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Iced Earth, Children of Bodom, Evergrey - NY (4.29.04)

I can honestly say that after having “The Glorious Burden” CD in my stereo for some time now that this was a show I was totally looking forward to. B.B. Kings Club had been sold out for this particular event for over two months. The reaction was almost immediate when the show that was to feature Iced Earth, Children Of Bodom and Evergrey was announced and tickets made available. Surely this was a night full of killer music. Iced Earth would be returning with Tim “Ripper” Owens formerly of Judas Priest at the microphone and for those who have heard the CD, you just knew this was going to be good. As luck would have it, prior to the performance I was going to be able to meet Tim Owens backstage to run a few questions by him. I jumped at the chance since this is not so easily done. When I caught up with Tim backstage before the soundcheck I found him to be quite friendly and very enthused about the soon to be performed show. I was told also that Jon Schaffer was very ill and had not been doing good all day. He was plagued with a stomach virus of some kind. The interview is featured at the bottom of this review.

Evergrey kicked off the evening with a very short set (unfortunately) of some numbers off of their new release. Being new to their music, I cannot bring to you any of the names but they are quite a talented act who I will gladly go to see again. After their performance the band milled about the venue and chatted up with fans. I saw them walking around much to the delight of the audience. When it was time for Children Of Bodom to begin their set, it was clear by the audience reaction that the crowd was equally theirs as much as that of Iced Earth. Some of the numbers in their set included “Hate Me”, “Downfall”, “Angels Don’t Kill”, “Silent Night Bodom Night”, “Needled 24/7”, “Sixpounder”, “Hate Crew Deathroll”, & “Everytime I Die”. I found them to be one of the best new bands that I had seen in a long time delivering a brutal set that the audience and crowd surfers clearly appreciated. This was the first time I had ever seen C.O.B. as I recall they opened for Dimmu Borgir at a L’Amours show I covered, but that evening I was running late. Oh well. That happens.

The main event was now set to occur. The club P.A. system blasted the sound of the Star Spangled Banner, which was particulary great to hear the audience also sing along to. Especially in New York City. Given Jon Schaffer’s strong patriotic stance, I am sure this assisted in him feeling better to hit the stage. Suddenly Ripper was there and the band launched into “Declaration Day”. Essentially the first performance number off the new CD. It sounded great, as Ripper is as good live as he is on the CD. He said hello New York and stuff like that, but truly kept the chatter to a minimum as this band was here to play. If one looked close as Jon, you can tell he was not feeling well, and even the announcer for the show mentioned Jon being sick. So you know this was for real. Given his condition, I think we were lucky that he did not cancel the event. I am also glad as this was filled to capacity. At first glance I felt the room fits about 1000 people.

Considering he was ill, Jon Schaffer did not speak very much. He only took the time to do so prior to the group playing “Greenface” which he dedicated to the Navy S.E.A.L.S. and all the fighting personnel who were serving their countries in the Middle East at this time. Ripper told the audience that there was a video from the album, but no one would show it. The song its for is “When The Eagle Cries”, it features a lot of 9-11 imagery, and is very well done. I guess essentially that the music video stations are more concerned with how much bling bling that the rap artists are wearing as opposed to something with a little more social commentary and relevance. Oh well, I don’t watch those stations anyway. Do you?

The set as you will see below is a great mix of old and new numbers. I had only heard a couple of their old songs and was interested in some of the fans reaction to Ripper singing in place of the former singer Matthew Barlow. A few people told me how they hated Ripper before it even began, and I am happy to announce that they thought he did a terrific job on the old material and they no longer thought this. I was happy to see this openness, as Tim basically filled the need of vocalist much like he did when he joined Judas Priest. He does a damned good job if you ask me. There was a point in the evening where Jon was not on stage at all. Owens joked that they needed to kill time while Jon puked offstage. Given how bad he felt and if it was a stomach thing, he was probably not kidding around. He did say they were going to keep buckets on the stage but changed their minds. The rest of the band was in top notch form, Richard Christy on drums pounding away like a madman on his massive Pearl kit. James McDonough on the bass holding down the metal in superb fashion. Their sound was great if I did not say this already, and carried across the venue well. The place itself it is a nice venue, however, it is long from left to right of the stage and not so much as front to back. Meaning, you can see great from the back bar, but there is a chance you might not should you be too far left or right.

Late in the show there seemed to be a disturbance in the front that caused Ripper himself to eject a person from the crowd. On checking with some of the folks closer by I was told that this person who got ejected was doing some violent mosh dancing and was really hitting people in the face and starting problems. Ripper saw it from the stage mid-song and at the end had one of the rather large venue staff remove the problem. Moshing about is good since its part of metal, but don’t hit no one in the face or be an idiot if no one around you is doing it. Why get your dumb ass kicked out or worse yet be throttled by a bouncer? Not my idea of a good time.

Talk about getting a value filled set. The Iced Earth set alone was over two hours which was very impressive. I really think some of my favorite tunes were “Dracula”, “Something Wicked” and of course the selections from “TGB”. They really put their all into this show, and I hope some of it makes its way to some live recordings. Of course the main highlight of the night was the complete performance of “Gettysburg”. This number in three parts served as the encore (and of course that makes sense since the tunes run almost 30 minutes). However, the decided to give us one more and play “Iced Earth”, and then it was done. After the show, I walked about the venue were I was able to catch up with “Metal” Mike Chlasiak of Testament (formerly Halford) and Chris Caffery of Savatage/Trans-Siberian Orchestra who were both in attendance. I said some hellos to find out what they were both up to. Each of these gents has something up their sleeves for the diehard metal fan. Mike doing a new CD with Testament, and Chris his solo CD and some new T.S.O. All in all, it was a great time for anyone who was in attendance and a show that I recommend anyone go to see for an evening of good solid heavy metal.

Set For The Evening:
Star Spangled Banner intro:
1. Declaration Day
2. Burning Time
3. Vengeance Is Mine
4. Violate
5. Melancholy
6. Angel Holocaust
7. Greenface
8. Red Baron
9. Dracula
10. When The Eagle Cries
11. My Own Savior
12. Something Wicked
13. Prophecy
14. Birth Of The Wicked
15. Coming Curse
16. Gettysburg (Devil To Pay, Hold At All Costs, High Water Mark)
17. Iced Earth

--Ken Pierce


Kansas, Frontiers - Roanoke, Virginia (5.28.04)

Roanoke, Virginia had their annual Festival In The Park kick-off on May 28, 2004, and this year's guests are Frontiers (www.journeytributeband.com), the critically acclaimed "world's greatest" Journey cover band and the legendary prog-rockers Kansas. This show saw a turnout of about 10,000, and took place outdoors under a huge pavillion, complete with a sizable titan-tron as the backdrop, and a fairly large stage. Tickets for the event was only $10 each, so the show had a huge turnout, with some people, much like myself, never becoming completely familiar with Kansas until now.

The show kicked off with a local blues band, and then the opening band Frontiers took to the stage. I've always enjoyed Journey, with high regards for the vocal god Steve Perry. His range has always mesmerized me, and I found it difficult to fathom a tribute band sounding even close to the real thing. However, Frontiers sounds EXACTLY like Journey, and I for one was very impressed.

Frontiers played all the hits, running through renditions of "Only The Young", "Don't Stop Believin'", and "Lights" among others. Frontiers vocalist Jeremy Hunsicker is indentical to Steve Perry, hitting all the highs and never wavering. His vocals are a smooth delivery, easing his way through the slower numbers, and soaring with the appropriate range needed to match Perry's extraordinary voice. The guitarists had a perfect, tight harmony, with the melodic keys in the background delivering that all-important atmospheric aspect.

I heard a few late-comers to the show ask me if Journey was indeed playing. Folks, they were that good. I never had the pleasure of watching Journey live, but this is definitely the next best thing. Frontiers played about an hour before giving ground to Kansas.

Okay, let me just start by saying I've never followed Kansas. The only thing I can really tell you about the band is that they have been around since the 70's, and they had a couple of songs on the radio. I certainly am not a Kansas scholar, so I write this review as a first time Kansas listener.

The entrance for Kansas began with a 10 minute long orchestra score, then the group took to the stage. Again, I'm not familiar enough with Kansas to really know what they were playing. It was interesting to see the huge stage, colored lights, piano, guitarists, and a fiddle-player, but that is exactly what we got here. The group really came alive with the raging fiddle sound, with the keyboardist singing the "heavier" parts and the violin-player singing harmony and lead on some songs.

I enjoyed fan favorite "Icarus", with its moody delivery, and symphonic score. The band played a twenty minute long jam session with "Magnus Opus", apparently a track that Kansas has just recently started playing. "Magnus Opus" has a number of timing changes, and the band stayed tight and in sequence throughout, keeping the fans mesmerized with their ability to "keep up". "The Preacher" was a sold track, with a number of vocal changes and big choir sounds, almost reminding me of Queen or Journey at times.

Unfortunately my wife and I had to leave early, heading out about an hour and 15 minutes into the Kansas set, missing huge hits like "Dust In The Wind" and "Carry On Wayward Son", but the show was very intriguing and managed to peak my interest in the band's catalogue. I have been following heavy metal for a number of years now, and it was very interesting to see how Kansas has influenced metal acts like Dream Theater, Blind Guardian, and even Rhapsody with their huge symphonic sound and numerous timing changes.

I'm not sure if Kansas is classic rock or progressive, but one thing is for sure. They are an incredible live experience.

--EC


H.I.M. - NY (4.20.04)

There is something to be said about checking out a concert from a band like H.I.M. in a venue like The Bowery Ballroom. The club capacity is not that big and seems to hold just a little over 500 people. This makes it quite the intimate setting especially if you get close enough to the stage. This week, H.I.M. made their first trip to New York for two sold out shows, and I was lucky enough to attend. I have been enjoying the music of H.I.M. for many months now and was looking forward to being at this show. I was unable to secure tickets for the first show which sold out in minutes. As a matter of fact when I went to purchase my pair, the man selling them said to me “hey who are these guys that they sold out so quick”. I made sure to educate him on what to expect that evening.

Opening the evenings show was was “Eighteen Visions” who I did not see but did meet briefly outside as they rolled in their equipment, I also got a two track giveaway CD from them so perhaps I will look into them further some other time. I was stuck outside trying to contact friends for my now extra tickets. They did sound good from the street I must admit. Next up on the bill was “Kill Hannah” who had some catchy numbers as well, this band was promoting the release of their new CD as well. One number I was surprised to see KH perform was “Rebel Yell” since this is often a number that H.I.M. performs. I am not sure what led them to this decision, perhaps it was to stir the pot a little bit.

Shortly after 10:30 the stage went dark and the intro music kicked in. H.I.M. was back for their second NYC show. Ville did a smart thing by announcing almost every number they played, including the opener “Buried Alive By Love”. I am guessing he did this in case he had fans in the audience who were new to the bands music. I must admit I appreciated it as a reviewer for I only own “Razorblade Romance”. H.I.M. music is not so readily available in the U.S.A. since record companies are more concerned with shoveling out the latest boy band crud on us more than bringing something new and exciting in for us to experience.

Ville was very conversant which I enjoyed quite a bit. One instance when feedback hit his microphone, he stopped it by covering his mouth completely over it. His comment was “that’s one way to stop a microphone from feeding back – give it a blowjob”. At another instance (I think around “Death Is In Love With Us”) Ville commented on how judging by his song titles that he must seem like a miserable bastard to everyone but I am really not. The intimacy of the venue allowed for him to also communicate a couple of times with the crowd. One person was yelling things to him and said something about speaking Finnish. So Ville replied, you mean FINISHED or Finnish? It was amusing.

During Solitary Man, he commented on how this was a Neil Diamond track by way of Johnny Cash as a tribute to him. When audience yelled for “Rebel Yell”, Ville joked that we’ve already done two cover tracks and we are not trying to be the jukebox here. At a point when numbers were not played that the audience wanted to hear, Ville pointed down and said “well, you see I am following this set here and that one is not on it”. Our manager keeps us in these pods like something out of Aliens and we don’t come out until we are at the next gig. We get rolled in, pods are opened, beers put in hand and there you go”. Quite funny to see how much he was enjoying himself. Rumor had it that the performance of a few days before was filled with technical difficulty and bad sound. The sound that night was excellent and I counted no issues on the stage. He let the audience decide what one of the almost final numbers as to whether it would be “Razorblade Kiss” or “Poison Girl”. I would have liked to hear both, but “Razorblade Kiss” won out.

There was some moshing being done, which was odd because H.I.M. music is clearly not the medium for that stuff to be quite honest. The set went quickly and I clocked it at about 67 minutes and as you see below a core portion of the material comes from “Razorblade Romance”. There were no encores played. Ville turned to the small table near the keyboards and said “last beer, last song”. With that, the number was played, the band said goodbye and it was done. A great time and I sure hope they return to these parts once again.

Set For The Evening:
1. Buried Alive By Love
2. Wicked Game
3. Right Here In My Arms
4. Heartache Every Moment
5. Your Sweet Six, Six, Six
6. Join Me (In Death)
7. Death Is In Love With Us
8. It’s All To End
9. Bury Me Deep Inside
10. Solitary Man
11. Spirit Resurrection
12. Lose You Tonight
13. Razorblade Kiss
14. Soul On Fire

--Ken Pierce

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