Concert Review – Iron Maiden (Budweiser Stage, Toronto, ON, 08/09/2019)

How about witnessing the almighty Iron Maiden and their Legacy of the Beast Tour 2019 from the best spot of the Budweiser Stage in Toronto on a perfect summer day?

INTRODUCTION: First To The Barrier

Thousands of fans from all over the world, a perfect sunny day, a lot of (overpriced) beer, and another memorable performance by the unparalleled Iron Maiden at the Budweiser Stage to shake the foundations of our beloved city of Toronto. That would have already been a damn good summary of the night if I hadn’t been one of the 40 lucky bastards (plus one guest each) from the Iron Maiden Fan Club who were chosen to get into the venue before the rest of the crowd and bag the best spot at the barrier, which is obviously right at the front. That’s what’s called the FIRST TO THE BARRIER (or FTTB if you’re a fan of acronyms) experience, a fun but quite exhausting adventure as you have to be there at the venue several hours before the concert starts, most of the time without food or anything to drink, and if you move or try to go to the washroom you simply lose your spot and all that effort will be in vain.

Fortunately, I can say I’m good at standing for hours waiting for a concert to start without eating or drinking anything, and all I can say is that the whole experience was more than amazing. What an unforgettable night in another celebration of classic Heavy Metal, where all fans had the chance to not only sing and scream lots of classic together with the band, but a night where we were also able to make new friends, uniting our metal universe even more. Even if you’re not part of the Iron Maiden Fan Club, you can try to be someone’s guest by asking people on Facebook’s FTTB Public Group if they have a spare available when the band takes your city by storm. That’s totally worth it, and that’s how I met a very nice Maidenmaniac who drove hours from Montreal wearing his Aces High pilot hat to join me a couple of feet from the stage from around 5pm until the end of the show.

OPENING ACT: THE RAVEN AGE

Let’s say the only part of the day that wasn’t exactly fun was having to endure British Melodic Groove Metal act THE RAVEN AGE’s performance in full from the first row without having the option to simply ignore them and go grab a beer. Formed in 2009, this London, England-based band has just released a new album named Conspiracy, featuring new vocalist Matt James, who joined the band in 2018. I’m not going to say it was a bad concert, but I think due to the fact those boys are still trying to find their core essence, playing a confused mix of Power, Thrash, Death and Heavy Metal with Hard Rock and even Southern Rock, it was tough to follow them and to actually enjoy their concert. There were a few good moments, though, like the opening song Betrayal of the Mind and the closing tune Angel in Disgrace, especially the last one as it was the heaviest and most detailed of their setlist, but overall it wasn’t the warmup I was expecting for the main attraction of the night. And believe me, standing there for almost one hour listening to something you don’t really enjoy was not what we can call a nice experience. On a side note, both guitarists Dan Wright and George Harris (and yes, he is Steve Harris’ son) are quite talented and have a great future in heavy music. Just maybe not with The Raven Age, unless they stop trying to sound like a generic version of Trivium or Avenged Sevenfold and find their own sound in the future.

Setlist
Bloom of the Poison Seed
Betrayal of the Mind
Promised Land
Surrogate
The Day the World Stood Still
The Face that Launched a Thousand Ships
Fleur De Lis
Grave of the Fireflies
Seventh Heaven
Angel in Disgrace

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

IRON MAIDEN

Finally after a short break, when it was around 9pm, the almighty IRON MAIDEN hit the stage to stun us all with their flawless Legacy of the Beast Tour 2019, obviously inspired by their successful mobile game Legacy of the Beast (don’t forget you can also follow the game’s official Facebook page for news, updates and other shenanigans). As a matter of fact, the short and sweet video showing scenes from the game and several of its versions of our beloved Eddie (most of them already available as Legacy of the Beast Figurines), while the classic instrumental tune Transylvania was playing in the background, was more than enough to warm up our senses for the metallic hurricane that was about to start, but we all needed of course to sing in unison UFO’s all-time classic Doctor Doctor and scream the spoken words from Churchill’s Speech to properly invite Bruce Dickinson, Steve Harris, Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, Janick Gers and Nicko McBrain to crush our minds with my favorite Iron Maiden song of all time, the one and only Aces High, while a giant airplane was “flying” above their heads.

That beyond epic start was followed by an avalanche of the band’s old and not-so-old classics, with Where Eagles Dare, The Clansman, The Wicker Man and Flight of Icarus being the highlights of the night for me. By the way, Bruce’s speech before The Clansman was quite fun, where he “complained” about the fact an Australian (Mel Gibson) portrayed one of the most important Scotsmen of all time, Mr. William Wallace. The song was played to perfection, of course, with all 15 thousand fans at the Budweiser Stage screaming “FREEDOM!” together with Bruce & Co. at the top of their lungs (including of course this guy here that’s writing this review). Another memorable and extremely funny moment was when Bruce’s flame thrower just stopped working in the middle of Flight of Icarus, and after blowing raspberries (yes, he did that), why not showing everything he got by beautifully and powerfully screaming “FLY AS HIGH AS THE SUN” to end the song in great fashion? We might not have had Bruce’s flames in our faces, but we got something even better than that, his unique, trademark high-pitched scream piercing our ears and minds.

It was also amazing to witness all fans singing together with the band even the longest and most obscure songs (or maybe not as classic as the others) of their setlist, those being For the Greater Good of God and Sign of the Cross, proving once again not only Iron Maiden’s newest creations are still meaningful and appreciated, but also that it doesn’t really matter how long their songs are, they are never ever tiresome or boring. And what to say about the poetry found in the lyrics for the gorgeous Revelations? I’ll never get tired of witnessing Bruce declaiming those dark and touching lyrics live, no doubt about that. Well, after almost two hours of perfection, with an encore that brought to our avid ears the insanely awesome The Evil That Men Do, Hallowed Be Thy Name and Run to the Hills (needless to say, all three perfectly executed), it was time to enjoy Monty Python’s inspiring hymn Always Look on the Bright Side of Life and get ready to see the boys in action once again on Saturday. Because you know, one Iron Maiden concert is never enough.

Setlist
Transylvania
Doctor Doctor (UFO song)
Churchill’s Speech

Aces High
Where Eagles Dare
2 Minutes to Midnight
The Clansman
The Trooper
Revelations
For the Greater Good of God
The Wicker Man
Sign of the Cross
Flight of Icarus
Fear of the Dark
The Number of the Beast
Iron Maiden

Encore:
The Evil That Men Do
Hallowed Be Thy Name
Run to the Hills
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 – Trivium & Tremonti (Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON, 09/22/2015)

There might be silence in the snow during this coming winter, but there was surely a lot of good noise and blazing hearts on the last night of the summer in Toronto.

OPENING ACT: Wilson

harddriveradiotourupdated2015Unfortunately, due to traffic and working issues, I cannot say anything about the performance by American Hard Rock/Rock N’ Roll band WILSON, who were in charge of warming up the crowd for the main attractions of the night at the Phoenix Concert Theatre as part of the 2015 HardDrive Live Tour. All I can say is that if you’re curious to know how their music sounds, two very good songs are Give ‘Em Hell and College Gangbang, both part of their setlist. And, in addition, in case your first or last name is “Wilson” I suggest you go after their merchandise right away. Who wouldn’t love to have your own name on a cool T-shirt like this one? Maybe next time they’re around I’ll go check their live performances, but this time the Gardiner didn’t allow me to do so.

Setlist
Before I Burn
Give ‘Em Hell
College Gangbang
Waiting on the World to Cave In
Windows Down
All My Friends
Right to Rise
Susan Jane

Band members
Chad Nicefield – vocals
Jason Spencer – guitar
Kyle Landry – guitar
James Lascu – bass
Puhy – drums

TREMONTI

IMG_0675For those of you who don’t know this excellent guitarist, award-winning American musician MARK TREMONTI is the lead guitarist and founding member of the famous rock groups Creed and Alter Bridge, and since 2012 he’s been on the road with his solo project that takes his last name, being also responsible for the band’s lead vocals. And that’s probably the main reason why there were so many people eager to see Tremonti, I would say almost the same amount that were at the venue to see Trivium, because not only his music is clean and cohesive, but also fun.

Playing a mix of Hard Rock, Rock N’ Roll, Speed Metal and Alternative Metal, this Detroit-based band did a pretty good job during their relatively lengthy setlist, which ended up extending their concert to past 10pm and therefore “forcing” some people to go home before Trivium started due to different reasons, such as work or classes the next morning. I’ll be 100% honest and say that their music is not really my cup of tea, but I enjoyed their performance as much as I could while having a cold Rolling Rock. Perhaps the biggest issue with the concert was the huge amount of ballads, because when they played heavier stuff you could feel a much stronger reaction from everyone at the venue.

I’m not familiar with the names of the songs either, but if there were two that caught my attention were curiously the very first, Cauterize, and the very last, Decay, due to their strength and speed. In other words, if you’re more into old school metal music (including really heavy stuff like Death and Black Metal) like I am you might consider Tremonti a bit too light for your taste, but as a straightforward rock band they more than deliver it on stage.

Setlist
Cauterize
You Waste Your Time
All I Was
So You’re Afraid
Another Heart
Flying Monkeys
The Things I’ve Seen
Radical Change
Tie the Noose
Dark Trip
Arm Yourself
Brains
Wish You Well
Decay

Band members
Mark Tremonti – lead vocals, lead and rhythm guitar
Eric Friedman – lead and rhythm, backing vocals
Tanner Keegan – bass guitar, backing vocals
Garrett Whitlock – drums

TRIVIUM

IMG_0683After a short pause to the sound of the entire Ace Of Spades album, by Motörhead, lights went down and like many bands do, the speakers played a classic song TRIVIUM truly love to ignite the hearts of the fans waiting for their performance. Well, they chose the all-time battle hymn “Run to the Hills” by Iron Maiden for that. Do I need to say more? After that brilliant demonstration of passion for metal music and after their own intro Snøfall, our already iconic and influential Orlando-based metallers hit the stage between two giant skulls from their new album with one of their brand new songs, the good Silence in the Snow. Matt was electrified as usual, wearing a Dio T-shirt and an Emperor vest, again showing his respect and admiration for his idols in music and his loyalty to his roots, while Corey Beaulieu, Paolo Gregoletto and Mat Madiro interacted with the fans as much as possible during and between songs to make things even better.

I know some people are complaining Matt doesn’t want to scream anymore, but all three new songs (Silence in the Snow, Until the World Goes Cold and especially Blind Leading the Blind, which Matt dedicated to the unparalleled Ronnie James Dio while telling a story about food and friendship when they opened for Heaven & Hell in Japan in 2007) sounded truly powerful live, proving the harsh screams are not really necessary for them to work. However, as an old school metalhead I have to say it was when they played their classic assaults Throes of Perdition, Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr and A Gunshot to the Head of Trepidation that things got really serious inside the mosh pits. Moreover, although Corey was incredible with his guitar, I think he seemed a little “lost” during the songs without the harsh screams. Let the guy scream, please!

IMG_0695And I was impressed (actually, the whole band was too) with the insane reaction of the crowd for each and every song of their setlist, in special their “newer” classics Strife (including a loud and awesome “Oh-oh-oh… Oooooh!” to its Iron Maiden-ish riffs, as demanded by Matt), Built to Fall (what a “built-to-fall” image seeing everybody singing the whole song at full force with Trivium!) and Black, showcasing how thrilling In Waves and Vengeance Falls are despite some diehard fans not digging those albums. Not to mention the amazing turmoil caused by the fans during the superb duo Capsizing the Sea/In Waves, which started with a decent wall of death just for you to have an idea of how crazy fans were. The band noticed that, enjoyed that and acknowledged that on their social media, saying Toronto was the best crowd of the entire tour. I have to agree with them, it was indeed a fantastic night, much better than their last concert back in 2013 at the same venue.

IMG_0687And in order to keep us all craving for more Trivium and more metallic tunes, the sound system played the masterpiece “Heaven & Hell” by Black Sabbath, which was sung by most fans so excited everybody got after Trivium finished their flawless performance. Now let’s wait and see how their entire new album sounds like, if there won’t be any screams at all or if they’ll still offer us some harsher moments like the ones we learned to love from their music. It might have been the last night of summer in Toronto, but it was more than enough to keep our hearts on fire through the fall and the winter, even if there’s total silence in the snow that’s about to come soon.

Setlist
Snøfall
Silence in the Snow
Down from the Sky
Becoming the Dragon
Strife
Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr
Built to Fall
Until the World Goes Cold
Throes of Perdition
Anthem (We Are the Fire)
Black
A Gunshot to the Head of Trepidation
Blind Leading the Blind
Dying in Your Arms

Encore:
Capsizing The Sea
In Waves

Band members
Matt Heafy – guitar, lead vocals
Corey Beaulieu – guitar, vocals
Paolo Gregoletto – bass, vocals
Mat Madiro – drums

Concert Review – Nova Rock Festival 2014 (Pannonia Fields II, Nickelsdorf, Austria, 06/14/2014)

A flawless festival at one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

novarock2014

INTRODUCTION: The City of Nickelsdorf and 10 Years of Nova Rock

The town of Nickelsdorf is located in the district of Neusiedl am See in the Austrian state of Burgenland, it belonged to Hungary until 1920 (like the whole province of Burgenland) and it has a population of less than 2,000 people. Those details alone wouldn’t encourage anyone to visit this little town in the middle of nowhere in Austria, don’t you agree? However, over the past 10 years there are three very special days between the second and third weeks of June when its population increases almost 100 times and Nickelsdorf becomes the world capital of heavy music: that’s what happens when the awesome Nova Rock Festival hits the town.

It was from June 9 to June 12, 2005 when the first edition of Nova Rock brought to town names such as System of a Down, Marylin Manson, Nightwish, Audioslave and Green Day, with over 30,000 fans per day. The following year, with huge bands like Metallica, Motörhead and Guns N’ Roses, the festival received over 150,000 visitors, becoming the largest ever rock festival in Austria. Since then, names like Volbeat, The Prodigy, Rage Against the Machine, Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth, Rammstein, Kreator, Testament, In Flames and many other heavy music icons have helped put Nickelsdorf in the route (and in the hearts) of metalheads from all over the world during the always incredible European summer.

This year the lineup was once again more than amazing, starting on Friday, June 13 with the power of Volbeat, Slayer, Steel Panther and Sepultura; kicking fuckin’ ass on Saturday, June 14 with Epica, Trivium, Anthrax, Amon Amarth and Iron Maiden (and believe me, American actor David Hasselhoff); and topping it off with Rob Zombie, The Offspring, Bad Religion, Arch Enemy and Black Sabbath. You can take a look at the full lineup per day by clicking HERE.

As I was travelling around Austria and Eastern Europe I couldn’t attend all three days of the festival due to time and money restrictions, so this review is solely in regards to Day 2, with focus on the performances by Trivium, Anthrax, Amon Amarth and Iron Maiden. Unfortunately (or not), I couldn’t stay later to see “The Hoff” singing the hit song Du or doing whatever he was going to do there.

NOVA ROCK FESTIVAL: Where to Stay, How to Get There and Overall Organization

If you’re planning on attending Nova Rock next year for only one or two of the three days of the festival, or if you’re not a huge fan of camping sites, the two best options available are staying in the capital Vienna (about 70km from Nickelsdorf) and driving for about one hour or taking the train to the festival, or staying in the very pleasant city of Bratislava, in Slovakia, which is only 40km from Nickelsdorf (or a quick 40-minute drive). We chose to stay in Bratislava, mainly because it was our first time in Slovakia and our chance to know that amazing city, and we do not regret that at all: it’s a lot cheaper than Vienna, the food and drinks are amazing, and it is full of breathtaking views like the one of the entire city from the top of the Bratislava Castle during the sunset.

The festival itself was very well-organized, with a huge free parking lot, good camping space, lots of different options to eat, good toilets, decent prices for the merchandise available, and more important than all that, both the blue and the red stages were set up in a way you could see and listen to everything no matter where you were. There were also lots of different activities going on, keeping the fans entertained before their favorite bands hit the stages, including a huge party zone. The only issue this year was the unbearable dust that impregnated the entire festival due to the dry and sunny weather in Nickelsdorf, which was responsible for lots of people wearing bandanas to cover their faces like if they were some kind of outlaws. Anyway, it was better than a heavy storm, especially because driving back to Bratislava all covered in mud wouldn’t have been a nice experience.

TRIVIUM

IMG_1976Because I had some sightseeing to do in the morning and part of the afternoon, I was able to get to Nova Rock only at 4pm, which means I unfortunately missed Epica (and fortunately missed Ghost). However, I was there just in time for one of the best bands of the past 10 years: American Heavy Metal band Trivium started their powerful and fun concert at around 4:30pm setting the crowd on fire, especially the ones in the front row/section. The band’s sonority was better than the last time I saw them, partially thanks to drummer Mat Madiro: he seems to be an excellent replacement for Nick Augusto, helping the band sound more cohesive with him on drums.

A constant presence in previous editions of Nova Rock, the band seemed pretty happy to be back in Austria and, with heavy and technical songs such as Strife, Black, Through Blood and Dirt and Bone and Down from the Sky, Matt Heafy and his crew delivered what in my opinion was the second best show of the day, only behind Iron Maiden. Matt said numerous times the fans were kickin’ ass at Nova Rock, which is an absolute truth, leaving the doors open for more Trivium at future editions of the festivals, maybe one day as the main attraction (and they indeed deserve that opportunity).

Band members
Matt Heafy – lead vocals, guitars
Corey Beaulieu – guitars, backing vocals
Paolo Gregoletto – bass guitar, backing vocals
Mat Madiro – drums

ANTHRAX

IMG_1996After a short break, American Thrash Metal icons Anthrax started their energetic show at around 6pm, showing why they have their spot in the famous “Big Four”. What an amazing performance! Mixing some old mighty classics like Caught in a Mosh, Got the Time, Indians and Antisocial with songs from their latest album from 2011, Worship Music (with highlights to the fun zombie-anthem Fight ‘Em ‘Til You Can’t), Anthrax kept a very positive energy flowing among the fans and got the recognition they deserved from everyone in the end.

Two things should be said about their performance: first of all, in regards to the band members, Joey Belladonna proved one more time why, just like Ozzy, he’s a horrible singer but an incredible frontman. The man doesn’t stop running around the stage, cheering up the fans and making the whole experience of watching Anthrax live really awesome! And Scott Ian might not be the best guitar player in the world, but he is a true Heavy Metal hero, banging his head and delivering lots of awesome heavy riffs during all songs.

And last but not least, the tribute the whole band payed to Dio (R.I.P.) and Dimebag Darrell (R.I.P.) with the banners and the song In the End, and the other tribute to Australian masters AC/DC in the form of a beautiful cover version of T.N.T., just proved how humble all members of Anthrax are and how much they love heavy music. Anthrax were not only an excellent warm-up for Iron Maiden, but a superb lesson in Thrash Metal for everybody at Nova Rock.

Band members
Joey Belladonna – lead vocals
Scott Ian – rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Charlie Benante – drums, percussion
Frank Bello – bass guitar, backing vocals
Jonathan Donais – lead guitar 

AMON AMARTH

IMG_1997Then came one of the most anticipated attractions of the day for me, as I love most of their albums and it was the first time I was able to see them live, but sadly it was not as powerful as I was expecting: Swedish Melodic Death Metal warriors Amon Amarth had a very competent performance, playing some great tunes such as Father of the Wolf, Guardians of Asgaard and The Pursuit of Vikings, and Johan Hegg is becoming one of the top frontman in heavy music. However, probably due to the fatigue everyone was feeling after so many electrifying attractions that day, their concert sounded a bit tiring after a while.

I don’t know if most of the fans there were not that much into their Viking theme, but I saw lots of people simply static and some even yawning during the entire show. I would say that huge festivals are not the best place for a band like Amon Amarth, because let’s face it: singing about Vikings is not considered cool by a huge part of the society, so I’ll wait until they come to Toronto this fall during their own tour to better analyze them live. I’m pretty sure it will be a lot better than their performance at Nova Rock.

Band members
Johan Hegg – lead vocals
Olavi Mikkonen – guitar
Johan Söderberg – guitar
Ted Lundström – bass
Fredrik Andersson – drums 

IRON MAIDEN

IMG_2010And at around 9pm, guess what happened? My sixth “Maiden England” concert, which was also my second one in less than a week (and of course the second of this Maiden England Tour 2014), was once again totally awesome. Because it was a festival, which means you’ll find all types of people there and not only true Maidenmaniacs, I just felt the audience wasn’t as great as in Brno, but that doesn’t mean people didn’t go crazy with classics like Aces High, Run to the Hills, The Prisoner and The Trooper. Revelations was again one of the top moments in my opinion, and the energy people put into singing Fear of the Dark always reminds us why they keep it in the setlist even if lots of diehard fans want them to change it for something else.

I’m not sure if the band was running out of time or if they just wanted to end the show earlier to watch the World Cup match between England and Italy, but without any further explanation they simply removed Wrathchild from that night’s setlist. I bet it was because of the match, as Bruce was wearing a weird English white jumpsuit during Aces High and said a couple of times that we all had to get back to our tents to see England beat Italy 10-0. Well, I guess Mick Jagger is not the only jinx around.

Apart from that minor upset (I’m talking about Wrathchild, not about England losing to Italy, of course), all fans were able to witness another memorable performance from the most influential Heavy Metal band of all time, which was corroborated by everybody happily singing Monty Python’s Always Look on the Bright Side of Life when the concert was over. Now I really hope “Maiden England” is over (after three years) and they come back with a new album, because although I’m 100% passionate about all those classics, I also love when Bruce, Steve & Co. provide us some fresh compositions. Let’s hope they deliver us something as good as The Final Frontier, and that they keep on rockin’ all over the world with their unique and marvelous tours.

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

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