Last month, the forefathers of heavy metal, Black Sabbath, headlined one of the days of the inaugural British Summer Time Festival in London. Rock Sins’ sent the always intrepid Matt Hill along to cover the events of the day. Over to you Matt…
Well, I honestly didn’t think I’d ever get the chance to see Black Sabbath again, not least of all among a myriad of other classic and established bands that have stared in the face of extinction, but thanks to the British Summer Time collective of festivals that have been and are running throughout, well, summer in London’s Hyde Park this turned out to be an unexpected reality.
The line-up itself was jaw-dropping; Soulfly, Motorhead, Faith No More, Soundgarden and Black Sabbath on the main stage with a collection of respected and up-and-coming bands spread across the smaller stages (including Hang the Bastard, Gallows and Hell). Couple such a line-up with the almost guaranteed sunny weather and a fantastic day was surely on the cards.
Once I got wind this event was taking place, I instantly took the Friday off work and thanks to a clever piece of ticket-boosting masquerading as an “accidental leak”, thousands of additional metalheads and curious-inspectors-of-rock managed to snap up tickets for a spine-chilling £2.50. THAT IS LESS THAN A PINT OF BEER! (In some corners of the capital it’s even less than half a bloody pint!).
As for the event itself, it was perfectly located. Hyde Park, one of London’s finest for our less-local readers of Rock Sins, has welcomed many fantastic events and artists over the years (and the last I was at was a similar event was to see Motorhead supporting the Foo Fighters in 2006). On arrival, I collected my ticket and made my way into the Guest area which was, by all accounts, stunning. Giant bean-bags and comfy chairs and stools were laid out in the glorious sun and a few shade-providing tents served the most precious of refreshing beer.
The glorious weather in Hyde Park
I was there early, so I made my way around and explored the Media tent (I say tent, it was more a sauna-box) and waited for my interview with the absolute legend that is producer-supremo Andy Sneap. Following this, I picked up more beer and made my way out to catch my mates.
It should be noted as this point that, for reasons I’d sooner not assume and discuss in this medium, taking a mobile phone to BST (or indeed Download) only served a purpose if you took pictures with it. The networks were almost all completely congested the entire time and I managed to make ONE successful call out of around 130 attempts. Even text messages were delayed by around 45 minutes (often 2/3 DAYS!) meaning that meeting anybody was purely down to luck. Luck did strike me so that I could find one friend, but I missed out on the opportunity to catch up with at least 6 others. Spirits were starting to dampen…
Thank all that is holy for Soulfly, who’s short, sharp set was a welcome addition to the sun. Arguably a strange choice to join the bill, they open with ‘Prophecy’ and the classic ‘Back to the Primitive’ as the ever-increasing masses bounce and sing along to a band that, from some positions, you can hardly bloody hear. I move away from the main stage to do my interview with bummers Hang the Bastard and as such miss out on watching Igor Cavalera join the lads for what I imagine was a blinding rendition of ‘Roots Bloody Roots’. I hear that they close with ‘Jumpdafuckup / Eye for an Eye’ and I’m sure the anthems are as well received as they are recognized.
Curiously, the ‘guest area’ at the front of the stage is unusually large and at this point of the day prevents a huge number of people from getting a decent view of Soulfly. By the time Motorhead arrive on stage, the wind is more favourable and the sound improvement largely negates this hindrance of view but it’s clearly causing some problems for those who don’t have a pass to get any closer.
That said, Motorhead smash through their set with all the usual cheese and power and I, personally, remain unimpressed. I maintain that this is a band, once GODS of what they did but who now are riding out a wave that hasn’t really shifted direction in at least 15 years. That said, I often argue with myself over whether that opinion is based on the fact that I’ve seen them SO many times and they’ve put little effort into diversifying their set or show or whether it’s accurate, but sure, I sing along to the classics and their power (and volume) is unquestionable.
I duck out of the last Motorhead songs to undertake my third and final interview of the day with Soulfly‘s Marc Rizzo. A delay, as is standard, causes me to worry that I might miss Hang the Bastard but I manage to do the interview, quicker than I’d have liked, before sprinting in the boiling sun across to what can only be described as a secret entrance to the Village Hall stage. I squash myself in and immediately the throbbing sweatbox is a whirl of hair, feet and fists blissfully pounding along to the ‘riffs of Rice’ and company as they batter through numbers off their forthcoming album ‘Sex in the Seventh Circle’.
The atmosphere is enrapturing and horizontal pits divide the front from the back. The sound is perfect and balanced with each offering loved by the crowd. Nodding heads and beers held aloft help carry the set through and I plod out not only happily impressed but dead chuffed for the guys.
Hang The Bastard impressing once again at BST
I sprint back to catch Faith No More; one of my favourite bands of all time. At this point I’m literally feeling KOed from the perpetual sun and I’m feeling the beer, cider and wine mix but I stand there going nuts. Their set is almost beyond measure and as I think to myself “I’m so bloody glad they’re back together…”. Later I find out I’ve missed ‘Zombie Eaters’ and ‘From Out of Nowhere’, which is pretty annoying. But in contrast, I do get to see TWO new songs which I cannot wait to hear again on the record that is surely forthcoming. Despite the incredible performance, something seems missing from the day and I eventually understand that it’s not the band, or even the crowd, but the acoustics and lack of feeling that this is actually happening. It doesn’t feel like Faith No More at Download in 2009 and this time, it’s not the alcohol that’s tainting my opinion. It feels by the time they’re on, people are already starting to burn out (and it’s not even that late!).
That said, I thoroughly enjoy myself and sing along like I’ve been listening to them for almost 15 years (which of course, I have). The frustration of not catching my mates coupled with the literally scorching sun are making for a sweaty and tiresome mix and I sense I’m not the only one. All I keep telling myself is that “Faith No More are BACK” and with the vigour and power that will only send them further into the ‘God State’.
By now, I still can’t find anybody but Elwyn and we set about getting food during Soundgarden‘s set. I have made no secret that I am not a huge fan of Soundgarden (it’s still Alice in Chains for me) but I do own a few albums and that naturally includes ‘Superunknown’ which they are performing in it’s entirety. By the time they’re on, the sun is slowly cooling and the atmosphere is slowly calming down. This is, by all accounts, a fairly mature collection of people who are undoubtedly drawn by the various bands on offer who in some way have played an important part in their life.
However, it also seems that these same people feel the same way about the bands as they do the food stalls and EVERY SINGLE ONE has a snaking queue that you can’t quite believe is legitimate. “Surely this isn’t the queue?” murmurs all those unfortunate enough on a quest for something (anything) to eat.
Not to take away from the music, but this is a review of the festival as a whole and frankly it’s piss-poor on all fronts save for the line-up (and indeed cost, if you were so lucky to get one of the cheap tickets). I guess that very “accidental” debacle with the ticket sales which meant a lot of people payed almost £70 whilst a lot more (possibly more?) payed just £2.50 pretty much sums up the curiosity that British Summer Time is this year. In general, despite fantastic organisation at Sonisphere and Bloodstock (to name but two) the festivals are largely a slap in the face of decency and fairness. Sure, some great bands play but it costs far, far too much to go and it costs an unholy amount to get through the days.
Back to Soundgarden though and their sound is pretty beautiful; the tones and levels match perfectly for the falling sun but my main focus seems to be on how I am going to get some bloody food! After a good 45 minute wander and wait, I eventually settle for a steak sandwich (no, it wasn’t worth it) and sit down to watch them finish the album run-through. I couldn’t honestly say that I was enthralled nor was I paying as much attention to them as I had the other bands that day but for me, today was about Hang the Bastard, Faith No More and, of course, Black Sabbath.
Hello Mr Iommi!
Now, it’s widely rumoured (and at the very least is unsurprising) that it’s not likely there will be many more, if any more, Black Sabbath appearances. They are getting on, and whilst I have no doubt Tony and Geezer will continue until they literally drop dead, Ozzy is evidently feeling the strain. As the sirens ring out, the shirts come off and the smiles and horns wash over the gathered masses (see what I did there) as the eruption of pure POWER explodes with the opening riffs of ‘War Pigs’ and ‘Into the Void’. Ozzy is unable to move much without returning almost immediately to the support of his microphone stand but man, he can still belt them out. There’s little waver in his voice and even those here who DON’T (for whatever ludicrous reason) know much Sabbath material are clearly mesmerized by the majesty and outright awe that the swirling, dipping and moody light show is creating with this musical backdrop.
As the set goes on, we’re treated to a mix of old, very old and even recent material and each song sounds better than the last. Everyone is on form and session-drummer Tommy Clufetos continues his immense form with the band as he basically massacres the kit into submission. It’s really quite a surprise that the riser doesn’t collapse from the beating coming down from above.
‘Fairies Wear Boots’ rings out and by this point, the sky has dimmed enough to make the light-show that little bit more incredible. Still Ozzy’s voice carries and by the time they reach ‘Iron Man’ he barely needs to sing a damned word because of the chanting and general bellowing coming back from the crowd. I stand there grinning, briefly dropping back to thoughts of how much better this would be if I was with my mates, but I cannot help to think again “there is a REASON this band are such pioneers and outright GODS of musical history” and each note is played with such passion that it starts to ask the question “what’s the point of playing a hundred notes a minute if this is what you can do with 4?”. Bands inspired by the legacy and the output of Sabbath seldom come close to matching the pure passion and enchantment of what is simply incredible music, regardless of genre boundaries.
Black Sabbath – stunning music and imagery. Photo by Peter Corkhill.
I have been fortunate enough to see Black Sabbath before and Ozzy’s headline set at the last ever UK Ozzfest but tonight it’s really special. There’s something in the air that seems to feed the energy here; perhaps this really is the last time we’ll get to see this band play like this?
I really, truly hope that it isn’t because on the strength of the turn-out, the pleasure and the response of the crowd and the general incredible delivery of some of the greatest rock songs of all time, this is not only a highlight of my live-outgoings, but also a benchmark.
Shame the same can’t be said for the overall experience of British Summer Time…
- Back to the Primitive
- Arise / Dead Embryonic Cells *
- Roots Bloody Roots (w/ Igor Cavalera) *
- Jumpdafuckup / Eye for an Eye *
* Sepultura covers
- Damage Case
- Stay Clean
- Over the Top
- Lost Woman Blues
- Doctor Rock (with Drum Solo)
- Going to Brazil
- Killed by Death (w/ Whitfield Crane)
- Ace of Spades
HANG THE BASTARD
- Keeping Vigil
- Beyond the Pale
- Sex in the Seventh Circle
- Sweet Mother
FAITH NO MORE
- Zombie Eaters
- From Out of Nowhere
- The Gentle Art of Making Enemies
- Midlife Crisis
- Everything’s Ruined
- Cuckoo for Caca
- King for a Day
- Ashes to Ashes
- Superhero *
- Motherfucker *
- We Care a Lot
* New Songs
- War Pigs
- Into the Void
- Age of Reason
- Black Sabbath
- Behind the Wall of Sleep
- Bass Solo / N.I.B.
- Fairies Wear Boots
- Rat Salad (w/ Drum Solo)
- Iron Man
- God is Dead?
- Children of the Grave
- Sabbath Bloody Sabbath / Paranoid *
- Zeitgeist *