The Opening Night of Gig Season 2016 – the Carnival of Madness pt 1

 

 

Well it had to happen at some point soon – gig season  has begun and I headed out to play once more!

No train to Glasgow this time though. I got to enjoy the luxury of being chauffeured and chaperoned by a friend, who for the purposes of this tale, we’ll call Four.

Our destination for the evening?

 We were heading for the Carnival of Madness at the SSE Hydro.

The plan was that we would drive to Glasgow’s Science Centre, meet up with Boy Child and Facebook Son then walk over to the venue.

Despite Mother Nature’s best efforts as Storm Henry battered Scotland, we made it to the Science Centre on time, found the two boys, who had made a mad dash across Glasgow from uni, and headed across the footbridge towards the Hydro.

The wind whistling up the River Clyde would’ve cut you in two and it was a chilly few minutes as we queued to get in. Colder for the two boys who were out in t-shirts! Weans!

It was a relief to finally get inside and out of the icy wind.

Cue a whirlwind search for “dinner” for Four (I’m not convinced a bag of Kettle chips qualifies as dinner) and a quick trip to the merchandise stall for me.( Yes I know I didn’t need another shirt) Boy Child and Facebook Son prepared to abandon us once more as they went off  in search of two of their friends (Bread Boy and his long suffering girlfriend). With a rendezvous point agreed for later, we left them to it and headed into the bowl.

Opening band Highly Suspect were already on stage. I had really been looking forward to hearing them as I love their debut album. (I’ve already reviewed this show on my music blog https://the525toglasgow.wordpress.com  but perhaps can be a little more candid here among friends) We’d missed two out of Highly Suspect’s six songs but, from what I heard, I was bitterly disappointed. They looked and sounded way out of their depth. I enjoyed their performance of Lydia but it fell flat with the small crowd. A Glasgow audience is a tough gig in itself. During their final song, the lead singer “gobbed” on stage. My stomach heaved! That’s a pet hate of mine and is quite simply a disgusting thing to do, especially on stage. Totally anti-social!

During the interval, I spotted Boy Child over to my right and the “mummy” in me relaxed a bit. (He’s not got a good track record of coming out of shows intact) Four and I were safely positioned to the left hand side as you looked up at the stage and were about three rows off the barrier. Perfect.

As ever though, my record for being beside the extra wide or extra tall rock fans remained intact. Before Halestorm took to the stage Mr Short and Wide moved out, heading for the bar, and never to return, much to the annoyance of the two girls who were waiting for the drink he had promised to bring back. I wasn’t complaining.

Halestorm are one of my favourite live bands and this was the fifth time that I’d been fortunate enough to see them live. They delivered a fantastic forty-five minute set, cramming in nine songs plus Arejay’s shortened acrobatic drum solo. The sound wasn’t perfect and it blighted a couple of songs but, as ever, Lzzy owned the stage and had the swelling crowd hanging on her every note.

Next up were Shinedown, another band close to my heart. I’ve seen them twice before and have been listening to them for the better part of ten years. If there’s one band that re-ignited my love of rock music, it was these guys. Through them I discovered Alter Bridge and Myles Kennedy and the rest, as they say, is history…..

Shinedown’s stage crew set up the stage as though they were to headline the show. Also cue the most bizarre PA tape being played between sets that I’ve ever heard- fifteen minutes of a meditation tape. It killed the energy in the room that’s for sure!

To my immediate right, I now had possibly the tallest guy in the entire venue. I kid you not, the top of my head barely reached his shoulders and my nose was level with his elbow.  No, I’m not a total midget. I’m 5’ 3” but this guy had to be at least 6’ 6” or taller!

Finally, the lights dimmed and Shinedown were in the room. Like Halestorm, they too had forty five minutes or thereabouts to entertain and woo the fans. There is no doubting that Brent Smith is a charismatic front man and an incredible vocalist but something was just a bit “off”.  There’s been criticism online that he’s resorting to auto tune to support his live performances and open accusations of miming. I’ll refrain from commenting and reserve judgement but something didn’t feel quite right. Perhaps it was the “new look” with the baseball cap and shades. That cap never left his head and his face was constantly shielded by it. Oh, I can’t put my finger on it but it’s bugging me!

They played a fantastic set. I love watching bass player, Eric Bass. That guy’s insane! Zach Myers is cute and adorable and talented but he spent most of his time on the far side of the stage from where we were standing. Barry Kerch on drums was presiding from on high, dreads flowing freely.

Mid-set Brent instructed the crowd to part in the middle, creating a path for him and Zach Myers to walk through. The crowd split to our right but all I actually saw was the tops of their heads as they made their way front to back, shaking hands. A nice gesture if you’re the headliners; a waste of precious time if you only have less than an hour to shine.

For me the crowd shuffle resulted in Mr 6’ 6” moving in front of me. My view of the stage diminished for the remainder of the set. Typical!

All in all, I love Shinedown, really enjoyed their performance and would be front of the queue to see them headline a show. As a support act, they frustrate the hell out of me! They played Simple Man, one of my all-time favourite songs and somewhat redeemed themselves …..until next time.

By now it was about 8:50pm. Headliners Black Stone Cherry were due out at 9:25pm. Plenty of time for a comfort break…or so I thought! Four darted off, promising to return shortly and he assured me before he left that he knew where we were standing. The minutes ticked by…

Like most of the other folk around me I checked my phone for messages and updates.

Randomly Girl Child was messaging me wanting me to make her a cup of tea….strange child!

Time ticked on… No sign of Four returning. Hmmmm…..

Suddenly, in front of me, Mr 6’ 6” began to wobble then collapsed, out cold, in a heap on the floor. He’d fainted! Security staff and the surrounding fans swiftly lifted him over the barrier and he was carried off for medical attention. I hope the guy was ok but his sudden departure meant I could actually see the stage again. Then it dawned on me…if Four had been using him as a landmark he was now somewhat stuffed.

Eventually I messaged him to see if he’d got lost. I was relieved when he replied, explaining though that he was stuck some ten feet behind me. He couldn’t find a way through and, in fairness, the standing arena was tightly packed near the front. At least I knew he was ok so I could relax a bit. (Yes, I’m a serial worrier and the “mummy” in me feels responsible for the entire group when we are out, regardless of their age.)

Right on time, the lights dimmed, the curtain fell and Black Stone Cherry were live on stage. They delivered an incredible set! This was the fourth time I’d seen them and I think it was best I’ve seen them play so far. Ben Wells is an incredibly energetic guitarist, barely staying still for a second. This energy is rubbing off on bassist Jon Lawhorn, who was also covering a lot of ground on stage.

About twenty minutes in, a white spotlight was trained on the crowd about ten feet directly behind me. Something had happened in the crowd. I’m not sure if it was another fainter or if it was a scuffle. Chris Robertson commented from the stage that he hoped the guy was ok.

Cue another few moments of irrational panic as I fretted whether it was Boy Child, Facebook Son or Four who had been involved. (I know, several thousand folk to choose from etc etc…it’s the mummy in me!) A wave of calm washed over me as I reasoned there was nothing I could about it as I was well and truly stuck where I was.

Every time I’ve seen these boys from Kentucky, Chris Robertson has sung straight from the heart. This show was no exception.

After John Fred’s amazingly mind blowing drum solo (he is probably my favourite drummer), Chris stepped out on stage alone to perform a solo acoustic version of Things My Father Said. He openly confessed to being scared. The audience took him to their hearts and sang proudly along with him. A beautiful, raw, honest and powerful performance. Love love loved it!

A second acoustic song, The Rambler, followed with Ben Wells joining Chris on stage. Stunning song that has stirred my excitement about their forthcoming album, Kentucky.

The fabulous Lzzy Hale joined them for Peace Is free a few minutes later. It was great to see the band all looking as though they were enjoying themselves as much as the fans.

 Blame It On The Boom Boom rounded off the main body of the set and Black Stone Cherry left the stage.

Within seconds, the capacity crowd was begging for “one more f*%king song”

The boys from Kentucky didn’t disappoint. They played two!

A Black Stone Cherry show always ends with Lonely Train. The fans lapped it up! This was followed by a colossal version of Ace of Spades, a touching tribute to the late great Lemmy.

And that was it. Ninety minutes gone in the blink of an eye. Picks were flicked out into the crowd. John Fred hurled a handful of sticks to the fans. The lights came up and the fans began to troop out of the arena.

I was extremely relieved to locate the AWOL Four within a minute or two. One down, two to go.

As arranged we met Boy Child and Facebook Son at the door (and I finally got that comfort break!) then as a group we headed back to the car.

The storm hadn’t abated so “blown back to the car” may be more appropriate but at least it wasn’t raining…yet. After the heat of the venue the cool air was most welcome for the first minute or two.

By the time we were driving out of the car park the heavens had opened.

Judging by the buzz and hilarity during the blustery journey home, I guess the night had been a success all round. There’s a whole other story that could be told here about that journey back but I’ll save it to spare any blushes….but I really didn’t fancy a late night detour via Kilmarnock!

Me – I was tired and happy. Happy to see the others happy but also happy that it had been a fantastic night. Gig season 2016 has certainly opened in style.

And inwardly, I was smiling that I get to do it all again in a few days, in another city, with Girl Child…..but that’s a tale for next week.

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