Metal, wrestling, planes - the 40th anniversary of rock at Knebworth
Ed Keeble
10:28 7th July 2014

This was the year that Sonisphere returned to Knebworth after a two year hiatus - and boy did they come back in style. After a hugely successful weekend, organisers Stuart Galbraith and Henry Lytton Cobbold, attributed the strength of the event to what they described as a "stellar line up", adding that they wanted to come back with the strongest bill possible. With Iron Maiden, Metallica and The Prodigy headlining, 'strong' may have been a light understatement.

Beneath the headliners were an equally strong series of bookings, which when announced earlier in the year led to more and more excitement. We're talking about Reel Big Fish, Dropkick Murphys, Band of Skulls, Slayer, Anthrax and so many more brilliant performers on the bill -  who could have very easily assumed headline status themselves.

There were simply too many bands to mention, and a stroke of genius with two adjacent alternating stages, meant there were no clashes, so very little was missed and all of it was awesome. Here are just 10 of the most amazing things that happened at Sonisphere festival 2014.

1. Firstly, can we please address how Limp Bizkit are an amazing live band?

Yes, we are not kidding. We went along for a bit of a laugh and a giggle, "haha, rap metal" and so on. But their set absolutely blew us away. Composed in a similar fashion to a DJ set, with short covers including 'Master of Puppets' and 'Killing in the Name', interspersed between songs, their show had the crowd eating out of their hand.

Basically, everyone has spent a good part of a decade slagging off Limp Bizkit, giving them so much to prove that in the process they have become an incredible live band. Seriously, you haven't lived until you've lost your mind to 'Break Stuff'. By far, the biggest surprise of the weekend.

2. Everyone loves a bit of drunk wrestling

So for this year's late night entertainment, there was a choice of Silent Disco or Wrestling. Men running around in leotards will win every single time. If Pimms is for Tennis, then beer and rock are most certainly for a bit of rowdy late night wrestling. 

3. The Prodigy are getting heavier and heavier and heavier.

 

The Prodigy are basically a metal band these days. As they get older, they seem to be bucking the trend by getting more and more full on. Really, their set was a face-blistering force of nature, with updated versions of all their classic tracks. 

What it did hint at is the "violent" new material that they described in a recent interview. If there set was anything to go by, that may be a bit of understatement. Especially from a group who have always ben a bit mental.

 4. Booking Babymetal for a festival exclusive was a stroke of genius

The band who combine Kawaii (the Japanese penchant for all things cute) with metal are awesome. With this, they aim to begin a new genre of metal and they more than succeed  - and all without falling into the trap of becoming a novelty act.

Coming to the main stage on a Saturday morning, they were the perfect remedy for first day festival hangover - and a rather heavy one at that. 

 5. Bruce Dickinson is a plane-flying madman

 

So the second day of the festival came with a little note saying, "look to the skies at 6pm for a WWI dog fight". All part of Bruce Dickinson's affiliation with aviation, it saw the Iron Maiden frontman organise a full on re-enactment, piloting a Fokker Dr1 Triplane over Knebworth, along with a gang of pilot friends.

As the machine gun fire rang out over the site, smoke trails flew out behind the planes and a brass band played their anthems. You don't get much more British than that. Now wipe that patriotic tear from your eye and wave to Bruce.

6. 65daysofstatic are pure distilled brilliance

Part of the series of bands playing late night on the Friday, they put on a progressive, electronica-tinged show that was pure spectacle. With no vocals, just instrumental, they held the attention of the audience perfectly, stopping only in between songs to drink beer and hype up the crowd.

They're a criminally underrated gem of a band, and indicate the kind of mechanical heaviness that could have happily filled the late night billings a little more. 

7. Iron Maiden and their fans are straight up bonkers

There were sooooo many Iron Maiden shirts on the Saturday, all part of a display of one of the most devoted fanbases in metal. The band and their fans really are a sub-culture unto themselves, complete with Iron Maiden beer, a plane flying frontman and knowledge of every single lyric ever. Oh and did we mention, the band rocked their musical theatre with expert panache?

8. Raging Speedhorn are still angry as hell

The award for the most energetic performance of the weekend certainly goes to these guys, who are still one of the most terrifying stage presences ever. Two vocalists means double the shouting, circle pits and an audience too terrified to get too close to the stage. They were happy to stand at the back like old punks and watch the mayhem ensue. Sludgecore? Yes please. 

9. Ghost are future stars of metal in the making
 

Because indulging in a bit of Satanism is good for your health. A brilliantly theatrical performance from these guys on the Saturday was a definite highlight. Think of the singer as a sort of like a devilish pope, sermonising to the audience and the band as his minions. Also the music isn't half bad. 

They are definitely in store for big things in future, attemtping something fresh and new for the genre. 

10. Metallica rock harder than most, that is a fact 

There was only ever one band who could close a festival like Sonisphere 2014  - ladies and gentlement, Metallica. The By Request set list was heavy as all hell, and perhaps most illuminating was the storming rendition of new song 'Lords of Summer', which proved the new material to be a return to form.

This isn't St. Anger anymore, this is a band with a new lease of life and their closing set was a performance for their true fans and lovers of all things rock - not for Glastonbury.


Photo: wenn