Last weekend Knebworth held what was a monumental event in celebration of '40 years of festivals at Knebworth', that any worthy metal fan could hope to witness and be a part of. The festival was headlined on the Friday by electronic band the Prodigy, with Saturday and Sunday being finished off with the iconic patrons of metal, Iron Maiden and Metallica.
Iron Maiden play the final night of their three year 'Maiden England' tour on the Saturday, mainly based around the Seventh Son album. You can never get bored of the stage productions Maiden put on, and apart from one slight hitch with the pyrotechnics resulting in Bruce wanting to 'Burn the fucking place down!' the whole set is another masterpiece in performance by the band. The sheer energy and atmosphere of the band proves that they are still at the top of their game even at the end of a long tour, and shows the younger guys a thing... or everything they could be doing to make their live shows entertaining and a success time and time again.
Any cynicism about Metallica over the recent years was completely brushed aside on Sunday, albeit probably only temporarily. The band performed quite possibly the ultimate set list for any Metallica fan with nearly all of the material being played from their first five monumental albums, this being the music that largely shaped the genre in the first place. Also on offer were the crowd pleasing sing along and
James' 'favorite song at the moment' Whiskey in the Jar and the new track Lords of Summer, which also appeared to go down well with the crowd. Metallica proved that when they try, they can still get it right sometimes but sadly this only seems to be the case with their retrospective work, we'll have to see what the future holds for the next album.
Devin Townsend and his Project then graces us again at the main stage after Protest the Hero on stage two. Devin, smart as always these days, introduces himself to the crowd with his normal sense of irony to... well, the whole world, and provides a fantastic set of his strange but awesomely mesmerising music verging on a blend of ambient, progressive, industrial, death metal that only he seems capable of creating.
Then, later on the Sunday prog metallers Dream Theater putting in another festival performance and again showing why they are pretty much unsurpassed in the field of musicianship
Carcass were also great on the Saturday, paying their dues to the Metallicas and Slayers of the world, then sarcastically and rightfully stating how every other metal band was inspired by them and generally ripping on the music business as a whole.
Later on the Saturday were the iconic Slayer. Although they played a fantastic and incredibly tight set, the soul of the band just seemed to be missing without the now deceased Jeff Hanneman and Dave Lombardo no longer on drums.
Other highlights of the weekend were Alice in Chains, who although on as the last act on the main stage before Metallica, didnt appear to have much on set with them, likely due to the Metallica stage crew needing to invade on AIC's personal space to make way for the behemoth that was due on next?
Deftones put on a great show, adding a more chilled but none the less heavy vibe, and Airbourne with the stage climbing antics of Joel O'Keeffe along with his AC/DC-esque hard rock.
There were also enough alternative options for those that dont like it too heavy (if thats even a thing?), especially with the likes of Dropkick Murphys, Reel Big Fish and Chaz and Dave, providing their own forms of fun musical relief.
Bruce Dickinson also put in some extra work hours earlier on the Saturday evening, taking part and flying his Fokker Dr1 triplane as part of the Great War Display team, reenacting a dogfight with these S.E.5a's and a total of 8 aircraft in commemoration of the 100 year anniversary since the start of the First World War.
Unfortunately the slight downside, (this being more of a personal moan at the music business in general) was for such an iconic event at a venue that had gone off the radar for the previous couple of years it seems so have become even more regulated and commercialised which is a trend that only appears to be increasing in modern times. Food and drink at an extortionate price rendering any younger guys and gals, that saved up money from a weekend job to see their musical heroes, likely to want to starve in favour of a beer. The swarm of police everywhere, that you cant help feeling would be better off somewhere solving crimes, and even the regulations from the standard security personnel... being hounded for a press pass because I had a camera slightly bigger than an normal point and click job!
Anyway, gripes aside this truly was a good show, one for the 'I remember when Maiden and Metallica played Knebworth' conversations in years to come...