70000 Tons Day 2: A-List, Start To Finnish!
February 12, 2017, a month ago
Friday is the lone full day of music, the topside deck stage being in use, for the first time (making four stages total), and no land excursions, or final night's abbreviated schedule to play havoc with 19.5 hours of continuous music, not including simultaneous performances.
Edmonton based Striker admitted their 11:30 AM slot was the earliest show of their career, yet there were two bands before them, elsewhere on the ship. No matter, the Canucks treated early risers in the Studio B converted ice rink to an adrenaline pumping dose of energetic, high pitched traditional metal, oft with three part backing vocals. Opening with a fast paced "Former Glory", off the just issued eponymous disc (albeit the fifth of their career). "Crossroads" saw twin leads at the front of the stage, accented by purple lights and plenty of strobes. "Locked In" came and went quickly. Bodies moving and hair flailing onstage, the enthusiasm was contagious and sparks a bit of synchronized moves from Striker during "Lethal Force". "Phoenix Lights" concerns aliens, while 80s cock rocker "Too Late" is laughed off by singer Dan Cleary, but certainly atypical of either recorded or live output. High octane newbie "Born To Lose" was debuted amid reddish orange lights. With new product to flog,these workhorses will undoubtedly be on the road again, soon. Check em out, if they get close.
Caught the oddly named German power metallers Orden Ogan a couple of times since they appeared at ProgPower (to date their only North American show). Today, they were in the giant Alhambra Theater, typically reserved for international headliners. On the last day, they'd be in the minuscule, club stage sized Pyramid Lounge, so I guess it all equals out. Behind them, an electronic board shone a sea of lights, as they began with "Ravenhead". Each individual spotlighted in red, with basically no other stage lights, "Here At The End of The World". Like many others, featured plenty of piped in extras. For the fan-approved (and seaworthy) "We Are Pirates", that included concertina/accordion, as the audience clapped along. With this room on deck 3 (at the front of the ship) and the outdoor stage at the stern, on deck 11 (also where you'll find the dining hall) there's plenty of exercise running up and down steps (rather than waiting for the elevators), which is my preferred mode of "transportation" the first few days. By Day 4, at times I "cheat" a little. At the entrance of each concert hall, as well as one or two in its midst, there's the ubiquitous beer stands (mixed drinks usually require a more formalized bar, rather than a pop-up kiosk. Hence all the stair climbing cardio.
Made it back to the top of the ship, for Uli Jon Roth. Was eager to see what the ex-Scorpions guitarist would pull out, having just reviewed his Tokyo Tapes revisited CD/DVD package. Little did we know it would be almost exclusively old Scorps material aboard ship too! For old-timers like me, it was great, although everyone was complaining how loud it was. "All Night Long" kicked things off, in the bright sunshine, although there was something magical about Roth's long hair being blown in the breeze, held beneath a bandana. In black crushed velour suit coat and black moccasin boots, he squeezed out the notes to "Catch Your Train". Uli wished his missing bassist well, necessitating a switcheroo, with Niklas Turmann (who handles most vocals) filling in and Uli's son taking over a (left-handed) second guitar. "The Sails Of Charon" is considered by many, to be the greatest early Scorpions song, Roth laying down the effects and two-handed technique, showing off shred, before it was even coined. The Sky guitar squealing out high pitched notes, the player's left hand so far down the neck, he's practically to the last pick-up! "We'll Burn The Sky" was dedicated to the ailing four-stringer, Roth adding backing vocals to "In Trance". A real showpiece, he handles lyrics and plenty of fretwork on "Dark Lady" before ending with two nods to his mentor, Jimi Hendrix: first with the rocking rendition of Bob Dylan's "All Along The Watchtower" (Roth behind the mic) and guitar etude, aka "Little Wing". What a treat!
Back downstairs, to stick my nose in the theater, to catch a couple of songs from Xandria, the trilling voiced female power metal outfit, from Germany. Heard "Nightfall", "Stardust" and newbie "Call Of Destiny", before shuffling off to the ice rink, to investigate Avatarium. Had no idea how to pronounce the female fronted Swedes/ name before seeing the outfit masterminded by Candlemass bassist Leif Edling (who was unfortunately not in attendance, onstage or otherwise). Lots of buzz about this band, which has a decidedly ‘70s vibe, thanks to Moog synthesizer atop crushingly slow Sabbathy riffs (and at times acoustic guitar, courtesy of frontwoman Jennie-Ann Smith, dressed in black, collar up to her chin. Hypnotic, Smith engages in interpretative dance, outstretched arms flailing as the crowd sings along. The acoustic returned, for the blue lit "Deep Well", off their 2014 All I Want Ep. Something I'd be into checking out again, for sure. Also caught a glimpse of Haggard: full metal band and orchestral combo onstage (including piano), with gruff male vocals and classical soprano (gown billowing in the open air breeze).
Due to the delays inherent in securing timely medical treatment in Sweden, Therion mastermind/guitarist Christofer Johnsson went to Moscow, to get a diagnosis of two ruptured cervical vertebrae, requiring surgery, thus he wore an immobilizing plastic collar during the entire cruise, onstage and when in street clothes, talking to fans throughout the ship. Live, even up close, it was difficult to see Chris' neck brace, looking merely like a high and snug (albeit stiff and uncomfortable) turtle neck beneath his usual stage get-up. A pair of female singers and a male vocalist all took turns, while onstage together. While some have felt that the last decade or so Johnsson has disappeared down the rabbit hole, into a different musical world, most of this set dealt with the early 2000s period (Lemuria/Sirius B co-project and Secret Of The Runes), but touching on several discs, back to 1996's Theli. Most notable were a rollicking "Flesh Of The Gods" (studio version originally featured Blind Guardian's Hansi Kursch) and the concluding Theli duo "Cults Of The Shadows" and the galloping, multiple voiced classic, "To Mega Therion. Few have endured such personal sacrifice to make so many happy, thanks Christofer.
With drummer Eddy Garcia (or as Blitz announced him, "The Mexicutioner") surrounded on both sides by a trio of Marshall stacks, a huge backdrop, filling the back wall of the massive theater, Overkill came loaded for bear. Between offering two sneak peaks at the as-yet unreleased Grinding Wheel ("Our Finest Hour" and "Emerald", the latter not being unknown, albeit played more as a march than the thin Lizzy original) and one each from its three direct predecessors (has it really been eight years since Ironbound? Where does the time go?), the other half the set was old school favorites. "Rotten To The Core" followed the "Armorist" opener. Frontman Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth was in comedic fine form, telling the crowd (with his fists clenched) to, "Pay attention, or Grandpa's gonna kick your ass!" For "Electric Rattlesnake", bassist DD Verni echoes the chorus, slightly behind Blitz. There's "Hello From The Gutter" and a strobe begun "In Union We Stand," Blitz getting the crowd to chant the titular chorus, admonishing them to, "Let them hear you in Haiti" (tomorrow's port of call). A mosh pit broke out during the nitro fueled "Hammerhead". "Ironbound" leads to the requisite closers, "Elimination" and "Fuck You", another tight performance ahead of their North american tour. Can't wait!
Amorphis were almost an hour late going on. This was the first of two distinct sets (the deckside show being a run through Eclipse, in its entirety, as they'd done back home, last fall/winter). Two years ago, onboard the ship, Amorphis exclusively paid tribute to the 20th anniversary for Tales From The Thousand Lakes. Not wishing to repeat themselves, and as if to celebrate Tomi Joutsen's decade fronting the band, the selections were almost entirely from his time with the Finns. In fact, only "Drowned Maid" (from the aforementioned Lakes) predates the current singer and apart from the closing "House Of Sleep", this set was culled entirely from 2009 releases or later. Four tracks off Under the Red Cloud, including the title cut, which opens said disc and tonight's performance. Under dim lights, Esa Holopainen is afforded almost the total of stage left. His longtime guitar partner Tomi Koivusaari was content to wander in circles, side opposite. Even without his timber rattling roar, Joutsen and his two handle mic are the focal point, whipping his hair (and body) around the room. "Bad Blood” is a nice addition to the setlist.
Funny enough, between European festivals, Heavy Montreal and North American tours saw Carcass six times, between April and August, 2016! Still, was eager to see the Brits play the theater, on Day 2. However, Jeff Walker needs to work on his pick throwing technique, as two of the little plastic bits fell into the photography pit, failing to span the mere six feet from his center stage position, to the audience on the opposite side of the barricade! A few of us were kind enough to pass them on, although a few photogs kept the presents for themselves. "Buried Dreams" and "Incarnate Solvent Abuse" were aired early. Under a large backdrop, depicting the circle of implements adorning the Surgical Steel cover, Carcass offered a greatest hits set, with medleys of some of the older tunes. After "No Love Lost" and "Carnal Forge", Walker asked, "Will someone please buy me a beer? I hate playing sober," he joked." Why don't you go to the bar and get me a beer, you lazy fuck?" The galloping "Captive Bolt Pistol" is punctuated by exaggerated growls. When finished, the bassist noticed, "Probably some people who are disappointed, expected Gojira or Nile" (both cancelled). A couple of medleys followed, stringing together "Edge Of Darkness" / "This Mortal Coil" and old school "Reek Of Putrefaction" and "Pyosisified (Still Rotten To The Gore)" alongside personal fave, "Exhume To Consume". Always time for "Corporeal Jigsore Quandary".
After a short respite, returned to the theater, for Kamelot, my last band of the evening, before heading to the casino, for some relaxation, before a planned full itinerary, in Haiti, the next day. The staging was first rate, biggest presentation of the weekend. Hard to believe this is the same band I used to travel down to Tampa to see, in small clubs. In addition to a huge backdrop sporting the dual female portraits off Haven, there was a pair of floor to ceiling ribbon/banners, sporting designs and the K logo. Onstage there was a pair of scrims flanking drummer Casey Grillo and a road case/riser onwhich Tommy Karevik (vocals), braided blond bassist Sean Tibbetts and/or founder/guitarist Thom Youngblood could perch.
High energy, pumping music as the Floridians (OK, there's a Swede in their midst these days) begin with "Veil Of Elysium" backed with "When The Lights Are Down". The singer is on and off the riser, as is the bass player. Karevik asks the the crowd to jump, during "The Great Pandemonium". Claiming it was time for "old, classic Kamelot" (translation: since Karma), "Center Of The Universe" saw a guest appearance by Elize Ryd (Amaranthe), reprising the role she had, when touring with the band in '12 (opening for Nightwish). Plenty of swirling lights and effects. After the stage goes completely black, a couple of the 70,000 Tons pool girls don black eye masks and angels wings to bang on drums, introducing the military cadence of "March Of Mephisto". Throughout the 75 minute show (longest set of the day), the volume was LOUD! Not sure if it was stretching material out for two sets, or just a requirement, but there was a drum solo and keyboard spotlight. Did enjoy them resurrecting "Forever' (off the aforementioned Karma). Now if they can just look a little deeper into their history, say The Fourth legacy.
Hard to believe it's only half way over, full steam ahead!