Review: Carnival Of Madness at Manchester Arena

Posted on 9 February 2016
By Frank Ralph
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Thousands of rockers rolled up for the inaugural Carnival of Madness this past Saturday night at Manchester Arena.

A mainstay in the US, boasting acts such as Theory of a Deadman, Alter Bridge and Evanescence over the last 5 years, this was the first time it had been brought to our shores. So a killer lineup was guaranteed. 

Grammy nominated trio Highly Suspect were perfect openers for the show, with a big sound that went down really well with the crowd. Showcasing half a dozen tracks from their grammy nominated album Mister Asylum they really impressed. and showed themselves to be ones to look out for in the future.

Next up were Halestorm, who produced one of the best albums of last year with Into the Wild Life. Every time they visit they come back bigger and better and the opening triple threat of Apocalyptic, Love Bites and Amen showed how many great songs they have in their lockers.

Lzzy Hales is one of the few that have actually filled this venue with her powerful voice, and with larger than life drummer Arejay conducting from the back their set was a highlight of the night. 

Shinedown had the crowd in the palm of their hands from the get go, and they sounded great. Yes, covering Oasis because you’re in Manchester is a ‘bit naff’ but their whole set sounded huge. 

Brent Smith showed he is a great frontman, working the crowd into a frenzy, and even walking right through the crowd from front to back to get everyone going and when the arena was lit up with mobile phones for I’ll Follow You it would’ve taken a heart of stone not to have felt the emotion in the air. Their version of Simple Man was incredible as well.

Over the course of 5 albums they have proved themselves to be one of the great bands of recent times and could easily have headlined this tour.

That honour though went to Kentucky’s finest, Black Stone Cherry who sounded like the audio equivalent of a Man vs Food challenge dipped in BBQ sauce and deep-fried. With a hefty slug of bourbon to wash it all down.

Treating the audience to a masterclass in southern rock with the likes of Blind Man and Soulcreek, Chris Robertson held down the fort centre-stage whilst Ben Wells and Jon Lawhon covered more ground than your average Premier League footballer. There was not an inch of the stage they left uncovered.

Manimal Fred Young looked like an absolute beast and gave his drum kit the pounding of its life. Later on in the set he also orchestrated the first 3-man drum solo that the Arena had ever seen, with Halestorm’s Arejay and Highly Suspect’s Ryan Mayer switching between the hot seat.

It was a poignant acoustic rendition of Things My Father Said that became the highlight of the night with Chris and the crowd joining forces to great effect. A cover of Ace of Spades closed out a great night.

As far as 4-band lineups go, you don’t get many as good as the one that Carnival of Madness delivered, and we can only look forward to what they have in store for us next year as it would make a great annual tour to look forward to.