Testament – Glasgow Garage

Testament (Photo credit: Iain Purdie)

[full set of images on Flickr via this link]

A band that’s been there since the beginning of the thrash metal era, Testament were pretty big twenty or so years ago. But while the liked of the so-called “Big 4” went on to fill arenas, Testament joined the likes of Exodus on the sidelines. Still producing some great albums, but never quite getting the commercial recognition of their more successful peers.

So what does this means for the likes of you and I? It means that we get to see one of the best metal acts still doing the rounds in a nice, small venue.

If you’ve heard the new album, Dark Roots of Earth, then it’s no surprise they opened up with the first track “Rise Up”. After all, it does have built-in crowd involvement with lyrics such as “When I say ‘rise up’, You say ‘war!'” This was used to good effect to get the already excited crowd up and yelling from the very start.

1988’s The New Order then got a double unairing as its title track was belted out next, followed by “The Preacher”. The night followed a similar pattern as a handful of new tracks were mixed with some absolute classics, even going as far back as their debut album The Legacy. Trivia time: Testament were originally called “Legacy” before changing their name. Before it was released, their vocalist was Steve Souza, who went on to join Exodus leaving the position vacant to be filled by current long-standing member Chuck Billy.

Testament (Photo credit: Iain Purdie)

Chuck makes a great deal of his Native American heritage (as he has every right to), and recent award-winner “Native Blood” received quite the welcome. It’s quite an achievement for a metal band to win something like “Best Video” at the American Indian Film Festival. The Formation of Damnation, Practice What You Preach and The Gathering also received recognition in a night that saw new material being welcomed as much as old. Deservedly so, in my opinion, as the current album is probably one of their best.

If there was a disappointment, it was a lack of material from Souls of Black. It was the first Testament album I got (won it in a competition, actually – on vinyl) and I’d have loved to have heard some stuff from it live. In fairness, they did play something from it when I saw then at Graspop a few years ago.

It’s great to see a band pretty much managing to maintain its original line-up from first album to current over so many years (with a couple of years of guitarists dropping out then coming back and a seemingly Spinal Tap-ish policy on drummers), and watching them on stage you can see why they’ve all ended up working together again.

No mucking about, little of the silly crowd antics and some great tunes. Their first British gig in a huge number of years, and – the best news of all – soon to be repeated. Billy announced on stage that they will be back (touring) in March. Testament-abulous!

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Sabaton / Eluvetie / Wisdom – Glasgow Garage

Sabaton (Photo credit: Iain Purdie)

[Links to pictures on Flickr: Sabaton / Eluvetie / Wisdom]

It’s a bit of a surprise when you go to the pinboard in the office to get your ticket for a gig then realise that there are two stuck up there. Annoyingly, Gillian had a shedload of work to do that she couldn’t put by. One quick phone call to a local dinosaur meant that the ticket would not be wasted, however, and Dean and I headed into the city just in time to get parked and join the horrifically long queue outside the Garage.

Fifteen minutes later, we managed to get in (just as they decided to only search people with bags otherwise those at the tail end would have barely caught the encore at the close of the evening) and saw around four minutes of opening band Wisdom. A crying shame as they sounded pretty good, much like (and I credit Mike for this description) Manowar with Bruce Dickinson on vocals. Maybe I’ll catch them again at another gig when I can actually get into a venue in reasonable time.

A short set change later saw an impressive sight for the small-ish Garage stage  – eight-piece Swiss folk metal band Eluvetie. All the more impressive given that they only had half the stage to work with as Sabaton‘s kit was already set up behind theirs. Say what you like about folk metal, I’ve all the time in the world for anyone who can play about a dozen instruments and it seems that being multi-talented is a prerequisite for joining this ensemble.

I may miss some out here, or get names wrong, but do please bear with me. I spotted a hurdy gurdy, violin, two vocalists, bagpipe, flute, recorder, two guitars, bass, drums, piccolo, harp, lute, and two instruments I couldn’t even think of naming including one with a horned skull embedded in it. If there was an obvious problem with this orchestra it was that there was no hope for the poor sound tech to ensure that all the instruments were mixed as well as they would be in a studio, but he did his best.

Not my cup of extinct Gaulish tea, but they got a rousing reception (deservedly do) and will undoubtedly appeal to fans of the likes of Ensiferum. My taste in folk metal leans more heavily towards early Skyclad which is a bit more rock and less death metal.

Sabaton themselves took to the stage at a worryingly late hour as I assumed there would be a 10pm curfew. Thankfully this wasn’t the case as they chose to play the entire of Europe’sThe Final Countdown” as their introduction. Guys, the opening minute would have been perfect! And have given you time for another song! Anyway, that was the only whinge of the evening.

Their first Scottish appearance since they opened for Dragonforce in 2006 has seen them rise from “who?” to venue-fillers and deservedly so. Their performance is energetic, varied, humorous and fast-paced. Their music, with its lyrical grounding in many historical events, panders to the prides of many nations and it was no surprise to see the Polish flags and scarves going mental when “40:1” was pounded out near the start of the set.

Indeed, the band pandered to the home crowd with Saltire-backprinted t-shirts on sale downstairs and Braveheart-esque blue face and body paint well applied. And kilts. Which were worn in the traditional manner as evidenced at the end of their set!

The three new members were introduced to the crowd late in the concert to a lot of well-deserved cheering. For a band to lose four of six members in one go and then continue is pretty impressive and the replacements certainly fit in very well.

They went through a few tracks from the new album Carolus Rex including one track (“The Carolean’s Prayer”) in Swedish. Joakim thought he would get away with any lyrical mistakes until he spotted a sizeable group of Swedes near the front of the stage… very much an international evening at the Garage! The set-list was not set in stone, with the band twice pausing to give the audience a choice of two or three songs to pick from. I can attest that on both occasions the band went with the title that gained the loudest cheer.

As I’m sure the photos will prove, the band battered their way through the set with big cheesy grins plastered on their faces which mirrored those of the crowd. Joakim is a great front man, quite happy to rattle off a quick story without taking up too much time and without pandering too much to the stereotypical bits of speech used by pretty much every rock band in the world ever.

He also showed himself to be quite the musician as well, taking to the keyboard briefly (playing some Van Halen and Abba). The whole band performed as if they’d been together for years, not just months and they left the crowd, as the manual states they should, begging for more. My only complaint was a lack of “Screaming Eagles”. Oh, and “The Price of a Mile”. OK, and about four or five others. It’s not my fault their back-catalogue is filled with so many good songs.

An absolutely superb set from a great band who I can’t wait to see again.

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Halestorm + Heaven’s Basement – Glasgow Garage

Heaven's Basement
Heaven’s Basement (Photo credit: Iain Purdie)

[Links to pictures on Flickr: Heaven’s Basement / Halestorm]

Due to silly things like needing to eat and put a young boy to bed, we made it to the Garage about half way through Heaven’s Basement‘s set. Now, I swear I’ve heard their name before and might have seen them opening for someone else but I don’t remember. They’re not bad – confident, professional and definitely capable of warming up a crowd for the headliners.

Any band which can have the lead singer stagedive at the end then be surfed around without being covered in beer or dropped on the floor has obviously made a good impression.

From a possible up-and-coming success to a band that’s managed to get its foot firmly on the stepladder – the brother-and-sister fronted Halestorm. I first missed this act when they opened the Taste of Chaos tour in 2010, finally saw them earlier this year opening for Shinedown and bought tickets for their headlining Cathouse gig the day they went on sale. Which was a good thing as they were upsized to the Garage and promptly sold out.

Halestorm have had a fairly quick rise, but this is well-deserved. The band are all talented musicians, especially the core of Lzzy and Arejay Hale. All four members are great on stage, too. Josh Smith looks meaty and moody as any bassist should, Joe Hottinger is a good-looking guy who poses and bounces around on guitar, Lzzy Hale is stunning and incredibly talented vocally and musically, while Arejay Hale is one of the funniest and most entertaining drummers you will ever see playing live.

“Lzzy, this is a bottle of Buckfast – hi.” (Photo credit: Iain Purdie)

It’s also very, very obvious watching them that they’re loving every moment of being up there. All too often you hear bands telling the crowd how awesome they are and how it’s the best place to play. Halestorm go that little further and mention that it’s simply being on stage and being able to tour that means so much to them. You know, I’d rather be classed in with every fan who’s helped them get there than be complimented because “[insert city here] is just so great and we always want to play here, and you’re the best crowd and blah.” Lzzy does tend to gush a little about this, but it just emphasised the sincerity – they’re incredibly fortunate to have this life and they appreciate it.

With nothing but a light show and their talent to carry the performance, the quartet did splendidly. Halestorm have a range of songs from rock anthems to ballads and all the stops were pulled out, including a passable cover of Judas Priest‘s “Dissident Aggressor” (yes, Slayer covered this on South of Heaven as well). Lzzy’s vocals work well to hit Halford’s infamous high notes!

With a bassist who also plays keyboard, a singer who does guitar and her own keyboard duties and a drummer who’ll happily perform a solo using his hands, feet or  umbrellas to play his instrument of choice you know you’re in for some top end entertainment and Halestorm certainly didn’t disappoint.

The set ran for roughly an hour and a quarter and covered both albums plus the aforementioned cover song. “I Get Off”, “A Familiar Taste Of Poison”, “Love Bites (So Do I)”, “Mz. Hyde”, “Rock Show”, “You Call Me A Bitch Like It’s A Bad Thing”… and more. Every song thoroughly lapped up by the audience who punched the air, bounced and waved their arms depending on the tune.

Arejay with “gift” (Photo credit: Iain Purdie)

With the ever-present curfew, the band didn’t take more than a minute to walk off before their curtain call and as the deadline hit them they ended with a toast to the audience… including their first taste of Buckfast. Oh dear. Arejay left with a lovely souvenir of his visit to Glasgow, too – a pair of rather frilly knickers thrown at him by (one hopes!) a female audience member.

The only disappointment with the gig was that we couldn’t take Little Miss. There are very few “all ages” gigs in Glasgow as most venues are licensed so they tend to have an “over 14’s only” policy, even when accompanied by a parent. Having said that, a crammed Garage isn’t really somewhere an eleven year old girl would have been happy, I don’t think, and this show was sold out.

Halestorm are a band who would not be out of place on a much larger stage. They have the presence and the charisma to carry it off, and I’m sure they’ll keep on going. Best of luck to them, and we’re really looking forward to seeing them again – hopefully at a more spacious, youngster-friendly venue!

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Andrew W.K. / Hawk Eyes, Glasgow Garage

Andrew W.K.
Andrew W.K. (Photo credit: Iain Purdie)

[For full Flickr sets, see here: Andrew W.K … and Hawk Eyes]

Another gig for three sneaking in with two tickets – although I think most promoters (except perhaps TicketBastard) would think it pushing things a little too far to try and charge a foetus for entry. Tonight’s headliner is a party master and he brought with him a new band from down south somewhere:

Hawk Eyes

I have memories of M*A*S*H when I see that name and I’d rather have been watching DVDs to be honest. They’re not bad and a couple of the songs got the foot tapping, but there was nothing memorable about them at all. Decent musicians, nice lads, some promise and a few cheers from the crowd… but overall just a filler before the main act.

Actually, according to the Wikipedia article (linked above), they supported Ginger Wildheart on his tour in December. I knew the name was familiar. Whether it’s the same band or not, I don’t know, but it could well be them. If it is, then they’ve definitely got better.

For the record, though, little SkullKrusher hid near mummy’s spine for their set. She wasn’t impressed.

Andrew W.K.

Andrew W.K. sells himself as a party animal. A man with an ethos that’s summed up by the statement ” Every day you’re alive – you don’t need any other reason to party.” His Twitter feed is full of party tips, reasons to party, people he’s partied with… He exists purely to make sure that everyone else has a good time. And to keep white t-shirt and jeans manufacturers in business.

Imagine, if you will, a party hooter horn thing in human form and made of 100% pure awesome. This is Andrew W.K. If you’re not bouncing by the time the first chords of the first song are struck, then there’s a mortician outside who wants to know how you got out of the nice cold room they were keeping you in.

You may notice that the Flickr set has fewer photos than I normally take at gigs. This is partly due to AWK’s white clothing making him very hard to photograph without glowing, but mainly as I just had to ditch my camera with Gillian, get into the middle of the crowd and go ******* mental.

Touring on his first (and best) album I Get Wet, the whole thing was going to get an airing, and it did. You know how the crowd sings along to the intro to Iron Maiden’sFear of the Dark“? They did that through the entire set. It’s not often you’ll see a crowd enjoying a set as much as this one, bouncing around and singing along – not as much of the crowd as tonight. Barring the handful on the balcony and a few round the sides (including certain pregnant ones), I swear everyone was was going crazy.

Andrew W.K.
Andrew W.K. (Photo credit: Iain Purdie)

This included SkullKrusher who very quickly moved to the front of mummy’s belly and started thrashing like a mad one. Our kid has taste already!

AWK himself is quite the musician, covering keyboards, vocals, guitar and drums (the last two briefly) during the set. He was joined by a motley crew who were as much into the fun as he was. I don’t think you could pick six musicians who looked any more different. Yes – six. Quite a crowded stage!

Drums, bass and three guitars were ably covered. In addition there was a remarkably hot woman in a leotard on backing vocals. Unlike the pretty young thing helping out at the Ginger gig back in December, this woman didn’t look out of place for a second. Giving it her all, singing well and very much a part of the act rather than being purely eye candy.

I did get a nice picture of her bum, though. Sorry.

The set lasted a solid ninety minutes with minimal “crowd chanting for the band to come back on stage” time. A couple of slower numbers did get the crowd to calm down a bit, but not for long. Towards the end we were treated to a new song, simply called “Head Bang”. Oh, yes. We did. An epic new number, much in the style of the first album and definitely a highlight of the set.

I once heard AWK’s music described – by someone criticising it – as a series of 2 minute long beer commercials. They’re right. It is. Short, sweet, hits you hard and leaves you laughing and wanting more. “Head Bang” continues that tradition and long may that tradition continue.

Checking his Wikipedia article, I was staggered to read that he’s only 32. That means he was only 22 when I saw him destroy Leeds Festival back when he toured supporting the album the first time. Now, I’ll be honest – I’m not a fan of his other material. It simply doesn’t match up to I Get Wet with the odd exception. However, with a live show this good, who cares?

A great night’s entertainment and all three of us headed home smiling. Well, I know two of us did – I’m pretty certain the third would have if she knew how.

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Alestorm – Glasgow Garage

Alestorm (with obligatory Buckfast)

Gillian managed to make it to this gig, along with Jon and Debbie who went the whole hog and dressed up appropriately for the kings of Pirate Metal, Alestorm.

[Full sets of pics in these three sets: Darkest Era / Claim the Throne / Alestorm]

Before they took to the stage, though, there were two support bands. First up were Darkest Era who were OK if nothing special. They got the crowd warmed up, certainly, and knew their way around a stage.

Claim the Throne were next up and brought their Australian sense of humour with them to have the audience punching the air and moshing in readiness for the headliners. Credit to them for admitting they come from a small rip-off of the real Perth over on the east of this country. Had I a fiver in my wallet by the end of the gig, I’d have picked up one of their CDs.

Act of the evening, though, was Alestorm. “We are Alestorm! From… just down the road!” was the opening cry as the hometown gig kicked off in fine style. Material old and new flowed as smoothly as the Buckfast which lead singer Christopher Bowes refused to down in one, giving the excuse that he was far too skinny and “would die”.

Circle pits, walls of death and “grab your partner” dances ensued. All were accompanied by a significant amount of crowdsurfing, including an impressive dive by the aforementioned front man at the end of their set. I’d say there was a slight bias towards music from the current album, Back Through Time, which was fine with me as it’s full of great material. One of the top numbers of the night, though, was instrumental “No Quarter” (nothing to do with the Led Zep song of the same name).

As ever, a shame the Garage has an early curfew as the band could easily have played for an extra half hour to an energetic and appreciative crowd.

Another good gig, making this a really enjoyable couple of weeks. Next up is Shinedown on Thursday and I’m toying with adding tickets for Tygers of Pan Tang, Paradise Lost and Deathstars to the pile…

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