Thursday, 24 December 2015

Top 15 of 2015 - Live Shows

2015 saw the trend of the last years continuing. As I am one of the last CD buyers, bands need to tour to survive. This means lots of shows and especially in spring and autumn  a collapse of shows you really should not miss, but do. I won't list here the bands I missed, but run through the shows of his year I did see and picked my favorite 15 ones  ending in the best show of 2015 I attended. While putting the list together I do recognize that nostalgia plays a role, so old bands never seen before do end high upon the list.

15. Marillion - weekend Sunday night 22 March / Fish Boerderij 3 November
Joining some old friends to just make the list. While Marillion weekend overall is the most interesting musical experience of the year (Rockaoke Rulezz), the show itself culmulated on the Sunday when the singles were played and the first hour only contained Fish material.
Fish himself played the full version of Misplaced Childhood, but was suffering from a band not up to its task. Fish himslef was top notch though and still one of the best entertainers on stage.

14. Hell - Gebr. de Nobel 24 May
On a festival that brought us mainly black or death orientated metal Hell brought their great stage show to Leiden. The first time the surprise was tremendous, but still one not to miss with a perfect mix of heavy metal music and a bloody show.

13. Saxon - Gebr. de Nobel - 5 April
Still trying to figure out why someone would ever throw a beer to the stage when the evening of NWOBHM classics passed so well. Killed the end a bit, but not to Saxon's fault. I missed them in de Boerderij in November, so next year it is again.

12. Anihilated - Musicon 10 May
An old band, but unknown to me. Great performance and one hour of British Thrash metal just aroud the corner made this Sunday night a special one. Proving inbetween that w edon't depend on the big 4 for some great thrash metal on stage.

11. Hekz - Boerderij 4 December
I came to see Lonely Robot who released a great CD and has John Mitchell on guitars, a stamp for quality. Hekz I silently hoped on a big surprise. I did not realize they would be this good. Definitely a contender for Progpowers to come. Great progmetal with some Heavy Metal overtones.

10. Operation Mindcrime - 013 27 November
When you expect not that much really and everything surprises positive a great evening guaranteed. Geoff Tate better by voice than last times I saw him, the band good and the setlist opening with the greatest concept album of all time hardly could go wrong. Take Hold of the Flame as a closer of set also not a bad choice.

9. Thunder - Boerderij 11 July
They are back!. First the CD Wonder Days and then they passed de Boerderij. Still a great bad and just good atmosphere. Ballads (many) and rockers stood side by side during this evening of a band having a good time (according to Aardschok Graspop was emotionless, well this evening was great).

8. Absolva - Musicon 3 April & 1 November
A band that plays Heavy Metal passing the Musicon in April releasing a new album and returning in November is a great THHMA initiative. Too bad the second time (sunday) was poorly attended, but to me both nights contained all one needs in modern heavy metal with an old school touch, twin guitars anyone?

7. Dead Lord - Nobel 3 September / Paard 20 Noember
Exactly same story as Absolva. Great band, new to me loved their show bought their Cd's and then they came back when I already new the songs. Yes Lizzy is there, but also like Absolva one of the hardest woking bands picking up tours whenever possible. Twin guitars anyone?

6. Serdce - Sjiwa 4 October
Progpower Europe brought us many great bands, but Serdce was the one standing out to me. Tech metal, grunts, clear voice and some simply amazing instrumental work. Still a pity they did not bring any merchandse driving two days up from Belarus.

5. Raven - Musicon 16 October
Probably the biggest name under the THHMA banner so far passing Musicon. Great to see that the Athletic metal is still in great shape. Also a setlist that could do nothing wrong passing through history. Rockin untill they dropped and than have a beer with the fans. That is the spirit indeed.

4. Anubis - Boerderij 15 May.
Travelling to Europe from Australia for a few shows and than find a bar stage degradation. This would put off many bands, but not Anubis. Well over two hours giving it their all and live the solo's came over even stronger than on CD. One of the great hopes for the future of Prog.

3. Armored Saint - Melkweg 3 August
They came to support Queensryche and won hands down. Not to say te headliner was bad, but a shortened set due to vocal issues, gave the Saint the chance to shine. What a balls out set of US Heavy Metal at its best. So great to see them again after many years for me and to realize how strong their albums are.

2. Twisted Sister - Barcelona 24 July
Rockfest Barcelona is a relative new festival on the circuit. This second edition contained three days of going back to the eighties. I choose the Friday to see Twisted Sister for the first time live. What a show, what fun and total madness by Dee Snider. Next year they say 40 and f%&k it, for their farewell tour. Anyone never seeing them before should not miss out!

1. Trespass - Sudbury 3 July
This was the highlight of shows to me in a stunning live year. Travelling to England to see Trespass in their hometown in a small theater was too good to miss. So I had no LP's from them in the eighties as they did not release any, still knew their hits One of These Days, Bright Lights and Stormchild.  Last year seeing Stampede for the first time was my annual highlight, now Trespass passed a very similar exerience. Great reception in the place by organizers and band, brilliant set and the question remaining, why were they never huge? Headbangers Open Air have them in July, how about a stop in The Hague first?

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Hekz & Lonely Robot - de Boerderij Zoetermeer 4 december 2015

John Mitchell is one of the house artists of de Boerderij. I saw him in the past several times with Arena, Frost*, John&John, PBII and missed him with Kino (don't know if he also passed with It Bites or The Urbane ever before). So when he released this year his solo album under the title Lonely Robot, it was no big surprise that when he decided on a venue to play outside the UK it became de Boerderij. To make the evening even more interesting he brought along a band he produced in English progmetallers Hekz.

Hekz had the honours to open the evening. Last year they played a progmetal festival in Holland which I missed, so for me a Dutch debut. I only knew them from Progstreaming where I heard their last album once on the background through a mini laptop. If tonight proved one thing, it did show that listening half hearted to a band on a laptop is definitely not the best way to judge a band. As from the first notes I realized that we had something special on stage. Hekz plays progmetal, while not moving to far from heavy metal itself. The vocals reminded me sometimes of Bruce Dickinson light and at other moments of Geddy Lee. A definite highlight were also the swapping guitar solo's throug all of the songs. As I was unknown to their songs all came fresh over me, but The Black Hand is one of those gems that immediately stuck. They got plenty of time (75minutes even?) and the night could already be a considered a success when they left the stage. The rather chauvinistic British Prog magazine already slightly hyped this band through the past years. These articles reminded me on the way Haken was pushed. After seeing this show, thoughts went back to Haken opening Progpower some 5 years back. Technically at similar levels I considered Hekz a renewed Haken, but without the cabaret bits. Great band to follow and a potential Progpower-after-dinner-break-band for sure.

Afer the break Lonely Robot came on. The first remarkable fact about the band was that on keys and bass we did not get the usual bolding or bulking blokes, but two girls who looked like they could be John's daughters. They were not and turned out to be good musicians. The bass player also took care of some female vocals. While on the CD famous females in Progrock helped out, these were not missed. Tonight's vocals were pretty similar and personally I do not care a lot about female voices in Prog. Completing the band was Craig Blundelll from Steven Wilson fame and a powerhouse indeed. For those who do not know John Mitchell, he is way up there among the guitarists with emotion written all over. This evening wasone of the few shows Lonely Robot shall play and they went to start through the whole Please Come Home album. Opener Airlock got us going and we saw that it was good. Several songs from this album have their own mood and with some explanations on the intentions behind the lyrics we got a great show. Bands owning one album and following that through a show do lack the element of surprise, but quality made up for that. So our hopes were on the encores for some surprises. That is where things went slightly disappointing. First song was Here Comes the Flood and frequent Boerderij visitors (probably around 75% present) saw John sing this song more than once before. Than came a drum solo and another song I did not know (Gabriel again?). So where were the Kino songs?

So John Mitchell gave an enjoyable show due to his ever great guitar work and sympathetic presentation. Only minor problem to me was that the only song I don't like from his album (Oubliette) stuck in my head until now with it's nagging chorus. Winersof the evening however to me were openers Hekz. The buzz is right and they have all the basics for becoming big. Keep an eye on them and hope to see John Mitchell next time with It Bites or a reformed Frost* in de Boerderij.