Review by Chop and photos by Krish Mistry
The second date of a whistle-stop UK tour to coincide with the release of new album L’Enfant Sauvage was surely too good an opportunity to miss? Judging by the heaving mass at the Academy, apparently so…
Frantic Empire could have taken the easy option with Sunday’s final of Metal To The Masses looming ever nearer, but to their credit – and their management’s I presume! – they gamely stepped into the lion’s den to open. Thankless task as it was they took to the stage confidently enough and the reasonable crowd they’d brought with them encouraged them as best they could. Solid as they were as a punky three piece thrash unit, their set veered towards the predictable or unremarkable. Nothing wrong with what they did, simply a case of overall crowd indifference and limited song development winning the day. Let’s leave it at that as plenty of bands have been chewed up and spat out opening for Gojira, and if nothing else it will look great on their c.v. in years to come.
Next into the firing line were The Safety Fire who tried a different musical approach to get the crowd onside. Pitched somewhere between djent, progressive, post hardcore and screamo it was difficult to find fault with them from a musicianship perspective. Think Meshuggah or Dillinger Escape Plan lite and you’ll know what they were about. Complex time signatures and song arrangements were handled deftly enough, and of their type they were very good at what they did. Regrettably indifference again won the day, with much uncomfortable shuffling and checking of mobiles throughout. A clear case of wrong band, wrong time, but again all good for experience.
If you were to pick your favourite gigs of all time there would be the same sort of argument that sports fans revel in. Would Tyson at his peak have pummelled Ali into submission, is Ronaldo in the same league as George Best or Pele to propose but two. Returning to music – and delving through my three decades or so of gig appreciation – my short list would include Megadeth’s warm up gig for Monsters Of Rock at the Hummingbird in 1988, Judas Priest on the Painkiller tour, Dream Theater on the Scenes From A Memory tour in Bristol in 2000, and the first time I saw Rammstein in Nottingham on the Reise, Reise tour. Special performances, that were head and shoulders ahead of anything else on the scene at that particular time. If you haven’t guessed where this is going yet I’ll spell it out – Gojira’s performance tonight is very high on that list now. Please indulge me and let me explain why…
Having been a fan of the band for a while helped. Interviewing the charming Joe earlier in the day and catching a few minutes of soundcheck didn’t do any harm either. But mostly it’s an opinion backed up by seventy minutes of the most jaw dropping musical display that it’s been my pleasure to witness, certainly this year, and probably for many more before come to think of it. Rammstein were as good as ever at the LG Arena earlier in the year, but ask anyone who was at this gig just how good it was and you’ll probably witness a dreamlike happiness cross their face. Staggering, mind blowing, call it what you will, in metal or extreme metal terms it just doesn’t get any better than this.
From the moment the house lights faded to the final note, Gojira were flawless, combining power and fluidity effortlessly. Old songs and new rubbed shoulders in the play list seamlessly, astonishingly the old still sounding fresh, whilst the new sounded as if they’d been played live for years. Not a weak link amongst them, perfectly paced, immaculately played, and with Joe’s between song banter now taking on an Akerfeldt-esque laid back manner. Truly magical.
If the lengthy ramblings of the preceding paragraphs seem over the top either a) you weren’t there or b) you’re not a fan anyway. If you get the chance to put a) right when they hit the UK for a full tour later in the year please feel free to tell me I’m wrong. If they’re anywhere near as good as this though my suspicion is you’ll be similarly blown away. Tonight was a special performance from a very special band. Surely this must be the point where they take the extreme metal world by storm?
Set list; ‘Space Time’, ‘The Heaviest Matter In the Universe’, ‘Backbone’, ‘Remembrance’, ‘Love’, ‘Explosia’, ‘Flying Whales’, ‘Oroborus’, ‘The Axe’, ‘Vacuity’. Encore; ‘Toxic Garbage Island’, ‘L’Enfant Sauvage’.
Click below to view the rest of the photos from the gig: