It has been just over 6 long years since Slipknot graced UK soil for a full headline tour. A few spectacular, but sporadic festival appearances have kept us ticking over, but there’s definitely a huge sense of excitement and anticipation inside the Barclaycard Arena as Birmingham waits a few more hours. With an extremely strong support line-up in King 810 and Korn to get through, though, the wait should not be too harrowing.
Freshmen King 810 are first up, and it almost feels as if these 4 disturbed men from Flint, Michigan are being blooded in by their elders higher up the bill. The gradually increasing crowd muster up a few roars on demand, but the space between on-lookers and band does not help to generate a connection; even the likes of ‘Killem All’ and ‘Desperate Lovers’ sound distant, unsuitable for an arena this size. They are tailor-made for smaller venues where chaos can easily erupt, but that is not a criticism.
The masters of nu-metal, Korn, take to the stage in fairly modest fashion, having the experience to realise that this is not their own show. They know what the nostalgic crowd want, hitting straight in with ‘Twist’, and then using ‘Here to Stay’ to crank it up a gear. There’s an evident divide between pre- and post-2007 material, particularly in crowd interaction. ‘Love & Meth’ falls flat, whereas ‘Freak on a Leash’ raises the corporate-sponsored roof, and there’s little need to describe the phenomenal reception to closer, ‘Blind’. Korn are certainly back to their best when playing their best and, based on tonight’s setlist, they are all too aware of that.
Slipknot have matured over the years; gone are the days of on-stage fighting and 30ft stage diving. They are less visually enticing nowadays and, besides Shawn Crahan’s and Chris Fehn’s animated percussion sets, there’s very little to look at as they tear from the introductory ‘XIX’ into ‘Sarcastrophe’. But in reducing their theatrical nature, they improve in all other aspects. Corey Taylor sounds fine-tuned and aware of his limitations, and the drumming – all but officially confirmed to be from Jay Weinberg – is beat perfect. It is possible to take your eyes off them now, but it is impossible not to admire their precision.
New additions ‘The Devil in I’ and ‘The Negative One’ hold their own in the lengthy setlist, but it’s the likes of ‘My Plague’ and ‘Eyeless’ that whip up the strongest reactions until the fan favourite, ‘Duality’ is called upon.
They go back to basics to see out tonight’s performance, demanding the “Zero Bullshit” routine on the 16-year-old ‘Spit It Out’, fucking things up with ‘Custer’, and then hitting the crowd with an encore of ‘(SIC)’, ‘People = Shit’, and ‘Surfacing’. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Slipknot may have changed a lot since they last toured the UK, but the band are timeless, and that will never change.