Bokassa At Twickenham – How A Great Band Got Screwed Over

With a huge yet massively limited opportunity, Bokassa grabbed the brass ring 9/10

Jørn Kaarstad of Bokassa photo

Pictures courtesy of Rebecca Bush Photography and Metal Rules

Bokassa‘s gig at Twickenham must have been just as mixed a blessing for them as it was for us.

In Metal Hammer’s review of Metallica’s Twickenham gig they included  the sentence “Getting in is a nightmare.” If there were a Pulitzer or even Reader’s Digest award for Understatement of the Year, Metal Hammer would win it for that sentence alone.  Getting to London? No problem. Getting to Twickenham? Not so great thanks to delayed trains. Getting from Twickenham station into the venue? There are glaciers that have moved quicker. What became arriving-an-hour-early quickly became arriving-exactly-on-time which then turned out to be arriving-too-late because security had taken the photographers through to the photography pit quarter of an hour before Bokassa were due to play and wouldn’t admit any more. Not only did our photographer/reviewer not get to shoot Bokassa but they ended up being escorted through the building by security during the first part of Bokassa’s set which makes it somewhat hard to review. Thankfully we have contingency plans in effect and a spare reviewer was on site with a notepad ready to draw stick men if needed.

Therefore this review is brought to you by:
Jade Greenbrooke
Dean Huelin-Swallow
With huge thanks to Rebecca Bush Photography and Jo Blackened of Metal Rules for the use of their photos of Bokassa from Manchester.

For Bokassa I’m sure it was just as frustrating. After building a cult following with their debut album Divide & Conquer, the Norwegian trio have gained a lot of attention thanks to Lars Ulrich naming them as one of his favourite bands.  Today they are onstage in support of Metallica, which is obviously the opportunity of a lifetime and their brand new album Crimson Riders is being released to coincide with the Twickenham gig. However, because of Metallica’s set and Ghost‘s keyboards with backdrop they have to set up in front of both, meaning they don’t have a huge amount of room to manoeuvre in. Add to that the awful sound that comes from playing in a stadium and we’re not hearing or seeing Bokassa at their best.

Bokassa Live Photo

To make matters even worse, it’s 5:15pm. The stadium is still pretty empty as a lot of ticket holders are in work and so Bokassa are getting this big career break in opening for one of metal’s biggest bands, when most of the audience haven’t showed up and the ones who have can’t properly hear them.

Let’s face it, Metallica absolutely have to play for two hours and forty five minutes because everyone is clamouring for Rob and Kirk to murder another local song, right? This time it was the totally unrecognisable Iron Maiden song Killers because they wouldn’t want to choose a song that the crowd may know like Number of the Beast, The Trooper, Run to the Hills, Can I Play With Madness or Running Free would they? There has to be enough time to shoehorn in such Metallica classics as Frantic, an extended version of The Memory Remains and four songs from Hardwired…To Self Destruct because that’s what the fans want, yeah?

To Bokassa’s credit they give it 100% and they get a decent reaction from the crowd. Two songs in and they hit the audience with their big single Hellbilly Handfishin’ from Divide & Conquer followed by new singles Captain Cold One and Mouthbreathers Inc. Even though Crimson Riders has just hit stores and DSPs, the band have more sense than to go heavy on the new material and their set is a nice split of material from both albums.

Bokassa Live photo

Jørn Kaarstad is a fantastic frontman and does his best to get the crowd excited and definitely makes some fans tonight. Bokassa switch between serious subjects and quirky more mature Bloodhound Gang humour but both are combined with big riffs and singalong choruses making them really hard to dislike. Bokassa are in a similar, albeit far heavier and far less campy, vein as their fellow Norwegians Turbonegro and Hank Von Hell.

Bokassa round their Twickenham set out with the massive groove of Walker Texas Danger and the furious Five Finger Fuckhead to a slightly larger crowd in a still half empty stadium.

This Metallica tour is definitely a mixed blessing for them – on one hand they are being potentially exposed to a bigger audience but they are really fighting against all odds and you can’t help but feel that they are being screwed over. Their social media followers hasn’t jumped up like it should have and their Facebook page is filled with comments like “Didn’t get to see you because you were on early“, which is a damn shame because Bokassa deserves better than this. A lot better.

Crimson Riders has received 4 out of 5 Ks from Kerrang and 8/10 from Metal Hammer. We didn’t get a review copy and while I haven’t given it a full listen through yet, I’d certainly rate it as 7 or 8 out of 10.  A Ghost fan who travelled some distance only to see Ghost and somehow knew only two or three Metallica songs remarked that Bokassa were really good. When a fan with no interest in a band or even their genre is impressed by their performance then you know the band is good. Bokassa really had a chance of taking a huge step up and with the new album, the tour was great timing. But for that to work there have to be people there to see you. With a nearly 3 hour set Metallica should have just toured on their own as they did on the Black album tour, but they know their name alone isn’t enough to fill an 82,000 capacity venue, so instead the two supports get screwed over.

Then again, I guess Bokassa are lucky that Lars isn’t making them play in the car park.

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