Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Sonisphere - Day Two review

Deftones' Chino says 'hi' to the crowd
SO day two quickly arrives and from first thing in the morning one thing is very evident - Maiden are definitely playing tonight.

At least every second person is wearing an Iron Maiden T-shirt. I feel out of place. I knew they were big, but this is more - this is a cult.

But Tesseract are the opening band of the day on Apollo and with founding vocalist Daniel Tompkins back after a three-year break they tentatively build into good little set. They are then followed on the Saturn stage opposite by Scottish pirate metallers Alestorm - and by then the hangovers are blown away.

Babymetal win some new fans
Then comes the bizarre back on the Apollo - Japanese outfit Babymetal. Three dancing frontwomen with very high-pitched voices backed by chugging guitars. Nuts. Batshit crazy. The festival-goers I spoke to were split. Some thought it was awesome, others not so keen. Pokemon metal is the term I settled on.

But as the heavens opened I took my leave to the Bohemia tent to take in Calling All Cars and Voodoo Six - sorry Chas n Dave, but it was dry in there. 

Both bands did plenty to keep my interest though and it was a successful if previously unplanned diversion. That's what festivals are all about, right? Finding new bands too.

Anyway, the crazy continued on the Apollo as next up were costumed, Swedish doom merchants Ghost. They really don't float my boat so I quickly decided it was time for  lunch and drinks before a bit of Anthrax and next up after that for me was Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls.

Ghost - not a musical of the Patrick Swayze film
Frank was a weird fit to the weekend - which he admitted himself - with his acoustic country/folk/rock jangles out of place against many of the other chugging guitars and screaming vocals of many others on the bill.

He even jokingly introduced the crowd to an acoustic guitar.

He mentioned in the build-up to the festival and during his set that he is a massive Iron Maiden fan and grew up listening to metal and rock music - maybe he offered to do the gig for free in return for playing alongside his heroes. In any case, his set did come as a break from what had gone before and was coming later. Namely, mayhem.

Taking things back up a notch first were Hundred Reasons - back on the line-up two years after their cancelled appearance for the 10th anniversary of their Ideas Above Our Station album. They did the album in full and after a shaky start they found their groove.

In a day with a few oddities, another was soon upon us. Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson and his Great War Display Team re-enacted a World War One dogfight in the skies above Knebworth for a full 15 minutes, complete with commentary. Maiden mascot Eddie was supposedly one of the rear gunners, but my eyesight wasn't up to the job of confirming that.

Frank Turner and his acoustic
The display was ended by the Band and Bugles of The Rifles playing the Last Post - and just a minute or so later Deftones were on the same stage blaring into their track Diamond Eyes.

They may have been a bit bemused, but Chino Moreno didn't let it show and put in a ferocious performance as he stalked the stage rasping out his vocals. It was a great set, but I was disappointed that my personal favourites Back To School and You've Seen The Butcher didn't feature. No matter.

Now we're into the business end of the evening and as Slayer played the Saturn stage, I stayed nearer the Apollo to get a good viewing spot for the big one - Iron Maiden.

Now. I'll be honest, I'm not a massive Maiden fan. I don't own any albums and don't really have the inclination to go buy any. But I appreciate their status as one of the iconic bands of rock and metal music. And from the vastly swollen crowd from the previous day, it was evident this was going to be one to remember.

Soon, a grounded Bruce was out on the stage as they opened with Moonchild, swiftly followed by Can I Play With Madness. The crowd was madness personified and Dickinson seemed to cover every inch of the stage as The Prisoner and 2 Minutes To Midnight followed.

Maiden ended up playing for around two hours - including three-song encore ending in Sanctuary. It was awesome.

My plan had been to follow this by attending the Kerrang disco starting at 1am. But after two days of booze, sun, seemingly infinite walking and loads of good music, I needed a rest. Plus there was another full day of music to come. But today would take some beating.

Click here to read my review of Day One if you missed it, or carry on to Day Three.

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