The Sacred Road: on tour with My Ruin, UK, August 2014

My Ruin - Matt Adamson Photography 2014
Photo (C) Andy Watson, DRW Images

“There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone…”

Only this isn’t the Twilight Zone, at least not as we know it; although it proves to be just as inspiring, imaginative, magical and otherworldly. Contrary to the Twilight Zone’s 1950s written narration, it is also a place that welcomes and positively empowers women.

No, this isn’t a TV series cemented firmly in fiction. After all, this revelation won’t be televised. No, this is real. And it is LA metal veterans My Ruin’s last ever UK tour. If you missed it, I’m sorry, but you really did miss out.

Viewed from both inside and out, The Sacred Mood Tour was a Herculean task; something of epic proportion and equally epic struggle, a fact that made the extraordinary, emotional and powerful performances each and every night something very special to behold.

Before the tour even began, My Ruin had to deal with their friend, producer and intended tour drummer, Joel Stooksbury, dislocating his shoulder, meaning that he couldn’t head out on the road. That prompted the recruitment of Matt ‘Frenchie’ LeChevalier, an accomplished drummer and friend of the band who had joined My Ruin on tour previously in 2006. So far, so good. Crisis averted. The show would go on.

Then, just a few short weeks before the tour was due to begin, one promoter defaulted on his contract, prompting cancellation notices to be sent out to fans who had bought tickets for My Ruin’s show in York. Statements were quickly issued by the band, indicating that the show was not in fact cancelled. Tairrie, Mick and their UK contacts had worked like proverbial Trojans to find another promoter and ensure that the gig was all set to go ahead.

Fibbers in York, the renowned Yorkshire venue booked for the tour, then had to close in order to facilitate a relocation, meaning that My Ruin’s show was once again in jeopardy. But once again the stops were pulled out, blood sweat and tears were shed, and the show was re-booked at The Duchess. Thank the gods, and plenty more hard toil, for that.

Another venue closure, this time in Norwich, loomed and threatened, but yes, once again, did not sound the death knell for this now Biblical tale.

The gods of rock had one last trial up their putrid and pernicious sleeves, however.

My Ruin had never made any bones about the fact that The Sacred Mood Tour had been built on the back of their appearance at the UK’s first annual AltFest, set to be a weekend long celebration of alternative music and culture, staged in the beautiful grounds of Broughton House, Kettering. Tairrie, Mick, bassist Luciano Ferrea and Matt LeChevalier were due to play a set on the Metal Stage on the opening day of the event.

With just two weeks before the tour was due to commence, and only one week until the band were due to travel to the UK from across the globe, rumours began to circulate that AltFest was in trouble. An agonising four day wait for any kind of official statement from the festival organisers resulted in what most were expecting: AltFest was indeed cancelled owing to poor financial management.

But as friends and fans will already know, if there’s one band who know how to knuckle down, do the necessary, and ultimately triumph in the face of adversity, it’s My Ruin.

Tairrie and Stitch - Matt Adamson Photography
Photo (C) Matt Adamson Photography

Just a couple of days later, here was the announcement that everyone had been hoping for. AltFest may have let everyone down massively, but My Ruin would not. The Sacred Mood Tour was not cancelled. Indeed, all shows would be going ahead. Not only that, but rather than using the time freed up by AltFest’s demise for their own ends, My Ruin would now team up with UK industrial metal band The Defiled as their very special guests for an exclusive, intimate warm-up show at The Zombie Hut in Corby.

The response from fans across the UK and Europe was loud, clear and simple: “Fuck yeah!”

As a band that have embraced and live by the DIY code, and one with the best part of two decades of experience of doing so under their belt, My Ruin were not about to disappoint the people who were going to break life and limb to see them for one last time on UK shores.

The stages were set; the band were all here; the Blasphemous Girls and Bad-ass Boys wanted their rock n’ roll. It was time to deliver the doom.

oOo

Fittingly, as show time approaches in Corby for My Ruin’s gig with The Defiled, the clouds gather, the sky darkens, thunder rumbles and down comes the rain. It is as if the combined power of LAs and the UKs heavy metal finest have drawn ominous and unsettled energies together above this relatively sedate English town; some kind of signal or beacon; a harbinger of the iron-flecked rock about to be wrought, and wholly appropriate given Corby’s history as a borough built on the production of British steel.

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds’ “Tupelo” adds to the atmosphere as it rings out on stage and ushers in messrs Murphy, Ferrea and LeChevalier. Cheers and shouts go up as the lights go down, and The 3rd Best Metal Guitarist Of All Time ™ begins a feedback loop and then strikes a power chord, ushering in My Ruin’s mainstay, lyricist, vocalist and frontwoman, Tairrie B. Murphy.

From there it is straight in to the opening track from their 2013 album The Sacred Mood, “Monolith Of Wrath”. As it was with the parent album, so it is with the band’s live show. The song starts with a staccato rhythm and honeyed vocals, before tearing open in to a thundering riff and a full throated scream from Tairrie B., confronting us with “the moonless midnight of my mind.”

The crowd begin to warm up, nodding heads developing into bouncing souls and then a full on circle mosh pit as the Ruiners in the audience begin to lose themselves in some of the band’s most beloved songs.

A short while later and Tairrie approaches the mic with a glint in her eye and an invitation to welcome a guest on to stage. Defiled frontman, Stitch, stalks through the crowd and out in to the spotlight, sheepish grin planted firmly on his face as Tairrie explains that owing to The Defiled not making the venue in time for soundcheck, what is about to follow has never been rehearsed and will be the first time the band and both vocalists have performed together live.

Not that you would ever know it, as the riff now familiar to all Ruiners and Mudhoney fans the world over kicks in to gear, and Tairrie and Stitch belt their way through a punishing, high energy cover of the aforementioned Seattle band’s song “Touch Me, I’m Sick.” If this is the sound of spontaneous, unrehearsed rock, then may all bands be so ill-prepared in the future. It’s an unqualified triumph, and the crowd roar at the song’s close, those here for The Defiled adding their support to the die-hard My Ruin aficionados.

A special guest slot means a slightly shorter set, and it doesn’t feel like too long before Tairrie is thanking the crowd, wishing them well and giving a shout-out to My Ruin’s new found friends in The Defiled. By all accounts, it’s a cracking precursor for what is to come in the days ahead.

A special guest slot also means that the Murphy’s can stick around and catch The Defiled’s set however, as well as chatting to fans old and new, and hanging out with long-standing merch-man, fan, friend, stylist and Tairrie’s “gay husband”, Jack Osborne.

“How was it?” Tairrie asks in conversation after the show. Skin Back Alley offers the opinion that it sounded brilliant to our ears.

“I wasn’t sure if it was really a My Ruin crowd,” she observes. Nevertheless, spirits – including Tairrie’s own – seem high in the Zombie Hut’s band lounge, banter being shared between rock n’ roll comrades, photos being captured and turned in to future memories, accompanied by the hubbub of gear being packed away in to vans for an onward trip to London.

The Sacred Mood Tour is now underway, and My Ruin have kicked down all the barriers put in their way in order to ensure as smooth a passage as possible.

My Ruin - Detune Photography 2014
Photo (C) Doug Rimington, Detune Photography

The following night in Camden, the conditions couldn’t be more different. The Underworld is drenched in sunlight and the queuing fans snake around the outside of The World’s End pub and down towards The Black Heart. The Ruiners may be largely dressed in funereal black, but the conversation is buzzing with stories of meetings with Tairrie and Mick from years gone by, and anticipation of the gig to come. Many can’t believe that this really will be the last time that they get to see their favourite metal band, and the atmosphere is electric; palpable. It is clear that this really IS a My Ruin crowd.

Doors open early, as tonight sees a one-off set from Mick Murphy’s side project, Neanderthal, open proceedings. It means that Murphy, Ferrea and LeChevalier are pulling double duty, but they don’t seem to mind as they pound their way through the groove-fuelled pyrotechnics that allow Murphy to flex his dextrous instrumental muscles. The set is ferocious and immense, “Mi Ruina” sounding particularly blistering. Mick being the man of a thousand faces, tonight the joy in his playing is plain for all to see, and the quality of the music astonishingly high.

Just a short while later, UK metal band Sanctorum take to the Underworld’s stage. The band will be familiar to the My Ruin audience, having supported them on three prior tours. They’re working like demons throughout The Sacred Mood Tour, supporting on every date, as well as acting as backline techs and tour management. The work rate is astounding, and so is their set.

On the verge of releasing a new album at the time of the tour, the set is heavy on songs taken from that new LP, Old Ghosts/New Wars. Every single member of the group delivers the goods in a flail of hair, the thrashing of guitars, the blast beat of drums and the guttural howl of voice. The performances are all the more impressive considering that bassist Matt Adamson couldn’t play a guitar just six months before; something you’d never be able to tell from his solid playing each and every night.

The energy of the band transfers to the audience, as numbers near the stage begin to swell, and limbs and heads begin to writhe. New songs such as “Price To Pay” and “False Idols” are all received with manic moshing and horns aloft, and the set closes out with guitarist Al Commons disappearing in to the crowd and delivering his last solos in the most up-close and personal way possible, just millimetres from gig goers’ faces.

And then it is time for My Ruin to to stand up and be counted, and dear lord do they put on a show.

From the outset it is clear that the band, now headlining their own dates and clearly aware of the emotional pull of their last shows across the UK, mean to perform each and every gig like it will be their last on earth; like their very lives depend on it.

The level of intensity on the part of Tairrie and her fellow musicians is through the roof; an entirely new level to that seen in Corby just the night before. Mrs. Murphy stalks the stage like a woman possessed; perhaps by the spirit of Lady Lazarus whom she calls upon during The Sacred Mood LP; perhaps by the knowledge that My Ruin’s music and lyrics have meant so much to so many for so long, and this might be the last time that her Blasphemous Girls get to see it performed live.

It’s a point Tairrie makes very clearly just a handful of songs in to the longer headline set when she spots an unsuspecting audience member holding their smartphone aloft, apparently filming the entire proceedings.

“Are you filming the show?” she challenges. The response is muted if any comes at all. “Are you filming the show?” she repeats. After what sounds like a sheepish admission from the person in question, Tairrie makes clear that she would rather that everyone live in the moment with the band; enjoy the music right here, right now. Forget cameraphones; forget YouTube; forget crap quality recordings that deliver the poorest quality memory of the experience; forget living vicariously later in the day. Be here now.

The message seems to be heard, and with the Underworld now bursting at the seams, the crowd get in to the groove and the energy flows once more.

Tonight, for the first time on the tour, song dedications come thick and fast. It becomes clear in Camden – and later as the tour progresses – that My Ruin are also using this opportunity to say a huge thank you to all their supporters through the years.

At one point, whilst saying a few very heartfelt words to introduce Mick, Luciano and Matt, and dedicating songs to crew past and present and long time fans of the band, Tairrie’s voice falters for what won’t be the last time during this run of shows. It’s clear that emotion is getting a hold of her; that the reality of the tour is truly sinking in, and there are very nearly tears. The cheers, yelps, arms held high and overwhelming outpouring of love from the crowd just about keep things on the straight and narrow though, and the metal begins once again, headed straight for the stratosphere and beyond.

My Ruin - Photo by Claire Lecari Lickman
Photo (C) Claire ‘Lecari’ Lickman

As the songs continue to flow, My Ruin’s extraordinarily close relationship with their fan base is made clear for all to see. Tairrie frequently leans in to the crowd, sharing hands, hugs and microphone with a hardcore group of Blaspehmous Girls that make their way to each and every show on this tour. Here is a woman who has lived and breathed without compromising herself or her art through a music career spanning over 20 years. As a truly independent woman, exuding attitude, style, vim and vigour, it is no wonder that she has inspired the love and devotion of female metal fans the world over, and plenty of male ones too.

It’s a fact hammered home when the band launch into one of their signature anthems, “Made To Measure”, and the audience erupts. Lyrically, the song is a vitriolic middle finger to all those who dared to judge Murphy on her looks alone, and no doubt rings true to many women in the crowd. Of course, it’s helped massively by the fact that musically, the songs thundering riff and infernal metal groove mean that anyone with a love of heavy music won’t be able to help themselves, headbanging, bouncing, throwing hands in the air and yelling the lyrics back to the band as best their lungs will allow them.

Elsewhere in the set we are treated to songs picked from earlier albums and fan favourites including “Heartsick”, “Blasphemous Girl” and “Beauty Fiend,” all the way through to songs destined to become future classics such as “God Is A Girl With A Butcher Knife” and “Del Riche.” Songs that were never given a chance to live on their own terms by back-stabbing bastards at rotten record companies – such as the awesome “Diggin’ For Ghosts” and “Long Dark Night” – are given a very welcome airing, too.

As the last notes of “Beauty Fiend” ring out at the close of the set, Tairrie asks for the house lights to be brought up. The rapturous applause is deafening, but she makes herself heard and hands are held aloft in undying appreciation as ‘Mrs. M’ takes the opportunity to capture photos of the ecstatic crowd.

With final bows, thank yous and smiles all round, the band stride from the stage triumphant. If this really is their London send-off, then it’s been monumental; an entirely fitting and highly emotional end for a group of musicians – nay artists – whose career has never been short of an exciting mix of passion, energy, raw talent and a healthy amount of controversy, too.

The house lights stay on. Warm, buzzing, sweaty and spent, with more than a little taste of the bittersweet in their mouths, the rabid Ruiners stagger from the Underworld and out in to the night.

“That was FUN!” declares Mick Murphy over drinks at the Black Heart a little later that night. It’s something of an understatement, but the joy is clear on his face as he says it. If spirits had been high in Corby the night before, they’re positively off-the-scale tonight. A punishing tour schedule means that the My Ruin and Sanctorum can’t completely let themselves go, but the mood is relaxed and there are grins everywhere you look.

Nevertheless, there remains a steely focus on the gigs ahead. Come rack or My Ruin, the heavy metal thunder is on it’s way.

My Ruin Camden - Photo by Tairrie B Murphy
Photo (C) Tairrie B. Murphy

oOo

The Sacred Mood Tour rolls out of London and on through Brighton, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, York and Norwich. My Ruin deliver night, after night, after night, after night, their brothers in British metal, Sanctorum, with them every step of the way.

The LA metal masters are joined on their journey by some brilliant bands in supporting slots, augmenting each night’s bill and spanning the spectrum of doom, psych, rock and metal. Cohorts include Clan, General, King Goat, Extreme O.D., Nomad, Dead White Doves, Gods of Hellfire and the mighty Servers. Each brings their own unique talent to an already very special set of live shows.

Of course, as with any tour, there continue to be minor bumps in the road along the way. Manchester sees the band accosted post-gig by a group of people who seemingly have no love for metal or Americans; York sees an astonishingly rude ‘welcome’ from the show promoter, resulting in a statement from Tairrie issued via the band’s official Facebook page. Even as the group make their way through the UK’s Heathrow airport to return to the US, it seems that security officials take exception to something – although what is never entirely clear – leaving the band very late for their departing flight, making it by less than the skin of their teeth.

Nevertheless, none of these hiccups dampens mood or spirit. If this really has been My Ruin’s last hurrah – at least as far as the UK is concerned – it’s been one hell of a blowout.

Before they head home, Tairrie writes from the bottom of her heart to all who had come out to a show:

“It’s a bittersweet goodbye as we leave the UK today on a high we have not felt in a long time. Thank you London, Brighton, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, York & Norwich. We will always remember all the amazing fans who came to the shows this last time with their heavy metal hearts filled with rock love along with all the friends (new & old) who spent moments and made memories with us while we were here.”

Well, quite.

United Kingdom, consider yourself Ruined.

Tairrie B Murphy York - Photo by Michelle Nightwitch Penfold
Photo (C) Michelle ‘Nightwitch’ Penfold

Check out Skin Back Alley’s 5/5 review of My Ruin’s latest album, “The Sacred Mood”, here.

Read our review of Sanctorum’s previous album, “Semper Fidelis”, here, and be sure to check out their new album, “Old Ghosts/New Wars”, released today (1st September.)

You can watch My Ruin’s video for their song “Moriendo Renascor”, below:

Tairrie B. Murphy will return…

Album Reviews | Live Reviews | News | SBA Lists | The Playlist | Under The Skin | Without A Song

Under The Skin: The Passion of Skin Back Alley

NIN 003

It doesn’t matter how hard you try to avoid it, sometimes life is gonna’ get in your way. At those times, it’s important to be mindful of the concept of acceptance. Some things you just aren’t going to be able to change, and you have to do your best to navigate them, learn from them, and move on.

To cut a story short, I was unexpectedly forced to look again at what I write here at Skin Back Alley this weekend; why I do it, what I want to achieve with it, and how best to go about doing that.

As well as checking in on my own internal values, motives and goals, I sought some external input, too. What does Skin Back Alley look like from an outside perspective?

One message came back and stuck in my mind: essentially, hold back on the superfan vibe; people will see you as a shill or a suck-up if you don’t make them fight for space on your site, or if your reviews are largely positive.

So I mulled that over for a while and bounced it around with other aspects of what I do here and why I do them; things that I do out of choice, and some that are a simple consequence of circumstance.

And I came to a conclusion.

I’m not at all inclined to hold back on any vibe that suggests that I am a fan of the styles of music I write about. The simple fact is I AM a fan of that music. I am very passionate about it. That and the best quality writing. For goodness sake, I love both so much that I’m trying to make writing about that music WHAT I DO. I think that’s part of what makes Skin Back Alley different.

Don’t get me wrong, I won’t write blindly or without insight in to what I am hearing; I won’t write thinking “If I do x, y band will love me.” In short, I’m not about to give a favourable writeup to something that is shit, regardless of whether it is in a genre I love. I mean what I say in the “About” section of this site. Skin Back Alley is not about personal prejudice.

But it is about PASSION. The writing WILL reflect that.

As for being a shill? Well, if you’re cynical enough to think that, then bollocks to you. That says more about you than it does about me or Skin Back Alley. The simple fact is that Skin Back Alley doesn’t have a vast swathe of staff writers to call upon (yet!) Therefore I do have to carefully select what gets covered in order to do it justice; in order to write with PASSION and INSIGHT; in order to write with Skin Back Alley’s brand values at the forefront of my mind.

I want Skin Back Alley to be a professional space, of course I do. I want it to have integrity. I want it to be seen as somewhere that fans and bands – indeed any and all people who are passionate about the music that I am passionate about – can come and engage and share in that passion.

I DO value this space; more than most things in my life. Do I expect anything from fans or bands in return? Well, I want them to value themselves and their music in the same way first; then I want them to value Skin Back Alley too, respecting why it was founded and what they’ll find here should they come.

You like Skin Back Alley? Great. Tell me. You don’t like Skin Back Alley, feel free to tell me that too! You want to use some of what I’ve written somehwere else or in your marketing or PR materials? Ask me! Credit me! I’ll probably say yes!

I want engaging with Skin Back Alley to be a mutually beneficial experience for ALL.

Rock HornsMaybe you think that’s all naive bullshit. Maybe you’re right. But until such time as I am proved wrong, I’m going to ensure that Skin Back Alley continues to do what it set out to do, and become what I have intended for it to become.

I hope you’ll join me.

Album Reviews | Live Reviews | News | SBA Lists | The Playlist | Under The Skin | Without A Song

Under The Skin: Tommy Lee’s Massive Rig

Motley Crue The Final Tour

I’ll defend hard rock and metal music to anyone who will listen; fighting the Spinal Tap Stone Henge stereotype all the way to the Winter Solstice if needs be. But I’m not sure even Beelzebub can help me now…

Having recently argued that rock and metal does not need to rely on spectacle to make up for the awful music on show, I have been presented with this:

Tommy Lee Cruecifly 2014

And no, your eyes are not deceiving you. That IS rock berk Tommy Lee playing the drums whilst hanging all but upside down on something resembling The Viper ‘coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain.

In a spectacularly Spinal Tap moment, Lee has been forced to take to Twitter this week to explain why his rig – dubbed The Crüecifly – didn’t make an appearance at a recent show in Milwaukee.

After fans who attended the 4th of July gig left disappointed at the no-show, they kicked up the proverbial stink across the web, prompting Lee to Tweet: “Hi guys! Want you to know certain venues cannot handle The Crüecifly! It’s not our fault their roof cannot hang the rig! It’s massive!”

Indeed, Tommy, indeed.

The Crüecifly forms part of the stage show for Crüe’s current US jaunt, titled “The Final Tour.” Speaking to Music Radar, Lee once explained how the idea of mounting his drum kit on to a roller coaster track came about: “Every tour we do, everybody’s always wondering, ‘What’s Tommy Lee going to do next? What new, wild and crazy thing is he going to come up with?’ And what’s funny is, the thrill-seeker and the amusement park fan in me took over this time. Whenever I go on a roller coaster, I always say the same thing: ‘Man, I have got to find a way to take the cars off this ride and put my drums on the track!’ That’s basically where it all started. One day, I drew a design for the whole thing on a cocktail napkin.”

*sigh*

If only Tommy and his Mötley Crüe bandmates had put as much thought into their last album…

If you’re so inclined, you can watch fan-shot footage of Tommy and his massive rig in action at the Vanandel Arena, Grand Rapids below:

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Under The Skin: Dear Ben Nichols, what’s in a name?

Ben Nichols 001

So, you fall in love with music. Then you fall in love with a particular style. Then you fall in love with a particular artist. And hell, you’ve always liked great writing and being able to share your musical passion with others.

Pursuing your passion, you set up a Facebook community to share that love and provide a place where like-minded folk can congregate online. There you build up a following, all discussing, sharing, entering giveaways, posting videos and favourite songs; essentially, doing all the cool and awesome things that music fans like to do in the online space.

And having spent years building up that community and providing and sharing quality content, what happens then?

Why, Facebook destroy your community in one fell swoop!

So found Michelle Evans, founder and owner of the Dear Ben Nichols Facebook community.

A page dedicated to all things Ben Nichols and Lucero, and often legitimately sharing music from other artists working in a similar vein, it had built up to a group of over 3,000 people discussing and engaging with what they loved the most; the music of Ben Nichols and his Lucero bandmates. Ben himself was involved with the gang and often shared their activity via his and Lucero’s own media outlets.

Facebook’s beef?

That the community had been set up as a Facebook profile in Facebook’s early days, as though it were a personal page. Contacting Evans, Facebook said they had noted that the profile had a registered first name of “Dear”, that this couldn’t possible be anyone’s first name, and that the details needed to be changed.

“They said it wasn’t my real name and that I had to change or remove it,” says Evans, matter of factly.

Dear Ben Nichols Page Cap
Michelle Evans’ Dear Ben Nichols community on Facebook

Not wanting to put the community that she had spent years building up in jeopardy, Evans looked to comply with Facebook’s sudden and surprising edict. She tried using Facebook’s tools to convert the “account” to a “page.” However, bizarrely, the tool wouldn’t let Evans make the change. At least, not unless she removed the “Dear” part of the community name.

WTF? If it was no longer an “account”, what difference does a “Dear” make? What’s in a name?

Everything it would seem.

Ultimately Evans managed to create a page on Facebook called “Dear Ben Nichols”, using the name that she had struck upon and that so many people had engaged with and become a part of. But the issue didn’t end there.

Facebook, in their wisdom, deleted Evans’ old page before she had an opportunity to send a message out to the community members telling them what was going on, and where they could find the new community page. She was left with a new page, with few members, and no real means of communicating with the thousands who had “liked” and helped build the old community.

“They deleted the entire original account without giving me a chance to message anyone, save it or download a backup,” says Evans. “Fortunately I’ve managed to set up the new page, but now I have to get the word out and build up those followers all over again.”

Years of hard work. Years! Wiped out by nefarious Facebook in a few moments, seemingly on a whim, and for bizarre reasons. Goodness knows, no-one wants to be duped by Facebook profiles purporting to be someone or something that they are not, but that was obviously not the case with the now deleted Dear Ben Nichols page.

So, along with Facebook’s reprehensible experiments involving the emotional manipulation of over half a million of their users, their mind-boggling feed algorithms that keep you from seeing the content of the pages that you’ve actively chosen to “like” and receive messages from (unless, of course, the page you’ve liked has paid to have it’s content promoted in your feed), you can now add the brazen and willful destruction of an online community who were doing nothing more than innocently and legitimately sharing their love of the arts on a social media site.

Motherfu**ers.

Michelle Evans 001Michelle Evans is a music fan, social media consultant, writer and promoter based in Kentucky

You can find and “like” the brand new Dear Ben Nichols Facebook page here!

Find out more about Lucero and the actual Ben Nichols here!

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Metallica at Glastonbury: The Verdict

Metallica Glastonbury Header Image

So after all the rhetoric and bluster of the past couple of months, Metallica finally headlined the Pyramind Stage at Glastonbury on Saturday night. As they took to the stage of the festival that Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson recently called “the most bourgeois thing on the planet”, did the world stop turning? Did the tens of thousands of people who had been enjoying sets from Robert Plant and Jack White leave the field en masse? Did the sky crack, the ground tremor and plagues and pestilence cover the earth?

Well, hardly.

The band did at least acknowledge the furore that had built up around them since the announcement of their booking. 15 minutes later than planned, a video by Julien Temple crackled in to life showing footage of Eli Wallach in The Good The Bad and The Ugly, along with scenes of English fox hunts soundtracked by Colonel Bogey and The Sweet’s “Fox On The Run.” As the film came to its conclusion, four bears popped up out of the undergrowth and shot the hunters, just before taking off their masks and revealing the four members of the band beneath. So far, so tongue in cheek. Check the video out for yourself:

Seconds later, the band burst on to stage for real, ripping straight in to “Creeping Death” from their 1984 thrash metal classic, Ride The Lightning. If there was anything at all surprising about the set’s opening song, it was the number of people in the assembled throng who seemed to know the tune. Albeit they were being aided and abetted by a group of Metalli-fans that had been invited on to the stage, standing behind the band waving flags and singing along, it was clear for all to hear that when James Hetfield indicated he wanted the audience to join in and help him out, the crowd were all too willing and able to do so.

The sheer force and power of the band’s sound seemed to whip pockets of festival-goers into a head-banging frenzy. Impromptu mosh-pits could be seen the audience over, lit by flare light during second song “For Whom The Bell Tolls”, followed in quick succession by “Wherever I May Roam.”

From there, Hetfield took to the microphone for a few words that struck just the right tone, managing to be both humble and headstrong: “We’re very proud to be here and represent the heavier side of music. I know it’s all represented here so why not heavy? This is dedicated not only to the crowd but to all the British heavy metal bands that have been dreaming and still dream of playing this stage here. Do you want heavy? Metallica gives you heavy!”

Some observers noted that the audience didn’t seem to be quite as big as for the previous night’s headliners, Arcade Fire, but the thrash pioneers were still a huge draw. All too aware of what the festival crowd wanted from them, what was essentially a greatest hits set followed, focusing on music from their most well known albums and singles.

The majority of the material (“Wherever I May Roam”, “Sad But True”, “The Unforgiven”, “Nothing Else Matters” and the classic “Enter Sandman”) was drawn from their 1991 monster, the multi-million selling Black Album. The rest was largely taken from either the aforementioned Ride The Lightning, or what many still consider to be the band’s most accomplished work, Master Of Puppets.

Indeed, just one song from their most recent studio album, Death Magnetic, made an appearance in the form of “Cyanide”, and it was perhaps one of the only missteps of the evening; particularly when introduced by Hetfield with some ill-considered questions to the crowd, presumably intended to endear him and the band to the “peace and love” “bourgeois” fraternity out front.

If anything else detracted from the spectacle of the Californian metal titans in full flow, it was a couple of rare slip-ups from this most polished and experienced of hard rock bands. Kirk Hammet’s fingers seemed a little less nimble than some of his ultrasonic solos required, as he occasionally fell behind the beat or hit a couple of bum notes. Equally, Lars Ulrich, one of the most accomplished drummers in rock, seemed to slip out of time on at least one occasion, but quickly recovered his position. Minor quibbles at most, and ones that majority of the audience probably didn’t even notice in their revelry.

Metallica Glastonbury Lars Ulrich

After the rapturously received “Enter Sandman” closed out the main set, the self-styled four horsemen of the apocalypse returned for an encore with their cover of Thin Lizzy’s “Whiskey In The Jar”, and the high octane thrash of “Seek and Destroy” from their 1983 debut album, Kill ‘Em All. Hetfield introduced the latter with the words: “If you’re a fan or not a fan, it’s a song you can get into,” and as the band set about getting into it themselves, a slew of black beach balls were released into the crowd bearing the band’s logo. They looked like the ammunition from Metallica’s proverbial sonic canon as they were beaten into submission by the now noisy and ecstatic Metalli-cised horde.

For a band who have been ridiculed for their challenging artistic choices in recent years, and for a genre that Skin Back Alley has seen very recently be accused of relying on theatrics to make up for the awful music being made, Metallica relied on very little other than their skill, experience, energy and commitment – their best known songs and sheer force of will – to carry the audience with them into heavy metal Mardi Gras.

Naysayers be damned. Far from ruining the most sacred of British music festivals, Metallica reigned supreme, delivering a heavy metal masterclass and, I shouldn’t wonder, adding a few more converts to their already millions strong fanbase across the globe.

A clearly ecstatic Lars Ulrich took to the microphone at the close of Metallica’s set, summing up thus: “I came down here last night and I’ve walked every corner of this festival, and let me tell you, there is no place like this on this fucking earth. Thank you Michael, thank you Emily, thank you Nick. Metallica loves you and we hope to see you another fucking time!”

Watch Metallica’s performance of “One”, from their album …And Justice For All, at Glastonbury below:

Metallica played:
“Creeping Death”
“For Whom The Bell Tolls”
“Wherever I May Roam”
“Sad But True”
“Fade To Black”
“Cyanide”
“The Unforgiven”
“The Memory Remains”
“One”
“Master Of Puppets”
“Nothing Else Matters” (with intro from “Bleeding Me”)
“Enter Sandman”

Encore:
“Whiskey In The Jar”
“Seek And Destroy”

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