Iced Earth, Sabaton, Re-Vamp @ HOB Sunset 5.2.14
For most people going to a concert to see a band they love is an exciting and often times intoxicating heh-heh experience that provides wonderful memories for many years that follow. For those of us who are journalists we are given that and much more, but at times there tends to be quite a bit more work and hassle involved as well. Thankfully the opportunity to witness some of the most amazing musicians on the planet, helps to override the amount of bullshit we are repeatedly forced to deal with. My latest adventure (putting it nicely) came when I headed out to the House of Blues Sunset in Hollywood, Ca. to catch what in my mind amounts to one of the most anticipated tours of 2014, the mighty Iced Earth in their U.S. headlining jaunt with Sweden's Sabaton and Holland's Re-Vamp both making their American debut as support was on the evening's agenda.
I arrived early at the venue around 4:00pm in order to conduct interviews with the three band's set to perform later that night. This is when the work and B.S. began to take hold. It was bad enough that it was a hot, blistering day, I ran into traffic and was late, but that I was interrupted in my interviews on three separate occasions with two of the bands by the arrogant, misinformed and blatantly rude security and stage manager at the House of Blues was just ridiculous, and because of the completely asinine attitudes of these people, my interview with Stu Block of Iced Earth was cut short when he became pissed, and rightfully so, at the interruptions and stormed off. Now, I've been doing this work for close to fifteen years and have Never been given such shit as this. The House of Blues has gone way down in its accommodations to the press and the public. Anyhow, being the trooper that I am, I shook off the stench and rolled on through as to not let these irritants ruin the entire night.
Upon entering the venue, I was again briefly hassled with gaining access to the photo pit area for our photographer of the evening, Veiliah, and it took some pushing and shoving to make it in, but where there is a will, with V, there is a way. Finally the musical journey we had come for was about to begin.
Re-Vamp, the Dutch band fronted by former After Forever and current Nightwish vocalist Floor Jansen, fired full-throttle into their brief set and instantly made fans feel alive and thankful that music in this capacity exists. Making their debut here in the U.S., they delivered a stellar set of tunes and provided the perfect beginning to the night's festivities. No, they did not do any Nightwish or After Forever covers as this trek was solely about Re-Vamp. Truth be told, I don't believe anyone cared. The band stood their ground proudly and owned every minute of the opening slot. Not surprising in the least was the amount of younger girls in the audience giving shouts of admiration. The men were present as well but a little more hidden in the background but hey, as a man, I am not ashamed to say I loved every bit of what they delved out. Floor was elegant and graceful in her presence and ability and I honestly believe there was not one wrong note that escaped her mouth. Professional in every way, Re-Vamp came across as extremely strong performers with a no-nonsense approach to their art and the future possibilities are many.
I have to say that I was less than thrilled to see Sweden's Sabaton as I've never quite understood them. That is, until now. Hands down they were the most entertaining band of the night and absolutely stole the show. The audience was so loud and embracing that they nearly drowned out the band with their cheers. The self-proclaimed Heavy Metal war historians were in fine form this evening with performance skills that could rival any number of the great masters that have come before. Frontman Joakim Brodin was a fierce and authoritative force worthy of respect and admiration. To top it all off he actually pulled a couple of very young kids up on stage to finish off the last song and offered up his trademark sunglasses as consolation prizes. Huge compliments abound!
There are definitely those few artists which I am always extremely happy to see perform live and never grow tired of, U.S. Power Metal legends, Iced Earth are just such an artist and their performance this evening was nothing short of amazing. Band mastermind Jon Schaeffer bleeds Metal and he has built an empire with his creative outlet the likes of which the world very rarely is privileged to these days. Grasping on to their love for horror themed events and stories, the band are currently touring in support of the zombie-fueled apocalypse album, Plagues of Babylon. Stu Block is, in my humble opinion, the single greatest vocalist the band has ever had, and I know that is blasphemous to some, but he is more than capable of holding his own against any of his predecessors and can handle their parts with such ease I believe he is the most well-rounded vocalist they have employed. Iced Earth are no strangers to line-up changes and so it came as no real surprise that they had former Slayer/Testament drummer Jon Dette pounding the skins for them. The show itself was a good hour and a half plus and the band managed to shell out a decent number of classics as well as new material. The sound was monstrous and the feeling of belonging - a great Metal family trait I admire, was in full force this evening. Song selection favorites included the opening track from their latest release "Plagues of Babylon", "V" and "Dystopia" from the Dystopia CD, "Burning Times" from the Something Wicked album, "The Hunter" and "Vengeance Is Mine" from Dark Saga, "Red Baron/Blue Max" from The Glorious Burden, and Jon's heartfelt tribute to a fallen friend which was dedicated this night to Jeff Hanneman of Slayer who passed away last year. The guys concluded their set with the bands flagship song "Iced Earth". During the final song a massive fight between security and a drunk fan and his old lady broke out right next to where I was standing, now that's about as Metal as it gets people. Ultimately a great end to a fantastic night!