Metal Masters Enlighten Chicago
Band Photo: Testament (?)
In what will likely go down as arguably the best metal tour of the summer, The Metal Masters Tour has been treating fans with four legendary metal bands which include two of the first metal bands ever in Judas Priest and Heaven and Hell, a thrash pioneer in Testament, and Motorhead. This concert lineup is the equivalent to a festival main stage without having to sit through any dismal filler acts or bands that leave fans questioning their metal legitimacy for deserving to be on such a tour.
Being an Iowa resident, I rarely see any classic or larger metal bands roll through, so to see four bands that will likely not stop here again this year, on one bill, was incentive enough for me to make the trip to Chicago. The concert was held on August 19, 2008 at the First Midwest Bank Amphitheater (formerly the Tweeter Center). It was also a chance for me to see two of my personal favorite bands in Judas Priest and Testament that I longed to see at least once before they retire, can’t perform live anymore or I die.
Testament was the first to take the stage at 5:30 pm CDT. Unfortunately, they only played a 30 minute set. There were a lot of Testament standards that weren’t played, but when time only allows for 6 songs, I was quite satisfied with the songs they chose. They opened with the opening track from “The Legacy” , “Over the Wall.” It didn’t take long to see that everyone in the band was on this night. Well, aside from Eric Peterson still wearing spandex on stage. Vocalist Chuck Billy sounded exactly the way he did on the record when doing the older material and performed the two tracks they played from “The Formation of Damnation” very well. Guitarist Alex Skolnick solidly executed the epic solos of “A New Order” and “Practice What You Preach.” Peterson and Skolnick also did some great dueling solos. The band continued on with the string of title tracks by playing “Souls of Black.” They finished up their set with “More Than Meets The Eye,” which sounded great live and was actually one of my favorite songs they performed before closing with the title track “The Formation of Damnation.” I liked the way they organized their set, playing one track from the first four albums (my personal favorite Testament records) in order by album release and then ending with a couple new tracks from “The Formation of Damnation.”
Next up was Motorhead, and they played rock n’ fuckin’ roll. I missed the first four songs they did because I was stuck in the merch line, but what I did catch I thoroughly enjoyed. After all these years it was good to see that Lemmy is still Lemmy. His voice sounded great…well, it sounded like Lemmy, which was great. The drummer Michael Delaouglou aka Mikkey Dee threw down a very intense and creative drum solo that was one of the highlights of their set. Guitarist Phil Campbell showcased his talent with his great soloing and wall of sound riffage. I guess I hadn’t realized he’s been with Motorhead for 24 years, and watching him play it’s easy to see why Lemmy and co. have hung onto him. They ended with the excellent trio of “Killed by Death,” “Ace of Spades,” and “Overkill.”
Third on the bill was Heaven and Hell, which is essentially Black Sabbath with Ronnie James Dio doing vocals instead of Ozzy. I appreciate this lineup because the Dio years of Black Sabbath are my personal favorite. Heaven and Hell had the most theatrical stage set up, complete with two towering, smoke breathing gargoyles. They opened with “E5150” and then hit the ground running with “The Mob Rules” and “Children of the Sea.” Dio hit every note square on and was a lot of fun to watch move about the stage, flashing the horns which he injected into mainstream society. He really helped capture the story line when they did “Sign of the Southern Cross,” which ended up being one my favorite songs they performed. Geezer hammered along on the bass looking like a legend. After playing “Ear in the Wall,” which was one of the three new songs they recorded when they formed, Vinnie played a drum solo. It was not near as good as Mickey Dee’s drum solo as it was kind of bland and cliché. Following “Falling Off the Edge of the World,” legendary guitarist Tony Iommi had his time in the spotlight with his own guitar solo. Though he may never have been the fastest, most technical guitar player on the planet, he can definitely still hold his own. Following an extended version of “Heaven and Hell,” they finished up with “Neon Knights.” And thus every major Dio Sabbath song had been covered.
Finally it was time to witness the mighty Judas Priest. Though their stage setup wasn’t quite as gaudy as Heaven and Hell’s, it was still pretty epic. Priest began with their usual epic concert introduction - this time to the tune of “Dawn of Creation,” the first track from their most recent concept album, “Nostradamus.” With smoke covering the stage and the light show under way, the band made their dramatic entrance. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see vocalist Rob Halford, the metal god himself, make his first appearance from my seat, but I could see the other members. They then went into the second track from “Nostradamus,” “Prophecy.” The new stuff sounded great live and had great audience participation, but these would be all that was performed from “Nostradamus.” The band then proceeded to pick from an array of Priest trademarks including “Metal Gods,” “Breaking the Law,” and “The Hellion/Electric Eye.” It was great to finally see two of my guitar idols in top form. K.K. Downing and Glen Tipton executed every lick, harmony and riff to perfection and put on a great show. Their harmony work on “Rock Hard Ride Free” was top notch and gave me goose bumps just like the first time I heard the song on “Defenders of the Faith.” The rotational tracks they chose to play were some of their heavier Halford-era material. They played “Devil’s Child,” “Eat Me Alive,” and “Dissident Aggressor,” and three songs from their landmark album “Painkiller.” For the ballad they chose “Angel” from 2005’s reunion album “Angel of Retribution.” Halford put his still outstanding singing voice on display as the audience flatly sang along. After a brief break following “Painkiller,” Halford began the encore in typical fashion by riding out on a motorcycle for the performance of “Hell Bent For Leather.” “The Green Manalishi” followed suit with the band closing predictably with “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming,” which sounded much heavier and much better live.
There’s a lot of history on this tour, and to see some of the originators of the genre of music I love most perform on an extremely high level made this concert one that I will never forget. I highly recommend that any metal fan catch a date on this tour if they can, because this is true metal at its' finest.
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