High Spirits @ LiveWire Lounge, Chicago (US)

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ZÜÜL / HIGH SPIRITS / SAVAGE MASTER

Date: 29th January, 2017
Venue: LiveWire Lounge
Ticket: $10 (€9)
Promoter: n/a


That was a special occasion alright! You see, Chicago’s finest Hard rockers HIGH SPIRITS were about to add in their books the 100th live show and that's a huge accomplishment, if you think about it. We are talking about live shows in both side of the Atlantic, so throwing a celebration with a bunch of friends was more than just a justifiable reason - it was a must. Well, that cold Sunday night there were more than a ‘bunch’ of friends inside the tiny LiveWire Lounge because ten minutes before SAVAGE MASTER’s set, the venue looked almost packed. By the way, this is my sole complaint for that night; hosting the event in a small venue and leaving quite a few people who were desperately asking about at the Facebook universe. However, this was meant to be an intimate show, so after some thinking, this complaint becomes a minor issue. After all, if one really wants to go to a show, then he plans accordingly...

The latest and second LP from SAVAGE MASTER, “With Whips And Chains” is a fine example of old school Heavy Metal served with the appropriate level of in-you-face attitude. But all this is plain theory because the experience has shown that sometimes what you hear on record, does not resonate with what happens onstage. Although, in the case of SAVAGE MASTER I had a ‘heads up’ from the ‘Keep It True’ live report (click HERE to check it out) but the best judge in music-related cases is to always use your set of eyes and ears.

In case you don’t know this, SAVAGE MASTER are all about wearing executioner hoods with the appropriate chains and leather attire, something that really fits their high energy and NWOBHM-inspired Heavy Metal. Ok, no hood for Stacey but her outfit was aesthetically close to the rest of the band’s looks. All these props do add in the visual aspect of a show but will go out of the window if the performance is not a perfect match. In the case of SAVAGE MASTER, the performance was an ideal match and I am sure no one will disagree with me. Yeah, the galloping rhythm of the setlist opener “Black Hooves” was the proper aperitif for the main course that was topped off by Stacey’s powerful vocals. She started singing with the same vein-popping energy you’ll hear with the LP “With Whips And Chains” spinning on the turntable. She has that raw screaming / shouting quality that is kind of rare from female singers but is totally awesome in live shows. There was no wrapping up and SAVAGE MASTER kicked off their set on a high gear, something that was very much appreciated by the gathered metalheads who showed their approval by headbanging like it was a Friday night out. “How are you doing tonight, guys? Are you ready for the 100th HIGH SPIRITS show and for the mystery band?” was the longest sentence that came out of Stacey's mouth because the rest of the onstage time was straightforward Heavy Metal. Yes, “Looking For A Sacrifice” rocked hard and so did “Ready To Sin” with the singing along part “666”; every metalhead is eager to sing those lines, right?

Despite the small venue, the sound was great and having the band perform at a spitting distance really boosted up the show, and without noticing, SAVAGE MASTER were putting down the set closer “Ripper In Black”. For this, Stacey showed up wearing a black cape and managed to squeeze some poses, something that was an achievement considering how small the stage was for a five-piece band... This was a great start of the HIGH SPIRITS celebrations and everyone was up and ready to witness the band’s 100th show.

SAVAGE MASTER setlist:

01. “Black Hooves”
02. “With Whips And Chains”
03. “Satan’s Crown”
04. “Looking For A Sacrifice”
05. “Ready To Sin”
06. “Path Of The Necromancer”
07. “Death Rides The Highway”
08. “Mystifying Oracle”
09. Ripper In Black”

SAVAGE MASTER

Savage Master @ LiveWire Lounge, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Savage Master @ LiveWire Lounge, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Savage Master @ LiveWire Lounge, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Savage Master @ LiveWire Lounge, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Savage Master @ LiveWire Lounge, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Savage Master @ LiveWire Lounge, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Savage Master @ LiveWire Lounge, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Savage Master @ LiveWire Lounge, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Savage Master @ LiveWire Lounge, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Savage Master @ LiveWire Lounge, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

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During the 30 minutes of waiting for the bands to change gears and onstage settings, the venue had been filled to its maximum capacity but not in a sardines-in-a-can way, so the atmosphere was solely focused on the upcoming set. After setting up their gear, the band went onstage and returned wearing the trademark white set of trousers which kind of makes the taking-photos under low lights rather challenging... “Hello, my name is Chris and these are my friends”, Chris Black said before starting the festivities with the up-tempo and groovy “Flying High”. As it happened with SAVAGE MASTER, there was not getting-in-their-mood time and was pedal to the Metal from the get-go. HIGH SPIRITS managed to make the most of the small stage and aside from Chris, bassist Bob Scott was walking back and forth and on the stage monitors (although there was a sticker saying “don’t set on”... hehe).

As you can imagine, the bar was filled with HIGH SPIRITS friends and fans who some of them have been supporting the band from the first days. In hindsight, this was the benefit of hosting this show in a small setup; having a place full of diehard fans and leaving outside the usual show-goers who just want to take a ‘been there’ selfie... “Torture” hit us hard and it felt special to me because this song comes from the High Roller Records vinyl (with the simple black and white logo cover) which introduced HIGH SPIRITS to me when I was at the other side of the Atlantic.

HIGH SPIRITS belongs to the rare group of bands where the music sounds ten times better when played live. Or maybe I should rephrase this by saying the HIGH SPIRITS songs were written with that in mind; being performed at the highest gear and energy. Yeah, everyone was on high spirits that night, and yes, pun intended! Another element that makes this band so special is the mix of nostalgia and Hard Rock naivety being focused on music to have fun with and enjoy a night out. Oh my, the guitar leads and solo of “Calling Out To You” have that effect on me, but fortunately “Full Power” came next to blow the steam off. There was a bass pedal issue during the latter but it did not had any negative effect on the show’s flow.

“Thank you so much for being here tonight, it makes us feel really good” Chris said looking absolutely pumped up by the response, and I guess, reaching milestones like the 100th live show makes you think about the achievements and then it hit you... “I Need To Know” got the appropriate singing-along treatment while “Another Night” sounded absolutely fit for the case since HIGH SPIRITS will have more than just one night at the city. Oh my, it is impossible to resist this song’s addictive Hard Rock groove and I am sure no one inside LiveWire did.

This was my first HIGH SPIRITS show where Chris had some more time to say a couple of things, something that was very much welcomed considering the festive atmosphere. So yes, it was nice hearing him talk about the first HIGH SPIRITS show and asking who had been there, just before the JUDAS PRIEST-esque (the guitar intro has that “Hellion” feel) “Nights In Black”. Chris is soft spoken and relaxed but when he wears those white pants, his energy is boosted more than just a few notches. “You Make Love Impossible” made its live debut that night, and like the rest of the songs, sounded absolutely fantastic; the almost Glam Metal groove just grabs you by the hair and throws you straight to the '80s, and this is said in the most [sic] positive way. I have to agree with Chris about “Never Going Back” being his favorite song, and for me has a deeper meaning representing one of my most important decisions I had to make, but that’s a different story...

This was one of those cases where you don’t want to end with favorite songs coming one after the other. And honestly, in the case of HIGH SPIRITS, there is no song that cannot be branded as favorite when delivered from the stage. I mean, is there any way to describe “Down The Endless Road” (that riff speaks straight to my heart) and “When The Lights Go Out”, something other than being favorites? Yeah, the footing-tapping and borderline headbanger groove of the latter one is sticky like super glue and amazing to hear at maximum volume. By the way, the guitar slide and bassline on this one are super sweet! “Let’s see who remembers this” Chris wondered before delivering a capela the chorus of “High Spirits”. Everyone did remember, and this is why after the end of the song everyone kept singing until the next one. Unfortunately “Night After Night” was the last song of this special show which left everyone wearing huge smiles, although I am sure a couple more songs would be more than welcomed... Without a doubt, this was a great show from a great lineup! Thank you, guys!

"Thank you
Thank you for being my friend
Thank you
Thank you and thank you again"

HIGH SPIRITS setlist:

01. “Fly High”
02. “Torture”
03. “Calling Out To You”
04. “Full Power”
05. “I Need To Know”
06. “Another Night In The City”
07. “You Make Love Impossible”
08. “Nights In Black”
09. “Never Going Back”
10. “Down The Endless Road”
11. “Thank You”
12. High Spirits”
13. “When The Lights Go Out”
14. “Night After Night”

HIGH SPIRITS

High Spirits @ LiveWire Lounge, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) High Spirits @ LiveWire Lounge, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) High Spirits @ LiveWire Lounge, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) High Spirits @ LiveWire Lounge, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) High Spirits @ LiveWire Lounge, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
High Spirits @ LiveWire Lounge, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) High Spirits @ LiveWire Lounge, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) High Spirits @ LiveWire Lounge, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) High Spirits @ LiveWire Lounge, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) High Spirits @ LiveWire Lounge, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
High Spirits @ LiveWire Lounge, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) High Spirits @ LiveWire Lounge, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) High Spirits @ LiveWire Lounge, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) High Spirits @ LiveWire Lounge, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) High Spirits @ LiveWire Lounge, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

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Of course, fourteen songs didn't feel enough to quench our appetite for more up tempo straightforward Heavy Metal, but all good things end at some point. And then, there was the ‘mystery’ headliner which Chris had managed to hide - or haven’t he? I mean, the obvious selection would have been ZÜÜL, although the general excitement before actually know who would be, made us feel a bit like in the old days when getting all the details for a show was only through actually speaking to the right people (yeah, internet was not always around). So, some minutes after the announced time, Chris stepped onstage (in fact, he and the rest of HIGH SPIRITS never left, and set up the gear for the mystery band) and announced ZÜÜL as the special guest, adding: “without this band, there would not have been HIGH SPIRITS, literally”. Listening to that statement, I totally understood the thinking of choosing ZÜÜL to headline this event.

Bassist Bob Scott and guitarist Mike Bushur had to pull a double duty that night, and for that, they deserve additional credit for not missing a bit in their playing and for keeping pretty much the same high energy level in their performance. To be honest, I didn’t know that this band was still active, so maybe these guys came back together just for that show. I mean, singer Brett Batteau looked a bit out of place (the suit and the playful shirt were not exactly Heavy Metal gear) but (what mattered the most) his singing was still on the money and, in fact, the entire band sounded super tight. Yeah, the double guitar harmonies of “Warhammer” pretty much picked up where the HIGH SPIRITS set had left us in terms of energy. There were fists pumping and some nice singing along during the chorus. The sound was loud but still clear and I think Bob had more fuel in his energy tank that he should have considering his previous onstage doings with HIGH SPIRITS. Guitarist Jared Mileger matched Bob’s energy and, song after song, the rest of the band seemed to be following their lead as if the rushing fuel was reaching all the gears in ZÜÜL’s engine. “This is a brand new song that we have never done before” Brett said before the galloping “The Last Stroke”. Again, I have no idea if this one is the last we are going to hear from the band, but if it is, it would be such a shame because it sounded a killer.

Brett and Bob did all the onstage talking and exchanged a couple of jokes, proving that a band does not need to take too seriously itself to sound awesome. I mean, the double guitar action of “Skull Splitter” and the True Metal hymn “Return To Yagi” (you’ve got to get those fists in the air for this) came out fantastic and helped us keep the Metal flowing, despite it was getting late for a Sunday night. The band was to do some jamming during “Through A Glass Darkly” to give Mike some time to fix his guitar (some strings broke, I think) and, in fact, Jared rushed back stage to game him a helping hand just in case. Soon enough, everything was back and running with “Show No Mercy” bringing back the pounding Metal this band knows to deliver. “Thanks for coming, this will be our last song”, Brett said before joking: “This is dedicated to my mom who said ZÜÜL is a waste of time” giving at the same time the perfect cue for the setlist closer. Yeah, it was time for “Waste Of Time” with more of that awesome double guitar action.

There is absolutely nothing negative to say about that Sunday night. The three bands played great, the atmosphere was perfect and the intimate atmosphere (due to the small venue settings) made this even as special as it should for celebrating HIGH SPIRITS' 100th show. SAVAGE MASTER did great and delivered their music better than in the record and ZÜÜL gave a bitter sweet taste by playing great, without knowing if this is still an active band.

ZÜÜL setlist:

01. “Warhammer”
02. “The Last Stroke”
03. “Skull Splitter”
04. “Return To Yagi”
05. “Smoldering Nights”
06. “Bounty Land”
07. “Through A Glass Darkly”
08. “Show No Mercy”
09. “Waste Of Time”

ZÜÜL

Züül @ LiveWire Lounge, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Züül @ LiveWire Lounge, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Züül @ LiveWire Lounge, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Züül @ LiveWire Lounge, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Züül @ LiveWire Lounge, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Züül @ LiveWire Lounge, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Züül @ LiveWire Lounge, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Züül @ LiveWire Lounge, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

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