Shinedown – Edinburgh HMV Picture House

Shinedown (Photo credit: Iain Purdie)

[Complete set of photos available on Flickr]

I’m writing this eight days after the gig as a result of a ridiculous workload, so apologies if it’s not as precise as other reviews. It’s certainly no reflection on the band themselves who were superb.

We managed to get there and find the lovely Wendi at around 8:30, so we missed the support band (who we’d not heard of anyway). Parking near the Picture House is a bugger at the best of times if you don’t want to pay a fortune at the NCP round the back, but with Alice Cooper playing 200 yards away at the Playhouse, all the free spaces were pretty much gone by half six.

Shinedown are a great live band as I’m sure I ranted about back in February when they played the Academy. The Picture House is a smaller venue, I’m sure, but they treated it the same – they may as well have been at an arena.

With the new album, Amaryllis, having been out for a few months now, several songs from it made an appearance after a handful of them had been slipped in during the gig earlier in the year. This is a good thing as it’s a superb piece of work with not a bad track on it. They were as well-received as the older stuff (which included a couple of trips back to the first album).

Brent Smith is a superb front man who looms like a giant on stage. He managed to re-word the usual “you’re the best crowd we’ve ever played to” speech to make it a little less predictable and enjoyed a couple of speeches that would have made Bruce Dickinson proud. One of them has had my head ticking since the gig and will result in another blog post once I have the time. Mainly it was due to the fact that I’d had the squits for a day before the concert, and I was flying high on virtually no food for 24 hours and a need to clench my buttocks for 90 minutes so that I didn’t miss any of their set.

Despite a “strict curfew” of 10pm, the band managed to stay on stage until almost quarter past playing nothing but great song after great song. I don’t think there’s another band around right now with so many tracks which can make the hair stand up on your neck as soon as you hear the intro. It amazes me that they’re still playing venues of this size, but I’m revelling in it before they start ramping up the gig capacities and the ticket prices to go with it.

Long may they rock. And if you missed out on this tour, keep an eye out for the next one.

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W.A.S.P. – Edinburgh HMV Picture House

W.A.S.P. (Photo credit: Iain Purdie)

[Full set of photographs on Flickr via this link]

Thirty years is a long time to be doing any job. It all the more difficult when your job revolves around creativity as times change and people go on to find new things. Which is why it was quite exciting to be able to manage to get a ticket to see the second date on W.A.S.P.‘s 30th anniversary tour, at the HMV Picture House in Edinburgh.

Due to being absolutely knackered, I didn’t bother with the support act (sorry), but got there in good time to find a nice spot by the mixing deck before Blackie Lawless and company came on stage slightly after 8pm.

W.A.S.P. has had numerous members over the years, but Blackie has been there since day one – and he looks it. Mind, this guy’s been through the whole rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle much as other bands of the era such as Motley Crue, Poison, etc. and he’s survived. There’s no doubting his song-writing skills (Crimson Idol is a superb rock opera / album and Headless Children still rates as a classic of the genre in my book) and charisma on stage.

The opening segment was for songs from the first four albums, most of which I recognised and the crowd were singing along to a host of classics. Large video screens at the back displayed old live footage or the associated music video (remember when MTV still showed music videos? These were from back in the 1980’s). “The Real Me“, “Wild Child”, “I Want To Be Somebody” and so forth rolled out until the band paused for a quick change. A point of note is that the videos throughout the night were generally very well choreographed with the live music to the point where drum beats matched action in the background (Jonathan smashing his guitar into mirrors during the second sequence), or Blackie singing lyrics as they were spoken in the video (such as the chorus to “The Real Me”). Pretty impressive.

This was probably my favourite part of the show, mainly as it included songs from The Headless Children. Stand-out was the video of Martin Luther King Jr.‘s final speech the day before his assassination which led into the title track. As the lyrics question if mankind has lost the plot, the video sequences went from one promising peace and hope to images of Hitler, Stalin and war. A really simple visual device, but incredibly effective.

W.A.S.P. (Photo credit: Iain Purdie)

Section two was a cut-down version of the Crimson Idol tour, crammed into around thirty minutes. Along with the disturbing video sequences in the background, we were rushed through Jonathan’s life from abused child to rock star and then decline via some cracking songs and emotive performances. It’s one tour that, in retrospect, I wish I’d gone to see when it was doing the rounds.

Finally was the “all the other stuff” segment including them more recent material. with which I wasn’t so familiar. It didn’t affect my enjoyment as the band were on a roll and the crowd really getting into things.

Sadly, though, things had to come to an end a little earlier than I think the band were expecting due to a 10pm curfew (seriously, why don’t promotoers start boycotting venues that won’t let bands play until 11pm?), which I think cost us a song or two. I was really hoping for “Mean Man” and “Animal”, though I gather that Blackie will no longer play the latter due to his new-found status as a Born Again Christian. Well, thanks Jesus. That’s one W.A.S.P. song and a Megadeth classic (“Anarchy in the UK” – yes I know it’s a cover) I won’t hear live again because of you.

Oh, a minor niggle – Blackie had a bit of a rant to try and get the crowd going about “they said we’d never sell the tickets in Edinburgh that we could in Glasgow, and you proved them wrong!” The guy’s amazing, but two points. “Glasgow” is pronounced with an “-oh” at the end not an “ow” as in “Ow! I’ve stubbed my toe”. And they’re less than an hour apart by road or rail. I reckon a huge number in the crowd would have been from Glasgow anyway…

While the show was energetic and glitzy (Doug Blair’s light-up guitar is something special), it was missing some of the stuff promised on the promotional web site:

  • multiple video screens – CHECK
  • pyrotechnics – NOPE
  • elements from the early W.A.S.P. shows – CHECK
  • Blackie’s moving microphone stand “Elvis” – NOPE
I can understand the pyros being an issue in some venues, especially smaller ones like the Picture House, but it’s a shame not to see Elvis as he was present at the much smaller Bradford Rio back when I saw the band last.
Not to worry, though. The show’s about the music first and foremost and I don’t think there were any complaints there from the near-capacity crowd!
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Bowling For Soup (acoustic performance)

Bowling For Soup Acoustic
Image by Iain Purdie via Flickr

I first Saw Bowling For Soup at Download some years ago and thought they were rather good fun. When I saw they were playing Glasgow last year I rushed to get a ticket and wasn’t at all disappointed (Anni had told me they were great when she saw them in Cardiff back in 2007, I think). It turns out that Jaret and Erik do an acoustic show, and this is what I went to see this week at the Liquid Rooms in Edinburgh.

I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect, but it turned out to be excellent. Certainly a departure from what I’m used to, but one of the best gigs I’ve been to in some time precisely because of it.

Jaret and Ryan Hamilton (from Smile Smile) kicked things off as a duo called “People on Vacation”. They did a handful of nice songs then tootled off to be replaced by “Linus of Hollywood” who did a solo set, which was very well received.

With a very short set change, and in between having their photos take at the side of the stage with umpteen fans, half of Bowling For Soup grabbed their guitars and ploughed through a set lasting nigh on two hours. This was partly due to a very accommodating venue. The gig was, apparently, meant to end at 10pm, but they ran on until just after half past. Thanks to Liquid Rooms for that! I guess they were still coining it in over the bar…

I don’t think a hit was left untouched, and the acoustic versions were suitably different in places to warrant a separate album, in my opinion. The crowd were singing along from the start and the banter was as good as you’d expect from BfS. Any shout was responded to in good humour, the between-song dialogue genuinely funny and it was obvious you were watching two long-standing friends doing what they dreamed of doing when they were kids.

They even managed to squeeze in a version of “Dance Song” from the current album (soon to be outdated by a new release in three weeks). So we have an acoustic version of a rock song parodying a dance song. Cool.

The icing on the cake was the two guys in front of me trying to pull the two girls next to them… who ended up getting off with each other.

A great night with a great band in a great venue with a great crowd. Roll on October and the full band coming back for another tour!


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Life should not be in bullet points

One thing I’ve really noticed over the last few months is that my blog posting has declined a lot to pretty much just film reviews. This was never intentional, though it’s partly due to the job. I can’t blog a lot about work for confidentiality reasons.

I do actually have a work blog, but good luck finding it – it’s deliberately well hidden. Though not that well, due to my employer’s bonkers IT system (up until I complained a few weeks into term that having posts “signed” with my real name was a little silly).

The other main reason for the lack of blogging is the fact that I’m making quite a lot of use of Twitter and Facebook. My life is being reduced to several 140-character bullet points, and a series of “Like”s. This isn’t good.

So I thought I’d take the end of the year to do a quick wrap-up and fill in some cracks. What’s happened and what’s happening?

Well, the year in brief. I started it at university, living with an aunt in Glasgow. I finished my PGDE(S) with Computing in the summer and headed to Vietnam, where I worked for 2 months with some incredible people at the Hanoi Backpacker’s Hostel.

There I met some new friends, and had a chance to catch up with some old ones – in particular the staff at the Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation. I didn’t spend as much time as I’d hoped with them due to the work commitments (6 days on, 1 off if I was lucky), but still enjoyed a lot of time helping out and just hanging with the kids.

On the off chance anyone from Vietnam is reading – hey guys and thanks. It was great!

Upon my return, I started working in Edinburgh – placed there at random by the Scottish government. This was fine by me but meant doing a bit of house hunting. My first “own place” since 2006. OK, so I do have a flatmate, but I also have my own room. And bills. Whoo!

I’ve started catching up on my live music as well. Missed so many gigs over the last few years – it’s hard to book tickets in advance when you don’t know from month to month what country you’ll be in – I went to around 10 gigs between August and December. Exodus, Annihilator, All That Remains, Airbourne, Bowling For Soup, Alter Bridge, Disturbed, Hatebreed, Ginger (ex-Wildhearts)…

Then in October things changed. Armed with a pass to all four of Hayseed Dixie‘s Glasgow tour dates, I arranged to stay with the cousin of a friend for one of the evenings. This would allow me to have a couple of bevvies. She decided she wanted to come along as she liked the sound of the band.

As 2010 draws to a close, I’m writing this blog post in her front room. Her two kids are upstairs in bed and we’re settling down with a cuppa.

Despite always promising that I’d never date a single mother, Gill completely changed my perceptions. I had my reasons – mainly related to worrying about how I would handle children who weren’t my own. I’m glad to say that Gill’s two are lovely and I love them as much as I love her.

Yeah, let’s end the year on a soppy note. Work’s hard, but rewarding. I have my hopes for next year, either in employment or back at university.

But the main thing is that I’m finally in a stable relationship with the most amazing woman with the most wonderful kids. I shall try desperately not to screw this one up.

Happy New 2011.

And a token “humbug” just in case you think I’m losing my touch.

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