Let’s be honest, the last few UK summers have been somewhat lacking in iconic rock performances. But, like buses, you wait ages for one great gig, then several come along at once, and this summer we’ve been so thoroughly spoilt for live music that it may even make up for the last few years of Adele, Kanye West and *shudders* Take That.
But while the likes of Flogging Molly, Dropkick Murphys and Coldplay have all given memorable performances, three bands I was lucky enough to see this summer have stood head and shoulders above the rest. Who? Read on to find out…
Guns N’ Roses – London Stadium – June 16 & 17
No one ever really thought this would happen, least of all the band themselves. When he was asked in 2012, frontman Axl Rose said “not in this lifetime”.
Not to be cynical, but if you can sell a million tickets in under a minute, each one costing a minimum of £120, it’s not so hard to see why Axl and his former bandmates managed to put their differences aside in the name of rock n’ roll and a truckload of cash.
But, scepticism aside, I was as excited as anyone about the ironically-named Not in this Lifetime… tour. Still, there was an element of doubt. What if they don’t have what it takes anymore? What if they show up late or storm off after 20 minutes? Or what if Axl just doesn’t turn up at all?
The eye-watering ticket prices and average age of the audience initially give the crowd a bit of an Oldchella vibe. The care-free Guns fans of the 90s have now got grown-up jobs, grey hairs and mortgages. I overhear one guy near me bragging that he’d bought his pristine GNR t-shirt from Next. Yup, that’s right: Next. The home of the middle-aged and the middle-class. This is hardly the “Paradise City” I’d been hoping for.
To be fair, I’d been pretty annoyed that security had banned me from taking my M&S picnic into the stadium. I mean really, what kind of damage and I going to do with a packet of pastries and a bag of Percy Pigs? Still, let’s face it, I’m probably no more hardcore than all the Waitrose regulars around me.
Luckily, none of this matters come showtime. The second Axl storms on stage to deafening applause, we’re all reckless teenagers again. We jump, we sing, we scream. Thousands of carpal tunnel hands form devil horns in the sky as we forget that most of us type for a living.
Slash looks as effortlessly cool as ever. Axl is older, chubbier and bang on time. Is it even him? He starts to sing and I’m convinced. His voice is just as distinctive and powerful as it was on Appetite for Destruction 30 years ago.
Rather than toying with the crowd, they go straight for their big hits. By the time “Welcome to the Jungle” comes on four songs in, I have no voice left and I’m hugging total strangers. It’s almost spiritual.
There is such a universal acceptance that this night is something special that even the famously egotistical Axl Rose tells the crowd “you’re too kind” as we all scream 24 years’ worth of love for one of the most iconic rock bands of all time.
Not in this lifetime? Mercenary or not, we’re so glad they changed their minds.
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Foo Fighters – Glastonbury – June 24
Glastonbury-goers had to wait a long time to see the Foo Fighters on the Pyramid Stage. The band were set to headline in 2015, but Dave Grohl was forced to cancel when he broke his leg and subsequently the hearts of all UK rock fans.
“I’m about two years late, I’m sorry,” Grohl says as he finally takes to the stage. “Traffic was a bitch.”
No problem, Dave. You’re worth the wait.
Grohl hinted earlier in the week that he had “something special” planned for Glastonbury. With other bands, “something special” could mean a laser show, special guests or even light-up wristbands for the audience (thanks for that, Coldplay).
But the Foo Fighters’ idea of ‘something special’, it would seem, is walking out on stage and delivering an entirely gimmick-free performance. Which, to be honest, is exactly what we were hoping for.
The atmosphere is always incredible at Glastonbury. But there’s something about Dave Grohl that lifts the crowd to the next level. Perhaps it’s his natural charisma, powerful voice or the fact that he was in Nirvana. Whatever it is, he has us all in the palm of his hand for the entire set.
And what a set it is. After a brief intro in which he paid tribute to Florence Welch, who stepped in for him in 2015, the band launches straight into “Times Like These”. Then it’s “All My Life” and “Learn to Fly”. It’s easy to forget just how many mega-hits the Foo Fighters have.
Grohl intersperses his heavy rock set with a few slower tracks so we can catch our breath, as well as a couple of Queen covers for good measure. This is Britain after all.
The band also plays a few tracks from its upcoming album, Concrete and Gold, which is due out in September – pre-order the CD, vinyl, CD and t-shirt pack or vinyl and t-shirt pack today – and these new songs have all the raw power we’ve come to expect from the Foos, without any of the Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace we got from them in 2007.
Towards the end of the show, Dave Grohl pauses. The crowd, fearful that he might be planning an early exit, start chanting “10 more songs”. Because why would you ever ask the Foos for less than that?
While Grohl doesn’t quite make it to the extra 10 we asked for, the band carries on right up to the curfew, finishing with Everlong. Which felt pretty appropriate, as it felt like we had waited here for him for a really long time.
And with a new album out, we hopefully won’t have to wait quite so long until they come back again.
In the mood for Foos? Check out our range of Foo Fighters merchandise.
Green Day – Hyde Park – July 1
I’ll be honest, going to this gig was a bit of a last-minute decision. Tickets don’t come cheap after all, and I’ve seen Green Day live a few times before. But the car got through its MOT so I used the money I would have spent making it road-worthy on Green Day tickets. Because why wouldn’t you?
And it turned out to be an excellent decision.
Nothing puts you in the mood for a night of moshing quite like a full day of sunshine and knockout punk-rock performances from the likes of Rancid, the Hives, the Damned and the Stranglers.
After a mass singalong to “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Blitzkrieg Bop”, Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool run onto the stage. They lap up the adulation of 60,000 screaming fans and, without a word, they launch straight into “Do You Know Your Enemy”.
“Jump jump jump jump jump”, Billie Joe commands. And that’s exactly what we do for almost the next three hours.
They hit us with a couple of songs from Revolution Radio. I’ve got to say, while I didn’t instantly love the studio versions of some of those songs (with the obvious exception of “Still Breathing” of course) the live versions are fantastic, particularly the title track and “Bang Bang”.
I’m converted. Green Day rule supreme. At this point, I might even be willing to give ¡Uno!, ¡Dos! and ¡Tré! another go.
But it’s not all new stuff. They play hit after hit, clearly feeding off the incredible atmosphere.
“I swear to God, I fucking love this country so much”, Billie Joe tells us and it’s clear the feeling’s mutual.
The frontman can’t resist making a couple of jibes about Donald Trump, as well as Justin Bieber, who’s headlining at Hyde Park the day after. He can tell he’s preaching to the choir as we all cheer and punch our fists in the air.
After two and a half hours of non-stop rocking, they finish with “American Idiot” and “Jesus of Suburbia”. Then Billie Joe comes back on to do a second encore without the rest of the band. It’s just him and his guitar and us. It feels strangely intimate despite the crowds as we all sing along to 21 Guns.
The gig closes with Green Day’s trademark final song, “Good Riddance (Time of your Life)”.
“It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right. I hope you had the time of your lives.”
We really did.
Don’t want to be an American Idiot? Check out our range of Green Day merchandise.
We’d like to hear from you: who else from the world of rock and metal has killed it on stage this summer? Let us know in the comments below or on the EMP Facebook page!