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Monday, July 25, 2011

Gig Review: Sonisphere Festival 2011, Knebworth, UK

You know the set-up by now. All scores are out of 5 and I’m gonna try and get through three days in one page so, blink and you’ll miss it. I’m at the home of rock, Knebworth, for their annual Sonisphere Festival and the gods above are furrowing their cloud-esque brows at me. The promise of The Big Four looms. First up though, (3.5) who give us a brutal rendition of “Beech Like A Tree” and a storming sing-a-long-a-”Deadliest Catch” but the rest of their set falls a little short. They are followed by (2.5) who chunter along pleasantly until they chuck out “Am I Evil”, simultaneously delighting and whetting several thousand appetites for what follows.

Kicking off the first Big Four get-together in the UK, (3.5) rock the place with Joey Belladonna belting out hits like “Got The Time” and “I Am The Law”, before (5.0) step up to the plate and hit it out the park with a storming set. “Symphony Of Destruction” and “Hangar 18″ are nothing short of staggering and the crowd goes nuts. Throw in “Sweating Bullets” and “Peace Sells” and you’ve got goddamn perfection, baby. (4.0) are on fine form with plenty of novel audience interaction coming from the stage in between the classics like “Hell Awaits” and, yep, “Raining Blood”. (3.5) always try to steal the show and usually end up succeeding but they lose something mid-set with a slackening of the pace. The real moment of truth arrives as all the Big Four members are invited back on stage to play ’s classic “Helpless” with Brian Tatler leading them a merry dance as Mustaine and Hetfield hug it out.

(3.5) kick off day two with a dose of heavy, before (4.0) breaks out his crooner suit and serenades us with his lounge version of songs like “Baby Got Back” and “Enter Sandman” – a swaying honey at the front of the crowd and keyboardist Bobby Ricotta’s face-splitting grin are the real stars. (4.0) release the beast and assault us with “Warlord”, before (2.0) and (1.5) send us all back to sleep – yes we’re only here for your hits, Whibley.

Into the Bohemia Tent as the rain descends for (4.5) who break out “Jetpacks Was Yes!” early to great effect. Spencer Sotelo simply stuns us with his vocal range while Misha Mansoor gets his own chant for his blurring fretwork. (3.5) make a welcome appearance in a Ginger-only listed slot and members pop by to seal the deal at the end. Then, the surprising pinnacle of the festival arrives as (5.0) turn the tent into a futuristic battlefield by firing up “Ocean Planet” and then “Backbone”. At this point the circle pits open up and the resultant crush-and-release sends our heads spinning on to some other astral plane. Un-fucking-believable! Hitting fresh air once more, reinvigorated, (3.0) give us their usual enjoyable schtick and we all stick our middle fingers up at them (at their request), rock out for a while and then start seeking out the fairground rides.

Day three brings bright sunshine and an awesome set of metal prospects. Over on the tiny Jagermeister Stage, (2.5) are a bit disappointing as their feisty tech fails to shift anyone from stasis, including themselves. That’s not the case for (5.0), who as midday strikes, transform the Red Bull Tent into one vast circle pit. Both stanchions are consumed by it and every band member ends up in with the fans at some point – even the drummer, who actually downs tools and walks through his kit, sending toms and cymbals flying, to reach the outstretched hands of his adoring people.

The heavy shit begins with (3.5) who throw sonic nirvana at the Bohemia crowd and get a thousand nodding heads grinning back, whilst (4.0) do the same and get an arena-full – “Oblivion” kicks them off and “March Of The Fire Ants” reduces those watching to a sea of pumping fists. (3.5) is all about Joel O’Keefe’s mad aerial acrobatics these days, and he doesn’t disappoint, standing proudly atop the Saturn Stage with axe raised. They do need to start stepping it up from here – -style blow-up stage props, perhaps? As we ruminate, (4.0) start rocking our world with “Iron Fist” and send us into raptures with “Overkill”.

Over to Fred as (4.0) let the crowd “choose” their set and end up playing just “Douchebag” off Gold Cobra. You can’t complain when they’ve got so many greatest hits to back it up. The crowd is divided for comedian/musician (2.5) between those booze-soaked souls (who’d give the horns to right now) and those just plain soaked from the rain. “Insect Nation”, Bill’s dance remixes and his take on the cockney knees-up go down well, but his sub-par “Leg Of Time” was never gonna get these cats moving. Still, he improves as the set goes on and, perversely, as the rain subsides. (3.0) stick with the day’s Paul Gray worshipping (we had a two-minute silence earlier), by displaying his number on the big screen virtually throughout (with his inevitable replacement, playing off stage, being beamed to a smaller screen). Come the climax, they haul out his suit and mask to centre-stage and take turns to hug it, with kiddies in tow. I’ve never been a massive ‘Knot fan but I’m confused and caught between crying and wincing. Many aren’t confused and openly burst into tears. The music? Oh, they tear up “Psychosocial” and “People = Shit”, so… it’s okay. Thankfully, (3.5) send us home with a smile on all our faces, so that is a bonus.

Also online (with more photos) @ The New Review = http://thenewreview.net/show-reviews/sonisphere-festival-knebworth-uk

Gig review of Sonisphere Festival 2010 = http://johnskibeat.blogspot.com/2010/08/festival-review-sonisphere-2010.html
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