Monday, November 20, 2006

My Best Concert Experience

Today I got a new DVD. I got Iced Earth's Alive In Athens. This was recorded back in 1999. The 3-CD set has been in circulation since then, but I was not aware there was a DVD version of the shows. My guess is that it probably came out not too long ago. I've watched part of it and it sure does bring back memories!

I discovered Iced Earth through my friend Baeleron back in 1998 sometime. He had the CD for Dark Saga. He played it for me and I was impressed with 1) Jon Schaffer's fast guitar playing, and 2) Matt Barlow's vocals. I thought at the time that Iced Earth had picked up where Metallica left off. He let me borrow the CD and the last three tunes of the CD got a lot of airplay in my stereo! That was pretty much the extent of my Iced Earth knowledge and like that it stayed for the next few months. One day Baeleron told me Iced Earth would be touring the States and that there would be a San Francisco show at a place called Cocodrie. I don't remember when exactly the concert took place, but when we went in, I was surprised at how small the place was! Also, it was some sort of matinee show because it started sometime in the afternoon. We were there early enough that we caught Iced Earth's soundcheck. They played 2 songs, Burning Time and another one. Matt Barlow looked like a total geek! His hair was pulled back and was wearing big glasses! I thought it was really cool that we were there for the soundcheck.

There were several bands that played that day. The first band was a local band whose name I cannot remember. Some kid with a blonde afro started checking up the microphones, and then he starts growling! Their set was short and to me memorable because it was my first live exposure to growling vocals (don't ask me to pinpoint the exact genre). Next up was the band of some guy who had been sitting next to us and talking to some other dude about how Norway was the happening place for Metal. He brought a torch as a prop and had painted some kind of devil on his chest. He was cracking us up because he kept sticking his tongue out like Gene Simmons. He played and sang his heart out. His songs were long an had multiple time changes, but they all.. well.. sucked. I don't mean to rag on the guy and his band. At least they can say they were on the bill with Iced Earth and I can't!

Then the advertised bands started playing. Next up was a band called Destiny's End. They played melodic Metal and the singer had a pretty high-pitched voice. They were good, but perhaps a little out of place. You could tell they were pros though. Their set piqued my interest during the encores when they played Priest's Beyond The Realms Of Death. I was eagerly awaiting the climactic scream towards the end of the song, but right at that spot started playing Livin' After Midnight (I don't like that song at all). Next up was a band called Nevermore. Jon Schaffer and other Iced Earth members were watching the show and Baeleron went up to them to get his CD booklets signed. Nevermore were pretty good, but I still don't know any of their music.

Up to this point we had been sitting in the back. The place was full but not jam-packed with people. I figure that there could not have been more than 250 people inside, which was surprising given Iced Earth's stature. Bael and I stood up, walked up to the front and stood by Jon Schaffer's monitors right in front of him. The stage was not high. It was at knee-level. Iced Earth played a blistering set. They played as if they had been playing in front of thousands! It was interesting how Jon Schaffer had this aura of stage general! It's definitely his band. Barlow's vocals were amazing! They played all the songs I knew and more. After they finished their set, we, along with some other fans jumped onstage to meet Jon. I shook his hand and thanked him for an awesome show. He was pretty gracious and stayed talking to other fans. I remember this kid asking him what chords did he play in X song, and Jon patiently told him. I was very happy to have been there. Not only that, we got out early enough to go grab a bite to eat, hit a couple of record stores looking for Maiden collectibles and get home at a decent hour!

That my friends was my best concert experience ever.

Bael and I were looking forward to seeing them again in 2001 opening for Judas Priest, but the concert was to take place the weekend after Sept. 11, and we all know what happened. The show was rescheduled for February of '02 or something, but by this time, Anthrax had replaced Iced Earth and Bael had moved to southern CA. I went to the show (Ripper on vocals!), but that's another story.

Here's part of a screen shot from the DVD:

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