Leeds Festival - Temple Newsam - Friday 23rd August
As the clouds hover in the Northern Skyline 50,000 of us hope and pray that just for once in old Blighty the clouds will part and heaven sent sunshine will shine a light on Generation X this Bank Holiday. The big man in the sky doesn't answer our prayers, but for the time being we are content to live with the clouds as a preference to the following days torrential downpour. Today though is a meeting point of our musical heritage meets the contemporary millennium mix and match culture and ultimately as we sit here the big questions are Will Guns and Roses actually grace us with their presence? and Can the Prodigy gain ground after Liam Howlett settled down with an Appleton sister?
But for now the first band of the day are Puddle Of Mudd. The name says it all - a little damp, wishy washy, dreary, almost beige like in it's outlook and the sort of damp jock rockers who spend their time crying into their pints over lost girlfriends. It's taking rock music back 10 years previous and even the anthemic "She Hates Me" can't rescue a set which was doomed to fail from the outset. With our spirits dampened somewhat we head over to the Evening Session Stage to see ex At The Drive In members new project Sparta. Raising their game a touch they take the raucous blueprint of ATDI and fuse it with dark spiralling melodies ala Twin Peaks.
Despite the fact that they play to a riotous bunch of bottle throwing ska punkers dismayed at the fact that Reel Big Fish won't be playing, The Shining prove that they are the best new band in Britain right now. Duncan Baxter rising to the challenge, fist's clenched in the air, arm's outstretched like the messiah and an attitude which veers between the macho posturing of Ian Brown and Liam Gallagher to the feminine traits of Mick Jagger or Jonathan Rhys Meyer's. The album "True Skies" has classic debut album written all over it and they set about playing what in time will be described as a greatest hits set - the pummelling riff of "Quicksilver", the gentle subtleties of "Young Again", the call to arms of "I Am The One" - but sadly all great thing's have to come to an end.
On any other day they would have been headlining the main stage, but with the Prodigy and Guns N Roses on the comeback trail, Slipknot are relegated to the early evening slot.With the doubters in the audience wondering whether Slipknot will be with us for much longer with side projects Stone Sour and the Murderdolls taking more and more time away from the main band. If we were ready to write them off as cartoon rocker, as soon as Corey Taylor and co hits the stage with "People = Shit" all traces of cynicism are wiped away. "666" and "The Heretic Anthem" are played with a renewed passion, but at the end of the day it's not the music were here for. Us maggots down the front are simply here to gawp at the spectacle in the same sort of way we can't help but stare at a disfigured face or a car crash. But it's more League of Gentlemen than genuine shock rock and with the current climate for Mini-Me's there's a strange desire for Slipknot Juniors ala S Club or Blazin Squad to So Solid. Imagine the carnage of an 8 teenage rockers who push the envelope so far that they make Slipknot simply look as tame as an ageing Kiss. Bring it on!!!!
If Slipknot still have that fire in their bellies, then the Prodigy are simply treading water. Settled down with an Appleton sister and hanging around with the younger Gallagher you could quite easily say that Liam Howlett has resigned himself to Candle Light dinners rather than being a "Firestarter". It's not so much "Smack My Bitch Up", more slap an extra thousand on her credit card. No more "Rohypnol", more a little Nightnurse and Ovalteen for a sound nights sleep. You see after the carnage of Slipknot, the Prodigy can't help but look like throwbacks from 1997 where the idea of Keith's green hair was poked and probed at with curiosity rather than sitting back and saying look at Beckhams new Mohican haircut. Still with the exception of a cover of Madness' "Night boat To Cairo" which has too much of Benny Hill hamming it up for it's own good, the likes of "Poison", "Minefields" and "Breath" remind us of why we fell in love with them all those years ago.
Arriving over an hour late it was looking for a while that Axl has thrown one of his rock star tantrums and simply walked leaving a potential riot on our hands. As images of Nuclear destruction, starving children and riot police are projected and the opening riff to "Welcome to The Jungle" explodes Guns N Roses are before our eyes like the 90s never even happened. Ok, Axl is a little larger than last time we saw him - but stood up there with his long flowing hair and trademark bandana you have a true star amongst a bunch of reluctant indie shoe gazers. But tonight isn't just about the rebirth of Axl - it's as much about the death of Slash and as we eye the new members up and down there is one clear star amongst what at best can be described a sun bedded wrinkled session musicians. That star is known as Bucket, he plays guitar, already has a legion of followers in the audience with matching bucket heads and geisha boy face paint. While no one will ever truly replace Slash, it's safe to say that by the end of the year there will be the Cult of Bucket Head foundation set up in his honour.
With only a handful of songs played off new album "Chinese Democracy", tonight is all about a celebration of the former glories while acknowledging that a new era is fast approaching. "Sweet Child O' Mine", "Paradise City", "November Rain" and their cover of "Knocking On Heavens Door" return like lost sons to the fold and are welcomed with open arms. At times lacking the fluidity of Slash, the backing musicians as times can seem a little too restrained and under the dictatorship of Axl Rose their is little they can do to add their own stamp on the proceedings. As the curfew looms ever closer Axl rants "They want this to be the last song, but we've got 8 more songs to play. I don't want to cause a riot but it's either you or them?". At which point he proceeds with the rest of the set to the closer "Paradise City". We leave happy. Axl leaves happy. And we all give a big sigh of relief that they didn't destroy our teenage dreams.
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