Amon Amarth Ensures Surtur Rose in Chicago on First Stop of "An Evening With Amon Amarth" Tour
Band Photo: Amon Amarth (?)
It won’t surprise you to know that I loved this show (natch – when do I see shows I’m not going to like?). But I had been looking forward to this show more than many others, because: 1) I had never seen Amon Amarth play live before. 2) I haven’t been to “An Evening With” show for quite some time, probably not for eight or nine years when I saw Dream Theater do it (they covered the entirety of “Master of Puppets” during that show, which was neat). And 3) Chicago, due to its geographic placement within the larger U.S., tends not to get opening or closing shows of tours, and in the handful of first/last tour stops I have seen, the bands always have a bit more pep.
Clearly much of the Midwest had also been looking forward to Amon Amarth’s first show of this North American “An Evening With Amon Amarth” Tour, as it was sold out well before the date, and a local brewery (Three Floyd’s Brewing Co.) made a beer especially for Amon Amarth (Ragnarok Brew). So, with sword, teeth, eyes and ass firmly clenched, I steadied myself as the lights dimmed, the opening hymms from “Surtur Rising” slowly slipped into the hall, and the noise from the crowd became deafening…
The first thing I saw when I opened my eyes was Johan Hegg. Hegg in person is a beast of a man. At a first and casual glance he looks like a somewhat flabby biker guy, but watching him onstage for only a few minutes evokes a different simulacrum – a retired Norse General, with a little mad hatter mixed in. When bellowing out the vocals during each song, Hegg commands the stage like said General, and looks down on his troops with a combination of trust, admiration and confidence that we would do whatever he asked (we would have). But between each song he happily chatted at the audience while drinking his Ragnarok brew; when he finally got to the end of each cheesy-if-he-weren’t-so-imposing segue and rumbled the name of the next battle march, his eyes got wide, eyeballs flitting from face to face, brow spread wide – like a crazed soldier on the brink of battle, and possibly, death.
Amon Amarth started the evening by playing their newest album, “Surtur Rising,” in full. I have become fairly intimate with this album over the past couple of months, and hearing it live, cover-to-cover, was fantastic – body-blow after body-blow of melodic death metal. The surprising bit, however, is how the songs gelled live. The studio album plays as one coherent piece with ten parts. But when played live each song stands on its own, with clear rise and fall, beginnings, climaxes and endings. Each was its own journey, and Hegg was very good at spacing songs out so we could fully absorb the each epic before Hegg charged into us with a new one.
The second part of the show was ninety minutes of Amon Amarth classics. “Guardians of Asgaard,” “Masters of War” and “Live for the Kill” were but three of the many crushing anthems. “Without Fear” was a singular gem, and apparently it was the first time Amon Amarth has played that song stateside, which was a nice treat. Again each song was spaced well, as each was its own epic, much like the “Surtur Rising” cuts. But these older tunes were each (mostly) of one mode – fast, mid-tempo, crushing, melodic, and so on – each song has its own singular trait that we could grasp. But different again when compared to the “Surtur Rising” songs, as those had multiple modes in each, be it interludes, changing tempos, multiple layered melodies, bass lead, anything that would make them more than one-note romps. Not to say that one-note romps are bad (who doesn’t love classic Amon Amarth?!), but the difference was striking.
Toward the end of the evening Hegg said two things that stood out – one I agreed with, and one that I did not. The first was that we Chicagoans were all True Vikings (I agree with this). But while exhorting these True Vikings to bellow the chorus to evening-ender “The Pursuit of Vikings” so loud that Odin himself would wake from slumber, Hegg told the crowd that even if we didn’t know the lyrics we should sing along, since it is death metal, and no one would know the difference. I clearly disagree with this - Amon Amarth’s death metal is unlike any other, and when their God-shaking melodies roil the dirt of the battlefield, we know our destiny awaits - TO THE LONGBOATS!
An Evening With Amon Amarth Tour Dates:
15-Apr: St Paul, MN - Station 4
16-Apr: Lawrence, KS - Granada Theater
17-Apr: Denver, CO - The Summit Music Hall
19-Apr: Portland, OR - Wonder Ballroom
20-Apr: Seattle, WA - Showbox at the Market
22-Apr: San Francisco, CA - The Regency Ballroom
23-Apr: Sacramento, CA - Ace of Spades
24-Apr: West Hollywood, CA - House of Blues Sunset Strip
25-Apr: Mesa, AZ - Nile Theatre
27-Apr: San Antonio, TX - White Rabbit
29-Apr: Fort Lauderdale, FL - Culture Room
30-Apr: Orlando, FL - The Beacham
1-May: Atlanta, GA - Masquerade-GA
2-May: West Springfield, VA - Jaxx Club
3-May: Cleveland, OH - Peabody's Downunder
5-May: New York, NY - Best Buy Theater
6-May: Philadelphia, PA - TLA
7-May: Boston, MA - Paradise Rock Club
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