At the risk of being accused of gross self-indulgence, I would like to take some time today to reminisce about my favourite gig of all time. Of course, it has nothing to do with the fact that, with a new born baby in the house, I’m sleep deprived and in desperate need of a reminder of how easy and carefree life used to be! So, on that note, here goes…
Even some eight or nine years on from that night, when I think back on some of the events of that concert, I get goosebumps and I cannot help smiling broadly. The concert in question has been immortalised on DVD under the apt moniker of ‘A Night To Remember’ and yet again, it is the Swedish melodic progressive metal band Evergrey that provided the musical magic at the centre of this event. Everyone will have a favourite gig for sure and, for me, this is ‘the one’.
A few weeks prior to the gig, I was surfing the ‘Net and after clicking onto the Evergrey website, I hit upon a discovery. Dry-mouthed, I sent a text to my friend Simon, the owner of the independent record store ‘It’s Electric’ in Colchester. ‘Are you up for seeing Evergrey in Sweden?’ I asked as nonchalantly as possible. When he replied positively, I knew I had to make it happen.
The news article on the Evergrey website was confirmation that the band were looking to record their very first live DVD. The concert was due to take place at the Storan in Gothenburg and the quintet was looking for as many fans to attend as possible. To that end, the news article carried an offer to overseas fans – get yourselves to Sweden and you’d get into the gig for free via the guest list.
As per the instructions, I fired off an email directly to the then bassist, Michael Hakansson. It wasn’t long before a reply was received and it was all systems go. Flights and hotels were booked and I turned my attention to Ebay for the next part of the plan.
We decided that we wanted to make an effort when attending the gig and came up with the idea of getting big flags each and wearing them as capes – the Metal Knights from the UK! I purchased one Union Jack for the UK and one flag of St George to represent England.
The day dawned and we were up at an ungodly hour to catch a flight to Gothenburg. It didn’t matter though, as the excitement was building and the adrenaline was flowing ahead of my very first overseas gig. The flight was uneventful and we arrived at Gothenburg airport midmorning. Welcomed by beautifully crisp and sunny early autumn weather, the day was spent looking around the city and taking in the sights.
We arrived at the Storan in plenty of time for the show, bedecked in our flag ‘capes’. Looking back, I’m sure we looked a bit silly, but we didn’t care – we were there to have fun. As good as their word, we were on the guest list but better, a group of us ‘foreigners’ were ushered into the venue and offered a position right at the very front by the stage. Elated, I took in the surroundings of the Storan, a beautifully grand and ornate theatre. Whilst awaiting Evergrey to take the stage, Simon and I got talking to lots of people, many locals who were shocked and surprised that the two of us had made the journey to Sweden just to see Evergrey. There was a certain amount of pride though as well, because here was a local band that had the eyes of the world on them and were loved by fans far and wide.
Of all the people we met that evening, two remain very special friends to this day; Annette and Daniel had travelled from Germany and they found themselves at the front with us and we spent much of the night, pre and post gig chatting away about our mutual love for music and Evergrey in particular. A couple of years later, we were guests of Daniel and Annette for 2007’s Bang Your Head Festival in Balingen (more on this adventure in a future blog!)
Those of you who have seen the DVD or any footage of the gig, will know just how special this show was. Evergrey were on fire and, split into two halves, ripped through an amazing ‘best of’ set that included all of my personal favourite songs. In the second half, the band were also joined on stage by a string quartet, adding yet another impressive element to the experience.
I banged my head, threw the ‘metal horns’ and sang my heart out from start to finish. For the first time ever I lost myself completely in the music, letting it take me over entirely. Much of the gig itself is a bit of a blur, although a few moments still stand out. The camera swooping overhead taking a bird’s eye view of the crowd; shaking hands with a complete stranger during a moment of pure elation as ‘As I Lie Here Bleeding’ blasted through the venue; Tom Englund taking my flag of St George and posing for photos in front of me. These are all wonderfully vivid memories that I still treasure to this day.
After the gig, everyone was invited to an after show party upstairs in the venue. The band were in attendance throughout as the alcohol and laughter flowed. As the evening drew on, a trip to a local metal club was suggested by the band and their close friends. Simon and I tagged along until in the early hours of the morning, exhaustion kicked in and we headed for the hotel.
The weekend was a massive success and enormously enjoyable. It links in to my blog on the ‘metal family’ too, because I can’t imagine artists in other genres of music offering fans free access into gigs just so that they can share the experience. It is part of what makes metal special and unique.
Imagine my delight too, that my ‘handshake’ moment was not only caught on camera and included on the DVD but was listed as one of the best things about the DVD by a member of the Ultimate Metal forum. Check it out here – yes those are my massive sideburns and long hair singing along at 1:40 and the ‘handshake’ can be seen at 2:38!