SLIPKNOT/KORN - Cardiff Motorpoint Arena
Turning rebellion into money...
The above lyric was written nearly four decades ago by a band that constantly walked a fine line between credibility and commercialism. Given tonight's showing it seems that the mantra remains alive and well.
Cardiff Motorpoint Arena is one of the newer gargantuan venues that bands of a certain stature now play. With a maximum capacity of 7,500 it is unlikely that most people will see the whites of the performers eyes (especially through their masks), but will merely have to content themselves with paying £4.50 for a can of beer or £2.50 for a coke. When added to a ticket price of nearly £40 (with obligatory booking fees) and mandatory tour t shirt at £25 each, you are looking at shelling out a hefty wedge before Iowa's finest have even left the sanctuary of their 5 star hotel, let alone donned their disguises .
However, given Slipknots popularity it is difficult to see what alternative the band have. They have to play such venues needing, as they do, to maximize the number of people who can see them play live and thereby making a tour of the far flung UK financially viable.
But I think what sets them apart, and it has to be said certain other rock bands, is they peddle an aura of rebelliousness to their audience. It seems that by following the band you are somehow an outsider who sets your own rules and does not bow down to the corporate dollar. However, realistically is there much difference here than in seeing say Bon Jovi or Maroon 5 (except perhaps for the number of times "Motherf*cker" is said from the stage!)?
Big ticket prices breed an audience that expects, nay demands, huge stage backdrops, mesmeric lighting rigs, mammoth video screens and fire and smoke aplenty. However, it has to be said that it has always been thus in rock music. From the Rolling Stones, Led Zepplelin, Sex Pistols, Guns'n'Roses, Nirvana, et ad infinitum, countless bands have said "we mean it maaan!", whilst simultaneously lightening your wallet in the process. And the saddest thing of all is that ultimately none of it really matters. For the music of both of tonight's bands speaks for its self and doesn't actually need the ancillary accoutrements that are now deemed a necessity of big gigs.
OK rant over. So what about the gig? Openers Korn were truly pioneering in the early/mid Nineties and helped launch a new and vibrant musical genre in Nu Metal. It surprised me that a band of their standing would be playing second fiddle and I wondered if this indicated some sort of fall from grace for the band. Not afforded the full whistles and bells stage set up of Slipknot, they remained unfailing entertaining with a certain amount of self depreciation. I struggle to think of any other band, rock or otherwise, who use bagpipes as an integral part of their stage act, or of a lead singer who proudly sports a kilt on stage. Giving a greatest hits run through, they cram in "Y'All Want a Single", "Right Now", "Falling Away From Me", "Shoots and Ladders", "Blind" and "Freak on a Leash", in a haze of dreadlocks and thrashing heads and easily fulfill their role as warm up to the 18 legged metal monster.
The interlude saw a huge curtain draped over the stage behind which the silhouettes of roadies could clearly be seen furiously preparing the stage for oncoming maelstrom. When darkness fell over the arena and the eerie strains of XIX rang out the natives become restless and a guttural sound rose as they prepared themselves to worship at the black alter of their metal gods. Finally the curtain ascended to reveal a stage festooned with lighting gantries, skeletal backdrops, ramps, gigantic devils/goats head, pyrotechnics, moving platforms etc that would have done credit to a Dante's Inferno.
Minus two members from the original line up - one sadly to an overdose and the other from artistic differences - they had updated their masks to coincide with their new album. Bizarrely from the back where I was located, lead singer Corey Taylor's now looks like a little old man demonically running about the stage. Mayhem ensues as they mix old tracks with those from their latest release .5:The Gray Chapter. There's no doubting the sheer intensity and aural bombardment of numbers like "Sarcastrophe", "My Plague" and "The Heretic Anthe", all of which were lapped up by the adoring audience.
However, I think the band are over staffed and perhaps should consider downsizing. As my Gashead companion so succinctly pointed out, they appear to have 4 Bez's in the band. It is unclear (to my ears anyway) what the Clown, 133, DJ Sid Wilson and Chris Fehn actually contribute, as any input they make appears to be drowned out by the engine room of the band (i.e. the guitars and drums). Splitting royalties between 5 surely makes more sense than 9 lads?
Still this seemed to matter little to the assembled throng, who happily raised devil horns or middle fingers where applicable and thrashed away merrily for the entirety of proceedings. There is little light and shade, just an almost continuous rolling thunder that spits out (no pun intended) numbers like "Spit it Out", "Duality" and "Left Behind". Corey Taylor occasionally interacts with the crowd by attempting successfully a greeting in Welsh and thankfully, unlike 2008, remembers which country Cardiff is in (not England!).
Returning for an encore of (sic), "People = Shit" and "Surfacing", it is difficult not to be impressed by the professionalism of the show and clearly the swaying humanity present tonight are more than happy to answer the band's clarion call. Enjoyable without doubt, but I still have a sense that everything is pre determined. The fact that band members rise into the stratosphere on pneumatic lifts, while lights are synchronized to fit each track, not to mention the impressive jets of fire that run horizontally the length of the stage, it gives a certain predetermined feel to proceedings. I cannot realistically see how they deviate from the pre ordained set list, which must be the same each night, so coordinate are the effects to each song. Therefore there is a certain lack of overall spontaneity about proceedings.
However, do the audience of metal heads give a f*ck? Not on your Motherf*cking life!. They are happy to see their demi-gods in the flesh and are prepared to pay the price for doing so. Perhaps I'm seeing a time that no longer exists, where bands played small to medium size venues and merely performed their songs on a stage bereft of anything other than a few towels and cans of Red Stripe, where the set list was fluid and if they felt like deviating off course they would, where there was no barrier and you were literally squashed in front of singer or guitarist inches from their toes. But it appears those days are gone, at least for bands as big as Slipknot, and who is to say that its for the worst? Certainly not their faithful maggots who crammed Cardiff Motorpoint Arena to the rafters tonight.
Picx below from the gig from The Motorpoint's Facebook page