Sonisphere may be only into its second year, but already the weekend has cemented itself in the metal festival calendar alongside Download and Reading and Leeds as the new big boys in town. Taking place solely at this venue last year, 2010 saw it become the only travelling festival of its scale, taking place in eleven venues across Europe including Poland, Switzerland, Bulgaria and Sweden to name a few. The capacity increased this year and so did the stages – going from three to five but with no two acts playing at the same time on either of the main stages the issue of sacrificing one band to see another was solved and also provided plenty of opportunities to burn off those festival burgers and beers.
You get a sense of the festival’s status when the Friday, considered a warm up day, included acts such as 65 Days of Static, Terrovision, Europe and Alice Cooper. Europe took to the Saturn Stage around 7pm and put on an impressive show that included a cover of ‘No Woman No Cry’ and of course finishing the set with ‘The Final Countdown’ which was sang by just about everyone in the festival grounds. Next up after a quick run back to the tent to stock up on cider was Gary Numan. Numan puts quite a show, and his set included new songs along with classics such as ‘Cars’ and ‘Are ‘Friends’ Electric?’ which was the highlight of his performance.65 Days of Static clashed with Alice but still managed to attract a massive crowd to the Bohemia tent, and it was clear to everyone why. This post-rock instrumentalists played an unforgettable set with ‘Retreat, Retreat’ being one of the highlights. It is definitely time to put this impressive band on a main stage slot. Cooper, meanwhile, closed the Saturn stage on the Friday with his amazing theatrical show that rarely disappoints. He is a master at shocking and entertaining people and had the crowd singing along to songs ranging from ‘Poison’ to ‘Cold Ethel’. The full show included a guillotine, straightjacket and various torture contraptions that are used in his Theatre of Death show.
The Saturday combined something for everyone with Fear Factory, Skunk Anansie, Gallows and Mötley Crüe taking to the stages. Lacuna Coil took to the Apollo stage early in the day with Christina Scabbia, Andrea Ferro and the band belting out songs including ‘Underdog’ and ‘Spellbound’ which warmed up the crowd for the day’s metal antics. Next up was the first of the big four of thrash to perform over the weekend, with Anthrax taking to the stage to trash out hits including ‘Madhouse’ and ‘Metal Trashing Mad’. It is great to finally see Anthrax, Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer playing together and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little gutted that Knebworth would not be one of the stops for all four to take to the stage, but hopefully this will not be the last time they will all play together.
Anyone that knows me would tell you that I am probably one of the biggest Motley Crüe fans that you could come across, so I was more than excited about them performing at Sonisphere. Although they experienced some technical issues throughout their set, as always the band delivered what they are best at – a hard, fast and dirty set that had fans screaming and singing along to a hits that included ‘Same’Ol’Situation’, ‘Dr Feelgood’ and ‘Wildside’. Vince Neil’s voice is not what it used to be, but combined with Sixx, Lee and Mars they are unstoppable and left a packed audience more than happy with their performance. I always felt that they sound better in an arena where you can experience the full Motley show, so hopefully the band’s new tour will have some Irish arena dates.
Sunday kicked off with a very early sound check that had the majority of the campers wishing that the crew would just go bother someone else for awhile, but all was forgotten considering the days line up. This festival will certainly keep you fit, taking in bands such as Skindred, Alice in Chains, Bring Me The Horizon, Funeral For A Friend, The Cult and Iggy and the Stooges. Skindred played early on but attracted a huge audience, due largely to the band going down so well last year at the festival. Sunday also brought another of the big four to the Apollo stage, with Slayer tearing it up earlier in the day to an excited crowd who ate up hits like ‘Raining Blood’ and ‘Angel of Death’. Afterwards it was straight back to the Saturn stage to take in the energetic performance from Bring Me The Horizon, and then back over to Apollo before veterans Alice in Chains took to the stage.
As a huge fan and it is great to see hear songs such as ‘Rooster ‘ and ‘Man In The Box performed live. As William DuVall introduced the band to the crowd, Jerry Cantrell – veteran guitarist and co-founder, received the warmest response. He is credited along with Layne Stanley for creating the band’s notable sound, with both musicians working incredibly well together to create unique vocal harmonies. William DuVall joined the band in 2006 when the band reformed after the death of Stanley in 2002. Next up on the Apollo stage were Pendulum and although a lot of dedicated Maiden fans were not impressed with the sound coming from the main stage as they waited for the final act of the evening – the band proved to be very popular among the younger crowd. Anders Fridén of In Flames joined the band on stage to perform ‘Self vs Self’ much to the delight of the already ecstatic crowd. You have to hand it to the band – they have come a long way since the the Drum and Bass nights they used to play in Fabric. Following Pendulum it was time to run over to the Saturn stage for the last time of the weekend to watch Iggy & The Stooges take to the stage. As usual he proved a right nightmare for stewards for inviting fans to join him onstage – but this is expected of the punk rock legend. Brilliant and chaotic as ever.
Not many bands will experience the longevity that Maiden have had or experience such a devoted fan base but with a spectacular light show and stage set and a set list that included ‘The Wicker Man’, ‘These Colours Don’t Run’ and ‘Blood Brothers’, it is clear to see why this band have such a devoted following. The latter was dedicated to the memory of the legendary Ronnie James Dio, much to the delight of the fans. The band’s mascot Eddie made his appearance towards the end of the set and even had his own guitar to shred. This band are definitely on fire at the moment and with a new album due in the next few weeks it doesn’t look like the mighty Maiden have any intensions of slowing down. Even Bruce Dickinson commented that it is great to see an audience of such a wide age group to help support this music, noting that either older Maiden fans are multiplying at a rapid rate and creating an army of metal fans, or else metal is finally reaching a wider audience than it ever has before. Whatever the reason – a stop at Sonisphere has to become a staple in any metal fan’s diary.