You just don’t go and attend a live show. It’s much beyond that. It’s the feeling while you eagerly wait for the day to arrive, and most importantly once the show is over, the imprint it leaves on your mind and soul, creating memories to cherish forever. This year, as always, the US has seen a ton of live acts, tours and festivals of all kinds, but as my friend says “We just can not be everywhere, every time”, I could not attend all of them, Still, I did have my good share of gigs. Here is a list of the live acts, which did leave an imprint on my mind, and created some insane memories I will be keeping safe with me.
The death metal legends hailing from the UK, toured the states along with Testament and Slayer earlier this year. Even a fractured leg, did not stop Jeff Walker to unleash pure mayhem that night. The band played a solid set of good old grindcore, and their own brand of newer death metal materials. The Moshers did have a great time during the set, so did the head bangers.
It’s very rare to get to experience a depressive black metal act live. Make sure you do not miss Shining when you get a chance. Its an experience watching these guys live. Niklas Kvarforth’s frontmanship and his depression ridden vocal styles, the beautiful riffage and solos create an atmosphere of mind-bending psychedelia. If you want to feel high on music during a live set, this is the band for you.
- Black Sabbath
Earlier this year, the legends of heavy metal brought their last ever ‘The End’ tour to the US. I had the opportunity to catch them at the show in San Jose. Now, being a metal head, you definitely know who Black Sabbath are, and also the fact that they are around for 48 years. Well, going by that number, they may definitely have grown old, but watch them perform today, they would still crush the skulls of most of the younger bands today. It was a magical experience. To watch Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Ozzy Osbourne took us back to back to those times and cherish the music that laid the very foundations for modern rock and metal.
Twice this year, I got to watch these pioneers of technical death metal perform live. They toured the US earlier this year as a part of ‘What should not be unearthed’ tour. Getting them to see them decimate the stage from the front row was quite an experience. The tore the venue apart also as the co-headliner during The Summer Slaughter tour.
There are many bands today, which demonstrate immense technical brilliance in their records, but only a handful are able to recreate the same magic performing live. Currently on the ‘Pleiades dust’ tour in the US, theirs was one of the most technically perfect sets I have seen live. Despite the complexity of song structures, this is one band, which delivers an absolutely flawless, and spot on performance.
- Cannibal Corpse
The Kings of all death-metal which exists today, is on the kill with the maximum brutality ever. To explain what went down that evening, after enjoying Obituary’s set, I was very happy that I will be experiencing Cannibal Corpse’s set from the first row. But then, the moment the first beat of “Evisceration Plague” was laid down, the most brutal mosh pit ever sucked me into it and landed me somewhere behind.. In a few moments, there were bodies flying over me (not literally though, they were crowd surfers). That pretty should give an idea what it was like. They chugged out their classics one after another. Brutality was the only constant.
- Amon Amarth
A grand sonic as well as visual experience are the key ingredients of an epic show. The Viking hordes raided the North American shores as a part of their ‘Jomsviking’ tour and we raged with them. Nonetheless, destruction was imminent. An Amon Amarth gig comprises of a unique stage setup, an extensive use of pyro techniques and lights. During the set, one would also see actors dressed as Vikings also demonstrate war on stage, while the band plays in the backdrop. All these elements come together to make it a grand experience. At least one Amon Amarth gig should definitely be a part of every metalhead’s bucket list.
- Steven Wilson
One of the most talented rock musicians of this era, a genius whose brainchilds include acts such as Porcupine Tree and Bass Communion, Collaborations as great as Storm corrosion and Blackfield, and a solid solo discography, the UK based Steven Wilson is currently performing in cities throughout Asia, Australia, New Zealand and the US as a part of the ‘Hand.Cannot.Erase’ tour. This was the second time I was witnessing him and his band perform live, and believe me, I could do that a thousand times if I had the opportunity. Right from the well-curated light affect and visuals, to the power of the sound, it was an out of world experience. To put it in other words, it was an emotional experience, with the feels too damn high.
The entire audience seemed to have been casted upon a spell of nostalgia and melancholy. They played a staggering twenty-two song set, a set which is proof to the fact that sadness can also uplift you. One could actually feel the pain in his voice during songs like “Don’t hate me”,”Routine” and “The Raven that refused to sing” to name a few. Songs off his solo work, a handful of Porcupine Tree songs and a cover paying tribute to Prince were part of their set. It was one of those sets, which makes you reminisce for days to come, and I am going through the same.
- David Gilmour
An upsurge of emotions so strong, a feeling of immense happiness, a feeling of sadness, intense nostalgia, goose bumps were few of the emotions I went through that evening. I knew that it was the closest I could ever get to watch a Pink Floyd show live. As a part of the ‘Rattle that Lock’ world tour , the god of psychedelic rock had descended upon the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, California to give the rough 18,000 crowd an evening to be reminisced till eternity. He along with his live band played a whopping twenty-two song set comprising of songs off his solo catalogue, and of course Pink Floyd. It was a grand experience especially with the visuals and state-of-the art sound system. I still remember tears flow to my eyes the moment they played the intro to “High Hopes”. The beauty, with which David executed the riffs and the solos, will be witness to the fact why he is the God of guitar. Also there was this emotional element that the lucky attendees could witness songs such as “Time”,”Breathe”,”Money”,”Wish you were here” and “Comfortably numb” to name a few being performed by the man himself. Kudos to him and his life for providing generations after generations with music to relish. If you ever get an opportunity to attend a David Gilmour show, please do. It would be a lifetime opportunity, while you still can.
The heaviest matter of the universe, Gojira is what tops my list of the best live acts I experienced in 2016. Like a thunder rumbling, crushing every venue in its path since the release of their critically acclaimed album ‘Magma’, the tour hit the US with the amazing progressive metallers Tesseract from the UK. Be warned, be very warned, attending a Gojira concert might give you intense post-gig withdrawal syndromes.
They played a well curated set, a well-balanced mixture of the old brutal stuff, and the recent progressive magnificence. The ‘almost record like’ perfection with which they execute the set is a virtue only a rare number of bands possess today. The Frenchmen know well how to make the crowd rage. While favorites such as ‘Flying whales’, ‘Backbone’ saw the most brutal pits of the year, the newer materials such as ‘The shooting star’ and ‘Pray’ combined with on-stage visuals provided the perfect hypnotic experiences which goes well with the songs. The band displayed by far the most amazing stage presence in the metal world today. No one can beat them in that, Mario’s unrelenting inhuman-machine-like drumming brilliance, Christian’s technical chugging and riff mastery, Jean flying around thumping his bass guitar and bringing on the groove, the roars of Joe and his immense frontmanship, Epic is the word.
Just to reiterate, I have compiled the above list based only on the shows I could attended this year. Also 2016 is not over yet, and i still have few amazing acts such as Dark Tranquility, Tombs and more lined up for the next two months which could have made it to the list, and so would have the bands whose shows, i sadly could not attend.
Also, it would be unfair to the following few, who even though did not make it to the list, were nothing short of amazing.
Cryptopsy – for their ground shaking brutality.
Obituary – for their old school death metal charm.
Beyond Creation – mind-numbing technical brilliance
Krisiun – a headbanger’s delight.
Guns N’ Roses – taking us through a journey, down the memory lane.
Zhrine – a delight watching them. One of the best live acts ever.