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–2014 Update: Iced Earth, Anvil, Black Star Riders, Warriors of Metal Fest VII, Motley Crue/Alice Cooper

Hello my fellow rock-heads and brain-bashers,

I hope this note finds you all happy and well. As this cool and pleasant Michigan summer is winding down, I find myself pondering upon another fantastic year in hard rock and metal. There’s also the lame and unfortunate fact that I haven’t posted anything in something like six months. Yes, there’s that. While I could try to fabricate or exaggerate some sort of excuses as to how, “I have been so busy, life’s so nutty, blah-de-dah-de-dah,” I figure that’s neither here nor there now. There’s only today, and that’s the whole-hearted truth, folks. So, instead I’m going to attempt to briefly summarize some of the highlights of my 2014 (thus far) in music. Here goes nothing…

Jon Schaffer and Iced Earth destroy Grand Rapids.

Jon Schaffer and Iced Earth destroyed Grand Rapids.

First off, there’s the many great national shows that have come through Grand Rapids, beginning with Iced Earth on April 4th. Mr. Jon Schaffer and the almighty IE corps absolutely decimated The Intersection when they kicked off their U.S. leg of the “Plagues of Babylon” tour right here. The I.E. boys have never sounded finer, despite the fact they were playing with a brand new drummer, who didn’t miss a beat and also added some fresh percussive flavor to the songs. They enthusiastically ploughed through a varied set that favored their most recent Plagues… and Dystopia albums, as well as ‘90s classics off the popular The Dark Saga and Something Wicked… records. Once again, Stu Block reiterated his versatility as a metal vocalist by shifting from the Matt Barlow lows to the piercing “Ripper”-esque highs with equal aplomb. Then, of course, there’s Schaffer’s rhythm guitar work, which sounded brutal, loud and as cutting as a scythe. When I think of the greatest shows I’ve ever seen, Iced Earth is always right up there. Setlist: Plagues of Babylon, Apocalypse Segue, Democide, V, If I Could See You, The Hunter, Burning Times, Red Baron/Blue Max, Blessed Are You, Vengeance Is Mine, Cthulhu, My Own Savior, A Question Of Heaven, Dystopia, Watching Over Me, Iced Earth.

Then there’s Anvil. Oh yes, the inimitably goofy and glorious Canucks made a suprising appearance at The Stache Lounge on May 14th. With such an imposing blast of classic metal power coming to town, who was I to dare miss it? When my brother, Jeff, and I arrived in the lobby of the venue, which is attached to The Intersection, drummer extraordinaire Robb Reiner and the Anvil boys were just hanging out over by the merchandise stands. Needless to say, we met them and exchanged a few pics before the show started, proof positive that kindness and humility is alive and well among the heavy rock scene. As for the show itself, it was heavy, exhilaratingly fast at times, powerful, and, of course, LOUD. Legendary guitarist/vocalist Steve “Lips” Kudrow gave the fans all the zany theatrics Anvil is known for, including the opening “jamming in the crowd” bit and the hilarious dildo-as-pick guitar solo that never fails to invoke smiles and cheers. If there’s an overriding theme to an Anvil show, it is “Life is fun, and so is metal.” Anvil delivered on all counts. Approximate setlist: March of the Crabs, 666, School Love, Badass Rock’n’ Roll, Winged Assassins, On Fire, This Is Thirteen, Mothra, Thumb Hang, Swing Thing, Hope In Hell, Eat Your Words, Metal On Metal. Encore: Forged In Fire, Running.

The monsters kept on coming when the Black Star Riders, or the current incarnation of my all-time favorite band, Thin Lizzy, hit The Intersection on June 1st. Now featuring veteran TL guitarist Scott Gorham as well as talented Irish vocalist/guitarist Ricky Warwick, BSR made the small-but-devoted Intersection crowd almost feel like we were witnessing Phil Lynott & co. circa 1976. Yup, the band sounded tight and dynamite with the TL patented twin-guitar harmonies on sublime display. Warwick’s soulful vocals sound almost like a dead-ringer for Lynott at times, which added to the authenticity of the overall performance. The BSR performed with plenty of urgency and drive as well, so classic TL rockers such as “Are you Ready,” “Bad Reputation,” Massacre and “Don’t Believe a Word” really packed a most welcome wallop in the gut. Their setlist drew heavily from their debut BSR All Hell Breaks Loose album, as well as most of their 1978 Live and Dangerous disc. I’ve gotta say, when Gorham and the boys eased into the soaring opening harmonies of the gorgeous quasi-ballad “Southbound,” I was in Thin Lizzy heaven. To close the set with monstrous versions of “The Cowboy Song” and “Whiskey in the Jar” was just the maraschino cherry on top of a dream come true of a show. Approximate setlist: All Hell Breaks Loose, Are You Ready, Bloodshot, Bad Reputation, Hoodoo Voodoo, Jailbreak, Kingdom of the Lost, Hey Judas, Massacre, Valley of the Stones, Emerald, Bound for Glory, Cowboy Song, The Boys Are Back in Town. Encore: Whiskey in the Jar.

George Call and Dallas metal monsters ASKA, supporting their sixth-full length Fire Eater, reduced Columbus to rubble.

George Call and Dallas metal monsters ASKA, supporting their sixth-full length Fire Eater, reduced Columbus to rubble.

During the last week of June, the 26th-29th, I journeyed 315 miles to the southeast for the 7th Annual installment of Datis Alaee’s Warriors of Metal Festival in Columbus, Ohio. After enduring a series of frustrating spinal-tap moments (who would have thought one could experience a flat tire and a broken clutch in their car all in one day?), I finally arrived at O’Schecky’s Live in Columbus at 11:30 on Thursday night, just in time to miss most of the Pre-Fest Showcase. While that was unfortunate, after my harrowing 14-hour odyssey I was just relieved to have finally arrived. One of my main purposes of attending the WOM Fest for vacation this summer, other than the obvious benefit of getting to hear over two dozen fantastic underground bands, was to be able to reunite with some old online pen-pal buddies. I was very blessed to meet for the second time my friend George Call from ASKA, as well as for the first time my good friends Kit and Jen Ekman from Alabama and Craig Wisnom from Arizona, all of whom were fellow members of the small “Craig’s Metal Board” list on the Prodigy service and email during the ‘90s and 2000s. It’s hard to explain how great a time a time I had hanging out, catching up and sharing our love of metal all weekend with such wonderful friends, new and old alike.

Of course, it’s impossible to do justice to all the great music featured at WOM VII in such a brief and belated summary. But the fest was an efficiently run and well-organized showcase of highly professional power, speed, thrash and traditional metal, headlined by Dallas true metal legends ASKA on Friday and Houston’s technical speed metal gods Helstar on Saturday. While the fest featured plenty of different styles of metal to please most fans, it also focused heavily on the bombastic and “happy” European brand of power metal. I generally don’t care much for that type of metal, but plenty of other attendees love it and support such bands enthusiastically, so more power and respect to them. There were still plenty of bands I enjoyed and recommend, such as Noble Beast (Minnesota), Valhalla (Indiana), Shallow Ground (Connecticut), Burning Shadows (Washington D.C.), Lords of the Trident (Wisconsin), Zephaniah (Indiana), the almighty ASKA (Dallas), Crusader (Chicago), A Sound of Thunder (Washington D.C.), Darker Half (Sydney, Australia), Benedictum (California) with Leather Leone, Helstar (Houston) and many more I may have missed or forgotten. If indeed this was the last WOM Fest, Datis and Leah Alaee have plenty of impressive accomplishments to feel proud of. Here’s to their tremendous love and dedication to the music. =)

On the way home from WOM Fest, I accidentally stumbled upon the infamous Alrosa Villa Lounge where Dimebag Darrell was murdered. So I stopped for a few minutes and made a short, solemn video in tribute. R.I.P. Dime, and thank you for all the great music and inspiration.

Finally, Jeff and I witnessed Motley Crue and Alice Cooper kicking off their 2014 Tour at Van Andel Arena here in G.R. on July 2nd. Alice’s performance, as usual, was flawless and inspiring. His six-piece band now features the six-string heroics of Iron Maidens guitarist Nita Strauss, and they tightly and brilliantly played 50 minutes of classic Cooper. Some of the highlights included the opening of “Hello Hooray,” “Poison,” “Billion Dollar Babies,” and the epic, stirring “Ballad of Dwight Frye” played in its entirety. All the guillotines, straight jackets, electrocutions and giant Frankensteins never fail to entertain, either.

Following Alice’s impressive and highly professional show, Motley’s “farewell” appearance in West Michigan was a tad disappointing by comparison. The first half of their set was plagued by multiple technical glitches, such as Tommy Lee’s broken bass-drum head and Mick Mars’ in-ear monitor problems, as well as the inexcusable and embarrassing instance of having to start a song over (“Too Fast For Love”) due to Tommy’s brain fart about how the song goes. Additionally, the P.A. was cranked so loud that many of the familiar tunes such as “Wild Side’ sounded so distorted they were hard to recognize. That said, Motley is still the indomitable Motley, and they refused to relent despite all the mishaps. They recovered from the adversity during the second half of the set and presented a fun and thrilling performance, and Tommy’s loop-the-loop drum solo from the ceiling was especially jaw-dropping. By the time the lights went dark and the band ventured over to a suspended, piano-laden stage at the back of the arena, it was time for Motley Crue to go “Home Sweet Home.” Thanks for the memories, boys. Appoximate setlist:  So Long, Farewell (intro), Mutherf***er of the Year, Wild Side, Primal Scream, Guitar Solo, Same Ol’ Situation (S.O.S), Looks That Kill, On With The Show, Too Fast for Love, All Bad Things, Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room, Without You, Saints of Los Angeles, Anarchy in the U.K., Too Young to Fall in Love, Drum Solo, In the Beginning, Shout at the Devil, Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away), Live Wire, T.N.T. (Terror ‘N Tinseltown), Dr. Feelgood, Girls Girls Girls, Kickstart My Heart. Encore: Home Sweet Home, My Way (outro).

Wow, this post has gotten ridiculously overblown. How about I catch up on the great local metal scene and new music releases in separate entries? It’ll give me some concrete goals to keep me focused and towing the line with this writing thing. Cheers everyone, and as always keep the great music blasting and flowing through your souls.—Jonathan Kollnot

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~ by jonnyboyrocker on August 27, 2014.

6 Responses to “–2014 Update: Iced Earth, Anvil, Black Star Riders, Warriors of Metal Fest VII, Motley Crue/Alice Cooper”

  1. Follow my blog? I do reviews on Rock N Roll Autobiographies.

    therealrene.wordpress.com

    • Hello, yes, I did follow your blog. Nice work on the book reviews. =) I enjoy reading a lot of the rock bios myself and have reviewed a few of them on here. It’s fun to learn as much as I can about the music industry and about the variety of exciting lifestyles rockers lead.

  2. I have watched Anvil: the Story and i thought it was an amazing documentary. I have bought the book that came out about them too (their autobiography) and i plan to review that book as soon as i read it!

    • Yeah, I liked that movie a lot too. I was not aware there was a book about them too; I will have to check that out. I also highly recommend Last Days Here, the documentary about Pentagram’s Bobby Liebling. That’s a great film, very intense and harrowing but also inspirational. Cheers!

      • Cool thanks. Yea i actually think the book came before the movie. Just look it up on amazon or something, is called: Anvil: the Story of Anvil. I think is the same name as the movie. Ive read the book goes into much more details than the movie. Ill have to read it and see what i think of it. Im sure you will enjoy it as well

  3. Hi jonnyboyrocker,

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