with some
seventies flavoured keyboards s from Mic Michaeli, and Love is Not the
Enemy with John Norum's downtuned guitar tones.
they dipped into their back catalogue it was with 'Scream of Anger',
reminiscent of Rainbow's 'Spotlight Kid'. However Joey Tempest got the
crowd singing and clapping to 'Superstitious' and 'Rock the Night' -
with a snatch of 'Heaven and Hell', while after another trip to their
contemporary sound in 'The Beast', the inevitable closer 'The Final
Countdown' was surely known to everyone present and had the crowd
jumping up and down.
metal festival 20 years ago Europe would have met by a storm of
urine-filled bottles, but time is a great healer, the band have
certainly toughened up musically and image wise (and anyway were
unfairly pigeonholed) and they enjoyed a good reaction. Let's hope
further interest was generated for their 2011 tour.
Gary Numan, sandwiched between Europe and Alice Cooper on the
Saturn Stage, may have seemed like a strange choice to some, but his
industrial sound goes down just fine with the crowd.
Post gig, in
a chat to GRTR's photographer Moonshayde Photography, he mentioned that he was
pretty nervous about how he would be received by a predominantly metal
audience, but was more than pleasantly surprised by the reception.
Numan has a much more guitar-led flavour to it, and large sections of
the crowd were well familiar with his newer material such as 'Halo' and
'Pure', which did get a good reception, but it was still the old hits
'Cars' and 'Are Friends Electric' that really brought the crowd to life
and singing along. There's plently of life in Gary Numan yet.
ways, there is no one like Alice Cooper. His macabre vaudeville
show has remained essentially the same at least since I first saw him in
1987, and yet continues to appeal to new fans and he manages to span the
video close ups showing him thinning a tad on top, he looks unchanged
and performs with the energy of a man half his age. Maybe more of us
should share a round of golf and an anecdote with Ronnie ‘the prod-ucer'
Back in the
early seventies, he and his original band (still unmatched, though the
current line-up are excellent musicians staying reasonably close to the
original spirit) produced some of the most inventive and timeless music,
much covered by others over the years.
opening trio of 'Schools Out', 'No More Mr Nice Guy' and 'I'm Eighteen'
provided proof of this. From then on, the set choice was built around
Alice's horror show in which he must have been killed at least four
times by various contraptions, and tortured by the asylum nurse Rosetta,
but ‘miraculously' came back triumphantly every time.
At times it
is hard to follow both the stage props, the storyline and the music, but
oddly it was his comeback hit 'Poison', so overplayed at rock clubs back
in the day, that really impressed me in the live environment along with
treats from his seventies catalogue such as the 'Ballad of Dwight Fry',
'From the Inside' and 'I Never Cry'.
another classic in 'Billion Dollar Babies' with Alice releasing dollar
bills into the crowd, 'Feed my Frankenstein' saw him joined on stage by
a giant monster and just when I thought he couldn't play any more
classics, he finished up with garage rock classic 'Under My Wheels'.
he came back on stage in a white suit and brandishing the Union flag to
sing and ad lib through 'Elected', thankfully restored to the set after
a few years away, before a reprise of 'Schools Out' sent everyone off to
their campsites on a high.
reason, Alice has rarely been booked for metal festivals (though he did
play second on the bill in broad daylight, which spoiled the impact, at
2006's Monsters of Rock). But on this evidence, however often you have
seen it, he puts on a great show, with a memorable back catalogue, which
benefits from taking place on a large stage as night falls. Promoters
starts with one of the definitive festival highlights - Vincent Furnier
aka Alice Cooper.
rises and the sound of a deafeningly shrill bell introduces Coop's
anthemic 'School's Out'. Alice comes out twirling his baton looking like
a ghoulish cheerleader and demands of everyone stand to attention and
performance focuses heavily on Cooper's classic '70s era with the odd
new number as well as the crowd pleaser 'Poison' thrown in for good
of Death tour, that tonight's gig is part of, tells the story of our
troubled anti-hero's life and times on earth and the consequences he has
to face for actions like murdering 'Cold Ethyl' aka a bruised rag doll
that Alice beats and kicks around the stage and finally dances the tango
Young Man' leads up to Cooper's decapitation by guillotine and he gets
send to purgatory. But the afterlife in Cooperland looks rather fun -
maracas in hands, Alice shimmies along to the tropical disco grooves of
'Go To Hell'.
highlights of Alice's performance are the Lennon-esque ballad 'I Never
Cry' before Alice's death by strangulation, and the autobiographical
re-telling of AC's time in a sanatorium - 'From The Inside' sees Alice
stumble across the stage with a bottle of scotch in hand and leads into
'Nurse Rosetta', the song in which Alice gets turned on by the insane
asylum's nurse, played by his daughter.
But as good
as all the theatrics in this morality play are, throughout the show the
focus never strays from the music, immaculately executed by Alice's band
of L.A. session guys.
After a good
hour and a half worth of hits Cooper sends us into the night with
'Billion Dollar Babies' for which he throws monopoly money into the
crowd, 'Elected', with Cooper wearing a suit and top hat decked out in
mirrors and finally a reprise of 'Schools Out'. We salute the man in
make-up; he's brought day one to a glorious finale.
Basement made an early appearance in the Bohemia Tent. They are now
on their third singer of the year with James Sinclair the new permanent
frontman. He was confident and had a strong voice, though with his mop
of hair and boyish looks, he had the air of one of the schoolboy
hopefuls mentored by Gene Simmons in his TV show.
reduced to a four piece by a hand injury to rhythm guitarist Jonny
Rocker (though he did come on stage to sing Paranoia, looking like a
young Ian hunter in shades and curly hair), HB were still full of their
usual youthful energy and gave it 100%.
really came together with the more intricate 'Reign on my Parade', with
the crowd pogoing during the heavy phase, and closer 'Executioners Day'
which rattled along at breakneck speed. With a stable line up at last,
they can still fulfil their potential.
their second successive festival after High Voltage, I checked out
Audrey Horne (a band, named after the Twin Peaks character, not a
girl singer!) on one of the smaller stages and was intrigued by the mix
of styles both visually (singer in a white shirt and trousers and tie,
amongst long-haired rockers) and musically - a touch of grunge or
industrial here and there, but some traditional metal riffs and solos.
Norwegians produced an interesting set though in 25 minutes it was
frustrating more of it did not lodge in my brain on first listening.
essentially revolves around guitar, bass and drums, correct? Well not
for Finns Apocalyptica, who consist of a trio of cello players,
propelled by a drummer.
originally made their name covering Metallica songs and it was amusing
to hear the crowd chant the missing choruses as they did instrumental
versions of Master of Puppets and Seek and Destroy.
But much of
the set was original compositions with a guest singer, and the biggest
tribute I can pay to their skill in adapting the cellos to metal's song
structures and rhythms is that by the end I had forgotten the gimmick of
three cellos making the sound and was treating the songs at face value.
recommend catching them at least once to appreciate the clever way they
have adapted new instruments to create a fresh spin on a familiar genre.
excesses of the night before, it's an early start for GRTR!, as there is
a veritable feast of old school metal to be had.
Sweden's Enforcer may sound like they released a string of early
Metal classics on Neat records in 1980, but this is a young band with an
obvious passion for all things NWOBHM.
You have to
hand it to our Swedish friends, there's something about rock bands that
come from there where they can authenticate the sound of a bygone era of
rock with pinpoint detail.
refreshing to see a young band playing classic, straight ahead, fast
hard and loud Heavy Metal to an extremely appreciative crowd.
The likes of
Raven, Anvil and Exciter spring to mind as they bomb through their set,
but this is a great HM band with an identity of their own.
If there is such a thing as a new thrash metal 'big four', then
Huddersfield's Evile must surely be one of them. With two
acclaimed albums already under their belt, this band is earning a great
they appear at just a little after midday, the Bohemia tent is heaving
as they launch into Infected Nation. Like Enforcer, this is another
young band with a passion for some old school metal.
classic thrash sound brings to mind early Metallica, Testament and
Anthrax amongst countless others, but while a strong influence is
undoubtedly there, they don't sound like any one of those bands in
is a modern day thrash classic, and the Evile hardcore following moshing
at the front get a treat as the band give them 'Metamorphosis', a track
never played live before. This isn't a heads down, play as fast as you
can thrash band. Evile play with intelligence and ambition, and are not
afraid to introduce subtler moments to their songs.
similarities to a Ride The Lightning-era Metallica, and if they keep
progressing the way they have done, who's to say they're not going to
come up with a Master Of Puppets in the near future.
Over on the main Apollo stage, Lacuna Coil's set draws heavily
from last year's Shallow Life album. The band's sound has progressed
from their earlier gothic metal roots, and tracks like Spellbound and
Survive, whilst retaining some real power to them in the guitar
department, have a strong melodic, commercial element to them. Despite a
very early slot on this stage, their set is greeted very well.
Anthrax are greeted like returning heroes to the Apollo stage.
With Joey Belladonna back in the ranks, this is an Anthrax set chock
full of the old classics, and the band are on great form.
pits at the front break out instantly as the band launch into 'Caught In
A Mosh' and a super speedy 'Got the Time', the newest song in the set
today, only going back a mere 20 years!
and the old Trust classic 'Anti-Social' really get the crowd singing
along before Joey dons the old Indian head dress for Indians, the
centrepiece of the set.
through 'Indians', the band bring it down as Joey pays a fine tribute to
Ronnie James Dio and they break into Heaven and Hell, with more crowd
tribute, and far from the only one paid to Dio during the course of the
weekend. 'Metal Thrashing Mad' goes all the way back to the first album
and keeps the mosh pit on their toes before 'I am The Law' beings a
great set to a close.
the Anthrax press conference after the gig, I learned that a brand new
album is to be expected, with Joey on vocals, and if Metallica give it
the thumbs up, the big four tour could be heading our way next year, so
things are looking up for Anthrax fans in the UK.
On the Saturn stage, Max Cavalera calls for circle pits during
Soulfly's set, and the crowd duly oblige. Soulfly only have 30
minutes, but they use the time wisely, blasting out Soulfly gems like
'Back To the Primitive' and 'Prophecy', alongside Sepultura classics
'Refuse/Resist' and 'Roots Bloody Roots'. 'Bloodbath and Beyond' is a
good taster of the latest album, 'Omen', showing Cavalera has lost none
of his brutal spark.
Skunk Anansie's Skin is as hyperactive and mischievous as she's
always been, and doesn't seem to have aged a day since the band's
initial success in the 90's.
like 'Selling Jesus', 'Charity' and 'Everyday Hurts' from that period
get a good reaction and 'Skin' dives into the crowd during Weak.
'Because Of You' and 'My Ugly Boy' sound very promising ahead of the new
album, due out in September. 'Tear The Place Up' and 'Skank Heads' up
the tempo with a nice bit of punky energy. 'Little Baby Swastika' goes
right back to the start to finish the set well. With the new stuff
sounding good, and the band having lost none of their energy, the next
twelve months will be pretty busy for Skunk Anansie.
Motley Crue have a reputation for being a bit hit and miss at
festivals. Their last appearance at Download got a mixed reception, due
to too much waffling and titty cam nonsense.
appearance, thankfully, is short on waffling and big on churning out
Crue classics. The band hit the ground running with 'Kickstart My Heart'
and 'Dr. Feelgood', followed by two gems from the first album, 'Too Fast
For Love' and 'Live Wire'.
Situation' and 'Rattlesnake Shake' also feature from Dr. Feelgood, while
'10 Seconds to Love' gets a rare outing.
The is Crue
in good form. Vince Neal may not be the best singer in town, but he puts
in a sterling performance today, and shows why he's still regarded as a
great frontman. 'Wild Side', 'Shout at the Devil' and 'Girls Girls
Girls' finish the set in great style.
really won the crowd over today, with many people citing this as one of
their favourite sets of the weekend. By cutting out the padding and
giving the crowd what they wanted, an onslaught of Crue's best tracks,
Motley Crue won a whole lot of friends today.
Tonight is Rammstein's debut UK festival performance. The fact
that their stage show takes 8 articulated lorries to transport, means
that this is going to be a huge show rather than a band knocking out
As the intro
tape rolls, a huge German flag fills the stage. You have to admire their
balls for doing that at their debut UK performance. The flag drops and
the band are revealed amidst a stage set reminiscent of an alien horror
smoke aplenty, and a highly impressive lighting rig make this quite a
visual feast, and that's why it must be viewed as a complete show, as if
left purely to the music, this may not be quite the same spectacle.
The fact that Rammstein are the only European band to achieve major
success whilst still singing in their native language says a lot, and
the likes of 'Du Hast' get the crowd chanting along.
speaking a word until the end of the set, frontman Till Lindemann is
quite a character. At the end of the set, he floats off in a rubber
dinghy and pulls out a Union Jack flag, before returning to the stage to
squirt bubbles from a giant penis all over the crowd. They can only be
The show was
billed as being two hours, but the band finished a full half-hour short,
leaving some fans feeling a bit short changed. Still, an entertaining
show if viewed in its entirety, but not the best of the weekend if
viewed purely on musical merit.
Skindred's 'Ragga Metal' proved a huge hit at this year's
Hammerfest, and despite an early appearance on the Apollo stage, it
proves a hit here too. The sets leans heaviest on material from the
Roots Rock Riot album, but opener 'Stand For Something', from the latest
album Shark Bites and Dog Fights, proved one of the strongest. Their
fusion of metal, punk and reggae is a winner here today.
For a band of Slayer's stature, an afternoon slot was a bit
early, but they hit the stage with South Of Heaven in fine style.
As with a
lot of the bands here, the set is full of the best known stuff, whilst
still giving the crowd a taste of the latest album, World Painted Blood,
in the shape of the title track and Hate Worldwide.
They are as
tight and brutal as ever, and the mosh pits really take off from where
Anthrax left them yesterday.
Ensemble', 'Dead Skin Mask' and 'Reign in Blood' provide the faithful
with that classic Slayer fix, before 'Mandatory Suicide' and possibly
the greatest thrash song of all, a pummelling 'Angel Of Death', bring
their brief 45 minute set to a close.
doesn't do too much headbanging anymore, the results of a recent
operation, but his vocals are still at their demonic best. As with
Motorhead, you always know what you're going to get from Slayer, and
they rarely let you down. They didn't today.
The return of Alice In Chains was welcomed by many fans last year
and their appearance at Sonisphere is welcomed by many here too.
of the set is made up of tracks from last year's Black Gives Way To
Blue, a highlight being the twisted riffing of 'Check My Brain', coupled
with quite a few from 92's The Dirt - 'Them Bones', 'Rain When I Die'
and 'Rooster' all feature, along with set closer 'Would'. A good, solid,
if not mind-blowing performance.
Iggy & the Stooges are the kind of legendary act every festival
needs, as Alice proved on Friday night. These guys have been around for
over 40 years for a reason, they're damned good a what they do and their
music is timeless.
shows earlier this year, the Stooges don't play the whole of the Raw
Power album, but instead deliver an incendiary set of Stooges classics
from all three albums and beyond.
and 'Search and Destroy' kick the set off superbly, as both tracks are
played just that little bit faster and with an extra pinch of venom.
Appeal' features the usual call from Iggy for some of the crowd to join
him on stage, although fewer make it past the security than on previous
Funhouse' and 'I Gotta Right' all keep the crowd happy, whilst 'I Wanna
Be Your Dog' gets the biggest reception of the set, with Iggy getting
into the crowd.
Face Is Going To Hell' and 'Open Up' and 'Bleed' close the set before
the band encore with 'Death Trip' and 'No Fun'.
Williamson's guitar playing was top notch from start to finish, and
Steve Mackay's meandering sax adds an extra dimension.
still proved why he is a legend, with a great performance. Although the
crowd started to thin towards the end of the set as people drifted away
to take up positions for Iron Maiden, the Stooges set was a real
highlight of the weekend for me. This is pure, high energy, vicious
rock'n'roll that has stood the test of time.
First up for
me on the Sunday, leaving aside a Beatles tribute band(!) were Voodoo
Six who had impressed me two years ago at Download.
still full of enthusiasm, bassist Tony Newton with his foot on the
monitor similar to his chum Steve Harris, yet new singer Luke Purdie may
have sounded heavier but lacked the charisma of his predecessor Henry
Rundell and the lack of hooks left me cold, until 'Long Way' finally
combined heaviness and melody. Rather unmemorable I'm afraid.
Next up were
The Union, who I had also caught at High Voltage. After being the
main song writer for arguably Britain's best bluesy rock band of the
past two decades in Thunder, Luke Morley could be on his way to creating
another special band, although it is lead singer and co-guitarist Peter
Shoulder whose distinctive vocals really catch the ear.
like opener 'Step Up to the Plate' are not too far removed from a less
commercial Thunder, but the pair have explored the musical boundaries-
on 'Easy Street' some very Jack Bruce-esque singing reminded me of
Cream, while 'Black Monday' had the lolloping stride of the Doors'
'People are Strange'. They were a little out of place on the bill, but
the Union promise to be one of the more interesting collaborations of
got to see The Cult for the first time since 1987, but little has
changed. Billy Duffy is still the master of simple, often recycled but
catchy riffs, and Ian Astbury still strikes the rock star god poses -
though the Northerner now speaks with an accent lodged across the pond.
seriously, he barely bothered to sing many of the words, just randomly
barking out a couple at a time.
couple of detours, the Cult stuck to the hits from Love, Electric and
Sonic Temple, and how could those in the moshpit resist pogoing to the
likes of 'Fire Woman', 'She Sells Sanctuary', 'Wild Flower' and 'Love
Removal Machine'? In fact if they came back to do an indoor venue, I
might be tempted to do so myself for old time's sake.
Iron Maiden closed the festival, and were certainly one of my main
attractions for attending. The stage set was more basic than some of
their extravaganzas but the lighting was impressive, while as usual the
band charged around the stage.
Dickinson was a hyperactive ringleader and his singing has rarely
sounded more spot on in the live arena. However I found his stage
persona rather unattractive- his Benny from Crossroads hat, his
chippiness about Maiden's lack of media coverage, and the way this
intelligent man talks to the crowd as if we are a bunch of prepubescent
11 year olds.
As for the
set, well having seen setlists from the American tour I knew what to
expect, and it probably divided opinion in the crowd as much as it has
on web forums.
ever increasing popularity, Maiden chose to focus on material from the
three previous albums after Bruce rejoined in 1999. With the exception
of 'Wrathchild', and a new song 'El Dorado' which failed to impress me
(it was just as well Bruce stated, rather oddly, it was not typical of
their forthcoming 'Final Frontier' opus), they took up the first hour
and a quarter of the set.
I love these
albums and moving to a three guitar line up has given them the scope to
write more progressive songs with more imaginative guitar arrangements.
included 'Dance of Death' with its jig-like guitar solos, 'The
Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg' where the guitars almost take off
mid-section into Wishbone Ash territory, 'No more Lies' with the lights
flashing in unison, and 'Blood Brothers', dedicated movingly to Ronnie
James Dio's memory. The low point was 'Wildest Dreams' - surely the
weakest effort in Maiden's armoury.
really doubt these were the songs that the crowd, even those that have
discovered Maiden in recent years, wanted to hear. Besides this the very
different dynamic of a festival, with a variety of fans and not only
Maiden diehards - a fact recognised by many artists who stuck, sometimes
too closely, to a Greatest Hits set.
exception of opener 'The Wicker Man', none of the newer songs are the
fist in the air type anthems to headbang to and respond to Bruce's
‘scream for me Knebworth' chants. As a result, certainly from my vantage
point a distance back, the crowd seemed muted, while an inconsistent
sound was not helping my enjoyment.
of the Dark' was finally played, it was as if a switch had suddenly been
turned on, but there was only one song to go, a giant Eddie making his
customary appearance during Iron Maiden.
whole crowd sang along to 'Number of the Beast' and 'Hallowed be thy
Name', reminding me what more of the gig should have been like, before
the surprise of the night with 'Running Free' being restored, the ever
superb Steve Harris' bass rumbling menacingly, and us traditional Maiden
fans punching the air as we sang along.
would call this narrow minded and backward looking, but for me their
Somewhere Back in Time gig in 2008 at Twickenham was so much more
enjoyable and fun. But even a below par Maiden show is worth witnessing.
'The Wicker Man'/ 'Ghost Of The Navigator'/ 'Wrathchild'
'El Dorado'/ 'Dance Of Death'/ 'The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg'/'These
Colours Don't Run'/'Blood Brothers'
'Wildest Dreams'/'No More Lies'/'Brave New World'/'Fear Of The
'The Number of the Beast'/'Hallowed Be Thy Name'/'Running Free'
Jim Rowland writes
impression of Sonisphere was a good one. This is a young festival, both
in terms of the make-up of the crowd and length of time the festival has
been going for.
as big as Download yet, this festival is already giving them a good run
for their money. Sonisphere feels a little more state of the art, and
the layout of the site is extremely good.
It's easy to
get from one stage to another, and the facilities are good. No faffing
about with beer tokens either. A worthy modern day extension of that Knebworth legacy.
Maiden's Steve Harris with GRTR!'s Noel Buckley
by Jim Rowland and Andy Nathan
Additional reporting Dino Gollnick
Photography: Moonshayde Photography/GRTR! All