Having had so much fun at Latitude a couple of weeks back, Lisa and I made a last minute decision to join our good friends Jay (part man, part cider drinking machine), Chris (my uber talented web designer) and Phil (the leather trousered wolfman) in attending the first ever Sonisphere Festival at Knebworth. Now the first thing you need to know about Sonisphere is that it RAWKS! When a band like Feeder are one of the lighter acts on the bill you know that you’re in for some serious riffage. Kudos to the organisers for putting together a stellar line up, and also for listening to experienced festivalgoers to ascertain what works and what doesn’t when it comes to rocking out in a field for a weekend. Anyway, here are my thoughts on a few of the bands that I threw up devil horns for:
Linkin Park/Dead By Sunrise
Linkin Park were the headline act on the first day, and this was the second time that I’ve seen them. The first time around I’d thought that they were almost too good live – too polished to be exact – and that their set would benefit from being a little bit rawer, and while these doubts still hold true to an extent, I’m glad to say that I enjoyed them a lot more at Sonisphere. For me they’re at their best when they’re at their heaviest, hence my set highlights were ‘Crawling’ and the awesome ‘One Step Closer.’ As part of the encore, frontman Chester Bennington showcased his new side project, Dead By Sunrise. This was a controversial move for some, but one that I wholeheartedly approved of, as I thought they were really impressive – like a darker, rockier version of Linkin Park – and I’ll definitely be picking up a copy of their debut album when it’s released later this year.
Avenged Sevenfold were a band that I wanted to check out at the Reading Fest a couple of years back, but they thwarted me by pulling out at the last minute, so I was glad to get a chance to catch them this time around. Once I’d got past their slightly cartoonish appearance (which goes right down to their nicknames – Zacky Vengeance or Synyster Gates anyone?) I really enjoyed their set. They’re billed as a metalcore band but I’d say that they’re at the more melodic end of the spectrum (at times they reminded me of classic era Guns ‘n’ Roses), and their diversity and musicianship put them ahead of the vast majority of their contemporaries. Good stuff.
Nine Inch Nails
I’d love to report that nine Inch Nail’s final live appearance was mind blowing, but sadly that was not the case, largely on account of the set list that Trent Reznor chose to go with. It was one for the fanboys, omitting many of their best known tracks, and focussing quite heavily on their tender, melodic side as opposed to the bruising industrial noise at which they excel. Now don’t get me wrong, I like a Nine Inch Nails haunting ballad as much as the next man, but as half the crowd around me were too busy talking to listen, the atmosphere was not the best. ‘Hurt’ was still phenomenal though, and I’m glad I caught them a couple of years back at Reading when they were truly magnificent.
Having seen Welsh rock upstarts Attack! Attack! a few times now (initially supporting the likes of Lost Prophets and Funeral For A Friend, and more latterly on their own headline tours), I’m starting to feel kind of paternal towards them (God, that makes me sound old!). It’s not often you get to see a band develop on stage, and while they may not be household names just yet, I’d wager that in the next twelve months their fanbase will justifiably explode. Regular readers of this blog might remember that I likened them to a cross between the aforementioned Prophets and Fall Out Boy when I first saw them, and at Sonisphere they played an impassioned set on the Bohemia Stage packed with choice cuts from their excellent debut album. As the gig progressed, you could see the crowd swell in numbers and become ever more appreciative, and when they left the stage to a standing ovation I was satisfied that the lads had taken another step towards global domination.
Before Airbourne came on, I was kind of expecting them to be a poor man’s AC/DC, but while they obviously owe a debt of gratitude to their fellow Aussie rockers they’re no mere copyists. In Joel O’Keefe, they have one of the most energetic and charismatic front men on the scene today – a nervous ball of energy whose sheer enthusiasm can’t help but win you over, he spent the gig running from one side of the stage to the other, riding on a roadie’s shoulders while high fiving the front row of the crowd, and even climbing to the top of the speaker stanchion (which must have been at least 100ft off the ground) to shred out an awesome guitar solo (in the rain – I bet the Health and Safety Officer was having kittens!). A hugely entertaining set packed with top quality Aussie hard rock, Airbourne get the joint nod for my band of the weekend.
And yes, you’ve guessed it, the other co-winner of my band of the weekend goes to Limp Bizkit. A guilty pleasure for some, the much-maligned Fred Durst and his crew put on a cracking show, fusing beats and riotous aggression to good effect to really get the crowd going (one of the few bands to achieve this on the main stage – I’m not sure why, but the audience was fairly reserved here for the most part – maybe because the festival was new?). Bizkit knocked out all the old classics – Rollin, Take A Look Around, My Generation, and an absolutely riotous Break Stuff. Yes, lyrically it’s pretty dumb stuff (which Durst himself alluded to a couple of times), but the guitar playing of Wes Borland elevates it to another level, and if you’re able to tune into the angry teenager locked inside you, it’s a helluva lot of fun. Guilty pleasure? Like I once said in an interview, I don’t do guilty pleasures – if I’m being pleasured, there’s no room for guilt.