Iced Earth Plays MacEwan Hall Ballroom in Calgary
Band Photo: Iced Earth (?)
The air may have been frosty when Iced Earth slid into a wintery Calgary on Monday night, but their reception could hardly have been warmer when the classic metal act performed to a sold out crowd at the MacEwan Hall Ballroom.
Firing things up were local hardcore-infused thrash act Kilyakai. Now, it’s a given that most people go to a show to see the headliner and after getting filtered through the ticket line and security checks, many prefer to take advantage of the beer gardens as they wait for the big guns to take the stage. Well, that’s all fine in theory, but while a number of bodies milled about the Ballroom, waiting to get their horns on some Iced Earth merch before the choices were gone, Kilyakai exploded onto the stage with “Ravenous,” a tune slated for release on their upcoming debut album, and one that wakes you up with a sample of John Turturro’s Jesus character in the Coen Brother’s classic “The Big Lebowski” chattering over the P.A., “Let me tell you something, pendejo. You pull any of your crazy shit with us, you flash a piece out on the lanes, I'll take it away from you, stick it up your ass and pull the f****ing trigger 'til it goes ‘click.’”
And with that ‘click,’ like a tsunami of sound, nearly every head turned towards the stage, seemingly on autopilot to witness the crushing death-style of vocalist Wes DeLeeuw and the epic blast beats made effortless by drummer Ryan Boyko. With dual lead guitarists Adam Vagacs and Mike Porteous shredding things up with killer solos and all-round intricate riffing, with bassist Nate Reno laying down the low hand, even Iced Earth guitarist Troy Seele was overheard saying something along the lines of how awesome it was to finally have a great local opener on this tour. His approval wasn’t for not. By the end of Kilyakai’s short half-hour set, the barricade had been pushed up about five inches and the audience seriously had their mosh on and were asking for more.
After a quick gear swap – well, as quick as you can when Early Man drummer Adam Bennati has a glass acrylic kit that weighs more than 500 pounds – the Brooklyn metallers segued the audience from the brutal aural afflictions of Calgary’s Kilyakai into a mix of fast, old school metal riffery, ’70s style rock ‘n’ roll rhythms and power/punk hybrid style vocals, courtesy guitar playing frontman Mike Conte.
To be honest, I was a little disappointed when I first learned that it was Early Man who were on the bill and Divine Heresy that had to back out due to visa issues, because I know and love Divine Heresy and was looking forward to finally seeing their live act. Never having heard Early Man before, it was an honest spur-of-the-moment reaction. Consider me now a fan of Early Man. That said, it’s probably not a stretch for me to admit that since I’m unfamiliar with their music, I can’t tell you the names of any of the songs that were on the set list, especially considering they band didn’t say much between songs. But, sometimes silence is golden and in Early Man’s case, it just made their set that much more intense.
Unfortunately that intensity was somewhat anticlimactic. When Early Man hit the showers – rather, more truthfully, tacked their clothes to a corkboard backstage to dry out after their high-octane performance – the crowd waited. And waited. While… roadies… hit… drum toms… and “check”… the… mic, in spite of having done a sound check at four in the afternoon. I mean, don’t get me wrong. The audience wants the headliner to sound good, especially after spending the cash for a ticket, all the fun little extra fees the ticket agent sneaks in there - none too subtly, I might add – and the exorbitant parking fees at the University of Calgary campus. Unfortunately, there really is a difference between stalling to let the anticipation build in a room, and there’s simply waiting too long.
After nearly 45 minutes and a number of “Iced Earth, Iced Earth” chant-a-longs later, at 10 sharp, the cover was swept off the drum kit placed high up on a riser so high, you couldn’t tell if drummer Brent Smedley was actually there or not. Turns out he wasn’t, but was met with thunderous cheers from the audience as he and his band mates did skate out onto the stage, found their marks and froze, mime style, while keyboard samples coursed in and out through the monitors.
Aside from a few minor technical criticisms, including having the volume for these guys cranked way louder than the Ballroom can handle, seeing and hearing rhythm guitarist extraordinaire Jon Schaffer ripping through with thunderous gallops and crazy work-the-crowd poses alongside vocalist Matt Barlow was indeed a treat.
Barlow has a five octave vocal range and he expressed that to the max. His melodramatic stage presence and hold ‘em til you almost black out power metal notes showed just how phenomenal a singer he is.
Playing a lot of material from their 1998 album “Something Wicked This Way Comes, ” Barlow proclaimed “The Coming Curse” one his “personal faves” and was met with a sea of lighters for the ballad “Watching Over Me.”
Iced Earth also played a number of tunes from 2004’s “The Glorious Burden,” and the thunderous tune “Ten Thousand Strong” from the band’s 2007 EP “Overture of the Wicked.” Right before this song, Barlow thanked the crowd for being the biggest and only sold out show on their tour so far. “Raise ‘em loud and raise ‘em proud,” he said, adding to make noise as though they themselves were “Ten Thousand Strong!” And that they did, right through to encore and long after the band had called ‘er a night.
Make sure and check out the photo gallery later this week for live shots of all the bands!
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