Gig Review Dragonforce and Alestorm Shepherds Bush Empire

Gig Review Dragonforce Live at Shepherds Bush Empire

Support Act: Alestorm 8/10

I rarely review support acts but Alestorm deserve special mention because they were really good! A group that don’t take themselves too seriously Alestorm’s official genre is ‘pirate metal’… Scottish pirate metal to be specific.

I only knew two songs before I went in and they only played one of them. Never the less the sound was tight, the between-song banter was hilarious but the most amazing element of this show was the audience response. The crowd was ****ing loving it! Boisterous morris dancing, furious circle pits, fists pumping and plastic cutlasses literally being thrown into the air. Many pirate costumes were placed throughout the crowd and a lot of people were screaming the words, a Dragonforce fan could be mistaken for thinking they turned up to the wrong gig. Even I managed to pick a few lines here and there (‘rum’ and ‘yo-ho-ho’ mainly, there was also some mention of sawing midgets in half).

Anybody remember the hoedown scenes in ‘Pirates of the Carribean’ set in Tortuga? Imagine that cross- bred with an Alice Cooper gig and that’s pretty much it. Highlights involved ‘Nancy the Tavern Wench’ and ‘Buckfast Powersmash’ (I swear I’m not making this up).

Main Event@ Dragonforce 4/10

Dragonforce Gig Review

\ Dragonforce Gig Review

Now it was time for the main event, Dragonforce. Before we get on with the review I would like to fast forward time to the morning after the gig when I awoke to receive a text message from a friend who asked me two questions concerning the band’s performance:

1) How did new singer Marc Hudson compare to ZP Theart?,

2) Can they really play the ludicrously fast solos in ‘Through the Fire and Flames’ at full speed at a live show?

Based exclusively on the show I had just witnessed, I had one honest answer to both those questions: I’ve got no bloody idea!

That in short sums up the audio quality of the concert. From the moment Dragonforce took to the stage with ‘holding on’ their set was absolutely plagued with sound issues. For starters Marc Hudson’s microphone was broken and kept turning off for the first 3 songs. Eventually he resorted to taking one of the backing vocalist’s mics to complete the show.

The performance was, for the most part, a tragic mess with the drums dominating everything. Even when Hudson’s mic did work he was barely audible. The guitars were not balanced well with Herman Li being significantly louder than Sam Totman, so when it came to one of their famous high-speed guitar duels it was only Li’s side of the sonic altercation that could ever actually be heard. The keyboard player put on one hell of a visual spectacle though and kudos to him for the effort! Strange how crap the sound was considering the overall volume wasn’t even that loud.

I went to this concert as a Dragonforce fan and had every intention of enjoying it, but I have never been more disappointed with a band I love in my life. Apparently some other fans shared my sentiment since there were some subtle ‘boos’ being fired out from the front. I think it is worth stating that I was located pretty much central at the front barrier and I’ll admit this is not the position for optimum sound quality but that was no excuse for what I was listening to. One of my friends was so appalled that he retreated to the back of the venue for a beer after the fourth song and he remained there for the rest of the set. In doing so he was able to confirm that firstly the sound quality was no better from his new position and secondly the audience response was significantly more subdued compared to the reaction Alestorm received. Indeed the crowd was completely stagnant until fan favourite ‘Fury of the Storm’ came on, but movement did pick up in a big way from then onwards.

The absolute low point of the whole experience for me was a around mid-set when the band played a couple of songs that I didn’t recognise at all, somewhat curious considering I’ve listened to every Dragonforce album. Just an assault of drums and distortion, listening out for lyrics from Marc to give me a clue didn’t help since I still couldn’t hear him! With the exception of older favourites such as the aforementioned ‘Through the Fire and Flames’ the audience around me wasn’t encouraged to sing much so I wasn’t getting clues from them either.

Let us move on to my next gripe with the show, the setlist. Dragonforce played a whopping 10 songs. That is an inexcusably short set for a headlining show. Who cares if their songs are all over 5 minutes long, Iron Maiden doesn’t use that as an excuse and they’re in their 50’s! Another personal disappointment was the apparent omission of my favourite Dragonforce song ‘Soldiers of the Wasteland’. I ended up having to look up the setlist the next day to identify the mid-set anomalies for the purposes of writing this review only to find that apparently they DID played ‘Soldiers of the Wasteland’… not being able to recognise a band I know playing a song I love is unprecedented.

Maybe I’m being a fanboy at this point but I refuse to point blame of this sub-par performance exclusively on the boys of Dragonforce themselves. On the rare occasions I could make out the solos they sounded decent and on the quieter breakdowns when Hudson didn’t have to contend with everyone else he seemed to be delivering decent vocals. Giving credit where it is due the last two numbers ‘Cry Thunder’ and ‘Valley of the Damned’ were delivered pretty well and if it was supposed to be a karaoke set I could’ve said the same about ‘Seasons’.

This was a show that wreaked of bad mixing, maybe the dude at the sound board gave himself a DIY lobotomy using a hand-drill before the show ‘cus he was bored, whatever it was he didn’t know what he was doing. I’m not a sound engineer but if the lead singer is quieter than his backing vocalists, logic would denote that you turn him UP! Every past headliner I’ve seen at the Empire was tight, the acoustics are not at fault here but something was definitely going wrong. I’ve seen professional shoots of Dragonforce gigs, I’ve heard their live album ‘twilight dementia’ and these guys CAN play at full speed with tight precision but it didn’t happen this time.


Holding on

Heroes of our time


Fury of the storm

Die by the sword

Soldiers of the wasteland (supposedly)

Fields of despair (didn’t sound like it but that’s what Marc said it was)

Through the fire and flames

Cry thunder

Valley of the damned

Were you at the gig? Was it the disaster that Al paints or did you enjoy it? Let us know by adding a comment below, tweet us @MusicEyz or write on the Music Eyz Facebook page

Review by Al Westlake


14 thoughts on “Gig Review Dragonforce and Alestorm Shepherds Bush Empire

  1. It was a disappointment. I’ve seen dragon force before and they were; tighter, faster and had more stage presence then you could shake a stick at. I’ve come away from this gig liking Alestorm more

  2. slight mistake.. i retreated to the bar 2 minutes into the first song. herman lee was far too close to me for my liking!!
    the review of alestorm is spot on, from where i stood during their show everyone was going nuts singing along and having a great time going completely mental. a personal highlight for me was ‘midget saw’ with the amazing lyrics of ‘slap that midget with an oar, remove his legs with a saw!’
    now to dragonforce…. i guess cant be an impartial judge as i hated them to start off with and that gig dug up and strengthend the foundations of my hatred but oh well.
    point 1. the sound was terrible – even from right at the back where i expected to be able to hear it properly
    point 2. the band features herman lee – if you want to see endless guitar wanking you’ll love him but if like me ridiculously fast solo after solo bores you then you’ll hate him
    point 3. from standing at the back i got a great view of audience reaction and i can say with certainty it was alot more muted than alestorm, the fans just didnt seem to be that into it – very obvious lack of headbanging and jumping up and down etc.
    point 4. the beauty of a dragonforce fans comment i happened to catch just before the lengthy one song encore which was ‘they’re going to do an encore…. but i just cant be fucked with it!’ – and that was from a fan wearing their tshirt!
    i could go on and on but im not willing to waste anymore time on dragonforce
    summary: alestorm 9/10
    dragonforce 1/10

    • I don’t know which gig you were at mate but I was there too and it was bloody fantastic! Yes they had some major issues with mics but Marc handled it with pure professionalism and once sorted his singing was by far better than zp theart and yes I have seen BOTH live! The crowd were totally crazy and I only heard people raving about it after. As for not recognizing the old songs, I’ve got the crowd on video going wild to them so guess you must have been the only one who didn’t lol. I get the feeling your just one of those Dragonforce haters who will always be there to try to bring them down, Shame on you I say!

      • Each to their own, if you enjoyed the gig then ya got your moneys worth. I missed alestorms set but DF were awful. I saw them on their last tour and they were much better. The sound was really bad and I couldn’t hear marc except on the choruses when all four other backing singers came in. Also however you wanna debate it 10 songs is pathetically short for a main show.

    • This person seemed happy enough wth the Newcastle show which was the exact same as the London show!

      @ Newcastle O2 Academy, September 28 2012

      Deep in the bowels of Newcastle’s Academy, Herman Li had been tuning up for the latest Dragonforce show more than four hours before the power metallers were due on stage.

      But then you don’t get to become one of the genre’s premier players without serious practice and due preparation.

      And at the outset of a huge run of UK and European shows Li and his buddies are taking their job more seriously than ever – that job being to entertain fans of fret-melting madness and to prove there’s plenty of life left in Dragonforce post-ZP.
      That early start paid immediate dividends as Li and fellow guitar hero Sam Totman swiftly settled into the groove – their technical metal proving the perfect antidote to Alestorm’s boozy pirate metal.

      A stunning set and even better production demonstrated just how far this band has come since finally grabbing its share of the limelight due, in no small part, to the gaming phenomenon that was Guitar Hero.

      Bouncing off the silver drum kit and following every finger movement of dextrous duo Li and Totman the array of lights made for a memorable spectacle.

      If Marc Hudson is still on charm offensive in his role as ZP Theart’s successor an accomplished performance oozing confidence surely strengthened his case. Far better in the flesh than myriad YouTube clips would have us believe the made-for-metal singer sparkled.

      Given the fantastic set and the dazzling lights it was a surprise that the on-stage histrionics had been toned down somewhat. Maybe Dragonforce are keen to let their music do the talking in 2012 – those expecting guitars to be hurled and keyboards to be battered were, instead, met with a flawless display of considered musicianship.

      With the crowd told of the plan to film the Newcastle show energy was not a problem on the floor – that passion finally filtering through to the headline act.

      But this was a show that was over almost as soon as it began and poorer for it. Barely an hour had passed when Li and co. took their leave – albeit having sprinkled power metal gold dust on a loyal and wide-eyed audience.

      Given the size and strength of the Drgaonforce back catalogue another 15 minutes would have been nice but Saturday shows in Newcastle are typically truncated due to the demands of disco-loving youths. Thankfully the quality and focus of the main event ensured there was no bitter taste of déjà-vu.

      • Different gig in a different venue with different acoustics and a different sound system, also a lot of venues employ their own sound technicians so it wasn’t the exact same show at all. Your countering this guys review of a gig using another review of a completely different gig that was being recorded presumably for a live dvd or something, so Im not sure what your point is. I have seen bands play different venues on the same tour and they dont sound the same twice. Admittedly never seen dragonforce until last friday night, I was pretty disappointed, couldnt hear marc for shit and people were booing them at the beginning from where I was standing but got them onside later on. And the gig was waaay too short which according to this newcastle reviewer is something the two shows did have in common.

    • Ross, why would you go to a gig of a band you admit you hate other than to slag them off?
      I was at the show too and although the sound wasn’t great, I still had a great time, I was in the middle of the crowd and believe me there WAS plenty of headbanging,jumping etc! I agree that they had sound problems that night but hey that can happen to any band and incidently I was at their gigs in Wolverhamtpon and Portsmouth and it was much much clearer so Al I know where you’re coming from but personally it didn’t spoil the gig for me. I would also like to add that although I enjoyed Alestorm they are basically a fun band and a bit of mickey take, they weren’t serious musicians like Dragonforce but they were fun and got the crowd warmed up which was the idea.

      • It is reassuring to hear from someone who saw them earlier on the tour that the shepherds bush show wasn’t quite up to their usual par, I’ve never seen DF before that night but I’ve seen plenty of great live footage and that show just wasn’t adding up in comparison. The low sound quality, the mic failures plus the short set just broke the immersion for me. I’ve been to worse shows to be fair, just they were typically with bands I wasn’t initially expecting much from. But we’re both DF fans that paid money to see them and you had fun and I didn’t, so morally you win lol. I accept that nearly every complaint I had could be traced back to the guy at the sound board and not the band but regardless of who’s to blame I review these shows exclusively on how much I enjoy them.

        Yeah Alestorm are a complete piss take band I’ll grant you, but you have to admit. It was one serious hoedown they created, and the lead singer getting crowdsurfed to the bar at the end of the show made me chuckle 🙂

  3. Dragonforce did get the crowd going moving eventually but alestorm brought the house down and were MUCH tighter! I was quite far back near the bar and the sound weren’t great from there. When they announced fury of the storm I honestly couldn’t make out the opening riffs when they started and marc was drowned out big time for the whole thing which is a shame, he seems like a really nice guy lol xx

  4. Firstly a point regarding something that Suzy Hughes said, you are right that Marc was an absolute professional in dealing with his tech issues and since I was situated about 3 ft from his face the whole show I can vouch he kept giving it everything even when the mic didn’t work in the hopes that it came back on. I should have addressed that in the review. Still sticking with my guns in saying that I couldn’t hear him for most of the show though. Reflects badly on the sound engineer rather than Marc but still brought the show down for me. I’m also curious to know if you are calling me or Ross a Dragonforce hater. I know Ross is a hater but then again he freely admitted it in his somewhat biased appraisal but I assure you I’m no DF hater, I just didn’t enjoy this particular show for reasons I stated.

    Also to Ajazajaz, I appreciate the defence but I’m confused. It sounds like you’re talking about the Shepherd’s Bush show and yet you said you saw them on friday, weren’t they in Manchester on friday?

  5. Thanks to everybody for contributing to a lively debate. We love the reaction this has caused, both positive and negative. Unfortunatley we have had to delete a couple of comments as they could be deemed offensive and /or aggresive to other posters. If you wish to contribute please try to stay respectful to other readers. Thanks

  6. I was there and a big fan of DF I was gutted as think they let fans down. Poor show not happy. Have to agree with Als review of DF. tbh didnt really enjoy the support either

  7. Regular visitor to the site, which I love. Great work Music Eyz. I haven’t commented before but felt compelled to on this one. The articel has created a great debate which is brilliant and also shows why music is so integral to life. It shows each individuals passion and a bit about their personality. Love it x

    Also second point is, never heard of Pirate rock, sounds great

  8. Pingback: Alestorm Live at Electric Ballroom (Gig Review) | musiceyz

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