Well, that’s it. 2014 is as good as done. It’s been a busy, and damn loud year. Sadly, I didn’t break my record for most bands seen in a year at just 65. The record stands at 76 in 2011.
However, it’s still quite a collection to attempt to choose my favourites of the year. Here is a wonderful documentation of my poor taste – brief summaries of my favourite five shows of the year. A word of warning: this list is slightly diabolical, as it was covered in personal nostalgia, hence ‘favourite’ and not necessarily the ‘best’. That’s not to say I didn’t think some of them were the absolute best, but I might just keep that secret for a while…
5. LIMP BIZKIT (Guildhall, Southampton, 20/02/14)
How times have changed, even if no one wants to admit it. The headliners of the Kerrang! Tour 2014 sound tighter than ever, and performed a furious, yet ear-to-ear grin inducing greatest hits set.
The overblown, excited karaoke-night-gone-horribly-wrong atmosphere meant that nobody seemed to take issue to venturing out of their own catalogue, covering presumed untouchable songs by Nirvana and Guns n’ Roses. They even found time for a request, tonight answering correctly a crowd asking for the golden-age-of-1999 single, ‘Re-Arranged’, as well as throwing in rarity ‘Stalemate’, just to “do something we would never do again”. Sure. Why not?
Closing the show with a throat slaughtering scream of ”come and get it” at the end of their signature ode to playful violence, ‘Break Stuff’, at first seemed a little odd. A ‘welcome’ at the very end. Are you on your planning on coming back soon to continue this new Limp era? Either way, Mr Durst, if you really are promising to bring with you a similar rave as that night, you’re all welcome back any time.
This was all a montage for the faux-rebellious teens of yesteryear, once playing Significant Other at low volume with bedroom door firmly shut, so not to let parents hear all the naughty words. Now, we can finally sing along to all “46 fucks in this fucked up rhyme” during ‘Hot Dog’.
Just don’t tell anyone I said that.
4. WEDNESDAY 13 (The Cellar, Southampton, 21/05/14)
In 2004, Wednesday 13 fronted the stage at my first ever concert. I even wrote a review of the concert afterwards, aged 13. Ten years on, how could I possibly resist going to his debut, intimate acoustic show. Really. Acoustic horror punk. How the hell does that work? This is the man behind the riveting ‘Your Mother Sucks Cocks in Hell’. The man who fronted Murderdolls. The man who fronted the dress-clad Frankenstein Drag Queens, onstage with jars of hot dogs and live chickens for no good reason. The man who prior to performing spectacular fuckathon ‘I Love to Say Fuck’, attempted to list how many songs of his feature the f-word in the title, only to lose count.
I’m not sure how it happened, but it worked just fine.
It was a hilariously awkward clash of jam session and press conference, as Wednesday took questions. He’s right there. Is there not something you’ve always wondered about his history? What the inspiration was for songs? Why his previous acts broke up? Apparently not, as he was asked what level of Candy Crush he was on, what his favourite pair of shoes were, and of an untypeable tale of one water bottle and one tampon. Ew. “There’s a lot of shit going on in my head. That’s why I wear a hat.” Agreed.
“Who’s a fuckin’ tough guy? Who thinks it’s a bad idea?” As it turned out Wednesday, throughout the two-and-a-half hour set, from opener ‘Transylvania 90210’ to inevitable closer ‘Bad Things’, we all learned that his premiere acoustic set was a great idea. A fucking great idea. Fuck.
3. BABYMETAL (Kentish Town Forum, London, 07/07/14)
Everything about Babymetal is so wrong. It’s a PR stunt of manufactured bands. It’s a tarnish on ‘authentic’ metal. It’s a girl band, and I’m not should how ethical Japanese idol creations are. But irritatingly, this was some of the most fun I have had at a concert in a very long time.
They were incredible. Opening with a ridiculous Star Was-like crawl of text on a gigantic screen, a voice-over made a bold statement that Babymetal were the saviours of metal. When the screen fell amidst clouds of confetti and CO2 cannon fogginess to reveal the girls (in there somewhere) and their amazing backing ‘Kami Band’ performing ‘BABYMETAL DEATH’, it was apparent that however truthful or not the ‘saviour’ statement may have been, they giving it a damn good go to prove it. They are fantastic singers too, peaking with Su-Metal’s solo vocals, screaming her red-and-black-kawaii-lace-dress-clad heart out during ‘Akatsuki’.
The balcony-like area at the back of the stalls mean that, there is an inevitable divide behind though who want to throw themselves around, and those who really don’t fancy the bruises. It’s a favourite spot for parents to stand while their kids disappear for a couple of hours. It served an unusual purpose that night. Nobody was entirely sure of who the audience would be? Metallers? Nerds?
As it turns out, metallers are much more open to fun than many imagine (see also the mass-singalong of ‘Frozen’s ‘Let It Go’ at Download Festival) The balcony provided a revelation as some hid at the back, visibly stunned of just how brutal the proceedings were downstairs, peaking with a ‘wall of death’ to close the show. It was simply a feeling of shock for all present creating a buzzing atmosphere. The furiously jolly response says that maybe the novelty faded a while ago, although that’s doomed to be debated forever.
2. SWANS (Concorde 2, Brighton, 02/06/14)
Swans aren’t nearly as joyous, but their introduction was just as memorable – a fifteen-minute drone, building with each member of the band joining the stage, one by one, until the volume seemed that it couldn’t be any louder, rattling the room, albeit far more physically. And then brand new opener ‘Frankie M’ entered over the top, loud enough that it is perfectly audible over the continuing drone, forming a molasses-thick tank of noise.
Throughout the set, tracks were altered, whether lyrics (at least I can’t recall ‘The Apostate’ featuring the repeated scream of “get out of my cunt!”), ditching twenty-minutes of closing epic ‘Bring the Sun’, in favour of twenty-minutes of new song ‘Black Hole Man’. It takes a very special band to open with almost forty-minutes of unfamiliar material before a recognizable song is played and for the audience to be so mesmerized not to care. Swans are all about experience which as little physical aid, beyond their sound, as possible.
There were only two songs from their latest album To Be Kind. That said, there were only six songs over the course of the two-hour set. It is as though the tour doesn’t follow the release of the latest album, but of the upcoming releases, as fans around the world witness the creation process from within – the furious, ingenious brain-stream of Michael Gira.
Despite the constant fury, Gira startled by actually looking as he was enjoying himself. It was great to briefly meet him afterward, even if it was primarily me struggling to get the shrinkwrap off of my just purchased second vinyl copy of To Be Kind (it was the only sign-able album, as all of the others were black). “Have you got a key or something?”. I really should stop biting my nails.
1. LINKIN PARK (Download Festival, Donington, 14/06/14)
While I make effort to attend at least one big weekend festival a year (and have succeeded since 2008), I have never chosen a festival for one act in particular. However, Linkin Park at Download Festival is the closest a candidate yet.
Album play-throughs are often written off as a novelty, yet they are often a massive sell. However, some are obscure enough that they don’t receive as big a reaction that devout fans would give. Muse’s Origin of Symmetry performance at Reading Festival didn’t have nearly as ecstatic a reception as it would have at their own shows.
Hybrid Theory was in no such danger. As with myself, it’s a safe guess that a large chunk of crowd’s first albums were Linkin Park’s debut, which got a fantastic exclusive play-through, and the most ecstatic response I’ve seen since the nostalgia-gasm of the aforementioned Limp Bizkit at Download 2009. Rapper Mike Shinoda even wore a red wig (which had already fallen off twice by the end of opener Papercut) to match his 2000 hair.
Chester Bennington, in a nod back to the day when he was at his angriest, showed off that his voice hadn’t lost a splinter of its gravelly growl, in a seriously hacked-off rendition of ‘By Myself’, and classic single ‘Crawling’. The latter marked an unusual moment, as it became apparent that five songs in, four of their best known singles had already been performed. Aside from ‘In The End’, it was album tracks from thereon in, yet the crowd sang along to every word.
Bennington stated on the opening film that “the great thing about a 36-minute album is that we have time to play the hits…”. They were not lying, as aside from a few new tracks, Hybrid Theory was followed with a pretty definitive greatest hits selection (although there were sadly none from Meteora). I admit that sentimentality played a part of this being at number one of this list (although their perfect match to the album, and great performance as a whole was more than worthy to be in this list anyway), but it was impossible to resist giving it the crown.