Werchter Boutique is a single-stage festival located at the Festivalpark in Werchter, Belgium. We had a half hour train trip out of Brussels followed by a 15 minute charter bus to the park, which is out in the countryside. The expected attendance for the day was 52,000.
Our bus pulled up just before these guys went on stage, but we missed the first couple of songs as we still had a twenty minute walk/line-up to get in. We did finally get in and managed to catch most of the set. Ghost is not a band I was familiar with before the concert, although I had heard good things about them and their latest CD was on my “to pick up” list.
Ghost have an interesting stage show – they were all in costume. Most of the band were in white robes, Spanish Inquisition style. The lead singer was in ceremonial robes similar to what the Pope would wear, but with his face painted like a skull. Combined with their stage backdrop of a somewhat spooky cathedral, they were obviously looking to create a certain atmosphere. Unfortunately that atmosphere wasn’t really compatible with a huge festival ground at 1.30 in the sunny afternoon. They must have been sweating their arses off.
But enough of the peripheral; how were the songs? Pretty good. There were an interesting mix of doom, metal and prog. The tracks were good at building tension with long stretched out notes and funeral pace sections before letting loose with some kicking riffs and more traditional rock structures. Overall, at the end of their set I am still keen to pick up their CD when I get home.
Gojira are undoubtedly one of my favourite bands of the last few years. Their riff-driven, high energy brand of death metal is a dominating force in metal right now. So it is strange for me to find them placed so early in the line-up (as was also the case at Soundwave earlier in the year). They made the best of it however, putting on a strong show which covered a good cross section of their material.
The basically played an extended version of the set I saw at Soundwave, with some modern day classics from their last two albums (among the set list was “Flying Whales”, “Vacuity”, “Backbone” and “The Heaviest Matter of the Universe”) but they also managed to pull in a few tracks from their first two albums. The only new material on display was the title track of their new album, L’Enfant Sauvage, which translated well into live performance. I am keen to hear more but it will have to wait until we are set up in Seattle.
Had never heard of these guys before; apparently they are a home grown Belgium band and have had at least one big hit. I wasn’t expecting much and wasn’t surprised with what I got. Generic nu-metal influenced hard rock with some pretty banal lyrics (the first track was about “Hot Summer”). They did have moderate crowd support, but Tanya and I found some shade under a tree and waited these guys out.
Another of my favourite bands, and another band that I saw at Soundwave earlier in the year. The majority of their set featured material from The Hunter, which suited me just fine, as I am a fan of their more laid back straight rocking tunes as much as I am of their winding progressive star-gazing. Songs from their earlier albums did get a look in (I don’t think they can get away without playing “Blood and Thunder” at every show). Some of my favourite songs came later in the set with “Curl of the Burl” rocking hard and “Creature Lives” hitting the softer notes.
Perhaps the most mainstream band on the ticket, Seattle’s somewhat recently reunited Soundgarden played a strong set with it’s share of hits. I’m not really familiar with them other than the songs most people know (“Black Hole Sun”, “Jesus Christ Pose”, etc). I guess this just proves how uncool a teen I was back in the 90s. To be honest, while I was paying some attention to the stage, we used this time to explore the festival grounds a bit and get some more food/drink/waffles.
The crowd finally perked up when Metallica were ready to go. After the traditional “Ecstasy of Gold” video clip to warm up, they opened with “Hit the Lights” and proceeded to play a few classics from their earlier albums (“Master of Puppets” and “Ride the Lightning”), and, as their only post-1991 song, “Hell and Back” from the recent Beyond Magnetic EP. The track is pretty good and the band clearly enjoyed playing it but the crowd reaction was flat; I doubt many people had heard it before. They picked right up again when “For Whom the Bell Tolls” came on though.
Then the guys ducked off-stage and it was time for the black album playthrough. A short intro movie made up of scenes from the year and a half documentary of the making of and release of their self titled monster. The started with “The Struggle Within” and proceeded to run through the black album in reverse. It was a bit surprised initially but in restrospect of course you want to save “Enter Sandman” (or as Tanya calls it, “Exit Night”) for last. It was good to hear a few of the less frequently played tracks, like “Through the Never” and “The God That Failed”. My personal favourites were “My Friend of Misery” and “Sad But True”; which got the crowd moving but was slightly spoiled when a couple of angry bogans had a fight right behind us (a pretty nasty one too – kids, please don’t kick someone when they’re down).
The black album being what it is, half the songs were all-time classics and the crowd ate them up – “Nothing Else Matters”, “The Unforgiven”, “Wherever I May Roam” and “Enter Sandman” all had everyone in the crowd singing along. But even the, ah, leftover tracks had the crowd involved (one particular gentleman, somewhat inebriated, was very psyched to scream the “Who the hell are you?” line from “Holier Than Thou”, though his timing was a little off).
“Enter Sandman” also signalled the start of the nights pyrotechnics display, which also included “One”, “Battery” and the closer, “Seek and Destroy”. Flames and flares a plently, earning more than one “ooohhh” from Tanya :). An exciting end to a great set and a great night.
Sweet! Sounds like a great experience, what do they call bogas in Belgium?