Concert Review – Iron Maiden (Air Canada Centre, Toronto, ON, 04/03/2016)

Not even a bitterly cold and snowy night in Toronto could stop Iron Maiden from writing another beautiful and epic chapter in The Book Of Souls.

OPENING ACT: The Raven Age

iron maiden_the book of souls world tour 2016Here we go again, another blistering cold night in Toronto when it was supposed to be already warming up, with around 15cm of snow out of nowhere just to make the beginning of this spring even weirder than the warmest winter in history. However, when you have the best Heavy Metal band in the entire world playing live in the city, who truly cares about some harmless snowflakes? My only concern was if we were going to have the same sound issues from the concert Friday night in Montreal also here in Toronto, but fortunately the sound quality at the Air Canada Centre was a billion times better than at the Bell Centre, making the whole night even more memorable.

After facing over 30 minutes out in the cold in a never-ending line where there was even an Elvis with an Eddie mask from Powerslave (would that make him the “Presleyslave” or the “Elvis High”?), I got back to the place where I belong in concerts, the floor section (and not those uncomfortable seats from Bell Centre). I might be wrong, but the floor section was quite empty for a sold out concert, even during Iron Maiden. If that’s for safety reasons, no problem, but I think they could have added at least a thousand extra tickets for that area. Anyway, my comments about the opening act, British Melodic Metal THE RAVEN AGE, are exactly the same from Friday night, which means if you read my review for Montreal you can apply each and every word to Toronto as well.

Setlist
Uprising
Promised Land
The Death March
Eye Among the Blind
The Merciful One
Salem’s Fate
Angel in Disgrace

Band members
Michael Burrough – vocals
Dan Wright – guitar
George Harris – guitar
Matt Cox – bass
Jai Patel – drums

IRON MAIDEN

IMG_1236While some bands look and sound the exact same every single night, there’s something about IRON MAIDEN that makes each of their live performances unique even if they do not change anything in their setlist during the entire tour, as it’s happening during the amazing The Book Of Souls World Tour 2016. We all know which songs they’re going to play, and some people even complain about the band’s predictability, but when the concert starts Bruce, Steve and Co. manage to be different, to sound different and to always offer something new to their fans. Maybe that’s the main reason why they’re who they’re today, right?

Thanks to the almighty Eddie, there were no problems with the sound! Quite the contrary, each instrument was loud and clear, especially the pounding drums by the one and only Mr. Nicko McBrain and the rumbling bass guitar by the band’s mastermind Mr. Steve Harris, who made the epic tune The Book of Souls sound more powerful than ever. By the way, what an amazing reaction the fans had to all new songs from The Book Of Souls, especially the opening song If Eternity Should Fail and what was once again the highlight of the show for me, The Red and the Back. Of course fans went crazy when they played classics such as The Trooper, Powerslave (with Bruce wearing the same “luchador” mask from the past couple of shows due to Wrestlemania weekend), Hallowed Be Thy Name (with everyone at the ACC beautifully singing it together with the band), The Number of the Beast and Wasted Years, but it’s nice to see Iron Maiden are not trapped in the past and are still releasing awesome music for our total delight.

iron maiden torontoNow let’s talk about those special details that made last night unique, and I’m not talking about the cold and the snow. We all know how intelligent and skillful Mr. Bruce Dickinson is, and that was once again proved after the band performed the heavy and fast Death or Glory. Any other musician would have ignored the fact the song has a special importance to Toronto and to Canada, but Bruce made sure he spent the necessary time to explain the song is about Baron Manfred von Richthofen, better known as the “Red Baron”, who was shot down by Canadian air ace Captain Roy Brown in 1918, and that the seat of Red Baron’s triplane was donated by the dauntless Canadian pilot to a museum in Toronto. Bruce only forgot to mention the name of the museum, so if you’re interested in visiting it and seeing the airplane seat from the renowned Red Baron you need to go to the Royal Canadian Military Institute Museum (RCMI). As a side note, “Turns like a devil, climbs like a monkey!” (or something like that) were the Red Baron’s words about the Fokker Dr I, the most successful triplane in history. Guess where you can also find these words? And before I forget, poor Janick Gers, his guitar stopped working in the middle of the song and he had to spend about two minutes backstage trying to fix it. I’m not going to mention that most people didn’t even notice that “small” detail mainly because Dave Murray and Adrian Smith were on fire with their flawless riffs and solos, ans also because I like Janick’s performance (I think he IS important to what Iron Maiden are today), but if you also saw that you know what I’m talking about.

IMG_1225By the end of the show, while introducing the melodic Blood Brothers, Bruce spoke about the differences in terms of safety and quality of life found everywhere the band goes, comparing for example our always safe Canada to one of the most dangerous countries in the world, El Salvador, but also saying if there’s one thing that unites us all and helps us face any adversities in life is Heavy Metal, in special if you’re part of the MAIDEN FAMILY. On the train back to my small city, Oakville, an “old school” couple who also attended the concert sat in front of us and we instantly started chatting about Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Anthrax, Slayer, Metallica (the guy even fist pumped me full of joy when I said Metallica is the most overrated band on earth), sports, and several other topics. They even gave us a customized pair of hockey blade tapes from The Book Of Souls without even knowing us! That moment I realized how big, fun and unified the Maiden Family mentioned by Bruce is. And I’m happy to be part of it, so happy I didn’t even care I had to wipe a ton of snow from my car at the train station, at midnight, and under a frigid temperature of around -6oC. Actually, I was very relaxed while doing that, humming the “Oh-oh Oh-oh-oh! Oh-oh Oh-oh-oh!” from The Red and the Black and already thinking about when I’ll be able to watch Iron Maiden kicking some serious ass once again.

Setlist
Doctor Doctor (UFO song)
If Eternity Should Fail
Speed of Light
Children of the Damned
Tears of a Clown
The Red and the Black
The Trooper
Powerslave
Death or Glory
The Book of Souls
Hallowed Be Thy Name
Fear of the Dark
Iron Maiden

Encore:
The Number of the Beast
Blood Brothers
Wasted Years
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life (Monty Python song)

Band members
Bruce Dickinson – lead vocals
Steve Harris – bass
Dave Murray – guitar
Adrian Smith – guitar
Janick Gers – guitar
Nicko McBrain – drums

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Concert Review – Judas Priest (Air Canada Centre, Toronto, ON, 11/12/2015)

Thousands of Heavy Metal maniacs screamed for vengeance together with the Metal Gods on a memorable night in Toronto.

OPENING ACT: Mastodon

Judas-Priest-Redeemer-of-Souls-Tour-2015Fortunately, after the excruciating hassle of having to drive for hours to get to Casino Rama to see Judas Priest last year, an enlightened soul realized there was an urge emanating from all metalheads in Toronto to have the Metal Gods in town for a proper concert, and therefore we were all granted with a memorable Heavy Metal celebration at the Air Canada Centre last night. I know some people loved the fact they could stay in Orillia for some gambling and beer, taking a day or two off for that, but they must understand this is all about praising the almighty Judas Priest, not about wasting your money in tedious slot machines. I just wish the floor section didn’t have those stupid seats. Why not just having a floor section, period?

IMG_0770The opening band this time were American metallers MASTODON, with all their craziness, psychedelia, heaviness and unquestionable talent. However, the biggest problem for me (and I’m sure it was the same with lots of other Priest fans at the concert) was their lack of charisma. I mean, they have all the ingredients to be one of the best metal acts in activity, but unless you’re high on something it’s pretty hard to enjoy their full setlist. Songs like High Road and Megalodon stand out among the others, but the overall result is not as exciting as watching a less skilled band on stage playing simpler but a lot catchier songs. All band members masterfully handle their instruments, and if you’re a guitar player you probably go insane with their intricate riffs and compositions, but I think it’s a lot better to listen to their music at home or in your car than at a venue like the Air Canada Centre. I’m not saying it was a bad concert, quite the contrary, Mastodon were pretty good. It just wasn’t what I had in mind as the perfect warm-up for the Metal Gods.

Setlist
Tread Lightly
Blasteroid
The Motherload
Chimes at Midnight
High Road
Aqua Dementia
Mother Puncher
Halloween
Bladecatcher
Black Tongue
Ember City
Megalodon
Blood and Thunder

Band members
Brent Hinds – guitar, vocals
Bill Kelliher – guitar
Troy Sanders – bass, vocals
Brann Dailor – drums, vocals

JUDAS PRIEST

IMG_0773Finally back to the CITY of Toronto after four long years, Heavy Metal titans JUDAS PRIEST seem to be getting better and better as years go by. Perhaps it’s the fresh energy brought to the band by the awesome guitarist Richie Faulkner, or the fact that Redeemer Of Souls put the band back on track in their career, but the truth is that they’ve been delivering flawless concerts for years in a row now, putting smiles on everyone’s faces and reminding us all why they’re called “Metal Gods”.

When the backdrop curtain carrying the Priest classic logo dropped, right after the venue sound system played an excerpt of “War Pigs” by Black Sabbath and the intro to one of their own new songs, the excellent “Battle Cry”, an avalanche of Heavy Metal classic mixed with some of their new tunes began, driving all diehard fans crazy with their intensity and passion in this successful Redeemer of Souls Tour 2015. And from the very beginning we could see how impressive the performance by the one and only Rob Halford is nowadays. The Metal God is already 64 years old, but he can still deliver it like if he was just 20 something. It’s sometimes unbelievable how powerful his voice still is at this stage of his career, don’t you agree?

IMG_0780I personally found part of the fans at the venue a little too slow for the electricity imposed by the band, but anyway most Heavy Metal maniacs had an unforgettable time singing and screaming together with Halford & Co. during the entire setlist. From the first part of the concert, I must say it was beautiful witnessing Halford singing the classic Desert Plains while Richie and the iconic Glenn Tipton were ripping our hearts off with their razing riffs, as simple and effective as that. And what to say about Halford’s monumental performances in the unparalleled Victim of Changes and the newer Halls of Valhalla, already a classic song for many? Holy shit, that gave me metallic goosebumps so awesome it was.

Then after playing a few more incredible tunes, such as The Rage and Turbo Lover, it looked like the Metal Gods wanted to mark our hearts, bodies and souls with their burning metal as the sequence of Heavy Metal anthems was beyond superb. They didn’t just play my favorite Priest song of all time, the fiery Screaming for Vengeance, they executed it to perfection. Add to that the back video where you could follow its lyrics (and see a meme of Halford SCREEEEAAAAAAMING! on the video by the end of the song), and you have the most astonishing moment of the night. Not only that, as soon as this masterpiece was over, Halford intoned his famous “Woo-woo-woo-yeah!” before the whole band kicked some serious ass with Breaking the Law and Hell Bent for Leather, the latter featuring Halford’s shining Harley-Davidson for the delight of everyone at the venue.

IMG_0793But before Judas Preist let Toronto be that quiet and cozy city again, they fired two final rounds of all-time classics, including Electric Eye, Painkiller and Living After Midnight. Let me tell you something about Painkiller, as it was a really bold move by the band to put it at the end of the setlist knowing how demanding it is, especially for Halford. When the unstoppable drummer Scott Travis provoked Toronto to go wild with his unique drumming intro, I wasn’t sure if Halford would be capable of delivering his high-pitched screams during the whole song. Well, guess what? That was by far the best performance by the Metal God singing Painkiller I’ve ever seen in my life, a billion times better than their 2005 DVD Rising in the East, and that was over 10 years ago.

At around 11pm the concert was over, people started heading back to their homes by car, subway or, like I did, by Go Train. Everyone was displaying a mix of happiness and complete exhaustion on the way back, but one thing is beyond certain after you witness such a beautiful ode to Heavy Metal. It doesn’t matter how long it takes for Judas Priest to return to Toronto again, we’ll all be there one more time to enjoy our metallic deities celebrating heavy music and, of course, SCREEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAMING FOR VENGEANCE!

Setlist
War Pigs (Black Sabbath song)
Battle Cry
Dragonaut
Metal Gods
Desert Plains
Victim of Changes
Halls of Valhalla
The Rage
Turbo Lover
Redeemer of Souls
Beyond the Realms of Death
Screaming for Vengeance
Breaking the Law
Hell Bent for Leather

Encore:
The Hellion/Electric Eye
You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’

Encore 2:
Painkiller
Living After Midnight
Beginning of the End

Band members
Rob Halford – vocals
Glenn Tipton – guitar
Richie Faulkner – guitar
Ian Hill – bass guitar
Scott Travis – drums

Concert Review – Mötley Crüe & Alice Cooper (Air Canada Centre, Toronto, ON, 08/22/2015)

Toronto witnessed, for the last time (or so they promised), a true masterclass on how Hard Rock from the 1980’s should be played and done in the 2000’s.

OPENING ACT: The Cringe

Motley Crue_The Final TourFirst things first: I want to apologize for the delay of this review. For those who doesn’t know me, I’m Renata, Gustavo’s friend, and I’m Brazilian. In August, I spent the month in Canada with him and his wife – my BFF for more than 15 years – and now, back to Brazil, I had the proper time to put down in words my experience in this concert. Secondly, I had no idea that there would be an opening act for that night and The Cringe turned out to be a very pleasant surprise. This band from NYC has been following Mötley Crüe on the second leg of their North American tour and it wasn’t different in Toronto, where they were responsible for warming up the fans as the Air Canada Centre was getting filled.

Although sounding very different from the main attractions of the night, The Cringe had a very good performance with their Alternative Rock and got a great response from the fans of Crüe and Mr. Cooper. In nearly 30 minutes, they showed songs from their 10-year career and had time to celebrate good old Rock N’ Roll with a medley of Black Sabbath’s Paranoid, and a cover of Thin Lizzy’s classic Jailbreak to close their setlist. Formed by very talented and experienced musicians, they know how to captivate the audience, especially John Cusimano, a very charismatic frontman.

The Cringe will soon release their fifth album, Blind Spot, so if the new trends of Rock N’ Roll please you, keep your eyes on the band’s updates on their official website.

Setlist
1. Anything You Say
2. Don’t Know Where I Belong
3. On and On
4. Big Trouble
5. In God We Trust / Paranoid (Black Sabbath cover)
6. Jailbreak (Thin Lizzy cover)

Band members
John Cusimano – vocals
James Rotondi – guitar
Jonny Blaze – bass
Shawn Pelton – drums

ALICE COOPER

Alice Cooper 07When Mötley Crüe announced their final tour, in 2014, they added the legend Alice Cooper as their very special guest and this duo makes every dollar paid in the ticket worthwhile. And I can’t believe I spent all those years of my life without seeing an Alice Cooper’s concert! I can’t even describe it as just a “concert”, it’s so much more than that: it’s theatrical, it’s epic, it has feelings, it has drama, it’s a full spectacle! Mr. Cooper has been around for more than 45 years and he definitely knows how to master the stage. Every move, every outfit, every detail has a reason to be there and every song still sounds very captivating and his voice and stage performance are very unique.

It might be hard to summarize more than four decades on the road in a 13-song setlist, so Alice Cooper kept the focus on his classics, especially in songs from his releases from the 70’s, like No More Mr. Nice Guy, Billion Dollar Babies, Go to Hell and School’s Out (this one played with a very appropriate medley of Pink Floyd’s Another Brick In The Wall). Feed My Frankenstein and Poison were the chosen ones to represent the 1990’s. The “newest” song of the night’s setlist was Dirty Diamonds, the title-track of his 2005 album, also dedicated to the drum, bass and guitar solos.

Alice Cooper 05The band following Mr. Cooper, by the way, is not there only to support him, they also have a very important role in the show. A fast-and-fierce drummer – Glen Sobel -, a very rhythmic bassist – Chuck Garric -, and three extremely competent guitarists – Tommy Henriksen, Ryan Roxie and Nita Strauss (replacing Orianthi since 2014) -, are there to make all Cooper’s magic happen and make his theatre even more intense. There’s also time and space for snake, bubbles, a giant Frankenstein and a very good performance by Calico Cooper, Cooper’s daughter, as the crazy nurse tying her own father in a straitjacket and decapitating him in I Love the Dead.

In summary, Alice Cooper delivered an amazing setlist, although some great songs were left out, and showed why he is still here after so many years, keeping the classics, the acting and the horror more alive than ever. Alice Cooper is more than a very special guest: he is a teacher of Rock N’ Roll and we all should appreciate the opportunity to see artists like him, who still kick ass onstage.

Setlist
1. The Black Widow
2. No More Mr. Nice Guy
3. Under My Wheels
4. I’m Eighteen
5. Billion Dollar Babies
6. Poison
7. Dirty Diamonds (bass, drum and guitar solos)
8. Go to Hell
9. Feed My Frankenstein
10. Ballad of Dwight Fry
11. Killer
12. I Love the Dead
13. School’s Out (including “Another Brick in the Wall”)

Band members
Alice Cooper – vocals
Tommy Henriksen – guitar
Nita Strauss – guitar
Ryan Roxie – guitar
Chuck Garric – bass
Glen Sobel – drums

MÖTLEY CRÜE

Motley Crue 05Mötley Crüe are the only band that made me travel abroad (twice) to see their concerts. The first time was in 2011, in Buenos Aires, Argentina (and I think every rock ‘n’ roll fan should see a concert in Argentina at least once in life – if you ever saw any Argentine soccer game, you have an idea of how passionate their local crowd can be) and now I had the chance to see them in Canada. Yes, they played in Brazil in 2011 and they are going to play at Rock in Rio on September 19, on the main stage with Metallica, Royal Blood and Gojira. But two things make me sad about this upcoming concert in Rio: 1- this is the ONLY AND EXCLUSIVE CONCERT IN SOUTH AMERICA, which means people from all over the continent have to come to Rio if they want to see Crüe live for the last time – and obviously not everybody can afford a trip to Brazil or got the tickets before they were sold out after 3 hours of sales; 2- the concert at the festival and its structure will be reduced: a shorter setlist and less pyros and stuffs on the show. I’m not even sure if they’ll have Tommy Lee’s roller coaster Crüecifly. And that being their final tour and the only concert in the continent, I think all fans deserved the fullest the band can do.

But in Toronto the fans got everything Mötley Crüe promised in a night full of classics, pyros (and I mean lots of pyros!), energy, with a nostalgic feeling of goodbye and I’m glad I could see all of this. I’m not sure if the tickets were sold out, since this wasn’t the first time they were playing in the country with this tour, but Air Canada Centre was definitely packed.

Motley Crue 09The setlist was the same as executed in the previous concerts, and a Harley Davidson’s engines announced the opening with Girls, Girls, Girls. What we saw after this start was a sequence of great hits that set Mötley Crüe in the position of one of the greatest Hard Rock bands of their era: Wild Side, Primal Scream and Same Ol’ Situation made everyone there sing, dance and feel a piece of the 1980’s with a touch of modernity with all the technology at the stage.

The performance of the band was amazing. Mick Mars is a master of the guitars, sounding so heavy and yet so clear. It is amazing to see after all these years and despite of all his health issues, he is still a great and very technical guitarist, respected by his band members and every fan. As for Vince Neil, I was pretty concerned as I saw some videos from previous concerts, especially one at Sweden Rock Festival, where he couldn’t sing well and follow Dr. Feelgood from the beginning to the end. His voice and his acting on stage is not the same as the early days, this is not a secret, but he was singing very well that night in Toronto. Also, there were two backup singers, that helped to put more energy and action in the songs. But let’s be honest: Mötley Crüe is all about Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee performances! And they didn’t disappoint the crowd at all.

There were few times of interaction with the public but the Crüe boys took time to remember that it was in Canada where they started their very first tour, back in 1982, and how happy and grateful they were to play for the Canadian crowd for the last time. There was also a very inspiring speech of Sixx. If you read one of his books – “The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star” (2007) and “This Is Gonna Hurt: Music, Photography and Life Through the Distorted Lens of Nikki Sixx” (2013) – you have an idea of how he messed up in the past and how he changed his attitude to a very positive tune. He told a story about his youth, when he used to steal a pocket knife that his grandfather used to leave on the counter everyday, and one day his old man gave him a knife for his own. The lesson learned was “if you want something bad enough, you keep doing it over and over until you get it” and that was his commitment with Mötley Crüe and their fans, that they are the most important part of the band. Right after that, they played a cover of Anarchy in the U.K., from Sex Pistols.

The most awaited moment was, undoubtedly, Tommy Lee’s drums roller coaster, the Crüecifly. There was a huge steel structure hailing from the stage to the middle of the ACC floor and when the lights turned out and the O Fortuna of German composer Carl Off’s cantata Carmina Burana started to play, we all knew the time had come. Suddenly Tommy started his journey above the fans from Toronto, playing songs from other artists, such as The Beastie Boys, while he and his drum kit were spinning and moving in the trail full of lights and cool effects. Tommy does such amazing things while drumming since the first Crüe’s concerts but he put the concept to a higher level on this tour. He also took a minute to thank the fans and say how he loves them all before going back to his place at the back of the stage. Right after that, it was Mick Mars’ time to make his raw, fierce and heavy solo before the band continued to the final acts of the night with Saints of Los Angeles, Live Wire, Dr. Feelgood and Kickstart My Heart. On this last song, there were two steel structures that took Vince and Nikki for a ride through the venue making it a moment of great celebration for both band and fans.

Motley Crue 13They gathered on the stage and thanked the fans for being there, but that wasn’t the wrap up yet. At the end of the Crüecifly there was a tiny stage, the CrüeNest, and the band walked through the fans to hit it for one last song. There were also 12 lucky fans (that paid a little lot of extra money to be there, obviously) seated on chairs on the back of this stage. A white piano was waiting for Tommy Lee and as he played the first tunes of Home Sweet Home, the ACC got full of light spots of the fans’ cell phones, and that was a really beautiful thing to see. Did I mention that the CrüeNest stage also went up and down? You can’t expect a normal thing when it comes to a Mötley Crüe’s concert. On the screens of the empty main stage, pictures from the early years to the recent days showed the path of this band, considered one of the most important of the Hard Rock Era.

With the sound of My Way, by the legend Frank Sinatra, we knew that the bad things had finally come to an end. If this is really, I mean, REALLY the final tour (some bands along the history showed us that there isn’t really an end unless all involved want to – and sometimes they change their minds), that was the perfect way to say good bye. Again, it’s a shame that many of my Brazilian compatriots won’t have the chance to see a full concert, but let’s hope Mötley Crüe can bring to this part of the planet all the amazing energy they showed to the Torontonians.

Setlist
1. Girls, Girls, Girls
2. Wild Side
3. Primal Scream
4. Same Ol’ Situation (S.O.S.)
5. Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)
6. Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room (Brownsville Station cover)
7. Looks That Kill
8. Mutherfucker of the Year
9. Anarchy in the U.K. (Sex Pistols cover)
10. Shout at the Devil
11. Louder Than Hell
12. Drum Solo
13. Guitar Solo
14. Saints of Los Angeles
15. Live Wire
16. Dr. Feelgood
17. Kickstart My Heart

Encore:
18. Home Sweet Home

Band members
Vince Neil – vocals
Mick Mars – guitar
Nikki Sixx – bass
Tommy Lee – drums