Sonisphere review: part the 1st
Got there on Thursday night after a four hour journey from ‘oop north’ in Yorkshire and was spoilt for choice for a pitch in the guest/media campsite. That wouldn’t be the case at the same time in 24 hours. Pitched the tent, chilled out with a cider or two before setting off to recce the arena. It took an age to reach it as the pathway had changed from last year’s event, enforcing us to a more circuitous route instead of through the Rock Royalty campsite. A flash of the wristband, and into the arena to be greeted by a myriad of food vendors on all sides, whose prices I shall not go into. To my left; the Apollo stage which would be graced by the Big 4 on Friday. To my right; the Saturn stage, where Airbourne would belt out their best in their inimitable way. So, off on a wander I went to familiarise myself with the layout and found that little had changed from last year. Bohemia was where I had left it and the Jagermeister stage was still at the bottom of the site. The fun fair was in full swing and all I could see that was missing was the Strongbow stage, and replacing it was the Red Bull Bedroom Jam stage. Satisfied I wouldn’t get lost, retirement to my canvas abode for the weekend was sought and after a well-deserved beverage I sought my slumber.
Day 1: Friday
Overnight, the weather had changed and it had belted it down with heavy rain which carried on intermittently throughout the morning. This didn’t bode well for the day’s entertainment. Off to the arena I did trot for another wander and to hook up with old friends and new. We went back to their tents in Red camp and I was shocked at the length of the queue to check-in. It was seemingly endless, and they had my pity at the time it was taking them to get in. Back into the arena and up to the Apollo stage to catch the special guests of the Big 4; Diamond Head. They played as well as I expected, no-nonsense NWOBHM! It’s a shame they don’t get a better slot as they play some really exciting music.
First up of the Big 4 were Anthrax. There was a big crowd there in anticipation of one of metal’s greatest bands, and they didn’t disappoint the majority with classics such as ‘I Am The Law’, ‘Indians’, and ‘Madhouse’. Sadly, for me anyway, they weren’t as good as last year’s appearance here. Perhaps it was the absence of Scott Ian, (replaced by Andreas Kisser of Sepultura), but they didn’t quite hit the spot for me, although I did enjoy the set to some degree. Then, it was time for a break before the next act of the Big 4.
Megadeth were up next; a band I’ve never gotten around to seeing live before today, and I was expecting big things from them on the 25th anniversary of one of their best albums – Rust In Peace. The crowd gave the band their due loud Sonisphere welcome and a louder roar for Dave Mustaine. He took to the stage wielding his twin-necked flying-v guitar, acknowledged the audience, and launched into their hour-long set. Maybe I was expecting too much of them, but, I managed to last three tracks before boredom kicked in and I walked away in search of other entertainment. Shame, really. I left feeling let down and totally apathetic about the band.
I ended up at the Jagermeister stage to catch Slam Cartel part-way into their show. I saw this band here last year and was pretty impressed. Back then, they played good, old-fashioned rock music with a hint of their own style thrown in for good measure, and it was good to see they had progressed, refining their performance and giving their hearts and souls to their music. The debut album, ‘Handful of Dreams’ has many surprises on it and hearing some of the forthcoming release played live left me in no doubt of what they are capable of if they are given that chance. Their audience also knew they were onto a good thing and were very appreciative of every song in their short set. It didn’t feel like they had enough time to show their wares, and we were all left wanting more.
I headed back up and over the hill to catch the mighty Slayer with my spirits lifted and the disappointment that was Megadeth a distant memory. Boy was I glad that I did! They were truly awesome, and I don’t say that lightly. Kerry king was all over the place and he looks even more intimidating on the three big screens. The crowd were truly appreciative of their performance and let them know about it. This only served to encourage Slayer into a more blistering and frenzied show. And then, when they just about seemed to be getting into their stride, it was over and too soon. It was a much better show over last year’s, and Metallica needed to be on top of their game, and more, to beat this.
Then, it was Metallica’s turn to hit the Sonisphere stage. It had been a long time since last I saw them play, and I had to admit it was with a little trepidation that I settled in to be entertained. The field in front of the Apollo stage was now rammed, stretching back behind the sound tower, (good job they had put a big screen on the back of it!), and we were all eager for Metallica on their 30th anniversary. This was to be a show of something old, something new, something borrowed, and some kind of monster!
James Hetfield prowled the stage only returning to the mic to growl out the lyrics to the tunes that have made them the masters of metal that they are. Kirk Hammett strode the stage, lightning licking at his fingers as the riffs flowed from his guitar, whilst Rob Treviso whirled about the stage like a dervish and seemingly as frenzied. Lars pounded the hell out of his kit as if to teach it a lesson and must have shed pounds in weight judging by the sweat and effort he was putting into it. When it finally came around to one of my favourite tracks; ‘One’, the intro was a barrage of sound, light and imagery to give you that feel that you were present on a battlefield. Truly excellent production!
Towards the end of the set, Metallica were joined on stage by the rest of the Big 4plus Brian Tatler of Diamond Head as a very special guest. It didn’t take a genius to guess what they might all play together. James introduced Brian as one of the reasons as to why he got into metal in the first place before they launched into ‘Am I Evil’. It must have been a mammoth task to arrange so many musicians into some semblance of order to play such an iconic song, but it came off perfectly. It was awesome to see so many of metal’s master purveyors of mayhem and madness assembled together in one instance and to hear the opening riffs of the song played in unison was intensely electrifying. And, when it came to that solo, only one man on that stage could be expected to step up to the task – the writer of the tune himself, Brian Tatler. The crowd went ape, and every member of the Big 4 on stage looked as though they were enjoying every moment of it.
After the stage had cleared, there was just time for one more song from the headliners before they bade us goodbye. For a performance that I thought started off slowly, definitely left me with a feeling of euphoria that would take more than a few ciders to quell. A magnificent end to the first day. Roll on Saturday.