• Accept, North American Tour, Seattle

    4 mai 2011, 7h17m

    Tue 26 Apr – North American Tour

    There was a time when Accept were washed up and done. Heavy metal fell out of vogue in the 90s, and the bands that pioneered the movement from the previous decade all suffered. In Accept's case, it meant poorly-received albums and the band splitting up thrice. But the band's 2010 Blood of the Nations marked an incredible return to the front lines, and on a frenzied night at El Corazon, it was Seattle's turn to feel the pandemic.

    The slow and sinister intro to "Shades of Death" set the stage for a blast of "Teutonic Terror". It says a lot for a band like Accept to start the show with two (three, if you count the intro) songs from their new album. Easiest thing in the world to have dipped into their extensive catalog to please the old school, but this wasn't some nostalgia or farewell tour. This was a legendary band at the top of their game, revitalized, re-energized and rejuvenated. They knew it, they felt it, and that's how they played.

    The energy went both ways. "Teutonic Terror" had everyone at El Corazon - those who popped their pimples to 1983's "Balls to the Wall" to those who knew of Accept as a one-hit wonder from the 80s, like myself - pumping fists and singing along. The formula didn't deviate for the rest of the evening, as Mark Tornillo (vocals), Peter Baltes (bass), Wolf Hoffmann and Herman Frank (guitars) and Stefan Schwarzmann (drums) led the crowd through numbers both new and old. Schwarzmann would count in, Hoffmann would play a very New Wave of British Heavy Metal riff, and after two bars the rest of the band would jump in. Even if you didn't know the song (my experience with half the set), everybody knew when to jump in with the song's title and throwing your fist in the air. On a song like "Son of a Bitch", this was exceptionally satisfying.

    Mark Tornillo may be the only non-German in the band, but he owned the microphone that night, consigning memories of Udo Dirkschneider back to the 80s. There was no banter from Tornillo, only business as Accept marched from metal anthem to metal anthem. Hoffmann and Baltes soaked up the crowd's energy into their guitars, commanding the stage purlieu and often dueling one another with their respective instruments. Frank was more content to rock in the background, but even his stoic reserve had a badass quality to it. Everything did, that night. Schwarzmann was all but hidden behind his massive drum kit, and you began to understand why the opening acts, and even Sabaton, were only given a part of the stage.

    I was unfamiliar with most of the songs that Accept used to wrap up their set (that didn’t stop me from joining in on the singing and fist pumping, though). But from the darkness and empty stage came a crackle, a little vaudeville ditty, and a traditional German tune called "Ein Heller und ein Batzen." Mark Tornillo's scream ended all that nonsense, and the band tore into "Fast as a Shark" for their encore. The easiest thing in the world would have been to have continued with the classic material, but with a record as good as Blood of the Nations, there's plenty of modern metal to make the cut. "Pandemic" with the anthemic, sing-along chorus and brilliantly intelligent guitar work was the second encore song, leaving just one song left. No prizes for guessing that "Balls to the Wall" finished the evening. The horns were raised, our fists were pumped and throats were pushed beyond their limit, and for one song that epic, victorious night, a night to celebrate heavy metal's past, present and future, the chains were thrown off and it was us against the world, balls to the wall.

    Blood of the Nations
    Teutonic Terror
    Balls to the Wall
  • Sabaton's North American Tour, El Corazon, Seattle

    1 mai 2011, 5h08m

    Tue 26 Apr – North American Tour

    Having been very impressed with the latest albums from both Accept and Sabaton, I was hugely looking forward to seeing them live for the first time. While Accept are enjoying the second wind brought by Blood of the Nations, Sabaton are reveling in their first taste of North American touring, thanks to Coat of Arms. Aided by three good opening acts and a full, raucous crowd at El Corazon, the legends and the new guard went balls to the wall in Seattle.

    Support was provided by local bands Skelator, Zero Down and Sword of Justice - none of whom sucked, believe it or not. They may have been the three most entertaining opening bands I've ever seen. Their music was sharp, relevant and they didn't overstay their welcome. I'm not familiar with any of them to provide a more in-depth review, but my favorite of the trio was Sword of Judgment. Taylor Enloe pulled off some very impressive leads, and Jam Gandy was absolutely monstrous behind his kit. Very pleasing to watch and listen to, and that goes for Skelator and Zero Down as well.

    But all eyes and ears were on the stage when Europe's "The Final Countdown" started playing on the PA. After a brief instrumental loop, Sabaton took the stage for their first performance in Seattle. Anthems were the theme for the night, and "Ghost Division" was a fitting way to start the night's festivities. Even though Accept were the headliners for the night, the force was fully with Sabaton.

    From the charge of the "Ghost Division", Sabaton delivered songs from as far back as 1994's Primo Victoria (which had the whole of El Corazon jumping with the chorus) to last year's Coat of Arms. For every assault, Daniel Mÿhr's keyboards did battle with Oskar Montelius' and Rikard Sundén 's guitars, unloading a barrage of metal and melody on the crowd. Joakim Brodén mixed his exuberant bounding around the small stage with the occasional somber reminders: elation and pride at performing in Seattle for the first time was balanced with a heartfelt thanks to American veterans bailing the Swedes out of trouble in World War II.

    By far, though, the most poignant moment of the performance was when a member of the 101st Airborne Division - an original Screaming Eagle - was brought to the front of the room to present his flag, bearing the shoulder sleeve insignia of the division. Upon learning that there was an Eagle in attendance, Sabaton actually amended their set to include "Screaming Eagles". It wasn't one of the songs I was hoping to see (although we did get the epic "Cliffs of Gallipoli"), but it whipped up the El Corazon crowd into a frenzy. Daniel Mullback's drums may have been pushed to the side to accommodate Accept's huge drum riser, but he beat the hell out of them to give Seattle a night to remember.

    Being openers, Sabaton's set was limited to just nine songs, but they finished on a huge high with the "Metal Machine" / "Metal Crüe" medley, saluting the bands that everyone in attendance loved (including, ironically, Accept). Even they were cheered off stage, the chants of "Sabaton" followed them. There would be no encore, of course - opening bands should be so lucky - but if what they gave us on that night was any indication, a (bigger) return to these shores shouldn't be too far away.

    Coat of Arms
    Screaming Eagles
  • An Evening With Amon Amarth at Showbox at the Market

    23 avr. 2011, 7h15m

    Wed 20 Apr – Amon Amarth

    Norse legends tell of Surtur, the supernatural giant who wields a flaming sword and will cover the Earth in fire when the time of Ragnarök comes. Seattle got a preview, as Sweden's Amon Amarth brought their eighth studio album, Surtur Rising, and a set full of classics, to the Showbox at the Market on April 20th. Yes, it was 4/20, but inside, there was only alcohol, sweat and Viking metal delivered by the finest in the nine worlds.

    Led by the mighty - in every sense of the word - Johan Hegg, the band (Johan Söderberg and Olavi Mikkonen on guitars, Ted Lundström on bass and Fredrik Andersson on drums) tore through Surtur Rising like Sleipnir riding to Hel. Starting with "War of the Gods", and watched over the whole performance by Surtur himself (courtesy the album cover as a huge stage backdrop), Amon Amarth regaled us with songs about the end of the world, fighting to the death, living without regrets and the last stand of the gods before the mighty sword of Surtur. Mixing catchiness, melody and mythical levels of heaviness, the band kept the energy in the sold out Showbox at maximum.

    Surtur Rising may be new, but you wouldn't have known that the way Amon Amarth blazed through it. Little touches were sacrificed, like the keyboards on "Doom Over Dead Men" and the dynamics on "For Victory or Death", but the songs were presented with enough power and showmanship to negate any complaints. The band had a hell of a time, too: Hegg prowled and pranced the stage, looking like the titular Surtur whipping the crowd into a battle frenzy, and standing shoulder to shoulder with Lundström, Söderberg and Mikkonen, as the four windmilled their long locks around with Andersson beating the drums of war behind them.

    The first set finished with the epic "Doom Over Dead Men", and the band returned after a break for the second half. Starting with the devastating "Twilight of the Thunder God", the songs covered Amon Amarth's underground beginnings to their recent heavyweight albums. Hegg noted that next year marks the band's twentieth anniversary, and they celebrated by playing "Without Fear" from their 1998 debut Once Sent From The Golden Hall. There's no better way to get a Seattle crowd worked up than to say that Portland was louder; and with the roars just about tearing the Showbox off its foundations, the band concluded the set with a medley of "Victorious March", "Gods of War Arise" and "Death In Fire".

    Barely had the cymbals stopped ringing before the crowd launched into a chant, begging for more. For a band that played two consecutive sets, Amon Amarth were not stingy. When the encore culminated with "The Pursuit of Vikings", Hegg exhorted the crowd to sing along to the unaccompanied chorus. No worries there; every voice in the Showbox called on Odin to guard our ships through storms and war, as Söderberg and Mikkonen wielded their guitars like blood-drenched axes. When it was over, you'd have thought that we just experienced Ragnarök itself.

    My only disappointment, if you could call it that, was that "Valhall Awaits Me" was a no-show. But when you had the band bursting through the smoke and darkness in "Live for the Kill", or the magnificent triple attack of "Victorious March", "Gods of War Arise" and "Death In Fire", or every voice and hand raised to sing along with the chorus of "Twilight of the Thunder God", you find yourself forgetting such quibbles. Not too many bands can command the stage and crowd the way Amon Amarth did on that loud and majestic night, but the ovation they received from the thousand-strong crowd suggests that Amon Amarth are a band unto themselves. Surtur would approve.

    Amon Amarth

    Surtur Rising
  • American Carnage 2010, Seattle, WA: Megadeth

    12 fév. 2011, 23h30m

    The echoes and haze had barely cleared from Testament's set when the house lights dimmed, and the stage was illuminated in a swath of blood red lights. Over the strains of Black Sabbath's perilous self-titled masterpiece (and looked upon by Vic Rattlehead in a bunker somewhere in Area 51), a voice announced the imposition of martial law, the revocation of civil rights, and a command to "shut up" and do as we were told. Very X-Files, very Megadeth.

    The last time I saw Megadeth was when the band was promoting United Abominations, back in 2007. Then, their set started with Dave Mustaine, silhouetted on stage, pounding out the intro to "Sleepwalker". But tonight was a special night, and with nary an introduction, all four members launched into "Holy Wars...The Punishment Due". Moshpits are never a safe place to be, and transitioning from "The Formation of Damnation" to one of Megadeth's most popular song surely caused fresh nosebleeds. The "new classic" lineup of Mustaine, Chris Broderick, Shawn Drover and back-in-the-fold Dave Ellefson celebrated the 20th anniversary of Rust In Piece with all the precision of a missile strike, and Seattle was the target. Washington, you're next, indeed.

    Megadeth led the crowd through the various sections of "Holy Wars...The Punishment Due", knocking us over with the first movement, softening us with the second, and giving us whiplash with the third. After the song's climatic ending, and before we even had a chance to catch our breath, they launched into "Hangar 18". What was it like seeing Dave Mustaine and Chris Broderick trade those twisting, skin-shredding and physically impossible solos? There are some experiences in life that cannot be expressed in words, and this was one of them. You think about how many jaws dropped to the floor when the song came out in 1990, and you think that, twenty years later, it still has the same effect, if not even more so. Plenty has been said and written about Mustaine as a guitarist, but Chris Broderick is a monster onstage, who held his own against the likes of Mustaine himself, Friedman, Pitrelli and Drover, and then some. It's a good thing Dave has made peace with a lot of his demons now, because Megadeth won't get another guitarist like Chris Broderick anytime soon.

    "Take No Prisoners" is always a good way to get the crowd involved after the guitar-centric songs that preceded it, but everybody was waiting for "Five Magics", which saw the light of day for the first time in 20 years on this tour. The stage lights dimmed and brightened on Ellefson, Mustaine and Broderick through the quick intro and solos. When the song picked up, though, the lights had a hard time keeping up. Mustaine isn't the best vocalist in the world by a country mile (and his vocals were the only weak point of Megadeth's performance), but how he could sing and play "Five Magics" (or, for that matter, any of the songs off Rust In Peace) will remain a mystery. The winding, falling solo saw off "Five Magics" and into the song's unearthed companion on the album (and the tour). When Drover and Ellefson were tapping out the intro to "Poison Was The Cure", I had to ask myself, "Am I really seeing Megadeth - and not just Dave Mustaine, but Dave Ellefson as well - in the process of playing the entire Rust In Peace album?"

    Ohhhhh yeah.

    The pit - already a tangled, swirling mass of sweat and flesh - was whipped into even more of a frenzy as Mustaine snarled his lyrics and played solo against solo with Chris Broderick. "Lucretia"s demented little laugh offered some respite from the intensity of the assault that preceded it. It didn't last long, as Shawn Drover counted us into "Tornado of Souls". Not as obscure as some of the songs in Megadeth's set, but no less welcome, Broderick had everyone in the WaMu Theater eating out of his hands with one of the best solos in all of heavy metal. "Dawn Patrol" did provide a bit of a respite (replete with a cameo from the guest of honor, Mr. Rattlehead himself), before Drover's drum solo brought the Rust In Peace set to its epic and insane conclusion, hammering home with ferociousness and finesse the legacy of Megadeth's magnum opus.

    The rest of the set was an (understandably) abbreviated "best-of". Mustaine brought out his flying-M for "Trust" and stuck with an Explorer for "Head Crusher" and "Symphony of Destruction" (the packed-to-the-rafters lapping up Ellefson's bass). "A Tout Le Monde" lightened the intensity a little, but then Dave asked Seattle how much peace would cost. Then it was a final whirlwind of Ellefson's throbbing bass, Drover pounding the issue home and Mustaine and Broderick having some fun with their guitars, before sending the WaMu Theater into a frenzy with the final section of "Peace Sells". I took a look around me and saw everybody on their feet, every hand raised and fist clenched as we all asked, "Peace sells, but who's buying?" That night, there were no answers, and we didn't care a damn. Mustaine's voice was as weak as flat Coke, and we didn't care about that, either. We saw Megadeth - two original members, stalwart Glen Drover and metal machine Chris Broderick - play Rust In Peace, all of it, from "Holy Wars...The Punishment Due" to "Five Magics", from "Poison Was The Cure" to "Rust In Peace...Polaris".

    There was only song from Endgame, but given everything that came before (and what was still to come, believe it or not), I found it exquisitely hard to complain. Mustaine reprised the final movement of "Holy Wars" to introduce the members of Megadeth and kick us our asses one more time, before leaving the hazy, smoky, sweaty, and bloody WaMu Theather in the hands of the band who made bloodshed an art.

    Rust In Peace
  • American Carnage 2010, Seattle, WA: Slayer

    12 fév. 2011, 23h24m

    Slayer's latest album, World Painted Blood, starts not with a blast of guitars and drums, but an eerie Native American chant, under which Dave Lombardo softly taps a rhythm. A sinister guitar lick gives way to a Slayer chug before too long, but it's an innocuous way to open a Slayer album. The California quartet use this to their advantage, both on disc and opening their set. A huge white sheet, covering the stage from rafters to floor, glowed red, like the splatters of blood on Janet Leigh's shower curtain. A roar greeted the projection of the Slayer logo on the sheet, all the while with that tribal chant, Lombardo's drums and the guitar lick playing over the PA.

    Before you could blink, the sheet came down to reveal Lombado, Kerry King, Tom Araya and Jeff Hanneman, watched over the by a pair of German eagles, already charging their way through "World Painted Blood". The pit, already bruised and bloodied from Testament and Megadeth, launched itself into another frenzy. Seattle was to have been the site of the first show of the American Carnage tour, all the way back in January of 2010, before Tom Araya's back surgery forced the whole tour to be postponed. The time must have helped, because Slayer mixed Testament's assault & Megadeth's precision, and took the combination to uncharted levels. By the time "World Painted Blood" finished with its explosive gasp, the band everyone had come to see had staked their claim on the evening.

    "Hate Worldwide" followed next, but it was merely a prelude for what was to come. "Are you ready?", Araya asked Seattle, his grin belying Slayer's evil intentions. With that, the band launched into "War Ensemble", and with it, Seasons in the Abyss in the album's entirety. As King and Hanneman shredded their strings faster with impossible speed, we watched history being made for the second time that night. The hidden gems of the album, like "Blood Red", "Temptation" and "Spirit in Black" are not regular inclusions in Slayer's live set, but they fit like a bloodied glove on that night. "Dead Skin Mask" was a brief respite from the brutality, and while the rest of the songs surged and ploughed through, the culmination was the classic title track. Seattle fell under the trance of the hypnotic "Seasons in the Abyss", before the song kicked into second gear, sending the already fatigued and hazy mosh pit into another round of madness and insanity.

    Madness? Madness? This was SLAYER.

    As the song - and album - came to its epic conclusion, power chords and cymbals fading into the hazy, sweaty atmosphere in the WaMu Theater, the notes of "South of Heaven" rang out. And you had to pinch yourself: first Testament, then Megadeth, now Slayer just finished Seasons in the Abyss, and there was still more to come. But no sooner had the band raged through "South of Heaven", did Lombardo greet us with the classic one-two-three drum intro that changed the face of heavy metal. With guitar feedback reaching dangerous levels, Slayer burst into "Raining Blood", dragging the tens of thousands of fans in the WaMu Theater into the deepest depths of a burning and bloody hell. The chaotic climax of the song gave way to another gem, "Aggressive Perfector", but all eyes - and ears - were on "Angel of Death".

    The song that rewrote the book of heavy metal started with Araya's almost pitch-perfect scream, proving that while he is not the world's best vocalist, he still has what it takes to make the hairs on the back of your neck rise in fear. Lombardo's drums pummeled and hammered along until the halftime breakdown, which surely sent the mosh pit to new levels of violence. When the solos came, though, there would be no more halftime crap. Hanneman, his golden mane flowing and ebbing like a jellyfish, and King traded solos back and forth like tossing a live grenade to each other. Lombardo's double-bass blitz took us to the final chorus, and as Araya screamed the song's title one last time - "Angel of Deaaaaaaaath!" - you knew, without a shadow of any doubt, that while Metallica may be on top of the thrash metal mountain, Slayer are lords of the underworld beneath it.

    A little loquacious of me? Some purple prose? Probably. But if you saw Testament, Megadeth and then Slayer in one single night, I doubt you'd be any less wordy, or effusive. My only gripe with Slayer's set is that they left out "Jihad", probably my favorite Slayer song. The focus on Seasons in the Abyss meant that many other popular songs had to be shelved, but I don't think too many people minded. The barrage of stage lights and pure metal was like facing down a column of tanks on their way to war, and under the unforgiving eyes of the German eagles on the stage backdrop, the tens of thousands of fans were willing victims of American Carnage.

    World Painted Blood
    Seasons in the Abyss
  • American Carnage 2010, Seattle, WA: Testament

    12 fév. 2011, 23h21m

    Seattle was to be the venue of the opening show of the historic American Carnage tour, featuring three of the original bands of the American thrash metal movement: Testament, Megadeth and Slayer. I say "historic" because despite the legendary status of these bands, American Carnage was the first time they would play the United States together, having previously trekked across Europe in 1991. A year after the initial announcement of American Carnage, and nine months after that first show was canceled, I found myself in the mile-long line to get into Seattle's WaMu Theater.

    When the lights dimmed for Testament, the roar that went up was loud, but merely a shadow of things to come. After "For The Glory Of" played over the PA, Testament stormed the stage for "More Than Meets The Eye". Having seen the same band perform the same song in the same venue two years ago (opening for Judas Priest), there weren't too many surprises here; Alex Skolnick still ripped through his solo, Eric Peterson chugged along, Greg Christian's bass pummeled everyone over the head, Paul Bostaph's drums threatened a tsunami and Chuck Billy was still the hulking mountain of roars and growls. It was hard to imagine that a band so tight and energetic were just the appetizers of the evening.

    From there, Testament unlocked one from the archives - "Dog Faced Gods", from 1994's Low. A lot of vocalists who use death metal vocals on their studio albums don't pull off the same punch when they perform the song live, but that's never been a problem for Chuck Billy. He rumbled through the song like a man possessed, every ounce of power and depth in his growls as you'd hear on the album itself. When "The New Order" kicked in, and you saw Alex Skolnick front and center, shredding through the intro, you had to pinch yourself. This is something you'd expect to see and hear at the end of the show - Alex Skolnick, one of most accomplished guitarists in the world today, playing the intro solo like he did when he recorded it in 1988. And then you had Chuck Billy whipping the crowd up with his roars of "Thrash! Thrash! Thrash!"

    You'd think the crowd would be saving up their energy for Megadeth and Slayer, but not so much. Four songs into a long evening and there were already shoes flying.

    Greg Christian's bass lead us into "Practice What You Preach", which sounds a hell of a lot better than it does on record. The real fun came when Billy growled the title of the next song: "Into the Pit". From the titular pit to the seats all the way into the back, horns were thrown and voices raised for the chorus - "In! To! The! Pit!". Bostaph was a pure machine behind his kit, and Chuck Billy is the only man who can look cool while air drumming and playing air guitar. Because, honestly, when you've got Testament behind you, nothing could possibly make you look uncool.

    Then the lights dimmed and the eerie string music played over the PA. Billy stood still on stage, arms spread - and with his scream, the band unleashed "D.N.R". Testament were unstoppable, all five members in perfect unison of sound and energy. "D.N.R" is probably my favorite Testament song, and having seen it performed twice - and both times, impeccably - it's impossible to say that one rendition was better than other. Following "D.N.R" was its album-mate "3 Days In Darkness", a nice surprise addition to the set. The midtempo monster met with no complaints, accentuated by Billy's awesome presence and Bostaph's drumming as he played the parts of man who he replaced in Testament, Dave Lombardo (who later replaced Bostaph in Slayer).

    Testament saved their best for the final song of their set, the title track from The Formation of Damnation. The pit exploded as Bostaph's stop-start introduction gave way to a barrage of guitars, drums and Chuck Billy's absolutely demented vocals. The two times I've seen Testament, they've been in the unenviable position of whetting the audience's appetite for the bigger acts to follow - Judas Priest in 2008, and Megadeth & Slayer in 2010. But don't for a second think that they were merely openers either time. If Alex Skolnick's guitar solos didn't convince you, Chuck Billy dividing the pit for the wall of death would kill you. "I want you motherfuckers here," he bellowed, sounding like General Patton rising from the grave to command his troops one final time, "to kill those motherfuckers over there!" Then he walked to the other side of the stage. "And I want you motherfuckers over here - " the crowd roared as he paused, then pointed to the other side of the pit - "to kill those sons of bitches over there!" When Bostaph led the charge into the second part of the song, you understood why this was called the American "Carnage" tour. And when the song came to its explosive, hammering end, you understood that you just saw Testament, with the evening only just having started.

    The Formation Of Damnation
  • Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Winter Tour 2010: Seattle, WA

    12 fév. 2011, 23h14m

    I've seen Paul O'Neill's Trans-Siberian Orchestra ever year since 2003, when I was a fresh-faced cherub who had a dim idea that these guys played Christmas carols with electric guitars. Eight years is a long time, and despite having only released two additional albums in that time, TSO have never failed to impress in their live shows, performing every year and expanding their touring schedules beyond the Christmas season (and indeed, beyond the United States).

    First things first, though, and Seattle was one of the cities that made do with a Christmas show before Thanksgiving. All things considered, not a bad way to have kicked off the season. As a veteran of TSO shows, the first half of the evening held no surprises: the band played nearly all of 1996's Christmas Eve and Other Stories, telling a tale of an angel tasked to find the meaning of Christmas in a world torn apart by war and heartbreak. I say "no surprises", but there's still nothing quite like the sight and sound of Al Pitrelli, one of the coolest men to have picked up a Les Paul, shredding his way through the "O Come All Ye Faithful/O Holy Night" medley. I also say "no surprises", but the pyro during "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24" was enough to make everyone at the Key Arena, veteran or rookie, jump out of their seats.

    The conclusion of the first half of the show drew warm applause and cheers (even if being wished "Merry Christmas" two weeks before Thanksgiving was strange). The second half started, not with a blast of guitars, lights, pyro and orchestra, but a mournful piano line first heard on Savatage's Dead Winter Dead, when the only thing "trans-Siberian" was a railroad that stretched across Russia. I was sitting next to two young women, one of whom had indicated this was her first TSO show; no doubt she wondered why I was so inordinately excited over what appeared to be nothing more than a simple piano intro. For me, who has long given up on any hope of seeing Savatage perform, to hear the pioneering progressive metal band reborn in such a way was worth the price of admission alone.

    Then Jeff Scott Soto (of Journey and Yngwie Malmsteen) took the stage and crooned the first few bars of Savatage's "Sleep" (from Edge of Thorns). This would obviously indicate that TSO have more Savatage dalliances in mind, and they certainly have a plethora of material to work with. Purists will seethe at Paul O'Neill's mining of the Oliva brothers' work, but I imagine that most of the crowd were simply charmed by the simplicity of "Sleep" - and entertained by how it segued into a rock ballad take on The Beatles "Help!". Even after eight straight years of seeing them, TSO are anything but predictable.

    The rest of the evening was a combination of stellar musicianship, enough cheese to open a new pizza chain, and a dazzling & deafening display of pyrotechnics. Rarely have the senses experienced such an assault, as guitarists, drummer, violinists, string section and keyboardists (sometimes descending from the ceiling, sometimes running out on ramps suspended over the audience) kept time to bursts of flame and bona fide explosions at the conclusions of the evening's biggest numbers, like "The Mountain", ""Requiem (The Fifth)", "Mozart and Memories", and of course, the final reprise of "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24". The Trans-Siberian Orchestra never disappoint when it comes to their live shows, and even though the mystique and novelty has worn off after the better part of a decade, the music and its magic is as strong as ever.

    Trans-Siberian Orchestra

    Christmas Eve and Other Stories
    Night Castle
    Edge of Thorns
  • Iron Maiden: The Final Frontier Tour, Auburn, WA

    27 août 2010, 6h27m

    Tue 22 Jun – Iron Maiden, Dream Theater

    When a band like Iron Maiden comes to your town, it's a good enough reason to cancel all incoming and outgoing flights. It's just that monumental. It's just that epic. Seattle got a taste of that madness when the sextet brought "The Final Frontier World Tour" to the White River Amphitheater in June, promoting the band's 15th studio album among songs that spanned their impressive 30-year career.

    For a show of this magnitude, the band got things right by using Gustav Holst's thundering "Mars, the Bringer of War" as the opening music. Red lights flickered from the skies to illuminate the stage, rigged up like the bridge of a space-faring battleship (keeping with the theme of The Final Frontier). Fitting as though "Mars" is, the intro might have stretched a tad too long - but when Adrian Smith struck the first notes of "The Wicker Man", all was forgiven and forgotten. With that, Bruce Dickinson, Dave Murray, Steve Harris and Janick Gers joined Smith and Nicko McBrain to take Auburn to the final frontier.

    After the climactic ending of "The Wicker Man", things slowed down a bit with the moody intro to "Ghost of the Navigator", both from 2000's Brave New World. To be blunt, I've never been the biggest fan of "Ghost of the Navigator" (although the sheer visual of seeing Maiden perform the song live made up for it), so there we no complaints from me (or from the rest of the sold out White River Amphitheater") when McBrain and Harris followed it with the drum and bass intro from the classic "Wrathchild", from Killers (1983). Every arm was raised and every set of vocal chords was used for the chorus ("Wrathchild!"), and the song provided a welcome boost after things had slowed down with "Ghost of the Navigator". For "El Dorado", Dickinson advised that we not bother with the free MP3 of the song that was made available , and save our money for the real thing. Even if the chorus of the song lagged a bit, the pace and groove made for a good live performance.

    As the chords of "El Dorado" faded into silence, they were replaced by the whistling bombs and explosions in the muddy fields of "Paschendale", arguably one of the best songs Iron Maiden have ever put out. The soft/loud dynamic was enhanced by dimming and brightening of the house lights which darkened and illuminated both the stage of the sold out White River Amphitheater. The massive chorus, led by the charging and galloping Dickinson, was echoed in plenty by everyone in attendance. Definitely a highlight of the evening.

    The stop-start nature of the music continued with "The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg" and "These Colours Don't Run" - both great and highly entertaining songs, but a questionable in a live performance because of their long nature and many different structures. "Blood Brothers" is one of my favorite Iron Maiden songs, but I must confess that the soft intro-loud song-soft outro dynamic had started to get a little formulaic. Still, seeing one of your favorite songs from your favorite band being performed live is never a bad thing, and when Bruce Dickinson dedicated the song to the recently-deceased Ronnie James Dio, the horns thrown to the heavens and the "Dio!" chants captured the moment perfectly.

    The tempo picked up with "Wildest Dreams" - not a bad choice for the usual faster album opener, but sandwiched between the see-above "No More Lies" and "Brave New World", seemed lost. Don't get me wrong, I really do love the later-era Iron Maiden, when Steve Harris' compositions began to take on a more epic and almost cinematic scope - but there's a world of difference listening to them on my computer, and seeing the same formula repeat again and again in person. Part of the "problem", if you would call it that, is obviously that Iron Maiden's discography is so extensive that they can't afford to dip exclusively in their 1980s, punk-infused heyday.

    The other part of the equation is that Maiden played most of those songs during their last tour, 2008's "Somewhere Back in Time World Tour". Iron Maiden, to their eternal credit, have never been afraid to think and act outside the box; so to see them championing the long, moody epics at the expense of guaranteed crowd-pleasers (and live performance winners like "The Trooper" and "Run To The Hills") is a bold move by the band. It didn't always work that night in Seattle, but the fact that Maiden are out there and doing it says more for them than if they stuck with a tried-and-true formula. Still, if I was given a second opportunity to sing along with chorus of "Run To The Hills", I can hardly see myself complaining.

    Had it been any other band but Iron Maiden leading us from another slow intro to a loud verse and chorus, myriad solo and instrumental sections, and then taking us out with another slow outro (and then repeating the formula for the very next song), I might be a bit more harsh in my judgment - but to see five of the six of them leap and bound across the stage infused the songs with energy and fire that other bands would have struggled to recreate. Dickinson was his usual chatty self, while Janick Gers swung his guitar around so much you were afraid he was going to hit someone with it. Adrian Smith was his usual rock-like self, while Dave Murray waltzed and danced along like he was in his own private rehearsal space. Steve Harris - Mr. Maiden himself - was all of the above (minus Dickinson's chattiness) and more, getting the loudest cheer of the night when Dickinson introduced him at the end of the band's set. How much that one man has influenced heavy metal is beyond all estimation, probably. And even though he and his band were promoting an album entitled "The Final Frontier", you have to think that, based on the strength of the album and the brilliance of their live performance, there's still more gas in Eddie's tank.

    "Fear of the Dark" followed, my second time seeing it live, and just as life-changing as the first. It is, really, the perfect Iron Maiden live song: the lights are dimmed, the audience chants and sings along to the guitar lines and Bruce Dickinson's crooning voice, before an explosion of sound and luminescence transported the audience to a musical landscape of nightmares and things that live in the shadows and the dark. True, "Fear of the Dark" continued the formula that we had seen for so much of the evening, but this was the song that started Iron Maiden's journey down the epic songwriting textures that have characterized their musical output recent years (since 1995, anyway). "Iron Maiden" followed, with the evening's only appearance of Eddie, now a grotesque alien - not as cool as Cyborg Eddie from two years ago, but fun to see Maiden become a quadruple-guitar band for a moment.

    When Iron Maiden departed the stage at the end of the song, the cheers and roars for them to return grew louder and louder - until a voice intoned that the devil would send the beast with wrath, at which point the roof of the White River Amphitheater nearly came off. After the build, Maiden took the stage again for "The Number of the Beast", with Bruce Dickinson's scream echoing far and wide beyond Auburn, WA. It's companion from the album of the same name followed, but while "Hallowed By Thy Name" ended the previous Iron Maiden show in these parts, this time it set the crowd up for the true finale. Much as I love "Hallowed Be Thy Name", it never worked for me as the closer for a live show. After its epic conclusion, Nicko McBrain's drum rhythm set up "Running Free", which, along with Dickinson's extensive back-and-forth with the exhausted and hoarse crowd, made for a suitably rousing finish to the evening.

    All things considered, as much as I preferred the music on offer this time, I think Iron Maiden's show in 2008 was better. The songs had much more energy and power to them, whereas what we saw this year lacked that same energy and spark. Cosmetic changes - only one appearance of Eddie, while we saw him two or three times last time, and no pyro at all, only puffs of smoke for "The Number of the Beast" - made the whole show seem a bit more low-key than 2008. That shouldn't take away from the band themselves, who were on-key, on-song and on fire. This is Iron Maiden, and you get every cent of your money's worth. And had it been any other band out there, I may have been more damning in my sentence. But when Messrs. McBrain, Murray, Dickinson, Harris, Smith and Gers take the stage, strap yourself in. It's a hell of a ride. The final frontier looms, and Iron Maiden are the soundtrack.

    Iron Maiden

    A Matter of Life and Death

    Dance Of Death

    The Final Frontier

    Fear of the Dark

    Brave New World

    The Number of the Beast



    Fear of the Dark

    The Number of the Beast

    Hallowed Be Thy Name

    The Wicker Man

    Gustav Holst

    Blood Brothers


    El Dorado

  • Trans-Siberian Orchestra, November 21st, 2009 - Seattle, Washington

    11 déc. 2009, 4h43m

    For the first time since 2004, this year's Trans-Siberian Orchestra show promised something new - and I mean REALLY new. I mean, sure, Paul O'Neill always promises something new with every TSO tour, whether it’s new lasers, new pyro, new musicians, new singers, or hell, just new merchandise at the concession stands. But this year was special - for the first time since 2004, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra were touring in support of a new album. That meant REAL new music, as opposed to the "previews" that were played every year since 2005.

    And of course, new merchandise at the concession stands, too.

    This was my first year seeing the matinee show of a TSO performance. It must be said that without my friend Amy, I wouldn't have seen them at all. Thank you Amy, for making a Christmas dream come true in the most unexpected and amazing way:-)

    For a matinee show, the Key Arena in Seattle was absolutely PACKED. Speaking from past experience, the evening shows are always full, so I felt quite at home.

    As I said earlier, the show had surprises. My main impression was that a lot of the fat was trimmed - some of old jokes and routines had been done away with, probably to accommodate the new music being incorporated into the show. The first half was virtually unchanged from previous years - Christmas Eve and Other Stories was still Christmas Eve and Other Stories, with its overdrawn narration, soaring guitar solos, fake snow, observations that Russians want world peace and vodka, lasers, and video screens actually showing stuff. Yes, instead of random (but pretty designs), the screens showed images during "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo (12/24)", giving the song a much more epic presentation, akin to the music video.

    Once the first half was over, we went into the intermission, with Tommy Farese introducing the singers and backing musicians, before promising a spring Trans-Siberian Orchestra tour.

    Suuuuure. Then again, they finally released Night Castle, so who knows?

    With the intermission intermissioned, we came, of course, to Night Castle. I was pleasantly surprised (and relieved) that they played the songs I was familiar with. Naturally, they played the most popular cuts - "The Mountain", which debuted last year, and is always great for pyro and guitar and violin insanity; "Tocatta - Carpimus Noctem", because everybody recognizes the opening bars; "Nutrocker" and "Moonlight and Madness", both with their piano-heavy riffage that saw Jane Mangini banging away at her keys like a woman possessed; and the beautiful "Dreams We Conceive", with its commanding and impassioned delivery from Jeff Scott Soto, a VERY pleasant surprise because it's probably one of my favorite songs from Night Castle.

    Songs from The Lost Christmas Eve made up the rest of the set. It was strange not seeing "A Last Illusion" or "O Fortuna" not being played, since those songs were setlist staples for the last six years. "Wish Lizst (Toy Shop Madness)" was truncated, and it was darnedly strange to not see the pyro on the hydraulic lifter for "Requiem (The Fifth)".

    But for all the changes, the additions and the subtractions, TSO's energy never wavered. Al Pitrelli was the epitome of cool, while Roddy Chung leapt and bounded across the stage like an energetic gazelle on a coffee high. It was interesting to see some of the female singers being brought out to dance for the uptempo instrumentals, which, I imagine, would have found no favor wanting with certain demographics of the audience.

    The show, as always, concluded with a reprise of "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo (12/24)", and with the blinding and exploding pyrotechnics, and the absolutely deafening (but AWESOME) finale of the whole stage filled with musicians. When the madness came to an end, everybody - performance and audience members alike - were on their feet. It may have been a month before Christmas, but for the nine thousand people in Key Arena that day, we got our present.
  • METALLICA, December 1st, 2008 - Seattle, Washington

    3 déc. 2008, 1h05m

    Mon 1 Dec – Metallica, Lamb of God, The Sword

    The World Magnetic Tour came to Seattle, Washington on the first day of December in 2008, as thrash metal pioneers Metallica, supporting their newest album Death Magnetic, broughtLamb of God and The Sword to the Emerald City to break some eardrums and kick coffee-drinkin' ass.

    Right on cue, The Sword started the show, promoting their latest album Gods of the Earth. I generally have a low opinion of opening bands, but The Sword were very impressive - good stage presence and musically solid. Not being familiar with any of their music, I couldn't latch on to their songs, but they made enough of an impression that I will definitely check them out in time.

    The Sword played for half an hour, and gave way to Lamb of God, playing their first show of the tour. Despite being only a casual fan of Lamb of God, this was the second time I saw them live - the first time was when they opened for the other thrash metal titans, Slayer. Lamb of God referred to this, mentioning that they've also opened for Anthrax and Megadeth, lucky bastards. Lamb of God also gave props to their road crew, which I thought was a nice touch. Musically, they were entertaining. Randy Blythe's vocals take a little getting used to, but he was full of energy, bounding across the stage and working up the crowd. They played all the Lamb of God songs I'm familiar with, "Walk With Me In Hell", "Redneck", "Laid to Rest" and "Now You've Got Something to Die For", as well as a song off their upcoming album, Wrath, which was dedicated to the men and women in the U.S. Armed Forces serving overseas.

    After Lamb of God, there was only one band left to play. Key Arena, which had been slowly filling up during the opening slots, was filled to the brim when the house lights went off and "The Ecstasy of Gold" started playing over the PA. Never before have lulling piano notes been more raucously cheered. The raucous cheers became deafening as the heartbeats and clean guitar intro of "That Was Just Your Life" played. You could just make out the shadowy figures of James Hetfield (guitar/vocals), Lars Ulrich (drums), Kirk Hammet (guitar) and Rob Truijillo (bass) make their way onto the stage. Then the recording stopped and the jackhammer riff from Hetfield started.

    And for the next two hours, it didn't let up.

    Metallica went for the visual jugular this tour - the only lighting on the stage during "That Was Just Your Life" was the single beam illuminating Hetfield from below as he machine-gunned the vocals. The rest of the stage was dark. But where they turned the lights off, they turned the lasers on, with such dizzying speed and intensity as to rival the Trans-Siberian Orchestra's light show from just a month ago. The lasers were supplied courtesy the monstrous coffins looming above the stage, which dipped and soared as the evening went by.


    That Was Just Your Life
    The End of the Line
    Creeping Death
    Harvester of Sorrow
    Broken, Beat And Scarred
    Sad But True
    Wherever I May Roam
    Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
    The Day That Never Comes
    Master of Puppets
    Nothing Else Matters
    Enter Sandman

    Die, Die My Darling
    Seek & Destroy

    My highlights:

    That Was Just Your Life - just for being the first song of the night, and the first song that I got to see Metallica play live
    Creeping Death - one of the first Metallica songs I ever heard, and still a favorite of mine. Also, for the "Die!" chant during the bridge section, something I never dreamed of participating in
    One - for guessing that this was the song that would be played before the rest of the arena caught on
    Master of Puppets - knowing that the band would go into this song and just waiting for them to hit the intro
    Every time James Hetfield said "SEATTLE!"
    James telling the audience that "SEATTLE KICKS ASS!" I'm sure he does that for every show, but damnit, it was real that night
    James asking an 8-year old fan if he drove to the show
    James' general banter with the crowd
    The pyro, which was huge
    The final chorus of Seek & Destroy
    Kirk's solo during Creeping Death - I distinctly remember having a dopey grin on my face thinking I'm watching Kirk Hammet solo
    The Metallica/Death Magnetic beach balls falling from the ceiling during Seek & Destroy

    The band themselves were on form. I know they get criticized for being sloppy live, but there were no noticeable screw-ups*. Rob and Lars were tight, Kirk was on the mark, and James sounded supreme live. Their stage presence was great - Lars would leave his drumkit after each song and play to the crowd, and James leapt and bounded like a gazelle with tattoos and awesome guitars. Kirk was grinning like a Cheshire cat, and Rob was like this awesome bouncer with really long hair and a seriously heavy bass sound. This was a band enjoying their new lease on life and enjoying hanging out with their friends who paid an arm and a leg to come see them.

    Metallica have had many detractors along their career, but none of them were in attendance at the show. The crowd was fully with Metallica, for every pump of the fist, every shouted lyric and every roar (and there were lots of roars). Most of the audience remained on their feet for the two hours' of Metallica's performance. As a treat, the house lights were turned back on for Seek & Destroy. From my vantage point in the nosebleed section, you could see every seat in the house taken, everybody on their feet, every refrain of "SEEK AND DESTROY!" being shouted with gusto and arms flung out with closed fists or heavy metal horns.

    As for me, my body checked out after Creeping Death. The excitement of seeing Metallica, and the sheer disbelief that they played Creeping Death (and the opportunity to scream "DIE! DIE! DIE!" along with 20,000 people) killed me. If not for the fact that I had an aisle seat, and could thus support myself with the railing along the edge of my section, I would have dropped dead.

    And that was just my night.

    *Listening to the bootleg, there were a few flaws - James muddles the first clean break of Cyanide, there were a few guitar dead notes, and Lars and Kirk missing some spots during Sanitarium (according to, the band switched around the setlist during the show, and Sanitarium was one of the shuffled songs). None of this spoiled their overall performance.