Countdown: 2008: Gigs

So, for the last part of my run-down of my 2008 musical highlights, here are my top ten gigs of the year. When compiling the list, I realised I haven’t actually been to anywhere near as many gigs as I thought I had been this year. Still, only two (Ladytron and Ministry, since you ask) were actually really poor, so it’s not been a bad year.

While the rest of the festival was dogged by poor sound and organisation, in the main (although the huge delays in some cases worked out well to allow me to see bands I wouldn’t otherwise have seen), Onslaught were a revelation. A reformed 80s thrash band that delivered exactly what was expected, and perhaps the surprise was just how fantastic the new songs were too. For once, a throwback that felt fresh.

Who would have thought that a band with their tongue wedged so far in cheek could be this great? A punk-metal band basing their look and sound on Arnold Schwarzenegger films, each song being based on a different film (sorry, “Austrian folk tale”), and the band remain in character for the whole set. Enormous fun, very silly, but it all even works on album too.

A bit of a blast from the past, this one, but it was every bit as good – and better, perhaps – that I had hoped. Digging deep into the band’s lengthy back catalogue, this was a show in the main for a large group of devoted fans who knew pretty much every word, and was awesome. Here’s hoping I don’t have to wait so long next time for them to return to the UK.

Talking of devoted fans, this gig had a fair few of them, too – and was similarly a delve into a back catalogue that made for a mesmerising gig. Of particular note was the astonishing acoustic interlude – the kind of interlude that would usually send giggoers rushing to the bar, which instead had everyone transfixed.

These Belgians have been a well-kept secret for some fifteen years now, which is kinda mystifying. How exactly have they never been more successful? A set that drew from all their albums, didn’t skimp on time either, and was proof that this band are still as great as they always were.

An awesome opening act for Infest 2008, featuring cardboard robots, synchronised dancing, some shit-kicking industrial beats and more than anything, 30 minutes of sheer entertainment. Oh, and extra points for Rickrolling the festival.

There was actually only one way that Coreline could be bettered, as it turned out, in terms of effort – and this was the big surprise of the festival, at least for those of us unfamiliar with their spectacular show. 5F-X came onstage in strange alien costumes, prodded some buttons, interacted with the spaceship debris onstage, played some great bleepy music, and danced with the crowd. Possibly the most bizarre live show I’ve ever seen, and most certainly one of the most entertaining.

Nothing special onstage for this band, just an hour or so of brutal, technical hardcore that left our jaws on the floor right from the off. Despite the accusations of the band selling-out somewhat with a more melodic sound at points, live this was nothing like the truth, and watching the gig from the photo pit in the main I had moments of worrying about exactly what was going to happen next – particularly after the guitarist leapt into the crowd right above my head, while playing the guitar…

One of those bands I had waited years to see – and seeing as they were the band that were my entry point into industrial music this was a little bit special for me. The whole set was an awesome mix of new and old tracks, helping to prove along the way just why Front 242 are revered as one of the most influential bands in the industrial scene.

I’ve already waxed lyrical about how bloody great the album is, but it was the live show that really clinched my appreciation of the album. And the word “show” is particularly important here – from the two marvellous support acts, to the performance/dance group that were onstage with Amanda, to the props, the flow of the set, the hilarious “Ask Amanda” interlude, oh, and the songs. And what songs! A mix of solo material and reworkings of Dresden Dolls material, not a moment was wasted and the whole thing was fantastic entertainment. Yes, even the raucous cover of Living On A Prayer to finish…

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