It might have only been just over a year since their last visit to the second city – and a few months since they headlined last summer’s Download Festival – but a visit from Slipknot is, and always will be, a big deal, so it’s no surprise to see a packed out arena ready for an evening with Iowa’s most famous masked exports.
The Des Moines nine piece take to the stage right after ‘Ashes to Ashes’ plays out over the PA in tribute to the late David Bowie and immediately set to work ripping through The Negative One, Disasterpiece and Eyeless at a furious pace. The band members might all be approaching middle age but there is no let up in intensity when it comes to a Slipknot live experience – they are still heavy, intimidating and exciting almost 20 years after they broke through.
Given the strength of Slipknot’s complete body of work, it’s no surprise that tonight’s setlist is full of bangers; there are plenty of cuts from their most recent album ‘.5: The Gray Chapter’ as well as the obvious classics, but perhaps most interestingly is how heavily material from ‘Iowa’, the band’s darkest and heaviest work, features – songs like I Am Hated and Everything Ends don’t get aired all that often and it’s wonderful to hear them belted out.
While the idea of watching a band with nine members could sound chaotic – and in many ways, it is exactly that – it does mean that you’re never short of something to look at during a Slipknot. While vocalist Corey Taylor is their natural leader on stage, there is entertainment to be had everywhere, from the dancing and stage diving of DJ Sid Wilson, via percussionists Chris Fehn and Clown being pumped up and down and spun around on their huge drum sets through to giant guitarist Mick Thompson staring maniacally through his mask. Just as they’ve been doing their entire career, a Slipknot gig is the finest piece of metal theatre you can imagine, and something that always delivers.
The ‘Knot’s set flies by, particularly when they shift into top gear for the final 40 minutes or so and fire a collection of songs that would beat the entire back catalogue of most other bands hands down; who else can give you the guitar majesty of Pyschosocial, the all-time classic Wait and Bleed and one of the greatest singalongs in heavy music ever written in the form of Duality?
It doesn’t let up there – the band bring it right back to their newest work with The Devil In I, before dipping back to Iowa again to play Metabolic for the first ever time in Birmingham. Now, the latter was very much a treat for the large number of die hard fans here tonight, but it was probably the only point of the night where the crowd seemed quiet. If I’m being honest I would have preferred to hear New Abortion or, as has been played on most other dates on this run, the fantastic Custer.
After ripping through (sic) the band comes back for three more. First up was Surfacing – the anthem that defined a generation when this band broke, before yet another dip into Iowa for a blast through Left Behind. After that, there was only one was to end, with the immense Spit It Out, complete with the usual midpoint where Corey Taylor manages to get an entire arena to crouch down and stay down until he shouted the immortal command to ‘jump the fuck up’. The band built up, Corey told us to jump and we all leapt upwards to round off a cracking night.
My only complaint would be around the length of their set – for an arena band with five albums to pick from, an hour and a half seemed a little too short. The crowd was ready for more and thinking about what songs that didn’t make the cut tonight that could also have been included only makes my mouth water. However, I guess there’s always next time – whether that ends up being a matter of months or a couple of years, you can sign me up right now.
Review and photographs: Dave Musson