Dark Clouds Descend As We're Treated To A Lesson In Metal's Evolution
(Photo by James Morgan)
Black Sabbath / Soundgarden / Faith No More @ BST Hyde Park
So much sun, so many black T-shirts. There's always something a bit odd about having a Metal event in the middle of a field when it's hot. The Goths will melt, the Mohawks go frizzy, but fortunate for the Gumby's they can switch from their leather jackets to the sleeveless denim waistcoat emblazoned with band badges in a moment's notice.
Such is the dazzling array of bands from all sides of the metallic spectrum, you really do get a history lesson on the world of Metal's various fashion tips down the years almost like a Metal-edition of Darwin's 'Descent of Man' image.
Today the Hyde Park site is packed to the rafters thanks in part to those leaked cheap tickets and also the fact that there's something quite special about the artists occupying the top three spots on the bill. Black Sabbath, I think we can all agree, are the first band to really define the difference between Blues Rock and Metal. Soundgarden were the masters of Grunge and Faith No More saved metal from going totally bubblegum in days when Axl Rose was deemed subversive? Throw in Motorhead, Soulfly and Gallows, it's pretty impressive for a one-dayer!
Let's cut straight to the point; Faith No More should be headlining. Whether this is my biased view as a fan since my 11th year on this planet (the first band I could call my favourite that weren't liked by my parents and the first 'proper' band I witnessed live, albeit under aged with shoe polish under my eyes to make me look older!), or the truth, you decide.
Tell me this though, is there any other metal band who genuinely influenced so many artists (not always for the best), constantly redefined their sound and evolved ahead of the herd in the world of Metal? Throw on top of that the fact that they had some genuine chart success here and across the States is quite remarkable considering that many of their songs are about blowjobs and faeces.
Today they stride across the stage, lapping up the adulation being flung from the front, all the way to the back of today's packed field, picking up their instruments on a completely white stage. This minimalist stage craft just concentrates everyone's attention upon Mike Patton, possibly the greatest/evilest front man in metal. Blessed with a voice that can go from soulful croon to Gothic warble to Death Metal shriek within a sentence, leaping across the stage like a man half his age and the wit to capture everyone's attention between songs. He's witty, devilish, excitable, and charming throughout, whilst the band nail every classic track with aplomb.
They even throw in some new tracks into the set (although why they did a walk off/encore scene when they're third from the top of the bill seemed a waste of time and potential songs) which make this something truly special, as we've been wishing for this day for years...
(Photo by James Morgan)
Soundgarden surprise all by announcing that they'll be playing their classic LP 'Superunknown' live in its entirety. Having caught the band previously at Hard Rock Calling doing a greatest hits set, I am eternally grateful that the band made this decision. Not just because it's a superb album, nor because it's a timely date to play their song '4th of July,' but because the album gets lost amongst the debris shed by the humungous hit 'Black Hole Sun' and there are some truly astounding songs that get lost in our collective memory of the band.
As ever the band are astounding live, maybe even better than they were in their pomp? Chris' vocals cut above the dirgey riffs and Cameron's drums are the perfect counterpoint from which Shepherd unleashes his stabbed bass leads throughout. Throw on top of that Thayil's eastern-influenced solos and Pearl Jam's Mike McCready guesting and you've been truly spoilt by the band.
Black Sabbath have pissed off some of their most loyal fans by omitting their original drummer from these reunion shows, and whilst we could be here for years talking about Sharon's despicable business acumen, it'd take much more to dampen the spirits of those here waiting for these genuine legends. The set is packed with classic Sabbath, and so enjoyable when combined with Ozzy's Mr Entertainment persona (of which he accrued when going solo), but whilst everyone today owes Sabbath a huge debt, maybe it's time to let them retire and give the headline slot to one of their supports next year?