Sonisphere Festival 2011 Sunday Review

Well, Sonisphere had turned well and truly damp. Some sterling use of forest bark by the organisers soaked up the worst of the mud and we were back, ready for day 3. So let’s get it on….

Is there a better way to start a day at a festival than with Volbeat ? The relatively lowly position they occupied on the bill was a mystery, but this didn’t put anyone off and they played to the biggest crowd of any of the main stage openers.

And it had stayed dry…

Volbeat are an amazing live band. If you describe something as being a cross between Johnny Cash and Slayer you don’t half get some strange looks, but it’s an accurate description here. My high points of their set were Sad Man’s Tongue (dedicated to the aforementioned Mr. Cash) and The Mirror And The Ripper from their brilliant last album. Honestly, when will the UK music fandom realise what our continental cousins have long known…. Volbeat are ace. By the time the strains of their Raining Blood outro had faded it was clear that the bands following them would have their work cut out.

A detour via the Red Bull stage revealed that, as I thought, Arcane Roots aren’t really my thing at all so I wandered back over towards the Saturn stage where Black Tide were ripping it up with a storming cover of Hit The Lights. It was an opening that promised great things.. which never quite arrived.

Anyway..

Back on the Jager stage The Safety Fire were doing their thing, and once again had drawn a decent crowd for their lunch time slot. I know it was a lunch time slot because this was the time I learned that A) Ginsters pasties aren’t very nice and B) The contents are hotter than the sun. But I digress, The Safety Fire were a band I knew nothing about before Sonisphere, but they’re certainly worth checking out if you get the chance.

While Arch Enemy entertained over on Apollo I stayed at the Jager Stage for Turbowolf who were brilliant. This is another band who demonstrated my oft-repeated mantra that to see some of the most energetic, entertaining sets at these festivals you really need to tear yourself away from the big names.

Over in Bohemia it was time for one of Mat’s ones to watch, Kylessa, so over to him…

I know that I had tipped the US band as ones to watch at this year’s Sonisphere but bloody hell. I mean: bloody, bloody hell. I expected good but I didnt expect such a phenomenal display of  precise power and excitement. This was simply sensational. Incredibly tight musicianship, awesome dynamics and some rock goddess shapes from guitarist Laura Pleasants had you entirely forgetting that this was Sunday afternoon in Hertfordshire with a raging hangover. A set largely built around the psychedelic brilliance of  Spiral Shadow, there was so much going on, so much energy its hard to know what to report on. Lets leave it like this: this is a band to cherish. Don’t you dare miss them next time round.

In Flames, ahhh In Flames. A band who always seem to be almost, but not quite, great. When I’ve seen them live before they’ve had the same slight lack of spark that (for me) was also evident on their albums. Well things can change and on the back of their brilliant new album this was a performance where In Flames were, erm, on fire.

Back to the Jager stage next for India’s finest Death Metal export Demonic Resurrection. Except it wasn’t cos they had cancelled 🙁 They were replaced by an hour of roadies setting up for the next band. But let us not be downheartened, it was time for Airbourne.

Now I know they’re not original, and I know AC/DC should sue to get their riffs back but there is no denying that Airbourne are a high energy blast and brilliant live. Today they treated us to yet another  masterclass in how to entertain a festival crowd as we all sang along to gems like No Way But The Hard Way and Runnin’ Wild. Oh, and Joel took climbing the lighting rig to new heights by ascending to the very top of the Saturn stage for a spot of soloing. I wonder if the Health and Safety people noticed 🙂

Motorhead were the next port of call, and before they opened their set Lemmy told the crowd of the death of the band’s ex-guitarist Wurzel the day before. R.I.P. Michael :-(.

After Motorhead it was time for the traipse back through the mud to the Saturn stage for Opeth. I know that the “no overlaps” is part of the Soni creedo but it was becoming a pain in the arse, especially as the disabled viewing platform chanelled the crowd into a narrow gap which soon became a quagmire.

I really rather enjoyed Opeth’s set, although I still don’t quite get the fanatical devotion that they seem to bring out in their fans (although I am still kicking myself for missing their Royal Albert Hall gig). Todays setlist was a bit of an odd mix which some people weren’t really happy with but what I heard I liked, although 15 minute epics at a festival may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

The next band on the main stage were one that divided opinion like no one else on the bill all weekend… The one and only (thank God, some would say) Limp Bizkit.

Now although it’s fashionable (indeed in some circles compulsory) to take the piss out of Fred, Wes And Co. I still consider Limp Bizkit to be the ultimate party band. The have some massive tunes and no one else all weekend managed to trigger circle pits quite as far back in the crowd as these guys did. OK, the “we have no set list, we’re just going to make it up as we go” wasn’t fooling anyone and Durst did seem to lose his train of thought a couple of times during the bits between the songs, but we’ll let them off for that after they treated us to a setlist that included all the hitz. Faith, Break Stuff, My Way and Rollin were all present, correct and insanely fun. There was also some new stuff, which included the awesome Douchebag which worms it’s way into your head and stays there so you find yourself singing it at the most inopportune moments.

Definitely one of the sets of the festival. There. I said it…..

Pissing rain and crap sound didn’t do Bill Bailey any favours, so in search of shelter I headed to the Bohemia tent where another of my guilty pleasures, Four Year Strong, were tearing it up.

Honestly, anyone who dismisses FYS as just another American pop-punk band needs to have a word with themselves, this is both heavy and indeed metal. They have some memorable tunes too, and I must admit I felt myself drawn towards the pit when they played Maniac. Getting too old for that shit.

Now there was a tough decision to be made. Head out into the pissing rain to see what was sure to be a storming set from Slipknot or stay in the tent for The Answer, a band I had never seen before  but had heard some really good things about. In the end the weather meant that I stayed inside while Mat, who is clearly made of stronger stuff, ventured out to watch Corey and the gang. So I hand you back over to Mat….

It’s hard each year to make your headline act something of an EVENT but, hats off to promoter Stuart Galbraith, this was an event and no mistake. Anticpation was high, weather was awful but Slipknot absolutely, unequivocally SMASHED IT. I could use bad and well worn cliches like “juggernaut” or “tour de force” but this wont come near to describing the passion, the energy, the excitement and sheer brutal power that the band displayed. Emotions were clearly running high but the band turned it into a visceral performance that we will be talking about for donkey’s years. A brilliant and brilliantly judged set list with some stunning personal highlights (Duality, Surfacing) and a fantastic rendition of Spit it Out all added up to the set of the weekend.

At the end, the sight of Paul Gray’s bass guitar, boiler suit and mask, left in a spotlight with “Snuff” playing over the PA was a genuinely moving moment with grown men and women openly weeping. It was an extraordinary end to an extraordinary performance, cementing Slipknot’s place in our hearts and Knebworth history. This was a gig to tell your kids about, if they weren’t already with you in the myriad circle pits. Astonishing.

Meanwhile back in the tent I was loving The Answer. Before the gig the band had made the slightly grandiose claim that “We’re back and our mission is to revive rock ‘n’ roll from the grassroots up”, and by the time they repeated this during the set I must admit they were giving it a damn good go. There are a load of “classic rock” bands on the go at the moment but on the strength of what I saw here tonight I would have to put these Irish rockers in the very top tier.

Singer Cormac Neeson is something to behold, he works the stage with a mad intensity, a cross between Justin Lee Collins and Robert Plant. And the voice, oh boy, amazingly powerful yet soulful. The Answer have been building quite a following for themselves and if their new track Piece By Piece is anything to go by they are only going to keep on getting better. OK, so Slipknot would have been something special to see but personally there was no place I would rather be than right here.

Awesome stuff, awesome band. Definitely my big discovery of the weekend.

And that was that, well, actually not quite…. For Team CB Sonisphere 2011 drew to a close in the company of Bat Sabbath, The Cancer Bats’ 70s alter-egos and, you know ? It was up there with anything else I had seen all weekend. Finally the CB gang was all together in one place and everyone was loving the Bats’ Black Sabbath love-in. And what’s not to love as we were treated to a set of absolute classics including Iron Man, N.I.B. and Paranoid before finishing off with an awesome rendition of War Pigs, including a guest appearance by DJ bloke Daniel P. Carter.

And THAT was really it for this year. There had been some brilliant laughs, some brilliant performances and the abject let-down of The Sisters Of Mercy. So, band of the Festival ?? Well Limp Bizkit were awesome, Bad Religion were everything I hoped they would be but for me nothing managed to top an utterly stunning performance by Killing Joke.

So there you have it. See you next year.