Concert Review – Iron Maiden (Budweiser Stage, Toronto, ON, 07/15/2017)

On a pleasant summer day in the city of Toronto, over 18,000 metalheads had a beautiful time screaming, singing, jumping up and down, raising their horns and “climbing like a monkey” to the flammable music by the unparalleled Iron Maiden.

OPENING ACT: Ghost

As opposed to last year’s Iron Maiden concert at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, when it was freaking cold and a snow blizzard covered the city and made driving a true nightmare, this Saturday the weather couldn’t be more perfect, with a temperature close to 30 degrees in a sunny day, resulting in another memorable night for all Maidenmaniacs that attended the concert at the always amazing Budweiser Stage (which used to be called Molson Canadian Amphitheatre). You could see in the eyes of the fans that everyone was in a great mood, probably because they spent the whole day getting ready for the concert, drinking beer, enjoying a nice BBQ or simply listening to Iron Maiden while getting tanned by the nice afternoon sun. And besides, everyone would have the whole Sunday to recover before returning to work on Monday (unless you were also seeing Metallica on Sunday, but that’s a different story).

It was around 7:30pm when the opening act hit the stage, Heavy Metal blue-eyed boys GHOST, who for some reason are deeply loved by most musicians, but not as much by fans of metal music. Even Metallica’s James Hetfield himself was at the venue watching the performance by Papa Emeritus III (also known as Tobias Forge) and his nameless ghouls. Anyway, this was my second time seeing Ghost, once again opening for Iron Maiden as in 2014 in the Czech Republic, and this time was way better than the first, I must admit. Papa Emeritus III was more dynamic on stage, more communicative and less “stuck” to the pope gimmick. A considerable amount of fans that were at the venue enjoyed their performance, singing together with the band songs like Ritual, Year Zero and Absolution, and as their performance wasn’t too long I guess not even the most diehard fan of Iron Maiden got bored with Ghost.

Setlist
Masked Ball (Jocelyn Pook song)
Square Hammer
From the Pinnacle to the Pit
Ritual
Cirice
Year Zero
Absolution
Mummy Dust
Monstrance Clock

Band members
Papa Emeritus III (Tobias Forge) – vocals
Nameless Ghouls – all instrumentalists:

  • Fire – lead guitarist
  • Ether – rhythm guitarist
  • Water – bassist
  • Wind – keyboardist
  • Earth – drummer

IRON MAIDEN

Finally, after over one year (and another cold winter), it was time for Toronto to scream one more time for the one and only IRON MAIDEN, this time during their The Book Of Souls World Tour 2017, the second leg of their majestic tour promoting their 2015 masterpiece The Book Of Souls. The setlist was pretty much the same as last time, except for Tears of a Clown being replaced with The Great Unknown, and the saddest change of all time, Hallowed Be Thy Name being replaced with Wrathchild due to a legal dispute with retired rock band manager Barry McKay, who is taking Steve Harris and Dave Murray to court over the song. Barry claims Hallowed Be Thy Name reproduces major parts of a song titled “Lying in my Shadow”, written by musician Brian Quinn (under the name Brian Ingham), and because of that Iron Maiden couldn’t play one of their most beautiful and powerful classics during their 2017 tour.

That didn’t stop Bruce Dickinson, Steve Harris & Co. to kick ass one more time on stage for the delight of over 18,000 metalheads at the Budweiser Stage, blasting as usual a well-balanced mix of old school songs and newer compositions. Fans were already pumped up during the classic “Doctor Doctor” intro, exploding into sheer ecstasy when Bruce appeared at the top of the band’s Mayan-inspired stage to ignite their “ritual” with the initial spoken words of their new classic If Eternity Should Fail. After that it was an avalanche of hits played to perfection with Bruce interacting with the crowd all the time, while Steve was unstoppable with his galloping bass and Janick seemed as if he was high on something so electric his performance was. And I guess I don’t need to say how awesome Adrian, Dave and Nicko were with their instruments, right? There was only one minor issue with Bruceç mic, which kept failing a little once in a while, but nothing that could harm such sensational concert.

In my humble opinion, the best sequence of the night started with the classic Children of the Damned, where Bruce gave his already traditional speech about most of the fans not being born when the song was written and, for the ones born in 83 or 84, they might be the true “children of the damned”, conceived when the song was written in 82 (as Bruce mentioned, your parents had sex at least once in their lives!). After such stylish composition, the band invited all of us to fly with them and “fight” the Red Baron in the high-octane Death or Glory, with Bruce and his monkey mask enticing us to “climb like a monkey”, a fun move he started last year that became sort of mandatory every time they play this song. And the stunning sequel went on with the 13-minute hymn The Red and the Black, with all fans jumping up and down and singing the “Oh-oh oh-oh-oh! Oh-oh oh-oh-oh!” parts along with Bruce, followed by one of my top Maiden songs of all time, The Trooper, where guess what? It was time to burst our lungs again screaming the song’s famous “Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh!” together with the band. And closing their killer sequel, the imposing Powerslave, which almost made me blind with its initial flames as I was quite close to the stage.

The newer songs like The Great Unknown and the epic The Book of Souls (where Eddie had his heart “ripped out” by Bruce) kept their momentum going, making everyone even more excited for their final batch of unparalleled classics such as Iron Maiden, The Number of the Beast (with the stage fires making us literally burn), and Wasted Years. However, it was their 2000 creation Blood Brothers that really stole the show, with all fans signing its heartening lyrics together with the band, after Bruce’s inspiring intro where he spoke about how diverse and welcoming the city of Toronto is, and how there shouldn’t be no differences among us all, as we’re all blood brothers. What a brilliant performance of such amazing tune, I have to say! One of the best I’ve seen live together with the one from Rock In Rio III in 2001. As Bruce said close to the end of the show, Iron Maiden are far from being done, and they’ll return to Toronto with more of their unmatched metal music in a not-so-distant future. Needless to say, all 18,000 fans at the concert Saturday are more than eager for that without a shadow of a doubt. It doesn’t matter if it’s a hot and sunny day like this Saturday or if it’s in the middle of a cold winter, we all know that Iron Maiden’s gonna get us all.

Setlist
Doctor Doctor (UFO song)
If Eternity Should Fail
Speed of Light
Wrathchild
Children of the Damned
Death or Glory
The Red and the Black
The Trooper
Powerslave
The Great Unknown
The Book of Souls
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

Album Review – Axel Rudi Pell / Game of Sins (2016)

You might be a sinner, but don’t be a fool and go relish another magnificent album by the one and only Mr. Axel Rudi Pell and his loyal henchmen.

Rating3

frontWe’re not even a full month into 2016, and here come the unstoppable guitarist Axel Rudi Pell and his crew of accomplished musicians to provide us an album that will most probably feature among our top releases of 2016 when the year is over, and I’m not fooling around when I say that. Game of Sins, the seventeenth studio album by this iconic Heavy Metal/Hard Rock guitar virtuoso from Germany, is not only a full-bodied album full of catchy and thrilling chants, but the outstanding performances by Axel Rudi Pell, by keyboardist Ferdy Doernberg and especially by frontman Johnny Gioeli (owner of one of the sharpest voices in heavy music) make this a must-have album for admirers of classy heavy and rock music.

To be fair, Game of Sins is not very different from what Mr. Axel Rudi Pell and his loyal henchmen did in the excellent Into the Storm, in 2014, but that doesn’t mean you’ll experience that awkward feeling of “been there, done that” while listening to it. Quite the contrary, it’s truly amazing how this incredible band is capable of always renovating themselves without losing their essence, just like what the biggest rock and metal icons such as AC/DC, Motörhead and Judas Priest do. That’s what keeps the band alive and on fire, and their music flowing smoothly and magnificently through the years.

The jester-ish intro Lenta Fortuna invites the listener to play the so-called “game of sins” with Axel Rudi Pell, and what a fun game that’s going to be starting with the high-octane Fire, a perfect opening for their live performances with its incandescent rhythm and Mr. Pell delivering his trademark riffs and solos. It takes less than five seconds for Lucifer to rise when the music starts, and I dare you not to sing the chorus along with Mr. Gioeli so catchy it is. And the masters of Hard Rock and Rock N’ Roll strike again with yet another “road hymn” entitled Sons in the Night, highly recommmended for riding your badass Harley-Davidson with your girl. Furthermore, although Bobby Rondinelli might not be an unstoppable stone crusher behind his drums, he’s surely a high-skilled drummer that adds a lot of groove to the music with his spot-on beats.

ARPOne constant element found throughout the entire album is the ominous ambience crafted by Ferdy with his awesome keyboard notes, and the title-track Game of Sins is an excellent example of that. This is a heavy semi-ballad that lives up to Mr. Pell’s legacy, with highlights to its fun lyrics about how our lives are an endless gambling game; before “Two Minutes to Midnight”-ish riffs kick off the best track of the album, the exhilarating Falling Star, another classic tune to sing along with the band (in special its beautiful chorus). Moreover, it doesn’t matter if you’re driving down the Sunset Strip on a hot summer day or facing a hideous snow storm at the peak of the winter, this electrifying song will definitely cheer you up.

I always say Axel Rudi Pell is a Hard Rock ballad deity, obviously taking into account the fact that he got even better after Johnny joined the band years ago. With every single album released we get at least one heartwarming tune to soothe our souls and make the toughest days a little easier to face, which in Game of Sins comes in the form of the powerful Lost in Love. How can someone not feel relaxed listening to such a good song? Anyway, the following track, The King of Fools, is a bit generic for what the band is capable of doing, albeit far from being a bad song. It contains those cliché lyrics we tend to disdain at first, but that end up working relatively well due to the way Johnny declaims them (“He was the toughest guy on our street / Always ready to fight / His girl’s a hooker on her knees / Making money all night”).

In Till the World Says Goodbye, Ferdy and Johnny steal the spotlight with their piercing keyboards and passionate vocals, respectively. Heavy and rhythmic, it’s another excellent choice for singing along with Johnny or simply enjoying his brilliant voice, followed by Breaking the Rules, a pure Axel Rudi Pell song that will put you to jump up and down during the band’s live performances thanks to the amazing job done by Volker Krawczak, rumbling his bass guitar in total sync with Bobby’s beats while Axel keeps firing his upscale guitar lines.

ARP_Game of Sins_Special Edition

Game Of Sins Limited Edition Boxset

Finally, he last two songs of the album are an ode to first-class rock music. Forever Free offers us all one of the most emotional vocal performances I can think of, which combined with Axel’s guitar solos, the song’s melodious atmosphere and its stunning lyrics turn it into one of the best songs of the band’s latest albums without a shadow of a doubt. Not only I love the feeling this song brings forth, but can I personally dedicate it to the chameleon David Bowie (R.I.P.)? And what to say about All Along the Watchtower, a magnificent tribute to Mr. Bob Dylan (check out the original version HERE)? Its intro gives me goosebumps, as well as the dynamism that Axel added to his version of this classic, proving why he’s also considered by many an undisputed lord of cover songs.

In summary, Game of Sins, another solid stone added to Axel Rudi Pell’s fortress of Rock N’ Roll, is one of those albums you’ll feel happy anywhere and anytime you listen to it, no matter what you are doing. You might be a sinner, but don’t be a fool and go grab your copy of this soulful album (take a listen at snippets of it HERE) as soon as possible, especially if it’s the jaw-dropping Game Of Sins Limited Edition Boxset (limited to 1000 copies worldwide), featuring the album in a special digipak format and as a two-LP gatefold sleeve, a beautiful miniature replica Fender Stratocaster guitar (scale 1:4) including a guitar giftbox case, a poster, a sticker and a card. It can’t get any better than this, thanks once again to the one and only Mr. Axel Rudi Pell.

Best moments of the album: Fire, Falling Star, Forever Free and All Along the Watchtower.

Worst moments of the album: The King of Fools.

Released in 2016 SPV/Steamhammer

Track listing
1. Lenta Fortuna (Intro) 1:24
2. Fire 5:34
3. Sons in the Night 5:07
4. Game of Sins 8:43
5. Falling Star 5:14
6. Lost in Love 6:07
7. The King of Fools 4:58
8. Till the World Says Goodbye 7:40
9. Breaking the Rules 5:07
10. Forever Free 8:29

Limited Edition bonus track
11. All Along the Watchtower (Bob Dylan cover) 6:03

Band members
Johnny Gioeli – vocals
Axel Rudi Pell – guitar
Volker Krawczak – bass
Ferdy Doernberg – keyboards
Bobby Rondinelli – drums

Metal Chick of the Month – Orianthi

orianthi01

Shut Up & Kiss Me!

She is a singer, a songwriter, and an amazing guitar player. Not only that, she has already shared the stage with worldwide renowned music icons such as Steve Vai, Alice Cooper, Richie Sambora, Carrie Underwood and even with the King of Pop, the unparalleled star Michael Jackson (R.I.P.). But if you think I’m talking about some old or classic guitarist, you’re absolutely wrong: our “Metal Chick” this month is the Australian beauty Orianthi Panagaris, or simply Orianthi.

Born in Adelaide, Australia on January 22, 1985 and of Greek and Australian descent (which explains her name), Orianthi started really early in the world of music at the age of three, when she began playing the piano, then moving to her true passion, the guitar, when she was around six. Besides the piano and the guitar, she can also sing and play bass and drums, showcasing her unquestionable talent as a multi-instrumentalist and already explaining why she reached success so early in her life.

Orianthi attended the Cabra Dominican College in Adelaide, Australia, and when she was about six or seven years old she wrote her first song and played it in front of the whole school. Thanks to her father, she grew up listening to many Rock N’ Roll classics like Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Santana, most of them from North America, which then became her biggest motivation to move to the United States to build her career there. Besides all those artists, she also mentions Darren Hayes and Keith Urban as two of her biggest influences in music.

She started playing with different bands when she was around 14 or 15 years old, which was when she left school, and kept playing with cover bands until she was 21, when she finally moved to America to pursue her dream as a musician. Since then, as a solo artist, Orianthi has already released three full-length albums and one EP (although none of her albums are really Heavy Metal or Hard Rock): Violet Journey, Believe, Fire EP, and Heaven in This Hell; her debut single According to You went to No. 3 in Japan, No. 8 in Australia and No. 17 in the US; in 2009 she was named one of the 12 Greatest Female Electric Guitarists by Elle magazine; and in 2010 she won the award as “Breakthrough Guitarist of the Year” by Guitar International magazine. Do I need to say that her dreams came true?

Furthermore, as already mentioned, her involvement with some music giants has just elevated her status as a successful artist. For example, Orianthi appeared at the 51st Annual Grammy Awards, which took place at the Staples Center in Los Angeles in February 2009, as the lead guitarist for American country music singer Carrie Underwood, and more recently toured the world as the lead guitarist for American Hard Rock master Alice Cooper. I had the pleasure to see Orianthi live three times in 2012 with Alice Cooper, as the opening act for Iron Maiden during their Maiden England North American Tour here in Canada in the cities of Toronto, Ottawa and Sarnia, and it was amazing to witness how she managed to fit in his band so smoothly and professionally, especially considering the abysmal difference of their years on the road. You can check lots of cool videos from Orianthi performing with different bands and artists at her official YouTube channel, like this live version of her 2013 single Frozen.

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However, being the lead guitarist for Michael Jackson’s This Is It concert series, which later became a documentary, was probably the most outstanding moment of her music career. In one of her interviews, Orianthi tried to explain how she was chosen by the King of Pop, and the impact that had on her life. “I don’t know exactly why he picked me, but he watched my YouTube videos and loved them. He had his choice of guitar players, but I came in and played the ‘Beat It’ solo for him. Afterward he was so happy he got up and grabbed my arm and started walking up and down the stage area with me. He said, ‘Can you play once for me?’ and hired me that night. I wish he was still around. He made me believe in myself more, and I learned so much. Going into it, I thought it would be all about playing guitar solos. But the majority of it was playing chords and funky rhythms.”, she said. After Michael’s death, she played and sang at his memorial, globally televised live on July 7, 2009.

Finally, being an artist always provides the person some good stories to tell the others, and it hasn’t been different with Orianthi. For example, the blonde guitarist said that during one of her concerts she got up on one of the speakers, and didn’t realize that right behind her there was a confetti canon that could shoot probably 20 feet right across the audience, which would have sent her to the hospital that night with a pretty bad injury in the butt. Fortunately for Orianthi (and for all of us), one of the sound guys warned her and she jumped off just a few seconds before the canon went off. I’m pretty sure Orianthi herself would agree with me that, although she has a great onstage performance and Rock N’ Roll actually demands some crazy stunts to be perfect, being blasted in the ass might not be the best way to please her fans.

Equipment
PRS Custom 22 (Manos)
PRS Custom 24 (Pepper)
PRS SE Custom 24
PRS SE Singlecut
SE signature model (SE Orianthi)
EVH 5150III
ENGL
Mesa Boogie
Marshall Amplifiers

Orianthi’s Official Facebook page
Orianthi’s Official Twitter

“You know just go and find your own voice, whether its playing guitar, singing, song writing, working hard, I love what I do, I love playing guitar, I love performing, you have to love it, there’s just so many hours you have to put into it, you can’t be in this industry if you don’t love it.” – Orianthi