Metallica, July 6th 2014 @ Sonisphere, Knebworth Park U.K.
on July 11, 2014 6:19 PM in
With the final day of the festival upon us I wasted no time getting my ass in gear for the day to come. Of all the acts on the bill, there was 1 especially that I was not willing to miss as I had not yet seen them live but heard their tracks and knew these gents meant business.
I intended full well to be on the receiving end of said business.
The band in question is known simply as Gojira.
They were set to take the stage at the bright and early hour of 11:15 am Sunday morning. I strolled up to the stage right around 11 am sharp feeling fairly satisfied to have made the trek with still a few minutes left to spare.
Turns out I had a few more than I figured. Gojira were 30 minutes late taking the stage though through no fault of their own. It seemed the crew were having issues getting everything set up properly as the stage needed to be altered in preparation for Metallica’s set later on. These alterations included bigger screens on either side of the stage as well as a walkway the jutted out into the crowd and circled around back to the stage again creating 1 of Metallica’s trademark “Snakepits” in which fans can watch the show from inside the stage. I was lucky enough to get into 1 of these Snakepits in Vancouver during the final day of filming for their Through The Never 3D movie back in August 2012. A very cool experience for sure.
When they did finally arrive on stage and begin attacking with a level of ferocity not yet seen this weekend, nobody was complaining about the delay. It is doubtful that many people paid attention to nor cared of the continuing problems the stage hands were having with the screens on either side of the stage. These guys mean business! Opening with Explosia, the 1st track off their latest studio effort, these French madmen wasted no time in announcing to the United Kingdom that they had arrived. When originally formed in the mid nineties, this band toured and recorded under the moniker Godzilla but due to legal problems were forced to change the name. The resulting Gojira is the spelling translation of the same fictional monster using the romanization of Japanese known sometimes as romaji.
Anybody that was unaware of this fact would have no problem imagining that Gojira, once translated to English, meant “Heavy As Fuck”! These guys are relentless in their attack. The smoke effects that sporadically poured out from either side of the stage were a nice touch as it wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination to think that these guys were actually blowing up every amp, speaker, and damn near anything else within range with their playing. During the 3rd song of the set, Backbone, drummer Mario Duplantier did his best Joey Jordison impression by beating his kit at lighting speed and with incredible precision. The intensity never diminished throughout the set, seemingly even picking up once they got to performing the title track from their latest effort, L’Enfant Sauvage, a song that absolutely rips! After closing with Vacuity from their The Way Of All Flesh album, it was safe to say that nobody wanted to see them stop playing as Gojira chants filled the air. Full setlist here: http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/gojira/2014/knebworth-park-knebworth-england-3c1f55b.html
Personally having witnessed these guys’ live act, I will do my best not to miss any more of their performances moving forward.
Next on the Apollo main stage was the Devin Townsend Project. Devin Townsend, of Strapping Young Lad fame, actually grew up very close me back in British Columbia. This is a fact I was unaware of at the time. Although I was not familiar with Devin himself I must say the man has great crowd interaction. He seemed to be in a perpetually good mood as well, constantly grinning from ear to ear and joking with the crowd. He seemed to have all sorts of banter ready for the crowd between every one of the 7 songs in the set. Just before their final number he again addressed the crowd, “It’s not about aggression for me, I’m too much of a pussy for that. How about a big group hug? We love your balls!” With that they dove into their final number, Grace, a very heavy & rocking track that everyone cheering in approval.
One of the nicest features they had arranged at Sonisphere is that none of the acts between the Apollo and Saturn stages conflict with each other. Acts’ set times alternate between the 2 stages meaning you don’t have to choose between which 1 of the 2 acts to go watch. Want to watch them both? Watch them both then!
The late start time on the Apollo stage did alter this arrangement a wee bit but nothing too detrimental.
Next up we migrated over to the Saturn stage to catch Karnivool. 1 of my new friends was adamant that we not miss these guys so she led the group over and man am I happy she did! I was not at all familiar with these guys but their live set was so impressive that they have definitely made a new fan out of this guy! The only thing that caught my eye were the placement of the overhead drum mics, which were questionable at best. I’m not sure how high they set the levels of their OHs into the overall mix but they appeared to be so skewed that if they were picking up anything at all it would have likely been random guitar players’ footsteps as they ran by and next to no drum resonance. I’m sorry, moot point. Killer set, that’s all that need be said. Full setlist here: http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/karnivool/2014/knebworth-park-knebworth-england-13c1f551.html
Back over at the Apollo stage all was set for Airbourne, with 24 Marshall cabs and 12 Marshall heads lining the stage on either side of the drummer. This made for a very cool looking stage. These Aussies brought their usual high energy to the show, opening with Ready To Rock before jumping straight into Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast. The technical hiccups with the stage continued though as the sheets behind the side screens inadvertently dropped at 1 point making viewing anything on them next to impossible. Although it may have affected those stationed way at the back, it certainly didn’t affect the men with the instruments. These guys like to entertain their fans and take every opportunity to.
Case in point: singer Joel O’Keeffe, complete with guitar, climbed most of the way up a small column of scaffold to the left of the stage and proceeded to pull out a guitar solo while hanging from the column about 20 feet above the stage. An impressive feat in itself. They closed their set with Runnin Wild. These guys sure tend to do that alright.
The technical issues weren’t only isolated to the main stage mind you. About halfway through Reel Big Fish’s set on the Saturn stage they lost all sound. Obviously there is not a whole lot the band itself can do about such an issue but they played it up as much as possible. Even though it took a fair amount of time before they eventually fixed the problem, the Fish kept going like true professionals. When the sound finally returned, RBF didn’t miss a beat and rocked out right to the end.
Screen issues on the main stage persisted for some time. As we moved later into the afternoon Metallica would randomly appear on the screen now and again telling the crowd there was still 1 song that could be voted into the set and to text the number on the screen to vote in 1 of the 3 remaining in the deadlock. Problem with that is that most of the time you couldn’t see what was on the damn screen anyway.
Playing in front of a giant banner depicting the very psychedelic artwork from their new album, Mastodon cracked open their set with Oblivion, the lead off track from their album Crack the Skye. After giving the fans a quick run through some familiar territory they broke out a new one for the masses. The 2nd song in their set, The Motherload, is also coincidentally the 2nd song of the new album Once More ‘Round The Sun. Hard to imagine this is such new material as they effortlessly nailed it. As with most other acts of the day, the Mastodon guys also took full advantage of the newly added walkway from the stage out into the crowd. Brett Hinds and Bill Kelliher frequently took turns journeying out to shred for the fans on the outside of the walkway a little more up close and personal. After another rousing rendition of a new track, High Road, the band ended their set with Aqua Dementia from their sophomore album Leviathan. Another crushing song to cap a crushing set. This was my 4th Mastodon show, I have not seen these guys put on a bad performance yet.
The Seattle grunge masters Alice In Chains opened up with the classic Them Bones, the lead off track from their album Dirt. Although I was never lucky enough to have caught the original lineup, I have seen the current incarnation of the band a few times now. AiC is another 1 of those bands with such a solid repertoire to work with that, accompanied by the tremendous skill possessed by its members, I don’t think it is possible for them to come up with a sub par set. Mixing in songs from their newest album, The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, along with everything else dating as far back as their 1990 debut Facelift, Alice covered the bases and was sure to play something to satisfy everyone from the hardcore old fans to ones that may be newer to the band. After closing with Rooster, the only thing left that anyone could have asked for was maybe just a longer set in general. However at festivals, longer sets are not to be expected to begin with. AiC definitely made the most of the time they got.
One of the biggest and best there is, you would be hard pressed to find a more suitable act to cap off such an incredibly epic weekend of metal. This was to be “Metallica By Request” where if you purchased tickets to this day of the festival you got to vote on the 17 songs you would like to hear them play. Once all the votes were tallied the winning 17 would be performed along with a brand new track entitled Lords Of Summer. Given the wide diversity of the crowd it was almost a given that the regular fare that is usually played anyway would be voted in; your Sandmans, your Sad But Trues, etc. etc., whereas I think if you were to put the same request format towards say, a smaller arena show geared directly towards only Metallica fans, chances are good some of the tracks that are more off the beaten path would win their way into the set.
Then again I could be wrong, but really what does it matter?! It’s Metallica! You’re going to get a great show regardless.
Opening with Battery, Master Of Puppets, and Sanitarium, I highly doubt that you would find many, if any, people complaining about that triple-threat taken from their 3rd album. The metal kings powered on through their set that, granted didn’t include any really big surprises, still contained such classics as Ride The Lightning, Blackened, Creeping Death and so on. On this night when the whole Metalliteam sounded so tuned in, there was 1 thing that especially stuck out for me; I have never heard Lars sound so tight. With this being my 10th Metallica show I have noticed over the years that sometimes Lars can get a little lazy in the double-kick department. Not tonight. Of all the times I have seen the Metalliboys dating back to 1998, I don’t ever remember hearing Lars’ double bass drums so vicious, persistent and PRECISE! That’s not to say it hasn’t happened of course, it probably has, I just can’t recall it. On this evening though, I didn’t hear a missed beat all night.
Between Lars being on his A-game all night, and James, Kirk, and Robert kicking the shit out of their end of things as well, this definitely ranks up there as one of the best performances I have seen Metallica put on yet! That is saying a lot too as I have already seen them play some pretty badass shows!
Upon closing with Seek And Destroy and dropping what has become the customary black inflatable Metalliballs on the crowd, the band each took their turns thanking everyone in attendance at Knebworth Park before vacating the stage area.
It was truly a fantastic ending to a truly phenomenal weekend. With so many quality acts jammed into the park over the course if the past few days, you really couldn’t have asked for anything more.
If you did, well, then you’re a greedy bastard. 😛
Sonisphere you have won a piece of my heart. I do believe I will be making the trip across the pond for this now on an annual basis.
See ya in 2015 Knebworth!