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Live Review: Sonisphere (UK) 2011 - Knebworth - 8/7/11 - 10/7/11

Ever since its inception in 2009, Sonisphere has gone from strength to strength, taking its roster of heavy metal heavyweights throughout the whole of Europe every year.

Now, in 2011, with arguably its most impressive line-up to date, the last leg of the tour finally arrived in the middle of the sun and the rain at Knebworth, UK.


Friday July 8

Friday was the day where thousands of people came together to celebrate the reunion of the Big 4 in the UK. Unfortunately we missed the first band, Anthrax; due to the predictably bad traffic, but as the general public filled in, nothing resonated more throughout Knebworth than the howling of veteran metallers, Megadeth. Heavy and riotous, seeing these guys on the main stage (Apollo) was the perfect start to a momentous day.

The day carried on with some great performances from Young Legionnaire at the Red Bull tent and Slam Cartel at the Jagermeister Stage until we got to Black Dahlia Murder. Whilst I’d heard of the band before, I wasn’t familiar with any of their music, so we headed to the Bohemia tent for what can only be described as an explosive performance! Playing to a packed out tent, the atmosphere was frantic with the band themselves showcasing some phenomenal talent.

They were only topped on the day by the two big hitters of the weekend… All eyes and ears turned to Apollo for a relentless performance from the penultimate Big 4 band, Slayer. Whilst there were some die hard fans in the crowd, Slayer’s stage presence and performance, along with lead singer Tom Araya’s connection with the crowd left everyone wanting more. Classics like ‘Angel Of Death’ and ‘Raining Blood’ whipped the crowd into a frenzy and with solo after solo, the thrash metallers were a headbangers dream!

After a brief stop at the Burrito stand, we returned to the main stage to secure our spot for the Gods of heavy metal, Metallica. As soon as the sun set, the crowd came alive; walking on to their trademark track ‘Ecstasy of Gold’, we were treated to an enviable set-list of classic tracks and fan favourites. Amongst ‘Enter Sandman’, ‘Master Of Puppets’ and ‘One’ we were all left in awe when they broke into ‘Fade To Black’, which is a personal favourite.

Their encore was a site to behold; ALL members of the Big 4 (Anthrax, Megadeth, Slayer & Metallica) and Brian Tatler of Diamond Head took to the stage and performed his legendary ‘Am I Evil?’… It was a truly historical end to an inspirational day of heavy metal.

Saturday July 9th

For us, Saturday was all about seeing as many bands as possible! As we walked in to the visceral screams of Sylosis, the first “band” on the agenda was the ultra smooth Richard Cheese along with his house band Lounge Against The Machine. Cynics might feel that turning cult classics like ‘Closer’ by Nine Inch Nails and ‘Gin And Juice’ by Snoop Dogg, into swing/lounge/jazz anthems might be a little hit or miss, but at 11:30 in the morning, the Saturn stage was full to burst and the performance was borderline genius; funny, affable and fun, we were off to another great start!

With a sell out crowd of 60,000 people, Saturday was proving to be an incredibly diverse affair. In quick succession we saw performances from Architects, Gallows and Me Vs Hero until Cavalera Conspiracy hit the main stage. For me, Max Cavalera (Sepultura/Soulfly) has been pretty synonymous with heavy metal over the last couple of decades and this new band sees them follow in those same footsteps. Unfamiliar with their set, it was great to hear them play the legendary ‘Roots’ at the end.

The more “punk orientated” stint of the weekend began with Kids In Glass Houses on the Saturn stage. The pop punk outfit were seemingly a bit of a mismatch on the day, but had the crowd moving until the punk rock legends Bad Religion began their set over at Apollo. Whilst they put on an admirable show, we found ourselves very quickly back over to the Saturn stage for the highly anticipated Sum 41 set. There was a lot of energy in the crowd and people were expecting a pretty high-octane show from these guys, but what we got was what you’d consider a more “mature” sound with ‘Fat Lip’ and ‘In Too Deep’ thrown in at the end. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a anti-climax to what could have been a great show; they were cut off due to time constraints and because they ran over, it was too late to make it to the Bohemia tent to see Steve-O’s comedy show, which was an even bigger disappointment. In fact, this wasn’t the only occasion where the tents were too full to see any band at all; Tesseract at the Red Bull tent, and later on, Gojira at Bohemia all suffered the same problem.

It was then the heavens opened and the torrential rain poured down. You Me At Six were on the main stage at the time, however, we chose to pay a visit to the Red Bull DJ stand where they laid on some entertainment until the rain passed. Once the sun burst through once more, it was time for the second highlight of the weekend. US rockers Weezer were back in the UK and once again proved that they are not only the coolest, but also the most entertaining band on the entire planet! Minute after minute, the enigmatic band had the crowd jumping; we were privy to a set comprised of hits such as ‘Say It Aint So’, ‘Buddy Holly’, ‘Dope Nose’, ‘Hash Pipe’... the list was endless! We were even treated to Wheatus’s ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ and an exquisite rendition of ‘Paranoid Android’ by Radiohead which was just the icing on the cake.

The day ended with a rather unconvincing performance from The Mars Volta on the Saturn stage, another Burrito, and finally, headliners Biffy Clyro. After supporting the Foo Fighters at their huge Milton Keynes gigs, it was great to see the Kilmarnock rockers take to the stage and hold the sold out Sonisphere crowd in their hands. Tracks like ‘That Golden Rule’, ‘Many Of Horror’ and of course ‘Mountains’ were mixed in with their earlier [and heavier] hits, and even though it was a bit of a change of pace, it proved to be a great way to conclude Saturday’s shows.

Sunday July 10th

In a flash, the final day of Sonisphere had arrived. The day [for us] began with a respectful two-minute silence for Slipknot bassist Paul Gray. Seeing thousands of people pay their respects was an emotional and touching experience that saw people from all walks of life come together.

Very soon after, In Flames hit the Saturn stage and brought the metal back to Knebworth! They were the perfect catalyst for the day’s events and set the scene nicely for a powerful performance from Mastodon over on the Apollo stage. Having seen these guys before at the very first Sonisphere in ’99, they exuded the same power and passion they did two years ago, and when they played ‘Sleeping Giant’, the crowd went wild!

We departed the main stages for a while and headed over to the Red Bull tent where Floods were just finishing their well attended set. With a string of appearances throughout the UK around their Sonisphere debut, Dangerous! promptly took to the stage shortly after. After a relatively slow start, people began to pour in to see the Aussie rockers and the atmosphere just grew and grew and culminated into a great gig.

After our final Burrito stop of the weekend, Anberlin were next on the agenda in the Bohemia tent. Having been a fan of these guys for a while, it was great to see them in such an intimate setting; people responded greatly to anthems like ‘Never Take Friendship Personal’, ‘Paperthin Hymn’ and ‘The Feel Good Drag’. There’s an air of coolness about these guys and their set really was uplifting and got everyone excited for what was coming up next…

The rain had started once again and as the clouds loomed over the Apollo stage, Limp Bizkit made their triumphant return to the UK. Right from the start Fred Durst made it abundantly clear that their set was our set and it was the crowd who got to choose which songs were played. This really brought the crowd together and the band pulled out all the stops with ‘Rollin’’, ‘Faith’, ‘Take A Look Around’ and to our amazement, ‘Boiler’! Guitarist Wes Borland was looking particularly legendary and the crowd were just there to party!

It was close to the end of the day and en route to Fozzy (made famous by WWE superstar Chris Jericho) at the Jagermeister stage, we caught a brief glimpse of Bill Bailey’s routine but were more preoccupied with getting a good place for the grand finale.

With the hustle and bustle of the crowd and with the stage dressed in black and red, it could only mean one thing. Slipknot walked on and the crowd simply erupted! From the start it was clear that this event meant a lot to them, their frontman Corey Taylor stating that “this is not a night for negativity, it's a night for positivity. It's a celebration”… and what a celebration it was! From ‘[Sic]’ to ‘Wait And Bleed’ to ‘Psychosocial’ to ‘Left Behind’; their setlist spanned their entire career, paying homage to the late Paul Gray.

With pyrotechnics and a Paul Gray tribute at the end, it was sincerely the most emotional and heartfelt performance from a band that have been through a lot throughout their illustrious career. This show was an absolute spectacle and it really was the perfect conclusion to the perfect weekend.

Whilst most of my time was spent between the Saturn and Apollo stages, there was an eclectic and varied mix of bands this year that catered for pretty much any rock fan.

Stuart Galbraith and the other event organisers truly surpassed any expectation anyone had; so much happened this weekend that puts Sonisphere WAY ahead of all other festivals this year, this review barely scratches the surface. Sonisphere Knebworth 2011 really was one of the most memorable and historical musical events in recent times.

Words by Sandeep Dawett

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