“How many people saw us at The Astoria?” asks Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor, before a surprising amount of the crowd at the sold-out O2 scream back. Many of them were just a twinkle in their father’s eye back in 1999, and only a fraction of them would have fit in the sadly long-lost London venue.
“That could be bullshit,” he responds. “The first time we played here was actually at The Astoria, and if you ask people, there were apparently 150,000 people at that gig. That’s horse shit. That place only held like fucking 300. However, the legend of that show is what got us right here. Because you guys, you fucking believed in us so much that 20 years later, here we are in this fucking arena. You have no idea how much that means to us.”
Of those lucky few who were actually there back in December ‘99, you have to wonder how many of them thought it likely that the horrorshow circus they saw on that hallowed stage would be filling out the then Millenium Dome across town two decades later; or that the cult they were part of would bloom into a worldwide religion and culture. Here we are, at what Taylor is calling the masked menaces’ “homecoming”.
Across those years, the ‘Knot have succeeded where many rock bands have failed – in graduating to arenas and festival headline slots without losing any of their intensity, and in putting on a spectacle without relying on gimmickry. The nine still stalk the stage and pound the floor like they’re charging to war, flanked now by ‘new guy’ (A.K.A. ‘Tortilla Man’) and his ecstatic acrobatics. Throughout the 90 minutes you don’t know where to look, but there’s blissful abandon in every direction.
The carnage that comes with the five songs they air from their 1999 debut can’t even be contained in an enormo-dome like this. The mass and feral pit that erupts during ‘Eyeless’ is a site we won’t be forgetting soon, and all these ‘maggots’ were more than willing to oblige Taylor’s request on ‘Wait And Bleed’ to “sing it like you wrote it”. ‘Duality’ from ‘Vol.3’ and ‘All Hope Is Gone’ highlight ‘Psychosocial’ land as classics from a band with institution status, but the cuts from 2019 masterpiece ‘We Are Not Your Kind’ really showcase what Slipknot are still capable of: creating work that’s primal but challenging and dark but affirming. On stage, ‘Unsainted’ and ‘Nero Forte’ become even more evolved beasts. It’s no wonder that this was their first Number One in 17 years, and the album to gain them a real sense of universal appreciation.
- Read more: The Big Read – Slipknot: “I’m just going to tell you the facts: this album is a masterpiece”
Just look around at the make-up of the crowd. They’re not all metalheads, but they’re not tourists either. The audience is a cross-section of ages and cultures who just love losing their shit to a band still peaking. This was a real moment; this was Slipknot where they belong – celebrating with as many people as possible, among thousands who can now say “I was there” and actually mean it.
Slipknot’s setlist was:
Before I Forget
Birth of the Cruel
Wait and Bleed
All Out Life
People = Shit