Wembley Arena: September 22, 2012
Well that was… interesting.
There was some astonishing talent, great cover tunes performed by what could be considered some of the greatest tribute acts ever, an awful lot of notes, Al Murray being really, really funny (who knew?) but also, unfortunately a venue (and, to a lesser extent) audience that were inimical to the mood. When Corey Taylor and Kerry King are tearing up ‘Ace of Spades’ and ‘Mouth for War’, it demands a mosh pit not a bunch of aging rockers sitting with their arms crossed. Have to admit, though it was pretty good to be in an audience that was mostly older rather than half my age…
So there was some pure awesome, the majority in the first half of the show. Pretty much everything Corey Taylor was involved in and Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens impersonating Ronnie James Dio, Rob Halford, David Coverdale and Bruce Dickinson were vocal highlights. Guitar-wise my picks (ha, see what I did there?) were Paul Gilbert’s blues-o-matic renditions of ‘Cheap Sunglasses’ and ‘Manic Depression’ both surprising in their restraint for a man with hemi-demi-semi-hemi-demi-semi quavers (256th notes to Americans) festooned on his plectra and Doug Aldrich’s rampage through blues rock and metal classics, ‘Living after Midnight’, ‘Slide it In’ and ‘Flight of Icarus’. Along with the aforementioned mayhem (also including ‘Mouth for War’*). The first half was mostly great with only Zakk Wylde’s set being a bit of a disappointment (he appears to have either eaten Ozzy or is channeling him vocally), and his song choices weren’t that interesting.
After the break, Yngwie was first up. Yngwie. Whingie. Yingyang. Like Paul Gilbert and Joe Satriani he was, back in the eighties and nineties, a big influence on my playing, expanding the vocabulary of rock and metal, and showing how far and fast and insane metal guitar can get. So going into this, be aware I have a colossal amount of respect for what he’s achieved and his ability. Unfortunately, his performance was kinda depressing, like ‘Speed 4 – Shred of Death’, someone maybe wired his head to explode if he dropped below fifteen notes a second. For a man who played so fast, his performance was somewhat ironically, not only one-note but tone-deaf too. He also came over as the egocentric, arrogant douche that he’s often portrayed as in the press. Meh.
It got better. Absolute highlight of the night for me was Joe Satriani’s stunning ‘Always with Me, Always with You’, a piece which always gives me chills. This is one of the songs I learned to play when I was learning myself. It’s not that difficult to play but extremely difficult to play well (goddamit my hands aren’t big enough for some of the arpeggio stretches…) Satriani said more in one elegant melody than Yngwie did all night. Paul Gilbert rejoined Joe for ‘Going Down’, which, quite frankly rocked.
Once again things went downhill with the introduction of Glenn Hughes who has, an admittedly belting voice but seemed an odd choice for closing act and the introduction of Andy Fraser of Free was a bit embarrassing. They performed ‘Mr Big ‘which was a wasted opportunity to get Pablo Gilberto back onstage, then Yngwie returned to murder Deep Purple and BB King tunes. Hey ho. The night closed with, of course ‘Smoke on the Water’, although unfortunately the sound got rather muddy.
So pretty great overall. Never thought I’d hear Corey sing Cult songs, and the sight of Al Murray taking pics of Satriani from backstage as much an awestruck fan as anyone else was really cool. The house band were awesome, there was a lot of great music and mis-steps aside it was a fitting tribute to the late, great Doctor Marshall without whom rock would probably sound a lot different. Oh yeah, drum elder god/octopus Mike Portnoy now also has one of the worst beards in the recorded history of facial topiary.
*Love Dime, but he was a Randall user. Surprised there was no Olympic style corporate sponsor enforcement thing going on