*Review* MCM Ireland Comic Con 2017 – RDS, Dublin 01/07/17

MCM Comic Con returned to Dublin on the 1st and 2nd of July 2017 with a stacked special guest lineup. I attended the event on the 1st and decided to spend most of my day enjoying the special guest panels that took place at the event.

Veronica Taylor, who is most well-known for being the original voice of Ash Ketchum in Pokemon, kicked off the day by taking questions from fans.

The second panel of the day featured Manu Bennett, who has had roles in both Spartacus and The Hobbit, but currently, he is known as Deathstroke in The CW’s Arrow. During the panel he let it slip that he had gotten a phone call the night before, at 3 in the morning, to discuss Deathstroke’s role in season 6 of the hit show. He also discussed a big difference between shooting Spartacus and Arrow, in Spartacus, he performed his own stunts, but in Arrow, he does not as they have a stunt team. Manu is incredibly charismatic which resulted in a truly enjoyable panel.

At just 17 years old Nell Tiger Free, who is best known for her role as Myrcella Baratheon in Game of Thrones, was the youngest guest present at the show. MCM Ireland Comic Con also happened to be only her second guest appearance at an event. She discussed being scouted at only 11 years old, her role in Game of Thrones and how happy she was that she got to meet the original Red Power Ranger (Austin St. John) earlier that day, as he was her favourite ranger. Her sister who was present in the crowd brought up how Nell once spent an entire Christmas dressed up as the Red Power Ranger.

Summer Glau, Firefly’s River Tam, spent a lot of her panel discussing how she got into acting and her early experiences as an actress: she originally wanted to be a dancer, she was a complete “newb” on the set of Firefly, and she had even snuck into a callback interview for a role in Joss Whedon’s Angel, which is how she first met the director, and she also mentioned that she almost got a role as a Power Ranger.

The fifth panel of the day was a big one: the Power Rangers panel, which featured; Walter Jones (Zach the original Black Power Ranger), Austin St. John (Jason the original Red Power Ranger), Karan Ashley (Aisha the second Yellow Power Ranger), David Yost (Billy the original Blue Power Ranger), and David J. Fielding (Zordon). They discussed the phenomenon that was the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers TV show and how the diversity of the cast played a big part in its success. When asked if they owned anything that was used on the show David said that he ‘stole’ his Blue Ninja Outfit and some of the crystals fragments that were placed around Zordon after he was injured during the movie, and Walter said that he had one of the shirts he wore on set, the skateboard from the first episode of the show, his gold necklace and Ernies neon sign. They also discussed the upcoming film that they all feature in, along with a tonne of actors who previously portrayed Power Rangers, The Order, they even showed the crowd the trailer for it. The Rangers finished off the panel by morphing with the crowd, with David (Zordon) doing the introduction for it.

Voice actor Vic Mignogna spent one-half of his panel discussing Star Trek, focusing on his fan show Star Trek Continues, and the other discussing his roles in animes, including Tamaki Suoh in Ouran High School Host Club and Edward Elric in both of the Fullmetal Alchemist series. Throughout his panel, he moved around the crowd, handing fans the mic to ask their questions, a fan asked him who his favourite character was, and he stated that it just had to be Edward Elric.


The final (and I would just like to mention that the room was packed) guest panel of the day featured three people known for being in the Uncharted series of video games; Nolan North, Emily Rose, and Troy Baker. The early half of the panel was plagued with sound issues but this did not take anything away from the fun that the guests and the crowd were clearly having. Troy discussed the pressure and expectations he had to deal with when he took over the role of the Joker, in the Arkham based series of Batman video games, from Mark Hamill. Nolan discussed the potential in a 5th Uncharted video game, saying that it wouldn’t be happening anytime soon. He also explained how he got into acting because his job as a news show anchorman was not fulfilling enough.

The final event of the day to take place in the panel hall was the Cosplay Masquerade where attendees could show off the costumes they had worn to the event, and if they were lucky they might have even left the event with some prizes for their effort.

Having attended MCM Ireland the last three years I was most impressed this year by the amazing guest lineup they had put together for the event. There was as usual plenty of things to do at the event, from giving people a chance to cosplay as their favourite characters, to a packed trade hall – including a massive Forbidden Planet International stall and my friends in Sub-City Comics Dublin and Galway, to displays that you could take photos in front of – including one of a life-size Lightning McQueen from Disney Pixar’s Cars, and they even had Main Stage Wrestling hosting live wrestling matches over the course of the day.

Simply put it was both a highly enjoyable and professional event, and I expected nothing less than that from the MCM team: 9/10.

*Review* While She Sleeps – The Academy, Dublin 01/05/17

On 1st May 2017, English metalcore band, While She Sleeps, kicked off the month by playing a very long overdue Irish headliner in The Academy in Dublin. They were touring in support of their brand new, independent release, their third album ‘You Are We’.

Fizzy Blood opened the show, while their music may have been a bit out of place for this show, they put on a feverish performance anyways and got a great response from the crowd. They put a lot of effort into trying to win the crowd over and were rewarded with a wall of death during their last song: 6.5/10.

Landscapes, on the other hand, put on an atmospheric and intense performance. While they did not put a lot of effort into trying to win the crowd over, they got a warm response from them. Not a lot of crowd interaction but a decent performance none the less: 6.5/10.

The crowd started chanting While She Sleeps name as their intro started to play. The band’s stage production included swaying light bulbs hanging down from the ceiling. As they took to the stage and kicked off their set with ‘You Are We’ the title track off their new album, the assembled crowd exploded to life for the first time that night, throughout the song people were either jumping along or involved in the massive pit that was taking up most of the crowd, a long overdue headliner indeed. While She Sleeps sounded absolutely massive and continued their set with the crushing sound of ‘Civil Isolation’, with the entire crowd clapping along during its contrasting melodic bridge. Next up was an old favourite ‘Seven Hills’ off the band’s debut album ‘This Is The Six’, triggering the first big sing-a-long of the night, during the song the band’s vocalist, Loz Taylor, climbed into the front of the crowd and screamed the lyrics along with the crowd, an early and big highlight of the night.

Jumbled sound clips played throughout the venue before ‘Brainwashed’, the title track off their second album, kicked in, during which the crowd parted ways for the first massive wall of death of the band’s set. As the intro of ‘Empire of Silence’ started the crowd began clapping and singing ‘woah’ until it kicked in. Another heavy track ‘New World Torture’ followed it, triggering another wall of death. Guitarist and clean vocalist, Mat Welsh, grabbed an acoustic guitar and played the intro of ‘Wide Awake’ with it before being handed back his electric guitar for the rest of the song, the band got a very large circle pit going in the crowd during the song. Loz picked up and put on an Irish flag he was handed and was met with ‘Olé, Olé, Olé’ from the crowd, after which he said that if he had known that, that was what he had to do to get that response from the crowd he would’ve done so earlier in the set. Loz dedicated the next song ‘Our Legacy’ to the entire room, during which he performed a mic swing before climbing onto the crowd.

Next was ‘Feel’, the heavy number got most of the crowd head banging along. Before the band played ‘This Is The Six’, Loz demanded a circle pit around the sound desk, which the crowd gladly obliged with. They ended their main set with another big sing-a-long in the form of recent single ‘Silence Speaks’. As they left the stage the crowd once again began chanting ‘While She Sleeps, While She Sleeps’. The band came back and kicked off their encore with ‘Four Walls’, before which Loz demanded that the crowd light up the whole room and for people to get on each other’s shoulders. The final wall of death of the night happened during ‘Four Walls’ before the band finished their set with ‘Hurricane’ as the entire room erupted for one last time, either singing and screaming along or by getting one last mosh in.

This was a long overdue Irish headliner from one of the most genuine and hardworking bands in the UK scene. While you’d question While She Sleeps setlist focusing on their newer material, the fact is, their new album ‘You Are We’ is their strongest release yet, both on record and live. The band have found the perfect balance between the melodic and heavy sides of their songs, and their live energy is as infectious as it has always been, except now it is even more refined and arguably even stronger. An easy: 10/10.

*Review* Busted (with Natives) – Olympia Theatre, Dublin 01/03/17

English pop rock act Busted kicked off March by bringing their ‘Night Driver’ tour to Dublin’s Olympia Theatre on Wednesday, March 1st. It was a much more intimate affair than their previous show in Dublin in the 3Arena last year, you can check out our review of that show by clicking: here.

Support on the night came from Natives, a band who describe their sound as ‘tribal pop’, and if that sounds like a gimmick, it is because it is one. They mix tribal sounds, with a focus on percussion elements, with an otherwise bland pop rock sound. The members of Natives used to play together in a pop-punk band called Not Advised, and while their vocalist Jim Thomas could pull off the angsty vocals required for that genre, his vocals, in my opinion, do not seem to lend themselves well to the pop-focused sound Natives are going for.

Natives opened their set with ‘Chasing Lions’ during which they asked the crowd to get on the ground and then to jump up, which was very ambitious for a support band to try to get the crowd to do during their first song, but it worked reasonably well. Throughout their set vocalist Jim did his best to keep up this crowd interaction and I was impressed by him doing so. Their new single ‘War Paint’ made an appearance and they finished their set with ‘Stop the Rain’ which the crowd enthusiastically clapped along to the beat of. Natives may not be to this reviewer’s tastes but they put a lot of effort into interacting with the crowd and got a very good response from them, which they deserve a bonus mark for: 5.5/10.

While the stage production during Busted was far more limited than it had been during their 3Arena show last year, it was still very impressive, which has given them a reputation for having a strong stage production regardless of the size of the venue they are playing and therefore trying to accommodate. The entire back half of the stage consisted of light pillars that created a constantly changing screen of lights, their backing drummer and backing guitarist were also hidden amongst these pillars.

Busted started off their set by playing a few new songs off their new album ‘Night Driver’: the catchy beat of ‘Kids With Computers’ going down well with the crowd, before ‘Thinking of You’ and its catchy chorus got some of the crowd to sing-a-long. ‘On What You’re On’, the album’s well-received lead single, with its Daft Punk like sound, followed and almost the entire crowd sprang to life with a decent amount of the crowd singing-a-long to its chorus. During these opening numbers, it is of note that vocalist and guitarist, Charlie Simpson did not have or play a guitar, and James Bourne was also playing a keyboard instead of his guitar. Before they played the next song Charlie and James were handed guitars. This time the entire crowd sprang to life as the opening note of ‘Air Hostess’ kicked off the song, the crowd sang the first verse without the need for James to utter a single note, an early highlight of the set. The title track off ‘Night Driver’ followed with Charlie returning to being guitar-less, before taking his guitar back for a surprise of the setlist, ‘Nerdy’ off their second album, 2003’s, ‘A Present for Everyone’, its humorous lines going down well with the crowd. Afterwards, Charlie complimented the crowd on their singing by saying “I know I shouldn’t say this but ye shit all over Belfast, [it is] nice to hear some noise”. More new songs off ‘Night Driver followed. During ‘Without It’ the bands backing guitarist was highlighted by playing a very strong guitar solo. James demanded a dance off before the band played ‘I Will Break Your Heart’, one of the new songs that actually featured Charlie and James playing guitars live during it.

Having played a lot of new songs during the first half of the set, the second half of the set instead focused on the older ‘hits’. The crowd sang-a-long loudly to the entirety of ‘Who’s David’ before stepping it up a notch during ‘Sleeping With the Light On’ by once again singing the entire first verse without the need for James to. The crowd continued to step things up by singing-a-long even louder to ‘Crashed the Wedding’. ‘3am’ is always going to be a personal highlight of a Busted set for me but this performance was particularly of note because Charlie screamed during the ‘much more’ part, something he was known to do back in the day but had not done while performing it last year in the 3Arena. They closed out their main set with ‘Year 3000’ their most well-known song.

Busted returned to the stage and kicked off their encore with the other big hit off their debut album ‘What I Go To School For’ before making the confusing choice to end their set with two new songs ‘Coming Home’ and ‘Those Days Are Gone’. ‘Coming Home’ is fitting as it was the first new material they had released in over 10 years when they released it last year and ‘Those Days Are Gone’ is arguably fitting due to its melancholic tone and lyrics, reflecting how the band’s youth and old pop-punk sound is in the past, and that they are now focusing on the present and what the future will hold instead of forever looking back on their past successes but I still think they could have ended the set on a stronger note by switching its spot in the set with ‘Year 3000’s.

Sadly Busted did not deliver too well on the longer set they promised, last May, to play once ‘Night Driver’ was out, the set was one song shorter with 17 songs instead of the 18 they played in the 3Arena but the show was, at the least, about 10 or 15 minutes longer than that set was. This was incredibly disappointing, they left out other older singles they could have played like ‘She Said No’ and strong fan favorites like ‘Why’ and ‘Meet You There’, the choice to not play ‘Easy’ off ‘Night Driver’ was also weird as it was the first song they wrote together in years, and bridges their old and new sound perfectly. Regardless, Busted continue to prove, with an impressive stage setup and equally impressive performance, that they deserve to be back and not just forgotten about: 9/10.

*Review* Avenged Sevenfold & Disturbed – 3Arena, Dublin 07/01/17

On Saturday 7th January American heavy metal band Avenged Sevenfold returned to Dublin for the first time in just over three years to kick off their ‘The Stage World Tour’, the tour is in support of their seventh album ‘The Stage’ which was released out of the blue back in October. Support on the night came from American heavy metal titans Disturbed.

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Before Disturbed had even taken to the stage the standing area was packed fans who had made sure to turn up early for them, showing that while Disturbed may have been supporting Avenged Sevenfold that night they are still a band with a very large Irish fanbase of their own. They kicked off their set with the title track of their most recent album 2015’s ‘Immortalized’ before going back 15 years and playing ‘The Game’ off their debut album ‘The Sickness’. The first half of their set was mainly material off their first two albums, however, these songs sounded far from perfect live, it was as if the band was warming up while playing them, most notably, the vocals during ‘Stupify’ sounded a lot weaker than you’d expect from a heavier song. Despite how weak the first half appeared to me, the crowd did exactly as vocalist David Draiman told them to, including screaming the ‘fuck’ parts during ‘Stupify’. The first standout performance of the set, their cover of Simon & Garfunkel ‘s ‘The Sound of Silence’, which has been nominated for a Grammy, signalled the turning point in the set. The lighter stripped back performance of such a timeless classic, with acoustic guitars, bongos and keys with the crowd singing along to almost every word with lighters and phones raised high into the sky, was simply breathtaking. It was followed by a strong performance of ‘Inside the Fire’ off 2008’s ‘Indestructible’, complete with pyro, with pyro sticks burning throughout the set and pyro blasts every time Draiman said the ‘fire’. Another standout was ‘The Light’ during which Draiman requested a moment of audience participation, asking them to raise their phones and lighters every time he uttered ‘the light’, which resulted in the 3Arena being lit up beautifully throughout the song.

They finished their set off with increasingly stronger performances of hit after hit; ‘Stricken’, with a perfect vocal performance from Draiman, ‘Indestructible’, with its headbang inducing pace, and ‘Ten Thousand Fists’, with the crowd raising their fists in time to it. The final song of their set was the expected performance of ‘Down with the Sickness’ with a big pyro blast ending, which was followed by the crowd chanting ‘Disturbed’. The band asked for a quick picture, took it, and then Draiman said ‘I hope to see you again soon’ as the band left the stage. Despite being the support act on the night Disturbed played a full headlining set, their stage production included more pyro than I have ever seen a band use live and it did nothing but add to the show. However, they seemed to spend the first half of their set warming up, but the second half of it more than made up for this with hit after hit and plenty of standout moments: 8.5/10.

Prior to Avenged Sevenfold taking to the stage both Elton John’s ‘Rocket Man’ and David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ played out through the venue’s speakers, the start of a theme that the band’s setlist would expand upon. As this was ‘The Stage World Tour’ there was a lot of buzz prior to the show in regards to what the stage setup would be like for them. The central piece of this stage set up was a giant floating cube with screens on the two sides of it that were facing the crowd. There was also three more large rectangle screens on either side of the cube making their way from the back of the stage towards the front of it. The stage itself was a pretty big rectangle with a walkway leading out into the crowd and two holes in it where members of the crowd who had paid for VIP were standing, making them a part of ‘the stage’ and show itself. While the set up was impressive, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit disappointed by it, due to all the recent interviews with the band that I had read prior to the show, I expected there to be more to it.

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The screens flashed white and the band’s deathbat logo appeared on the cube just before the 5 piece made their way to the stage. They kicked off their set with the title track off their latest album, from which the tour takes its name, ‘The Stage’, with vocalist, M. Shadows calling out to the crowd; ‘let me hear you Dublin,’ and hear them he did, as the crowd sang-a-long, showing their dedication to the band, by already knowing all the words to the ambitious 8 and a half minute monster of a track. They followed it up with an early stand-out of the set, ‘Afterlife’ off the band’s self-titled fourth album, with the crowds singing overpowering M. Shadows voice during the chorus, they finished the song to major applause from the crowd. ‘Dublin, how are you doing this evening?’ M. Shadows asked before making a joke about how the band might get given out to if they drink Guinness out of a can. Black and white footage began playing on the screens and the crowd started chanting, as the band started playing the title track off their sixth album ‘Hail to the King’, which was well received by the crowd despite how much the album split fans opinions upon its release back in 2013.  It was followed by the first live performance of ‘Paradigm’ off ‘To The Stage’ with M. Shadows telling the crowd ‘I wanna see a circle pit on this one’. Before playing ‘To End The Rapture’ off the band’s debut album, 2001’s, ‘Sounding the Seventh Trumpet’, M. Shadows said ‘I like this little arena. We are gonna play shit from all the records’. The short song was quickly followed by the heavy sound of ‘Chapter Four’ off their 2nd album ‘Waking The Fallen’.

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A strong performance of ‘Buried Alive’ off 2010’s ‘Nightmare’ was another stand-out of the set with its multiple guitar solos and its powerful outro section. Before ‘Angels’, another debut live performance, the cube started moving towards the crowd while rotating, then began flashing an image of a planet. During the song, which is one of the bands more ‘chilled’ songs, a mosh pit got going in the crowd with M. Shadows saying ‘only in Dublin’. After the song, the cube moved back to the back of the stage. As ‘Nightmare’ kicked off the crowd exploded to life singing the loudest they had so far that night and multiple mosh pits started throughout the crowd, the crowd sang multiple parts of the song on their own with no need for any help from M. Shadows. M. Shadows continued to speak to the crowd saying ‘it is always a pleasure to get over here to Ireland. This will hopefully give promoters more confidence in us so we can do more shows in Ireland. Alright, best show of the tour.’ Before ‘Almost Easy’ he gave a shoutout to Disturbed telling the crowd that ‘they are a big band and that they don’t need to be here with us’.

During the section of ‘Sunny Disposition’ that featured the sound of a siren, M. Shadows used a megaphone instead of his microphone, which was pretty punk and complimented the big, heavy, weird, and long, song perfectly. The band made an interesting choice to play ‘Warmness on the Soul’ as an instrumental. A giant inflatable spaceman, with a skull face and a light up head, exploded out of the back of the stage, as the band started playing ‘Planets’ off before the band finished their main set off with ‘Acid Rain’, both songs being off of ‘Hail to the King’ made them weird choices to finish out the set with. M. Shadows shouted ‘Dublin, Ireland thank you so much for tonight and we’ll see you next time,’ as he left the stage.

Once again the deathbat appeared on all of the screens as the band made their way back onto the stage for the encore. ‘Bat Country’, oddly the only song in the set off ‘City of Evil’, kicked off the encore with the crowd shouting ‘he who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man’ before exploding, the song resulted in the biggest mosh pits of the night and one of the loudest sing-a-longs. M. Shadows gave the band’s former drummer, The Rev, who died in 2009, a shoutout, dedicating the next song to him, before mentioning that his own Dad was at the show, and stating that there was Irish in his family before asking why he can’t grow a better beard. The epic, 8 minutes long, ‘A Little Piece of Heaven’ was the clear standout performance of the night, with The Rev’s haunting vocals playing out through the venue’s speakers seven years after his death, and the clear loudest sing-a-long of the night, with the crowd shouting, singing, and screaming back every single word of the song. The final song of the night was the expected performance of, the heavy, ‘Unholy Confessions’ off ‘Waking the Fallen’, allowing members of the crowd to get one last good mosh in.

While the main set could have been finished off with a stronger song, like the somehow missing performance of ‘Beast and the Harlot’ off ‘City of Evil’, I have to give it to Avenged Sevenfold for putting together a very ambitious stage setup, coupled with a set that covered the band’s entire career, and for easily the best crowd interaction from a band I have ever seen take place in an arena: 9.5/10.

 

 

*Review* Motionless In White (with New Years Day) The Academy, Dublin 14/01/16 (Throwback Thursday Review #1)

Occasionally due to a combination of my college workload, general work, and busy lifestyle, a review is left to the side and forgotten about, in some cases, like this one, they are already half written, the purpose of Throwback Thursday Reviews is to make sure these reviews see the light of day and to give people who did attend these shows a chance to look back at them and reminisce. 

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On Thursday 14th January 2016 American gothic metal/metalcore band Motionless in White‘s ‘Beyond the Barricade‘ tour finally hit up Dublin after being previously postponed back in November 2015 after the Paris terror attacks. Support on the night came from the UK’s Silent Screams and another American band New Years Day. It was the first time Motionless in White had played Ireland since the release of their 3rd album ‘Reincarnate’ and just over two years after their previous headlining show in the venue back in September 2013.

Upon arriving at the venue shortly after doors I was surprised by the huge turnout, from just the size of the large que that was making its way into the venue I knew this would be a far more packed out show than their previous one in the venue.

Silent Screams were first up and truthfully I was not impressed. While I might just be getting too old for the genre, I found their brand of metalcore to be as generic and boring as possible. Unclean vocalist Joel Heywood seemed to be unable to keep up with the pace of the vocals on the tracks and as such a lot of the vocal parts went un-screamed live. Their current single (at the time) ‘Everything Ends’ made an appearance but with added clean vocals that do not appear to be on the version of the song released as a single. Silent Screams are probably just not for me but the moshers in the crowd did seem to react correctly: 6/10.

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New Years Day were up next and opened their set with the industrial tinged sound of ‘Kill or Be Killed’ off their third album ‘Malevolence’, which was released only a few months before the show in October 2015, followed by the ever-catchy ‘I’m No Good’ off 2013’s ‘Victim to Villain’. Later in the set, they played the title track off ‘Malevolence’ live for the first time, during the bridge the other members of the band stood still like statues while vocalist Ashley Costelloe kept singing the lyrics, they sprung back to life as the song kicked back in. ‘Angel Eyes’ was performed next but instead of Chris Motionless coming out to sing his part, as you would expect, they sampled it, clearly not bothered by this the crowd still sang-a-long to the whole track. They finished their set off with ‘Defame Me’. Overall the band is surprisingly strong live, Ashley’s vocals were a little bit lacking at times but she really knows how to work a crowd, and as a unit, they perfectly capture the spirit of 80s LA Strip Glam Rock, just in an updated form: 8/10. I went on to review part of the band’s set during Slam Dunk Birmingham in May 2016, you can check that out by clicking here.

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Motionless in White kicked off their set to the beating sounds of the Korn like ‘Death March’ before keeping the nu-metal influenced theme up with the ode to Slipknot that is ‘Devil’s Night’. The set included a tonne of live rarities, the first we were treated to was ‘Fatal’ off the Deluxe Edition of ‘Infamous’, it’s sound being more like the band’s older sound than their current one, which has made it a fan favorite. ‘Abigail’ the first single released off of ‘Creatures’ their debut album released back in 2010 followed it, before a very rare appearance of ‘Undead Ahead’ off the same album, which was only played a handful of times back in 2011 before being added to the bands set towards the end of 2015. The crowd sang-a-long to every word of ‘A-M-E-R-I-C-A’ off ‘Infamous’ before another rare appearance in the form of the Marilyn Mansionesque ‘Hatef**k’ off the same album. Keeping with the early 00’s nu-metal vibe they covered Linkin Park’s ‘One Step Closer’ next, quite a surprise but fun none the less. Ashley Costelloe came out to perform ‘Contemptress’ with the band. ‘Immaculate Misconception’ moved from its usual spot in the encore to a spot in the main set with the crowd screaming-a-long to its aggressive lyrics. ‘Sinematic’ off ‘Infamous’ was another rare appearance, resulting in the band having played the entire deluxe edition of the album in The Academy’s main room other than one song (‘Burned at Both Ends’). The final rarity included in the set and used to close the main set was ‘Scissorhands (The Last Snow)’ the closing song on ‘Creatures’ and my personal favorite part of the set.

The band ended their set with a quick one-song encore performance of ‘Reincarnate’ the title track off their newest album released back in September 2014, the song is, in my opinion, the accumulation of all the band’s influences and these individual influences were showcased throughout their set, with songs clearly inspired by Korn, Slipknot, Marilyn Mansion, Rob Zombie, Bleeding Through and even a cover of a Linkin Park song.  Motionless in White no longer require as over the top a stage production, as they had the previous time they headlined the venue, to keep a crowd entertained, because Chris Motionless’s vocals clearly have improved in the two years since they had previously played The Academy, and the band is now an even more cohesive unit than before, this combined with a near perfect setlist made up of both hits and live rarities from their back catalogue are why I am giving them: 10/10.

*Review* Biffy Clyro (with Brand New) 3Arena 26/10/16

On Saturday 26th November Scottish alternative rock band Biffy Clyro hit up the 3Arena, Dublin as part of the UK and Ireland dates of their current tour celebrating the release of their seventh album ‘Ellipsis’ which was released back in July. It was their first show in Dublin in two years. Support on the night came from US alternative rock band Brand New.

The arena was starting to fill up as Brand New took to the stage at 7.30. They were fresh off a US headlining tour celebrating the 10th anniversary of their 3rd album ‘The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me’ so it was expected that their set would focus on material off it. Having caught the band headlining Vicar Street back in September 2015 I knew what to expect from them live but I was still interested in seeing how they would handle a short set as a support act while playing a much larger venue than what they are used to. They started ‘Sowing Season’, off ‘The Devil and God’, with almost all the stage lights off, with vocalist Jesse Lacey’s vocals barely audible, before more lights turned on as the song sprang to life as the sound of the first ‘yeah’ escaped his mouth. Then they played ‘Gasoline’, the only song in the set off their fourth album ‘Daisy’, followed by ‘Millstone’ another song off ‘The Devil and God’. Nextthey played two off their second album ‘Deja Entendu’, ‘Okay I Believe You, but My Tommy Gun Don’t’ was first before they sped through possibly their most well-known song ‘Sic Transit Gloria… Glory Fades’. They finished their set with two more off ‘Devil’; the stage lights turned red as Jesse introduced the first ‘this song is called Degausser’ before they finished their set with a captivating, intense and awe-invoking performance of ‘You Won’t Know’. Towards the end of ‘You Won’t Know’ Jesse dropped his guitar, tossed pics into the crowd and left the stage, guitarist Vincent Accardi soon joined him, leaving the remaining two members to play out the last two minutes of their song and set. With less control of their overall live sound Jesse’s vocals did not sound as strong as they were during their headlining set in Vicar Street back in 2015 but their short set was still almost as atmospheric and powerful: 9/10.

The first thing that needs to be addressed in regards to Biffy Clyro’s set is just how massive their stage production was. In addition to the usual screen on either side of the stage they had screens at the back of the stage itself, a three-floor walkway, large strobe lights and most impressively jaw-dropping of all four large light frames starting from the back of the stage with each one closer to the front of the stage being larger the previous. In between and during songs the colours of the lights on these frames changed, making almost every song in the set seem like its own unique live music video. While I thought Red Hot Chili Peppers stage setup for Tennent’s Vital was incredibly impressive this clearly has topped it.

They took to the stage to the sound of a choir chanting before kicking into the thundering ‘Wolves of Winter’ the first single released off ‘Ellipsis’ with the crowd singing along to it. In typical Biffy Clyro fashion vocalist, Simon Neil, was decked out in a long white coat while Ben and James Johnston had both chosen to come out already topless. They then shot back to 2007 with ‘Living Is a Problem Because Everything Dies’, off their fourth album ‘Puzzle’, with the crowd clapping along to its recognizable intro. Three cuts off 2013’s ‘Opposites’ followed, including the massive sing-a-long that is ‘Biblical’ with Simon commenting afterward ‘that was lovely’ before removing his coat and joining his bandmates topless. Recent single ‘Howl’ was received warmly with the crowd singing along. Long-time fans of the band were treated to a rare performance of the ballad like ‘Justboy’ off their debut album ‘Blackened Sky’. ‘Bubbles’, off 2009’s ‘Only Revolutions’, triggered the biggest sing-a-long of the night so far with the crowd jumping along to its chorus. ‘Black Chandelier’, the lead single off ‘Opposites’, triggered another sing-a-long with the crowd singing the part after the breakdown on their own. One of the stand out tracks of the set was one of the heaviest tracks in it, ‘That Golden Rule’, the room absolutely erupted along with its fever pitch, the crowd were screaming along and during it the crowd was also at its liveliest with mosh pits breaking out towards the front of the standing crowd. A surprise came when they played fan favourite ‘Folding Stars’, off ‘Puzzle’, those who knew the words gleefully sang along with it. A more stripped back performance, with no screens or big light, of ‘Re-Arrange’ off ‘Ellipsis’, was surprisingly well received by the crowd as a large portion of the room sang along with the new song. A reminder of their math-rock beginnings came in the form of ‘Wave Upon Wave Upon Wave’, off their third album ‘Infinity Land’, however, it was performed without it’s harsh screamed vocals.

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The rest of their set was pretty much just hit after hit. Their highest charting single ‘Mountains’ expectantly caused the biggest sing-a-long of the night. ‘9/15ths’ off ‘Puzzle’ was simply captivating with its chanting of ‘we’re on a hellslide, help us, help us’ and its big, dark, atmospheric sound which filled up the arena perfectly. The electronic rock sound of ‘Animal Style’, a newer track, fits in with their older hits perfectly live. Simon talked about how they’ve been coming to Dublin for shows for 15 years now, from the smallest of venues to now playing the 3Arena, before they played yet another big sing-a-long in the form of ‘Many of Horror’. To end the main set thin curtains dropped down in front of the walkway, which left a small section of the stage in front of them for Simon to play fan favourite acoustic ballad ‘Machines’, as the opening bar rang out almost the entire standing crowd proceeded to, in unison, move even closer to the stage, the thin curtains then acted as projector screens which images of light bulbs flickered on during the song.  Afterward, Simon showed his appreciation for the crowd moving closer and singing so loudly by saying ‘that was the greatest thing ever, thank you’.

Simon left the stage before the band quickly came back on for the encore launching into a strong performance of ‘The Captain’ with the crowd singing along enthusiastically to the ‘whoa’ parts. While ‘People’ off ‘Ellipsis’ has an interesting, and strong live, sound, I do not think it had any real place being in the encore, it could have easily been switched with any of the hits from earlier in the set. Again, ‘Stingin’ Belle’ is another strong live track but I do not entirely get why they finished with it instead of one of their bigger hits, but it was still a fine finish to the set.

Biffy Clyro as a live band are perfect, but still edgy and raw enough to not be boring. Their huge stage production added plenty to the show but the show would have been one of the stand outs of the year even without it. They are as diverse as ever, something that many bands could simply not pull off, as a result their setlist was as far from boring as possible. All of this along with a 27 song strong set, spanning their entire back catalogue by featuring songs off six of their seven albums, including fan favourites, strong new songs and hit after hit after hit, some of which were not written for arenas but stand side by side perfectly with the ones that were, is why I have no issue with calling their set the best I witnessed in 2016: 10/10.

*Review* Tennent’s Vital 2016, Day One – Red Hot Chili Peppers (& Support)

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On Thursday the 25th of August I headed up to Belfast for Day One of Tennent’s Vital 2016. Tennent’s Vital is an annual two-day music festival, made up of two single day concerts, in Northern Ireland that currently takes place in The Boucher Road Playing Fields, Belfast. Day One was being headlined by Red Hot Chili Peppers with support from Fall Out Boy, Labrinth, Cage The Elephant and Otherkin, an absolutely massive line up!

The first thing I noticed upon arriving at the festival is just how massive the setup is, there was a lot to take in. The venue is a giant field, it was filled with tonnes of food stands, drink stands (including dedicated ones for both Coca-Cola and Deep RiverRock), merchandise stands and a gigantic bar (23 buses in length). There were two sections of porta-potties and multiple drinking water outlets, a viewing platform for the disabled and emergency services on site. There was security everywhere – every precaution possible was taken to ensure the safety of attendees. There was a pit area in front of the stage which required wristbands to get into, this helped to divide up the crowd. The stage itself was massive, the biggest festival stage in Northern Ireland in fact. The VIP section was very impressive, it had a VIP Bar – The Vital, which consisted of two floors, the second of which was a balcony, and it also had plenty of tables and chairs to chill out on and toilets that were basically regular ones instead of porta-potties. The weather was surprisingly perfect and thousands of attendees had already arrived.

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Just as I got into the field at 4.30 Dublin 4 piece Otherkin took to the stage to open the festival, it was only their 2nd show in Belfast. Otherkin have been playing the festival circuit all summer with appearances at the likes of the Isle of Wight Festival, Longitude, and Latitude already done and dusted by Tennent’s Vital. They kicked the day off with ’20 to 11’ before playing ‘Feel It’, both tracks are from ‘The 201 EP’. They picked up the pace a bit by playing ‘I Was Born’ the first single released off ‘The New Vice EP’ the crowd clapping along enthusiastically to it. Vocalist Luke Reilly is an engaging frontman, he did his best to get the crowd warmed up and interacting with their set. Luke was already topless from the heat by the time they played recent single ‘Yeah, I Know’, for the song that followed it Luke abandoned his guitar and headed to the front of the crowd, demanded they get on the ground, then he got them to jump up, after which he jumped into the pit itself to finish out the song. I was surprised by just how good Otherkin are live, even on a large stage, simply put, Otherkin were the perfect band to open the festival with their raw infectious energy warming up the crowd perfectly. Ones to watch: 8/10.

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American rock band Cage the Elephant took to the stage at 5.25, taking huge advantage of the space offered by the large stage, with an impressive 7 musicians lined up on it, the bands 4 members and 3 additional touring musicians. They started their set with ‘Cry Baby’ off their latest album 2015’s ‘Tell Me I’m Pretty’, they followed it up with one of their oldest hits ‘In One Ear’, off their debut self-titled album, during which the crowd clapped along during the right parts, while vocalist Matthew Shultz spent the song running around the stage erratically. They played another newer track ‘Cold Cold Cold’ next, Matthew continued to take advantage of the size of the stage by running about some more before approaching the barrier and singing into the crowd. Two more tracks off their latest album, ‘Trouble’ and ‘Mess Around’ were played next before their most chilled out number ‘Cigarette Daydreams’, which a significant amount of the crowd sang along to. ‘Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked’ off their debut album went down well with the crowd before the guitar heavy ‘Shake Me Down’, the only song in the set off their 2nd album ‘Thank You, Happy Birthday’. They finished their set to applause with ‘Come A Little Closer’, the stand out track of their set, it is an incredibly strong and emotional live track. Cage The Elephant are a very strong, captivating and talented band live: 8.5/10.

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At 6.25 English singer-songwriter Labrinth took to the stage backed by a 4 piece band, guitar in hand, kicking off his set with ‘Misbehavin’’, throughout the song, and the entire set, he switched between playing his guitar and utilizing the equipment he had set up on the stage, which included a laptop and keys. He followed up by playing the first hit of his set 2014’s ‘Let It Be’. The next couple of tracks played were mostly new unreleased tracks and got little response from the crowd. ‘Jealous’ was absent from the set – a strange choice as it was a recent top-10 hit for him. As ‘Passout’ kicked off the crowd woke back up and reacted hugely to it, this enthusiasm continued into ‘Higher’. The short but sweet ‘Beneath Your Beautiful’ triggered the biggest sing-a-long of the day yet before Labrinth finished his set off on a high note with the absolutely massive festival anthem that is ‘Earthquake’. A rocky middle but the most out of place act of the day sold his set by playing hit after hit: 7.5/10.

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As 7.30 hit American pop punk heroes Fall Out Boy took to the stage as a simple 4 piece with ‘The Phoenix’ off ‘Save Rock and Roll’. Next, they threw back all the way to 2005’s with ‘Sugar, We’re Goin Down’ off their breakthrough album ‘From Under the Cork Tree’ before shooting forward 10 years with ‘Irresistible’ off their latest album 2015’s ‘American Beauty/American Psycho’. Next fans were treated to more of a live rarity with ‘Hum Hallelujah’ off 2007’s ‘Infinity On High’ before ‘Alone Together’ and ‘The Kids Aren’t Alright’. It is of note that the band had a big stage presence despite the minimal movement of the members during the set. Before ‘Fourth Of July’ their bassist Pete Wentz talked about how honoured he was to open for Red Hot Chili Peppers a band he had looked up to since he was a kid, he then went on to dedicate the song to the kids who make art in the crowd, stating that one day one of them would be opening for his band. ‘Uma Thurman’ got the crowd dancing and clapping along to its beat and catchy chorus before ‘Dance, Dance’, during which a member of the crowd in the pit was standing on one of his friends. The infectious pop of the title track off ‘American Beauty/American Psycho’ followed before a surprising highlight of the set came in the form of ‘I Don’t Care’, the only song in the set off 2009’s not so well received ‘Folie à Deux’. There were strobe lights flashing during ‘Thnks fr th Mmrs’ and yellow fireworks went off during ‘Centuries’, after which they took a photo with the crowd.

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‘My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light ‘Em Up)’ was accompanied by pyro during the ‘so light ’em up’ line of the chorus. They finished their set with ‘Saturday’ off their first album 2003’s ‘Take This To Your Grave’, during which Pete Wentz put down his bass so that he could scream along before he made his way towards the front of the crowd so that he could scream the lyrics into the faces of those lucky enough to be there. Fall Out Boy somehow crammed a balanced sixteen song set, featuring plenty of new material off ‘American Beauty/American Psycho’ and a string of their classic hits charting across their 13-year long career, into a set that was just over an hour long; they simply displayed flawless talent: 10/10.

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As 9.15 hit darkness had fallen on the festival grounds and tens of thousands of music fans were waiting for Red Hot Chili Peppers to take to the stage. As the intro to ‘Can’t Stop’ started being played and the band took to the stage the crowd exploded, easily the loudest they had been all day. The stage set up was big, 1 large half oval screen in the centre, with 4 smaller circle screens around it, strobes and tonnes of lights, during ‘Can’t Stop’ these screens showed live black and white footage of the band playing. During ‘Dani California’ these screens were yellow with purple lights, following ‘Scar Tissue’ vocalist Anthony Kiedis greeted the crowd, ‘hello, nice to meet you’. ‘Dark Necessities’ off their new and eleventh album ‘The Getaway’ followed and got a warm response from the crowd, during it, Anthony gave a shout out to their synth and piano player Chris. The first big highlight of their set came from ‘Snow (Hey Oh)’ off 2006’s ‘Stadium Arcadium’ as the crowd erupted into a big sing-a-long, with people on each other’s shoulders and plenty of crowd surfers.

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Newer songs followed with ‘Look Around’, the only song in the set off 2012’s ‘I’m with You’, and the title track off ‘The Getaway’. Another highlight of the set came when they played one of my favourite songs ‘Otherside’, a bass solo from Flea started off the song before guitarist Josh Klinghoffer joined in for a bass/guitar duel, like ‘Snow’ this song caused another massive sing-a-long with people again sitting on each other’s shoulders. For ‘Suck My Kiss’ the lights focused on the 4 members of the band grouped together in the centre of the stage. The lights and video crew all deserve major credit for the work they put into Red Hot Chili Peppers set, it was all an amazing spectacle and added a lot to an already perfect set. Another new song ‘Go Robot’, my favourite off ‘The Getaway’, was played next before a second bass/guitar duel, which got faster and faster as it went, kicked into ‘Californication’. A string of hits in the form of ‘Parallel Universe’, ‘Under the Bridge’ and ‘By The Way’ finished off the main body of their set.

For their encore, Red Hot Chili Peppers played one last new song ‘Goodbye Angel’ off ‘The Getaway’, which felt like a fitting song. Just before the last song of their set started the sky opened and the first rain of the day poured down on the crowd, together with ‘Give It Away’ this ended the night perfectly. As expected Red Hot Chili Peppers are easily the best band I have ever seen live, only a few very tiny cracks show through, despite their age, Flea in particular, did his best not to show his age by bouncing around the stage all set to the delight of the crowd. It was just another night for one of the best bands in the world but for everybody else it was unforgettable: 10/10.

Every act who played Tennent’s Vital 2016, Day One put on very enjoyable sets, the atmosphere was incomparable to anything else I have attended, the weather was a huge bonus and kept everybody in good spirits as they enjoyed the perfect festival vibe. I will be back to Tennent’s Vital next Summer for sure and I would encourage you all to get tickets to one  (if not both) of the days too.


All images featured in the piece above are ‘free pictures’ provided by Tennent’s Vital. IrishRockn’Metal claims no rights to the above images, they have been used for reporting purposes only.