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Sunday, 6 July 2014

A View From A Field: British Summer Time Festival Hyde Park (Review By Paul)

Black Sabbath Time – Hyde Park

Following their storming shows at the tail end of 2013 the announcement that Sabbath, the godfathers of metal would be concluding their world tour as part of the British Summer Time event at Hyde Park sounded pretty tasty. When the supporting bill was also released at the same time, it made a very tempting menu indeed and so on a dull overcast morning in South Wales that Matt and I set off on the First Great Western chuffer to London Paddington where we would later rendezvous with some of our metal brothers.
Arriving in London to be greeted by blue skies and scorching temperatures, the decision to wear shorts and t-shirts combined with lashing of sun cream and the obligatory cold cider to keep the inner temperature regulated proved to be a smashing one and we headed for Hyde Park to join the masses waiting for the gates to open. Having found shade for a very welcome 40 minutes under one of the massive oaks near the North entrance, we met up with Ben and Sharon before heading into the arena. As one would expect, food and drink were London prices (well, we were in London!) and the merchandise was the usual £25 for a t-shirt. We grabbed a cooling brew and, joined by James and Russell, headed for a suitable vantage point to catch the opening band on the main stage. *Here we must add our apologies to Buffalo Summer – we did want to catch you but it was too bloody hot to head indoors; we will catch you at Hard Rock Hell – honest!)

Soulfly

First up on the main stage – Soulfly. Primed to get proceedings off to a heavy start, Max Cavalera and his troops shattered the early afternoon tranquillity with a blistering set of classic Soulfly and Sepultura tracks in their short but brutal set. Despite having a nine album back catalogue, Max and the boys chose well and ensured that their brief was fulfilled in full. Opening with Prophecy, the band cantered along with early afternoon pits opening up at the front of the stage. Max Cavalera is never going to win awards for the most complex lyricist or for hugely structured intricate time changes but he knows what he is good at and boy does he do it well. Straight forward riffs combined with their South American heritage, machine gun drumming and guttural lyrics. Straight into Back To The Primitive which had me bouncing around with glee, and then Tribe from Soulfly which maintained the momentum. Although the sound was slightly disrupted by the afternoon breeze (most welcome in 26° heat) Cavalera and long serving guitarist Marco Rizzo continued to deliver a crushing guitar sound, with Rizzo shouldering the lead duties and combining with Tony Campos on bass on several occasions when Max decided to concentrate purely on vocals. Making up the quartet, Zyon Cavalera, Max’s son on drums; demonstrating once more the huge musical gene that runs through La Familia Cavalera. Unsurprisingly given the heritage, a large slab of Sepultura was served up, with Arise, Dead Embryonic Cells and then a huge Roots Bloody Roots with a guest appearance from Igor Cavalera, resplendent in a Hawaiian shirt. This produced the expected reaction with more pits opening up and a surprising number of old school Sepultura fans singing along to every word. Closing their short set with JumpdaFuckUp/ Eye For An Eye, Soulfly did exactly what was required. Short but oh so sweet and everyone who made the effort were rewarding by an excellent opening set. 8/10

Motorhead

With the crowd suitably warmed up from the Soulfly set, it was the legendary Motorhead who were next up on the main stage. The audience visibly swelled for the return to the UK stage of Lemmy, Phil and Mikkey. Much has been documented about Lemmy’s health problems over the past year, with a number of below par performances followed by their European tour cancellation. It was clear from reading the media reports that Lemmy had been pretty unwell; no-one has a defibrillator fitted lightly. So I’m sure that alongside the massive number of ‘Head fans, there were a number of curious on-lookers who were interested to see how well the great man’s recovery had been. Well, I am pleased to say that reports of the man’s demise have been massively exaggerated. A huge roar greeted Motorhead as they took to the stage. “We are Motorhead … and we play rock n’ roll” roared Lemmy as they blasted out of the traps with Damage Case. Phil Campbell, now a 30 year veteran for the band sported his fine Welsh flag guitar, peeling out the riffs and soloing like it was his last gig. Seriously, this guy is one of the finest guitar players in the business, criminally underrated in my opinion. With such a huge amount of great songs it must be a real bitch to select eight or nine songs to fill 45 minutes but as is usual, they mixed it up with old classics and a newie. Stay Clean was followed by a welcome Over The Top from Bomber before the outstanding Lost Woman Blues from Aftershock demonstrated the bluesy side of the band.  Plenty of banter from Lemmy and Phil during the set including their disgust at the lack of initial roaring from the crowd which soon changed. Phil in particular getting in the expected jib at the English football team as they introduced Going To Brazil. Killed By Death followed, with a quite unexpected and unusual guest appearance by Whitfield Craine from Ugly Kid Joe on vocals, (Yeah, I had to look him up too) [Would have been better had they played Born To Raise Hell with him but nevermind. Matt]. Inevitably the real big hitters concluded the set, Ace Of Spades inducing mass sing-a-longs before Mikey Dee hammered the opening to Overkill, possibly the best closing track of all time. At the end of the set the band looked deservedly pleased that their UK return had passed off in great style. All around people were beaming with pleasure and the awesomeness of a quite breath taking set. Power, pace, quality and just superb rock n’ roll. This was good as I've ever seen Motorhead which goes back to the early 1980s. There is still life in the Motorhead beast. 10/10

Following a wander around the site including quite a trek for the toilets (bleeding miles away … don’t they realise some of us are getting on a bit and don't have the bladder of a camel?) and a pleasant distraction in the form of some fine ladies dancing to the steel drums which had been providing a lovely local flavour and a real diversion from the pounding metal) it was time for band number three.

Faith No More

I maybe in the minority here but Faith No More have never done anything for me. Despite owning most of their catalogue, I rarely play them, get bored stiff at the constant playing of Epic on the classic rock channels and to be honest, find them quite overrated. However, I appreciate that they have carved out a niche in the metal world. We were stood way back at the end of the arena and have a very limited view and so as they kicked off with a trio of tracks that featured on From Out Of Nowhere I was still nonplussed. Zombie Eaters, From Out Of Nowhere and then, I admit, a crushing Epic were served up to the huge crowd that contained massive numbers of fans who knew every word. Caffeine from Angel Dust continued the momentum and there is no doubt that this band are extremely good musically. Dressed with their ministerial collars and an ‘altar’ set with huge numbers of lilies scattering the stage, vocalist Mike Patton bantered with the crowd, especially after they had dropped Commodores cover Easy into the set which provoked a mass sing-a-long. They also aired a new track, Leaders Of Men which went down well before a huge gap, when I thought they had finished, before climaxing with Motherfucker and We Care A Lot. By that time we had made our way to the Barclaycard Theatre to worship at the church of Hell. I read reviews of the band the day after the event, where critics provided them with gushing plaudits I do wonder if it is just me. If so, that’s just the way it is. 6/10

Hell

Having been bathed in glorious sunlight all day, we stepped into the unnatural setting of the Barclaycard Theatre, designed part pub part Arabian tent with red velvet swashes   roof. It was so hot in there that it was indeed like stepping into the bowels of hell. Ah, yes, Hell. From North Derbyshire no less, as vocalist and all round thespian Dave Bowers reminded us at the end of the set. The tent was full to bursting as the strains of Gehennae Incendiis led neatly into the vicious soloing which opens Age Of Nefarious. Crammed onto a tiny stage, Hell burst forth likes a boil on Satan’s backside, delivering their fresh yet NWOBHM tinged sound. Front of house, full of theatre and animation, Dave Bowers is unlike any other frontman. Full of expression and drama, he patrols the stage, cajoling the audience and providing his unique delivery. Either side of the stage, Kevin Bowers and Andy Sneap provide the riffage whilst the ungodly looking rhythm section of Tim Bowler’s drums and the sinister Tony Speakman’s bass hold things together like superglue. Welcome To Hell followed with a pit opening up despite the heat. It was clear that the band had attracted a number of curious onlookers, some of whom left quite early whilst others were obviously entranced by the power of the band’s delivery. Blasphemy And The Master witnessed Dave Bower’s self-flagellation, a key part of the theatrics that Hell have established as part of their live reputation. Sadly no room for Darkhangel and the stilt walking Pan but the second track from Curse and Chapter, Something Wicked This Way Comes demonstrated how well the tracks from the new album have slotted into the set. Faith Will Fail was followed by final track Save Us From Those Who Would Save Us from debut album Human Remains, and included a right royal cock-up as Bowers fluffed the lyrics and humorously demanded a re-start.  For those who love this band, they can do no wrong. The strength of their music combined with the theatrics and thought that has been put into their stage show make them a must see every time. They would have been immense on the main stage though. 9/10

Soundgarden

Emerging back into the sunlight Soundgarden had already launched into their set with Let Me Drown. What struck us as we headed for a cooling beer before moving closer to the stage was how many people were content to ignore the Seattle legends. We headed closer and took up a reasonable vantage point as the band completed My Wave and Fell On Black Days. Although we were distracted and I took advantage to catch up with an old friend and his son during their set, if I said that Mailman was the next track the Soundgarden fans amongst you would have twigged that this was Superunknown in its entirety. Yep, the 20th anniversary of the album. The title track saw Mike McCready from Pearl Jam join them on stage before Head Down and the crowd favourite Black Hole Sun was delivered with aplomb. I like Soundgarden; a lot. I’d never seen them live before but again, I was not over enthused watching them. Maybe the sun had worn me down, but I think I’d prefer to see them in an indoor venue. Having said that, these guys did nothing wrong and Chris Cornell has one of the most brilliant voices in rock. He delivered every note superbly. Alongside him Kim Thayil is one heavy mutha, dropping riffs for fun. Matt Cameron and Ben Shepherd are no slouches either, maintaining a crushingly heavy rhythm throughout. Spoonman was excellent and the band looked like they were really having some fun. Cornell is an excellent frontman and the crowd appeared engaged. They finishing with 4th July and Like Suicide, completing the entire 14 track album bang on time. It just appeared a little static and uninteresting. Maybe some bands I just like better on record. 7/10

Black Sabbath

And so, bang on 20:45, the sirens rang out over Hyde Park as Ozzy’s voice screamed “Let me hear you” before his evil chuckle and the opening strains of War Pigs blasted out over the Royal Park. No surprises in this set, which was very similar to that witnessed on their last UK dates in 2013. A blistering Into The Void, full of Tony Iommi’s sinister riffs was followed by a stunning version of Snowblind, Ozzy running around the stage urging the crowd throughout. Stage left, Geezer Butler plays that bass like a lead guitar, throwing down riffs and powering the band along. His playing allows Iommi to solo like a demon, which he does, wry smiles on his face. The band have clearly gelled on the 13 tour, smiles between them happen frequently and they really look like they are having a great time. Age Of Reason precedes the real old school with an ominous Black Sabbath heralding the first droplets of rain from the darkening sky. Behind The Wall Of Sleep led into NIB, complete with Butler bass solo intro. Stunning stuff and so incredibly heavy. These are indeed the true masters of metal. A large helping of Paranoid to follow with Fairies Wear Boots followed by Rat Salad with Tommy Clufetos’ powerful drum solo. A pounding Iron Man is followed by God Is Dead from 13, complete with my wife’s favourite lyrics “Out of the gloom I climb out from my tomb into impending doom”. Huge visual effects accompanied the entire show; images during War Pigs particularly poignant and the song remaining as relevant today as when it was written 44 years ago. This was a visual feast as well as the ultimate demonstration of 90 minutes of metal. Closing the main set with the crushing Children Of The Grave, it was left to Ozzy to urge us to be heard one last time, as Iommi teased with the opening chords of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath before launching into Paranoid which of course was the cue for the entire park to go batshit crazy, which it duly did. A huge firework display signalled the end of the show. If the Sabs don’t ever tour again, and let’s face it what is important now is Iommi’s health, then this was a fitting climax. If they do, then I will be making sure I’m there again. Absolutely brilliant. 10/10

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