I’ve been listening to a lot of Blackmore’s Night this week, and every time I hear songs like “Fires at Midnight” and “World of Stone”, it makes me remember the incredible show we saw in 2011 where they played at Veldenstein castle in Germany. And because I am having serious Europe withdrawals ATM, it’s been making me think of all of the amazing shows I’ve been lucky enough to see over the years.
Cranking metal in your room at home, or pounding it through your headphones while you’re out running is one thing, but experiencing your favourite bands live is quite something else. Metal is music made for live listening – the theatrical nature of the song structures, the vocals, the pounding drums come to life in person. The metal concert is humankind in a kind of primal state, people of different beliefs and races and cultures coming together in a kind of maniacal heathen dance.
I’ve been to a lot of concerts in the last 12 years since I started seeing live music. Maybe 200? Maybe more? I’ve been able to cross off nearly every band on my list of “Bands I MUST see live before I Die” list (basically, there is only Manowar left now). In short, I’ve been pretty blessed that, even though I live in a tiny land at the bottom of the world, I’ve seen some incredible shows and done some amazing things.
There was a time in my life where I went out practically every weekend. Now, I might see ten local shows and a couple of international shows every year, unless we’re travelling. But that doesn’t mean I love live music any less – just that as I get old and crusty my priorities change, and I like to be in bed at a reasonable hour, and I’ve seen a LOT of bands, so I’m pickier about how I spend my money. But I’ll never lose the love of live music, and I hope to be rocking out at shows when I’m well into my dotage.
One question people ask me a lot is “what was the best live show you’ve ever seen?” Truthfully, I can’t answer that. There are too many to choose from. But here are some of the highlights of my concert-going:
- Blackmore’s Night – We were probably the only non-Germans in the crowd at this remarkable show in the courtyard of a 14th century castle. The whole place was lit with torchlight, and half the crowd were dressed in full medieval garb. They may sound amazing on record, but live, they are magical. Fires at Midnight, . If you ever get the opportunity to see them, DO NOT MISS OUT. Probably one of the best concerts of my life.
- Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – I am a huge Nick Cave fan. Like, approaching fangirl status here. In 2004 he came to NZ and played the St. James Theatre, which sadly burned down. It was the best live concert venue in the city, and perfect for the Bad Seeds. I showed up something like 2 hours early, ended up front row, centre. The whole show was amazing – they have such an energy on stage, and there’s a real passion in the music so you feel the raw, emotive power of it, even though they’re playing the same songs night after nights. They played so many favourites: “Red Right Hand”, “Into My Arms”, “God is in the House”, “Breathless”, “Messiah Ward”, “Stagger Lee”, “Henry Lee”, “The Mercy Seat” … Nick HELD MY HAND during “Breathless” (It was the Abbotoir Blues/Lyre of Orpheus tour), and I met a dude in the pit who said he was going to hang out around the back after the show. So I went with him and a couple of others, and after about an hour, Nick and the band came out, signed our autographs, and shook some hands. I was a stupidly tongue-tied meeting someone who has inspired me so much, so was a bit useless in the wit department here. But it was cool.
- Blind Guardian – These guys are my favourite metal band and my husband’s favourite metal band. In 2009 we saw them play at Bloodstock Open Air. It was one of those magical moments where you look at each other and think, “How did we GET here? Can life be any MORE awesome?” I can neither confirm nor deny that one or both of us might have been crying while we grabbed everyone around us and banged our heads.
- The Dresdon Dolls – saw these guys way back in the day, just after their second album was released. Holy shit can Brian drum! Amanda Palmer creates a really unique atmosphere at her concerts. You really feel as if the whole audience is part of the show. I’ve since seen Amanda Palmer’s solo stuff twice, but I like the Dresdon Dolls better.
- Blind Guardian – Yes, again. After seeing them at Bloodstock, we were determined that we had to see them again, this time with a German audience. So when they were announced for Wacken 2011, the decision was made. We met up with our German friends there, and brought more friends from New Zealand with us. Sitting on CDH’s shoulders in the middle of 75,000 people, all singing the bard’s song, surrounded by my closest friends in the world … pretty awesome.
- Suzi Quatro – The dynamo is somewhat of a feminist idol for me. She played at the Civic in Auckland a few years ago. I went by myself. The first set was new songs, and most of the theatre remained in their seats. The second set was all the old classics, “Can the Can”, “Devil Gate Drive”, “Your Mama Won’t Like Me”, and “Stumblin’ In”. The whole place stood up and raced toward the stage. I ended up right at the front rocking out with all these oldies. Suzi just put on an electric show. It was pretty cool.
- Opeth – I think this was 2006 or 2007? I’d just started going out with CDH, and this was the first international band we saw together. Still one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen. The vibe of the place was incredible.
- Under the Covers – this was my husband’s first ever gig with his first ever band. We packed out Oblivion, which was the local metal bar at the time. He played for all his friends, his dad, his brother. Seeing him up there was pretty special. Musicians are hot.
- Iron Maiden – Christmas 2007 at Earls Court, London, with two good friends. Tore out my earplugs to sing “Fear of the Dark”. The memory of it still gives me goosebumps.
- Alestorm – OK, so much of this gig is blurry because I was hopelessly, ridiculously trashed, but it was amazing. These boys have energy. I got off stage and decided I could see better if I just sat down in front of the barrier. Why did I decide this was OK? “Fuck the Cunting Barrier!” We had a hotel room party, and a pyrex jug of DOOM.
- Goatwhore – 2012 in Wellington – sad that only about 30 people came to this show, but it was one of the best extreme metal shows I’ve been to. Cool to be right at the front of a Goatwhore show, just having a blast.
- Alestorm – They came back. I wasn’t nearly as drunk. We went on stage during Wenches and Mead. We shared beers. We went on a hobbiton roadtrip. It was pretty much the highlight of 2013.
- Apocalyptica – Wacken 11. We saw them at Bloodstock 09 and they were pretty awesome, but at Wacken they were on at about 1am in the morning. It was dark, and the vibe was just … right. It was downright sinister. Still gives me chills.
- Nightwish – I got to interview them. I said no less than three inappropriate things. I love that Nightwish think I am weird. Beyond cool to see a band like this in our little country, and to see some amazing friends’ bands open for them.
- Inquisition – This show blew me away. Another amazing extreme metal show.
- Cannibal Corpse – most fun I have EVER had at an extreme metal show.
- Amon Amarth – Wacken 09. There was a viking ship. You forgot it was 2009. Enough said.
- Msc. local shows – Warbeast at the Masonic, that Pantera tribute show at the practice studio with the most fucking brutal pit, Exordium Mors at the King’s Arms, Lee & Chrissy’s wedding, tribute band night, N. U. T. E at Oblivion. Stormforge, Stone Monarch & Forsaken Age at the Thirsty Dog. Amy’s 21st. Good music, good shows, good friends … can’t go wrong.
And, just for kicks, what was the worst concert I’ve ever seen? Hands down, it was HIM. Followed by the Dandy Warhols. Ville Valo has an amazing voice (I walked down the aisle to Bittersweet by Apocalyptica – with Ville and Lauri from the Rasmus on vocals), but he sucked serious arse live. He was dead. Dead vocally. Dead fish on stage. Dead boring. Dead uninterested. I was the oldest person at the show by several decades. Everyone in the pit was too busy snapping pictures to actually watch the show. People were complaining about the pushing (who DOES this?) and the whole band sounded out of time or out of tune or possibly both. Serves me right for seeing HIM, I guess.
What were some of the best concerts you’ve ever been to? The worst?