Kat’s Sonisphere Round-Up

Mud, rain and music – It must be British festival season again! Sonisphere seemed to get the brunt of the bad weather this year. The forecast informed us that Friday was going to be the wet day and the weekend would gradually improve. The forecast was wrong! In between the rain there were hopeful glimmers of sunshine, however I think it is fair to say that the festival certainly suffered from soggy England syndrome.
 
Weather aside; did Sonisphere manage to live up to the hype surrounding the return of the “Big Four”? For months metal-head obsessives have been jerking off to the prospect of seeing Metallica headline a day, which also featured Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax. Something I never quite understood. I saw Metallica two years ago at Sonisphere, Megadeth at last years Download Festival – and Slayer at last years Sonisphere. Anthrax seem to have become part of the furniture at Knebworth now, being on every line-up in the festivals three year history. I fear the “Big Four” concept may have been lost on me. Apologies, metal-heads. Maybe I have just been lucky enough to see these bands a lot and have become complacent with them.
 
Yes all four bands played well and clearly have ferociously intense fan-bases, but it was nothing new. Well, perhaps all four bands playing together was something new, but more on that later.
 
Metallica are an amazing live band. I can’t recall ever seeing them and failing to be impressed. This time was no different.
 
The set list was as close to perfection as it could possibly be. Opening with Hit the Lights and cracking through some of their best material – Master of Puppets, One, Fade to Black, Welcome Home (Sanitarium) and Enter Sandman all featured, as you would expect. The crowds reaction was, again as you would expect, raucous. 
 
Joining Metallica on stage for the Diamond Head cover, ‘Am I Evil’ were Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax, Brian Tatler (Diamond Head), Gary Holt (Exodus) and Andreas Kisser (Sepultura). To say it was loud was an understatement. Loud, and fairly amazing, to be exact. It was a beautiful blend of long hair, Flying V guitars, and ego! It did feel like we were watching a historical moment in rock history, albeit if the cynic in me has doubts over the validity of this new found friendship, especially between Metallica and Dave Mustaine. 
 
Do I take back my earlier accusation of the Big Four concept being dull? Hmm.. No, but even I have to admit that was pretty special. That one song may have made it worthwhile.
 
You may recall that before Sonisphere I drafted up a list of my three ‘must-see’ bands. On reflection this is how all three faired.
 
Anberlin – To be fair to the band, I am unsure whether they started the set poorly, whether there were sound issues, or whether I wasn’t quite with it. A RedBull overdose had left me feeling a bit worse for wear (I promise it was the RedBull and not the accompanying Jager or Vodka!). Thus, I feel it unfair of me to really comment on the reasons why I found the start of their set in Bohemia shaky. I would be able to ask a friend, except out of the hundreds of people I knew at the festival – not one friend wanted to accompany me. How very mean of them!! Regardless, the issues, be it with them or I, improved and I thoroughly enjoyed their performance. Closing with hit single ‘Feel Good Drag’, they seemed to get the crowd moving and even had a ‘dance pit’ of sorts. I may have seen some looks of enjoyment from the Cancer Bats fans patiently awaiting Anberlins disappearance!    
 
Limp Bizkit – You simply can’t be unhappy watching Nu Metals finest, Limp Bizkit, strut their stuff on stage. The support for this band is immense! Fred Durst is still a prize cock, but you can’t help but love him for it. The introductory piece from the new album (Introbra) sets up Hot Dog. Remember that one? The one where he insults NIN, but had to grovel to Trent Reznor for permission to use his lyrics in the song? Yeah, that one!  Wes Borland mesmerizes the crowd as usual with his now trademark bizarre choice of wardrobe, and Freds vocals are faultless. My Generation, Livin’ it Up and Break Stuff ensure that the crowd are getting the songs they know and love. Honestly, I was dancing my arse off, rapping away and doing my best white 40-year-old gangsta impression! New song, Douchebag, was as awesome live as I had envisaged whilst reviewing the album. My Way, Boiler and Take a Look Around continue to excite fans. In my opinion, a festival is where you play your most popular hits. Fred and co did that in abundance at Knebworth. Durst took time out to encourage the ladies to party with him backstage as “he wanted to see lots of boobies”, as leachy as ever, but as it’s Fred Durst that’s ok, although I can’t help but think he could have played another song in the time he was talking about tits! The riff from the George Michael cover, Faith, sends the crowd into a frenzy. As they conclude with Rollin’ the happily exhausted audience get’s their “groove on”, with a fair number partaking in the dance. What can I say? They are a silly band, but fuck me! They are immense for having fun to. I totally loved their set! Bring on the O2 shows that were alluded to!
 
Slipknot – At 2pm on July 10th 2011 60,000 people (or there about) stayed silent for 2 minutes in a bizarrely beautiful tribute to late Slipknot bassist, Paul Gray. I can honestly say I have never been part of something so eerily emotional. Thousands of fans stayed silent, many with devil horns raised to the sky. There was a sense of peace amongst the usually chaotic environment of a festival. It was a truly spine tingling moment, and one which I will never forget. 
 
Hours later Slipknot took to the stage. Thanking the fans for their earlier mark of respect, they launched straight into (sic). What followed was a brutal assault of the heavier side of their back catalog. One of the most spectacular things about Slipknot is how they appear visually, and not only the band members but the fans too. I was slightly envious of those who had wrapped up in boiler suits and masks as the rain pounded down on me! You can’t take it from them, Slipknot fans are a dedicated and an interesting bunch! Slipknot themselves gave a stellar performance. Front man, Corey Taylor reminding people that this was a celebration of Paul’s life and there was no need for sadness. With a setlist that featured such ferocious tracks as The Blister Exists, Purity and Only One as well as crowd pleasers such as Duality, Before I Forget and Spit it Out (complete with ‘jump the fuck up’ interlude) there really was no time for tears. Surfacing closed the show, which was by all accounts, fucking unbelievable.
 
As the crowd cheered, As We Die was played over the PA. All tears that had been pushed back for the show were impossible to control at this point. The band brought Paul’s equipment (boiler suit and bass) to the front of the stage and stood for photographs with the Knebworth crowd behind them. Each member went up and hugged/paid respect to their missing friend. It was a very humbling and human moment. Someone else may have been playing bass for Slipknot tonight, but our thoughts we’re very much with the original 9. As the lights lowered and the tears dried, all that was left was the red glow of the number 2 from the stage. Tonight’s performance was emotional, yet didn’t dwell on the negative. Slipknot managed to give a fantastic performance and remember Paul Gray in a tasteful manner. Where they as a band go from here is anyone’s guess. What I witnessed tonight was one of the best Metal performances ever! 
 
There is so much more I could say about Sonisphere. Other bands who were amazing; most notably Volbeat, who stood out for me, and Richard Cheese, who was funny as fuck and an awesome addition to the line-up. Bands that were less good, like House of Pain, and bands who continue to scare the living bejesus out of me; Airbourne and Joel O’Keeffe’s persistent scaling of the stage. All in all, it was a great weekend. The rain did put a dampener on things, but that is one element that the festival bookers have no control over. Same time again next year? Alrighty then!