Sonisphere Day 2. The Saturn Stage is open for business, and so begins the apparent metal bleep test brought on by alternate staging, causing fans to trudge from one to the other between acts. Also, alternate staging is a brilliant concept, as Peter Griffin would say:
Day 2 – Maiden England
Having dressed appropriately for the day (ie: Iron Maiden t shirt) I was greeted by the familiar tones of pirate infused keyboards. Scottish swashbucklers Alestorm open the now active Saturn stage promoting the ever-brilliant message of “fuck it, let’s get pissed.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard a band with as many songs about alcohol, but you know that things are getting a bit dire when you’ve got a song called “Drink.” After their awesome, but short, set it’s time to witness the…pana…the flar….you know what, I can’t even find the right word to describe them, but it’s time to watch Babymetal. Mix J-pop and thrash metal in a blender and you’ll end up with either Babymetal or a complete fucking mess (luckily we ended up with the former). I had forseen much bottling and piss throwing to take place during this set, but fans were surprisingly positive and accepting of Japan’s newest addition to the metal world…the only scary thing is most of the audience were either creepy old men or teenage girls…not sure what that says about Babymetal but there you go.
Somebody let Eddie out of his cage
Following Babymetal are cockney legends Chas and Dave. I know what you’re thinking, “Chas and Dave on the same stage as Slayer?! How does that make any kind of logical sense?!”. In short…it doesn’t…but it’s funny, especially that “Rabbit” song (which has now been stuck in my head for days). I soon departed to attend a sermon lead by mysterious psychadellic metallers, Ghost. As my third time seeing the band, I knew exactly what to expect, but this didn’t stop it being both intriguing and hilarious. Papa Emeritus II and The Nameless Ghouls provide a brilliantly entertaining show, once again displaying an ability to grip and entice an audience without being juiced to the gills on heavy metal octane. In fact this makes it even more chilling, especially when it comes to set closer “Monstrance Clock.”
Papa Emeritus II leads the great unwashed in a sermon
Following Ghost are supergroup The Winery Dogs, and whilst I wanted to admire Billy Sheehan and Richie Kotzen’s instrumental and vocal mastery (Mike Portnoy can go sit in a corner and think about what he did), I was drawn across the field by the opening chimes of thrash anthem “I Am The Law.” This in turn caused the festival ground to erupt into the fastest stampede since the battle of Minas Tirith. Thrash titans, and member of The Big 4, Anthrax, after playing their iconic opus “Among the Living” in full the night before, came back for a taste of the main stages, delivering hit after hit, including “Deathrider” and “Indians”, as well as a tribute to Ronnie James Dio and Dimebag Darrel with “In The End.” Whilst it initially appears as if frontman Joey Belladona is trying a bit too hard, walking around like Ozzy Osbourne with a bad hip replacement (which is still good…for Ozzy), his vocal prowess cannot be denied, and Scott Ian’s bearded promise of a new Anthrax record later this year leaves audiences in a lingering state of excitement (or indifference).
Carcass were playing on the other stage, but I decided to skip out on them in order to once again get to the front for one of the best live performers I’ve come across in recent years. For the fourth time this year I was watching Frank Turner, for the second time performing with The Sleeping Souls (the first time I saw him was busking in Granary Square with Billy Bragg, second at the O2 Arena and the third at a Mongol Horde gig…some would call this stalking). Whilst providing a more relaxed vibe than Anthrax, Mr. Turner’s energy cannot be denied with upbeat rockers “One Foot before The Other”, “Try This At Home” and “Reasons Not To Be an Idiot” being balanced out by folkier jams “If Ever I Stary” and “Glory Hallelujah.” Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls make their imprint on Knebworth with punk rock infused show closer “Four Simple Words”, displaying clearly that you don’t need to play metal to create aggressive music.
Frank Turner and the (not so) Sleeping Souls
Keeping with the more relaxed theme of the afternoon, I adjourned to the Sattelite Stage (probably the smallest stage at the festival) to catch Richard Cheese’s lovechild, The Lounge Kittens. Basically, they do lounge covers of metal songs….and “Rabbit” by Chas and Dave. After opening for Limp Bizkit the previous day (I’m surprised at the restraint shown by Fred Durst as well) The Lounge Kittens bring a half hour of pure comedic gold, as well as harmonies tighter than Dave Mustaine’s grip on conspiracies and some truly brilliant megamix arrangements. That and one of them likes dinosaurs….anybody who likes dinosaurs is automatically awesome…especially if they get the audience to take part in “the T-Rexican wave” (you had to be there).
It was clear that after two pretty relaxed acts (as far as metal festivals go) that I would need to raise my energy again for the nights headliners. So we got some chips, watched the World War I dogfight re-enactment (which Bruce Dickinson took part in) and actually sat down for Slexoder….I mean Slayer. The first thing that jumps to mind is “Sweet Zombie Jesus, what’s Santa doing fronting slayer?!”…then I realised it was just frontman Tom Araya sporting a beard that would make Osama bin Laden jealous. After catching “Disciple”, “Dead Skin Mask” and “Wat Ensmble” it was time to depart the Saturn Stage (yes, I left Slayer early, but with the best reason).
I was determined to make it to the front row fort he night’s headliners, having been quite close to the back at Download Festival the previous year. Needless to say that I was blown away. From the opening chords of UFO’s “Doctor Doctor” to the clean intro of “Moonchild” to the literal explosion that materialises the band on stage, the greatest metal band of all time, Iron Maiden, finally make themselves known. Not one for toning down the showmanship, Maiden, clearly pull out all the stops (and barriers, and barricades and borders as well) in order to round off their Maiden England Tour with the bang it deserves. Frontman Bruce Dickinson is on point, as always, delivering his traditional mix of costume changes whilst running and jumping around the stage pretending to be a Sopwith Camel. This is a set heavily focused on the band’s 1980s material, but the triple guitar harmonies between Dave Murray, Janick Gers and Adrian Smith are nothing short of perfect, whilst bassman Steve Harris provides just enough aggression and precision to keep up with all three of them. Old favourites “The Prisoner” and “2 Minutes to Midnight”, whilst the slower “Revelations” provides a great contrast to an otherwise heavy set. Despite a pyro failure…well as Dickinson so bluntly put it, mid “Phantom of the Opera”, “The bloody pilot’s gone out!” Following many attempts to get it going again, before in true Iron Maiden fashion, simply saying “Fuck it, light something on fire, burn the place down!!!” allowing a full force of fiery fury to be unleashed on Knebworth. Of course old favourites “The Trooper” and “The Number of the Beast” go down an absolute storm, whilst “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” (yours truly’s favourite) erupted into a lengthy metal chorus. “Fear of the Dark” brought with it the signature sing-a-long that we all know and love, with titular “Iron Maiden” rounding off “act 1” of the set. Following a speech by Churchill (on the screens) and Dickinson running on in a pilot’s hat, the resinous tones of “Aces High” re-ignite Knebworth’s already spent energy bank, continued by melodic malestrom “The Evil That Men Do.” Set closer “Sanctuary” is only interrupted by Bruce Dickinson stating that this would be the band’s “last show in England (boooo)….for a while” and that the band had some big things in store for the coming years. Even as I walked away cathartically to Monty Pythons “Always look on the Bright Side Of Life,” I still hadn’t fully taken in what I had just witnessed, as the culmination of three years of intensive touring. Whilst they may not play at home as much as we want them to, we appreciate that Maiden save the big shows for their home soil, and the final show of an iconic tour, for an iconic metal ground.
“Fuck it, set something on fire! Burn the place down”
So…day two was pretty fucking awesome (for lack of better words). I saw pirates, a J-metal band with choreography, some cockneys who like rabbit, one of the big 4 of trash, Frank Turner, some lounge covers of classic metal tracks, a heavy metal santa and the greatest live band of all time….suppose it could’ve been worse eh?
Band of the day: Iron Maiden (duh)
Sonisphere Day 2 Rating: 9/10
(and as an added bonus!!!)
Iron Maiden’s Setlist:
“Doctor Doctor” intro (UFO song)
2.) Can I Play with Madness
3.) The Prisoner
4.) 2 Minutes to Midnight
6.) The Trooper
7.) The Number of the Beast
8.) Phantom of the Opera (Pyrotechnics failed)
9.) Run to the Hills
10.) Wasted Years
11.) Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
12.) Fear of the Dark
13.) Iron Maiden
Churchill’s Speech (intro)
14.) Aces High
15.) The Evil That Men Do