I made the pilgrimage last night, along with my adult daughter, to the temple known as Majestic Madison to become enlightened.
First up was All Them Witches, a band, to be honest, that I was not anticipating too much. I had listened to some of their stuff, but their blues-ridden stoner metal never quite resonated with me, for some reason. But a band in a studio and a band heard live can be two different animals, and this was the case here. ATW was a bit more restrained and staid than the other acts I was going to hear that night - they were downright slow, in fact - but they served as a great warmup act. They had their head-bobbing moments, as well. Obviously a musically talented band, their lead singer/bass player had great charisma and connected well with the crowd. Their style was reminiscent of early Led Zeppelin with some heavier interludes. I kept expecting them to break into T-bone Walker Blues at any moment. While my least favorite act of the night, they were still very good. I wouldn't go to see them as a headliner, but I would be glad to know that they were an opener at any metal concert I attended.
Next was a band that I was more excited to see, having been turned on to their hard-driving, hair-flailing metal at an earlier date. Kadavar, from Berlin, Germany, took the stage like three visigothic heroes, promising, and delivering, victims for Valhalla. They began by rip-roaring into "Lord of the Sky," presaging much headbanging to come. Things got really heavy when Kadavar tore into "Doomsday Machine" at a volume somewhere at 11+. Christoph "Lupus" Lindemann's high, scorpionesque vocals cut through the wall-of-sound bass licks of Simon "Dragon" Bouteloup and the frenetic drumming of Christoph "Tiger" Bartelt in a tone I can only relate as "Heavy Balance". This worked well for both straight ahead rockers like "Thousand Miles Away from Home" and more complex pieces like "Black Sun". Kadavar ended by tapping deep into their '70s metal roots with "Come Back Life," putting an exclamation point on an excellent set.
And the award for "Drummer that looks and drums most like the Muppets' Animal" goes to Christoph Bartelt, who I thought would tear a rotator cuff, dislocate a shoulder, or worse with his flailing drumming style. My daughter commented that "he's always in control, but he looks like he's out of control". I would not have been surprised to see his arms fly off into the crowd. The guy is nuts - and a great drummer. So much hair. So much energy. So much ANIMAL!!!
Also, their concert shirts were the best, but I'm saving up my money for Gamehole next month!
While the smokers were out doing there thing, my daughter and I went down closer, into the crowd on the floor in front of the stage. Ha, ha! Smokers suck! And we got your spots! (sorry, but I'm a rabid ex- and anti-smoker. As Bruce Dickinson says "stupid habit").
It seemed like forever that the roadies were getting things ready, but finally, The Sword took the stage. I was pleased that they started off with two of my favorites: "Tres Brujas" followed by "The Dreamthieves" (incidentally, I am *just* off to the right of the screen in this video, a few people up from the camera, but I think you only get a glimpse of a sliver of me there. I don't know who took the video, but they were standing not far behind me and to my left.). I had tweeted the band about playing these two songs at the show, so I'd like to think I had some influence there. Probably not, but hey, it was a nice coincidence, anyway.
Now, the thing about The Sword is that, as polished as they sound on their records, they are RAW live. Raw, not ragged or sloppy. To the contrary, they are one of the tightest bands I've ever seen. Their timing is absolutely impecable. As an example of what I'm talking about, "The Dreamthieves" sounds, on the studio version, like it could have appeared on the more mellow side of the Heavy Metal soundtrack. But live - geeze, I think I saw peoples' faces melting! They pulled out all the nice production, turned up the distortion, and blatantly exposed the crowd to a raw radioactive core of pure metal energy. In fact, all of the songs from their most recent album, High Country, were much heavier than the studio versions. Seeing that some have complained about The Sword's psychedelic turn on this album, I can only surmise that those who griped about High Country haven't yet seen the songs performed live. Go see the show - it will make you a believer. Have no fear, The Sword are as hard as ever!
Nowhere is this more evident than on the live performance of "The Bees of Spring," which starts out as a pretty standard blues-riff, ZZ-Top-ish song with not a lot of meat to it. But live . . . something else happened. The song started out, frankly, flat. It was during this song that I took my first few pictures of the band. But I soon had to put my phone away as they pulled out all the stops in what became one of my favorite songs of the evening and one that got the crowd hopping more than any other outside of . . .
"Cloak of Feathers" will, I think, become anthemic and is likely to be the song for which The Sword will be known for decades. And I think the band knows that they've struck gold with this one. Guitarist Kyle Shutt, who had been playing with great energy all night, ratched it up three gears on this one! The crowd went wild. Whereas there was plenty of rocking going on down on the floor where we were all show long, the place just sort of exploded in the balconies and up the back of the venue by the bar. I'm guessing the bartenders had to fight to keep the bottles from coming off the shelves. Such energy! Wow! This was followed by an encore of "Eyes of the Stormwitch". A great nightcap to a great night of music!
Needless to say, I took the next day off of work. Not because I'm hung over - I don't drink - but because I knew I would be half deaf and tired as a dog the next day. But, hey, knowing it's going to take two days to get your hearing back means it was a great concert, right? Right? WHAT?!?