2014. What a year it’s been. Lemmy showed there’s still life in the old dog, trailers for Star Wars and Terminator movies proved franchises can be further run into the ground, U2 decided to give away their newest album for free; probably because no one sensible would actively buy a U2 album and Gene Simmons declared “rock is dead”. But that’s an argument for another day. In all aspects, 2014 has been incredible for me, certainly memorable. It’s been another exceptional year for gigs and if you’re in the UK and near a major city, we really don’t realise how lucky we are for tours.
After a drought of gigs for myself in January, missing out on Lamb of God, it was over to Edinburgh to witness the Quireboys intimately perform acoustically in mid-February. Allowing them to perform songs they don’t normally get the chance to and me making a rare visit to the capital, it was possibly their finest performance I’ve witnessed.
Less than two week later, Black Stone Cherry decided to hit the UK for a short run of intimate UK dates, kicking things off at Glasgow’s Barrowland Ballroom. It was my first time in there and while I often hear people revere the place, despite it being a sticky sweat-pit, both band and venue weren’t first rate. I’ve seen the Kentucky boys do better. After their O2 Academy performance a couple of years ago, they’ve got a job on their hands to beat it. A couple of days later and it was into my favourite venue, the O2 ABC for Blackberry Smoke. Being sold out after an upgrade from King Tut’s, I was left slack-jawed by the end. I’m not big on rock from the southern US but this was first rate. There was something magical about it. And with support from Million Dollar Reload who I’d been desperate to see for years, this was definitely great value for its cheap price.
March hit and after several missed opportunities, I was finally seeing Steel Panther. After a cringe-worthy support slot from the appropriately-named band the Cringe, Steel Panther had the Academy in the palm of their hand. Entertaining from the minute the curtain dropped, both during songs and speaking with the crowd, it was the O2 Academy on one of its better nights. A few nights later it was into King Tut’s for a co-headline gig with Scorpion Child and Monster Truck. With support coming in the form of Buffalo Summer, it was one of those nights where each band was on form and better than the last. Monster Truck rounded out the night and their heavy riffs causing me to have a stiff neck the next day on account of headbanging. Not bad for ten quid. Bonafide brought March to a close at the Cathouse, as tight as ever and proving that they should be playing much bigger venues. Support came from Bad Touch, a new personal favourite and seemingly always in a support capacity, generally first on the bill. I’ll get to see them in a headline slot one day. Local band Afterlife made things a lot heavier and while a great bunch of musicians, rather bland.
A week later and into April, a sold-out ABC for Halestorm. After seeing them support Alter Bridge and blow away Bullet For My Valentine last year, it was time to see them headline. Naturally they were fantastic, showing off their best material, tracks from their recent covers EP and a preview of a new song, they owned Glasgow. At the end of April and a mad scramble to find a last-minute ticket, the Temperance Movement showed the Queen Margaret Union what they had to offer. Rousing from the start, it was a homecoming for Glasgow-born frontman Phil Campbell who I met and interviewed before the show. A genuinely nice guy. I’ve never seen a band so infatuated with their own music.
May was a slow month. One gig at the start of the month in the form of Clutch. I knew one song but they were a band I’d been meaning to listen to for a while after liking a couple of their songs. What better way than via a live setting? After the impressive Lionize opened the show, Clutch grabbed the crowd and ran with them for dear life. It converted me into a fan and I can’t wait to see them again.
June is always a highlight in the calendar. Why? Download. While the line-up wasn’t quite as strong as previous years, I saw more bands than ever over the course of that weekend with the best weather yet. Avenged Sevenfold proved they have what it takes to headline a massive festival and I expect them to do it again. I chose Twisted Sister and Status Quo over Linkin Park despite their performance of seminal album “Hybrid Theory” in full. Though I’m told it was rather good, that album and the band itself were this year’s headliner that I didn’t care about and if they’re was something better elsewhere, I’d be there (thankfully there was). Alter Bridge were easily one of the highlights of the weekend, showing that after Avenged Sevenfold, they’re the next band to be at the top of the poster. Then, Aerosmith closed the night and the weekend. My initial excitement had died, even though my 14-year-old self would have been insanely jealous. They hit the stage and I was left speechless. One of the best headline performances I’ve seen at Download and the best that weekend.
With the rest of June and July dry, the end of August held the Graveltones. Playing in the tiny Stereo, they made an insane racket for a guitar and drums. Frantic and bluesy, it’s definitely one of the highlights for the year.
September was equally sparse with one of my all-time favourites the Virginmarys playing their home from home, Glasgow. Playing a mixture of songs from their debut “King of Conflict” and new material, it was raw, honest rock and roll. A raucous, sweaty, brilliant Friday night in Glasgow.
October saw me in the Garage for something other than the Quireboys; Skillet. The Christian rock outfit’s first headline Scottish show was surprisingly good, despite the bits of occasional preaching. Dodgy thing to do in Glasgow but they made up for it with a bloody good show, making me realise how under-rated a drummer Jen Ledger is. Blackberry Smoke returned to the ABC and I knew what to expect. Delivering another great show, this cemented my approval of the band with the ABC sounding just as good as always.
Black Stone Cherry were finally ready to hit the arenas of the UK with Airbourne and Theory of a Deadman in tow. Another great value for money ticket. After the poor “Magic Mountain” and the Barrowland performance, I was there for Airbourne and Theory of a Deadman. The guys from Theory had to battle the dreadful acoustics of the Hydro, sounding like I was in a tunnel but they gave a decent enough performance. Airbourne launched onto the stage, a mixture of sweat, hair, booze and riffs. Seeing them on a big stage like that showed how comfortable they were. A typical Airbourne show, it was everything you’d expect, despite the poor acoustics. Then I left, I don’t know how Black Stone Cherry were.
Early November and a last minute co-headline gig from Biffy Clyro and Slash played to a naturally sold out Academy for some MTV thing Glasgow were hosting. Who cares? I had to be there and I was. Queuing from 12 o’clock, I was at the front for Slash once again and while Biffy set the bar for the night, Slash, Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators blew them away. A week later and it was another turn to see Bad Touch open for another band. Buying my ticket purely for Bad Touch, I left once I heard Tyketto. Imagine Bon Jovi but worse (is that possible?) and nowhere near as successful. Nursing a hangover brought on by trying to forget Tyketto, Volbeat played a sold-out Barrowlands the following night. Again, not their finest performance and the Barrowlands still not winning me over on the basis of a venue, it was a great show nonetheless. BlackWolf the next night put on a short but sweet set at Audio in support of Blues Pills, sounding every bit as good in the flesh as they do on their album.
The Quireboys were back in their old stomping ground of Glasgow’s Garage. A band that never fails to deliver live, it didn’t match up to last year’s performance. A great set of songs and a crowd lapping it up for all they could but overall, falling short of the standard they set last year. Then it was off to Birmingham to see the Pretty Reckless and Heaven’s Basement after I missed the latter at the Cathouse with the Steel Panther gig in March. Heaven’s Basement were as entertaining as always, my friend commenting she’d want to hear more of them. Then the Pretty Reckless. Loud, flashy and relentless, the band blew the PA at one point and surprisingly entertaining. The only thing which ruined it was the boring and overly long drum solo during the encore. Seriously? A half-full Classic Grand for the recording of an upcoming live album by Eden’s Curse finished November.
Just into December, The Temperance Movement came back to Glasgow’s O2 ABC and obliterated their QMU show, despite their less-than-stellar support act. Slash returned to Glasgow’s Hydro for his properly scheduled full headline show and for two hours, the entire band put on one of the best performances I’ve seen from that band and overall. I won’t delve into the support acts or Hydro here, there’s a review for that. Back a few days later and Status Quo delivered a solid performance but fatigued by them after seeing them four times in the last year. Black Spiders took on the people of Glasgow in the Cathouse and showed they should be bigger than what they actually are. Rival Sons round out the year and they were nothing short of fantastic. Gallus Cooper is set to play the Classic Grand after Christmas with Maiden Scotland which should be a good night.
As for next year? That’s shaping up rather well. Slipknot, Royal Blood, Halestorm, Theory of a Deadman, Foo Fighters, AC/DC and let’s not forget the already fantastic-looking Download line-up.
Gun to my head, my top 10 of 2014 would be:
- Slash – Hydro 04.12.14
- The Virginmarys – O2 ABC 2 26.09.14
- Blackberry Smoke – O2 ABC 28.02.14
- Monster Truck/Scorpion Child – King Tut’s 22.03.14
- The Graveltones – Stereo 23.08.14
- The Temperance Movement – O2 ABC 02.12.14
- Skillet – Garage 12.10.14
- Steel Panther – O2 Academy 19.03.14
- Halestorm – O2 ABC 05.04.14
- Black Spiders – Cathouse 08.12.14