80’s Metal Perfect Pairing: Armored Saint Metal Church
Since December I have seen Motley Crue, AC/DC and Iron Maiden live. Arena Rock is great, but these bands all started in some club somewhere. And there is just something about a small club that takes you back to the early hungry days as bands work to make a name for themselves.
Saturday night’s Armored Saint Metal Church concert at the Hawthorne Theatre (capacity -620) in Portland, Oregon on Saturday, June 11, 2016, had that feel and it was awesome. Putting these bands together for a tour was a great idea, but too short as this was the final show.
A friend of mine who attended said “Armored Saint was crazy good!!! The energy there was just something you don’t see at many shows! There was some urgency to it! Still buzzing from it, rhythm section was amazing!”
This co-headline tour featured each band switching off each night and on this stop, Armored Saint took the stage first. The last time they played here was 2001 at the Roseland Theatre. At the time though, that venue had a different name and lead singer John Bush asked the crowd what is was called? (Starry Night).
I loved the localized banter from Bush between songs. We know most singers just repeat the same lines each night, but Bush was specific to Portland on most things he talked about, including playing here with Metallica in the early 80’s and the time he threw out his armour costume into the crowd… “somebody here tonight still have that?” he asked. Speaking of which, there aren’t too many photos out there of the 1984 tour, but I found one here courtesy of the Kevin Estrada Blog.
Armored Saint opened with the great new song ‘Win Hands Down’ and their setlist included all the classics we know and love… ‘March of the Saint’, ‘Long Before I Die’, ‘Reign of Fire’ and ‘Can U Deliver’.
My friend continued, “Armored Saint should’ve headlined and their set wasn’t long enough! John Bush was the star this night! That voice is just flawless! My fav moment was when Bush nailed that scream in the middle of “Can U Deliver”!
Yes, I felt that… I’m still buzzing too. And how about Bush jumping into the crowd to surf? The dude is 52… that was killer! A guy next to me was at the Seattle show the night before and I thought “you drove down here to see it again?” I get it though. Hope they come back soon.
Around 11:30, Metal Church hit the stage, opening with ‘Fake Healer.’ The crowd was just as fired up for this one and with Mike Howe back on vocals, the night just felt special, like how lucky are we to see this great concert.
The mosh pit was non-stop during both shows. My 17 year-old son and I were separated from the pit by only one row of humans, who did a good job pushing the moshers back in, but we got bumped a few times. When Metal Church launched into ‘Start the Fire’, I felt like I might want to join the pit, but I came to my senses and perished the thought.
There were quite a few tracks from the new album in their 13 song set, including ‘No Tomorrow’. Most of the setlist featured songs from the Church albums Howe sung on from 1988 to 1994, including ‘In Mourning’, ‘Date with Poverty’ and ‘Badlands’.
Only one song was played from their 1984 debut album and it was ‘Beyond the Black’. Howe joked with guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof that this song was written the day he was born.
This West Coast USA tour lasted all of seven dates. I’m not sure if it was a test run or something, but it was one of the best 80’s metal concerts I have attended. The small club feel and sound combined with musicians who have been playing together for 30+ years in some cases, made for an enthralling performance from both of these great bands.
The last few months have been an amazing ride attending classic metal shows with my almost 17 year old son. We saw Mötley Crüe’s final concert in Portland, Oregon in December and AC/DC (with Brian Johnson) in Tacoma, Washington in February. But on this night, it was a chance to see my favorite and the rulers of heavy metal mountain for most people, Iron Maiden at the Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Washington on Monday, April 11, 2016.
After waiting in the t-shirt line (all shirts were $40, unless you were XXL or XXXL, they were $45… yes, an extra $5 because you’re old and fat or maybe our 80’s metal heroes know we probably have more cash at this point in our lives), we waited in the security line for what seemed like a lifetime, but at least we knew nobody was going to smuggle in a flare gun… more on that in a moment, and we were entertained by the drunk woman next to us worried that her “titanium p%*$y” may not pass the security wand.
Once inside and with only minutes to spare, we rushed to our seats to catch the opening of Iron Maiden in the Northwest on ‘The Book of Souls’ tour. The new record is killer and their 16th album may be one of their best. The first two songs on this tour are the first two songs on ‘Souls’ and consistent with what they have done on previous tours… remember they opened the ‘World Slavery Tour’ in 1984/85 that was recorded for the ‘Live After Death’ album, with “Aces High” and “2 Minutes To Midnight,” the first two songs on ‘Powerslave.’
Back in their 1980’s hungry days, Maiden played nearly every city, including the Tacoma Dome on February 10, 1987 on the “Somewhere On Tour’ tour, but this was the first time they had played the Dome since the ‘Brave New World Tour’ in 2000. Early in the show, singer Bruce Dickinson mentioned their history playing the Tacoma Dome, referencing a time when a soldier who had brought a flare gun, fired it into the air and that set the ceiling of the building on fire. Funny thing is, this really did happen, but it was during an AC/DC concert there in 1983.
Dickinson told the audience they would be playing a few songs from the new album and a few “legacy tracks,” including for the first time since the ‘Somewhere Back in Time World Tour’ in 2009, their performance of “Children of the Damned.” This was followed by two more songs from ‘Book of Souls,’ “Tears of a Clown” (the band’s take on the life of late comedian Robin Williams) and “The Red and the Black.”
As soon as the stage backdrop changed to the iconic image of Eddie clenching the British flag in his bony hand, the energy of the crowd of 16,000+ in attendance rose dramatically as Maiden launched into “The Trooper.” Considering his age (57) and his recovery from throat cancer last year, Dickinson sounded amazing, and you could really hear him, as the volume on his microphone seemed to be much louder than the guitars and drums. This was my only critical point of the show, in that some of the energy of the songs was lost from the instruments compared to Bruce’s voice.
The only song played from 1984’s “Powerslave” was the title track, but that was fitting with the ancient Mayan temple stage theme. This was followed by two more new songs, “Death or Glory” and “The Book of Souls,” during which a 12-foot tall Eddie (dressed like a Mayan warrior) walked about casually on the stage and chased the band members. Guitarist Janick Gers ran between Eddie’s legs multiple times and then got in a slap.
As great as their new music is, Iron Maiden know their fans will not be satisfied with just that and while skipping some classics that most bands could not get away with (“Flight of Icarus”, “Run to the Hills”, “Revelations”), they ran downhill to their heyday for the final six songs, including “Hallowed Be Thy Name”, “Fear of the Dark” and “Iron Maiden.”
They returned for encores, “The Number of the Beast”, “Blood Brothers” and “Wasted Years.”
There is nothing quite like an Iron Maiden concert and the next generation agrees… My son and I really enjoyed this one. Until next time, ‘Always look on the bright side of life.’
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