Slipknot: Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff
The return of the nine, albeit in edited form, seven years after they all but destroyed the venue, is likely to have been the hottest ticket in Cardiff this year. Selling out in just a few hours, anticipation for this event (yes, event rather than gig) was high and arriving into the City Centre at just after 17:20 it was no surprise to see the maggots out in force. In fact, wherever you looked, youngsters in Slipknot t-shirts were in full view. It is no secret that I detest the MIA. A shed with all the sound quality of a biscuit tin, gestapo trained security and all the usual crap that comes with these franchised shitholes in terms of catering (£4.50 for a 330ml Carlsberg anyone?). However, I've had far worse Christmas presents than the ticket that my lads got me for this gig and although none of the bands on the bill sit in my regular play list, it was difficult not to have a sense of excitement as we entered an already busy arena.
First up were King 810 (5) from Flint, Michigan. King 810 has received substantial media support from the team at Metal Hammer, and their 2014 release, Memoirs of a Murderer featured in a number of the top ten’s submitted for our end of year poll. Led by vocalist David Gunn, King 810 kicked off their set with energy and aggression, pounding out some vicious riffs in classic nu-metal style. As their set progressed, and with a strong reception from the masses, Gunn got into his stride, stripping his top half to reveal a ripped torso, which received some excited cheers from the ladies in the crowd. However, although I can see why they appeal to the type of crowd that was gathered, I struggled to maintain attention for more than a couple of songs. Granted, I'm not a big nu-metal fan, but more importantly I always want variety in my metal, which is where I struggled. King 810 sound the same in every song and in Gunn have an earnest vocalist who has difficulty singing. In fact, his delivery is just pretty grim at times. King 810 are a real Marmite band. Unfortunately, although I love Marmite, King 810 did absolutely nothing for me although they did get a decent reception. Maybe its me!
The last couple of Korn albums have completely passed me. However, on the four previous occasions I have seen them live, including their past headline show at the MIA, they have been pretty impressive. Tonight was no different and for an hour Korn (9) absolutely owned the arena. Aided by a clever and subtle light show and ample room to move around, including plinths at the rear of the stage, the Bakersfield outfit were primed to destroy from the starting gun. Opening with Twist, the band charged into Here To Stay which had the arena bouncing. On stage, Head and Munky delivered some quite chilling riffage, heads banging and marking their own piece of the stage as their own. Right Now got the audience singing along whilst Love & Meth, Falling Away From Me and Good God maintained the momentum. Fieldy thumped his bass in his unique style, driving the deep, throbbing pulse of the band and combined with drummer Ray Luzier who put in a masterful performance. As always, Jonathan Davies holds your attention, with even his microphone stand gaining a cheer when it was brought out. As the bagpipes blasted out to signal Shoots And Ladders, Davies and the rest of Korn were clearly having a blast, with huge grins on their faces. Davies' voice was on top form, and as the curved ball of Y’all want a Single crashed in, the entire arena joined in with the admittedly difficult refrain required, “Fuck that, Fuck that”. Suddenly it was time for the sledgehammer finish; Head tapped out the opening bars to Freak On A Leash, Jonathan Davies sang “go!” and the MIA lost its shit. As Luzier concluded the song with a mini solo, he then segued nicely and tapped out the intro to a song that is 20 years old; the mighty Blind. Oh my god! The place went ballistic with pits breaking out all around; old school metal heads, the usual meatheads stripped to the waist, hipsters and others all having a damn good time and ensuring that Jonathan Davies and co. left the stage applauding the Cardiff crowd.
A relatively short wait with an elegant and ornate curtain covering the stage as the crew prepared the set for the arrival of the headliners. Say what you like about Slipknot but they do not do bad shows. A decent if slightly patchy fifth album late last year was well received and built the anticipation for this tour. At 9:20pm the lights dipped, the strains of XIX blasted out of the PA (much improved sound for the entire night by the way) and then Slipknot (10) were there, hitting their stride from the off with Sarcastrophe. Corey Taylor takes centre stage, delivering his vocal and coercing the crowd. The set was impressive with a spectacular light show, a huge devilish goat head and walkways at the rear but without feeling overly lavish and never distracting from the quality of the music. Yes, it is raging aggression which at times merges into a wall of noise but some of Slipknot’s stuff is top drawer. For example, take the next two tracks: The Heretic Anthem and My Plague. As the huge Mick Thomson (still the most sinister member of the band in my opinion) and Jim Root (complete with Cristina Scabbia in the wings) prowled stage left and right, swapping the flanks at will whilst cranking out those bone crushing demonic riffs.
New track The Devil In I kept the momentum high, with Sid Wilson running all over the place, across the back walkways and leaping back onto his decks. Meanwhile, the insanity continued on either side of the stage with the mental percussion and backing vocals of Chris Fehn and the clown Shawn Crahan as their hydraulic platforms elevated and descended whilst always spinning. First sing-a-long of the night duly arrived in the shape of Psychosocial. The intensity continued with The Negative One before Corey, who pleasingly kept the narrative short all night, shouted out “Eeyore” as Root and Thomson once again ground out the riffs. Meanwhile Craig Jones, in the spiked gimp mask, kept a low profile at his decks whilst pulling the strings to the layering that provides Slipknot with their unique sound. As the band powered through Liberate And Purity, you suddenly realised that it wasn't Joey on the drums but Jay Weinberg. Such is the quality of Weinberg’s drumming, it was impossible to tell the difference. Weinberg played a stunning show, his machine gun assault relentless and combining with Alessandro Venturella, the UK bassist who maintained a low profile whilst still contributing to the overall atmosphere with fist pumps and the occasional foray up and down the walkways.
Just in case there was any slacking off, the band hit the crowd with four absolute piledrivers: Before I Forget, fans favourite Duality, a rare treat with Left Behind and then Spit It Out, complete with the traditional “jump the fuck up” which caused havoc to my torn knee ligament. I got down there but then could hardly get back up! Custer closed the set and allowed the audience a breather before the final three songs completed the destruction. Sic opened the encore, before the anthemic People=Shit pushed the buttons to absolute chaos. Unsurprisingly, the killer strains of Surfacing concluded proceedings. As the crowd streamed out of the MIA, I reflected on the power and professionalism of a band whose path has been chaotic and unpredictable since the day they got together. At times the band look totally unhinged on stage, and there has to be some tension between Taylor and Root as a result of their Stone Sour split; however, tonight they proved that, in the live arena, few if any bands around can live with them.