There’s a solid case to be made that Gojira are the heaviest band to ever headline venues like the Cardiff International Arena. Uncompromising and incomparable, the French quartet have earned their status as a band of this size through the consistent quality of their music and their reputation as a water-tight live band. As one of the last tours to finally get underway after being pushed back over the last few years, Gojira’s Fortitude tour finally arrived in the Welsh capital as did the people’s metal band.
Before the band that shares their name with the king of the monsters took to the stage, Employed To Serve (8) kicked things off. Another band that has always captured unwavering love from their fanbase, ETS greatly benefitted from their set taking place an hour after doors opened, as should always be the case. The combination of Justine Jones’ ferociousness and the lead playing from Sammy Urwin are the stars of the show here. Playing material from their two previous releases feels like the smart choice and the tracks selected from 2021’s Conquering seem to go down the best. ETS are a fantastic choice to open this tour and with their similarities in sound to Gojira, they’re sure to win plenty of fans over. Dependable.
Alien Weaponry (7) takes to the stage second, with a big amount of support from the large crowd gathered by this point. The best parts of their set are when they lean heavily into what makes them unique, their New Zealand backgrounds and songs that are performed in te reo M?ori. They clearly have the charisma and ability to take that somewhere so when it is front and centre, like the band taking to the stage whilst the drummer performs the haka, it doesn’t feel like too much of a crutch. It’s when the music starts to sound like a vast number of metal bands with a change in dialect where it loses its internal strength. There’s some great grooves and stomping riffs and the band themselves are an entertaining live act. The material on display here though still feels like it’s identity is still coming together.
From the moment the curtain starts to light up with strobes for the opening of Born For One Thing before crashing down, it’s clear that the stories are true. Their fans would say that one of the key reasons why a band that does have such a heavy sound connects with so many people so deeply is because you can feel it. The Cardiff International Arena can testify to this. It’s immediately apparent that through both the songwriting and their performances on stage, there’s a physical feeling of weight that goes alongside their hefty sound.
Speaking of the actual sonics of a Gojira (10) live show, there’s two things that are always brought up wherever they perform and both were key highlights of the night. Their live mix is one of the best in the business and that helps their impact feel like such a physical force. The other part is their tightness as a collective, all anchored by the part-man/part-octopus that is Mario Duplantier on drums. Gojira have that aura around them where they don’t need to be charismatic and energetic on stage, they’re so respected as musicians that their presence is enough. On this occasion, whether it was sarcastic or not remains unclear, Joe Duplantier seemed to engage in between-song conversation with the crowd only to demand more from them.
When people talk about bands making that step-up into the biggest venues in the UK, the talk of stadium-sized songs is a key element. Gojira have definitely produced more songs in recent years that feel more at home in a larger environment. The prime example of this will always be Silvera and Stranded (alongside the likes of Another World and their newest release Our Time Is Now) off of 2016’s Magma that should entice anyone with a passing interest in metal. They still feel so different though compared to what most bands would consider their more approachable and wider reaching material. Though unique they may be, they serve the exact same purpose and feel like absolute behemoths of moments in the live set.
With a 17-song setlist, they’re able to offer a little bit of everything aside from their first two albums. The following five releases all get a looking as well as their latest one-off single. Their relationship with their fans is such a strong bond and you can feel that in their more patient tracks like Flying Whales and The Art of Dying. It’s so unique to hear songs in that vein performed in arenas. The respect for the art at the centre of what they do is on full show here where transitions and riffs are the stars of the show. There’s nothing immediate about some of the selections in their setlist but it’s the feeling of reaping the rewards of investing so much into these pieces of music that makes them feel so satisfying in a live environment.
Gojira’s music has always been about the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. They’re such intricate and precise artists that still manage to make it about the bigger picture. What is so special about their live show is that they’re able to both dial you right into the moment whilst letting you get lost in the ocean. For how universal and widescreen their music is, at the end of the day, it comes down to the four men on stage who are such masters of their craft that they could go toe-to-toe with any live act in the world. Whether it was chants in support of the country they were playing in or endorsement of the marine mammals that the band is so closely linked with, the people in Cardiff made their voices heard by showing up to support such a unique and uncompromising band.
Photos captured by Emma Stone at the Manchester show, check out more photos on the gallery below: