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Slipknot w/ Suicidal Tendencies @ SSE Arena, Belfast


August 27th, 2002: a date burned into the minds of Northern Irish metalheads, as it was the last time metal monsters Slipknot last graced our shores. Oh sure, there’s been Dublin gigs – the last of which was almost a year ago to the day – but it has been almost fourteen years since Northerners got to see the band on home turf. The announcement, then, of a date in the SSE Arena on the final leg of their latest world tour sent fans into long awaited paroxysms of delight.

Somewhat disappointingly, we missed out on recently reformed tech/prog metallers Sikth as support, particularly as they were at every other UK gig (what’s up with that, guys?); however thrash punk legends Suicidal Tendencies stepped up to the plate with admirable tenacity in the sole support slot. As the lights dim, a huge roar goes up, followed by chants of “S.T! S.T!”. A drawn out intro leads into opening track ‘You Can’t Hold Me Down’, to the breathless delight of fans.


Their setlist tonight sticks pretty firmly to their Eighties heyday, from 1983’s ‘Possessed to Skate’ and ‘I Saw Your Mommy’ to 1988’s ‘Pledge Your Allegiance’. Between songs, sole original member Mike Muir chats to the crowd at length, issuing (slightly cheesy) motivational speeches and talking about the band’s history. At times he is all but inaudible as his microphone struggles to pick him up; in fact the entire night is plagued with this issue. The other problem is the sheer amount of padding used: the speeches that drag out the few actual songs they play to tedious lengths, the long outros, and so on. The result is a set of the blistering thrash punk that they are so well known for, but not an awful lot of substance, somehow. Rather underwhelming, in short.

No chance of that come 9pm… with Bowie’s ‘Ashes to Ashes’ ringing out, the lights drop and the roar that is emitted by the crowd threatens to cave in the roof of the arena. After intro ‘XIX’ Slipknot file onstage and fire into life with ‘The Negative One’, which sounds phenomenal despite the ongoing mic issue.


The rest of the set is simply a masterclass in how to slay a crowd. The stage set up, although visually simplified from earlier in the tour, is no less arresting, with Clown’s video art on the big screen – often to gut-churning effect – and turntablist Sid Wilson amusingly cavorting about like a bored kid in the background. Frontman Corey Taylor is one of the best in the business holding the crowd effortlessly in the palm of his hand (when he barks “jump!” you can feel the floor vibrating from the seats) and chatting briefly and passionately about such topics as “finally, finally!” being allowed back in Belfast (they were banned from the island of Ireland for a time), as well as reminding everyone that 2016 is the fifteenth anniversary of their stunning album Iowa. Unsurprisingly they play several tracks from that album, including ‘Disasterpiece’, ‘I Am Hated’, ‘Everything Ends’ and ‘Metabolic’, as well as set staple ‘Left Behind’, all of which sound as brutal and menacing as the day they were released.

They also throw in a fair few songs from most recent album .5: The Gray Chapter, such as ‘Killpop’, ‘The Devil In I’, opening track ‘The Negative One’ and, surprisingly, ‘Skeptic’, which slip seamlessly into their set and are ravenously received by the crowd (although, tragically, there’s no ‘Custer’).

Although this is the last show in a long tour, they don’t flag or let up for a single second (tension-ratcheting brief stage exits notwithstanding), barely pausing for breath as they pound the audience into submission with song after song; there’s no faffing about with this band.


Highlights? So, so many. From the world’s most cathartic singalong of ‘Duality’ (“I push my fingers into my eeeeeeeeeeeyes”) to stepping back to 1999 with a blistering ‘Wait and Bleed’ to the always furious ‘Left Behind’.

Finishing up with a three track encore – the also cathartic ‘Surfacing’, ‘Left Behind’ and the now legendary ‘sit-down-jump-the-fuck-up’ of ‘Spit It Out’ – it’s patently clear that Slipknot have taken ownership of Belfast once again; even after all this time they have lost none of their brutality and ability to stun the crowd. We’ll leave the last word to Taylor, in a confiding mood midway through the set: “you know, at a time like this when everything is trying to pull us apart, it’s a goddamn comfort to know that music like this can bring us all together”. Amen, sir. Melanie Brehaut

Photos by Liam Kielt