Iced Earth @ Bottom Lounge, Chicago (US)

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ICED EARTH / SANCTUARY / KILL RITUAL

Date: 29th March, 2018
Venue: The Bottom Lounge
Ticket: $28/€23 (in advance) - $32/€26 (day of show)
Promoter: n/a


Unfortunately, this touring package had been marked by the terrible tragic of losing Warrel Dane after the announcement of the dates. In moments like this, it is impossible to choose the right way to handle this, simply because there is no way to handle the passing of someone who left this world this early. However, seeing SANCTUARY going on with the tour, and ICED EARTH not opting out to find another direct support, says a lot for both bands. Sure, the ‘show must go on’ but I think the most important aspect of this decision is to have the proper closure for a musician; playing live and giving the chance to people to say ‘goodbye’ by screaming, singing-along and headbang during the set. Although, this was not meant to be a funeral but a celebration of music and a great way to keep Warrel in memory by getting one more chance to hear the SANCTUARY songs.

Aside from the obvious (and aforementioned) reason, the Chicago stop for the ‘Incorruptible’ package was a bit more special than the others as it marked the end of a really long run at both sides of the Atlantic. Yeah, the moment the musicians realize that this is the end of the tour and get more relaxed, the ‘having fun’ part gets a bigger role on the stage. It was with great satisfaction seeing The Bottom Lounge nicely filled with a great age-mix from young to seasoned metalheads therefore, I knew that this would be tons of fun. Another plus point was the presence of a photo-pit and that meant less ‘pain’ for me to move around and annoy people with my camera. However, the ‘I’m going to pock your eye out with my lens’ distance from the stage was a challenge for the supporting bands as the huge ICED EARTH drum-set had left the bare minimum space for the musicians and practically the stage was split into two parts for KILL RITUAL and SANCTUARY. This minor glitch did not seem to bother KILL RITUAL who stepped onstage on the highest of moods being determined to make the most of the last day of the tour. The first notes of “The Eyes Of Medusa” brought singer David Reed Watson last on stage who had to balance his way in front of the drum kit at a safe spot as not to fall off. Like I said, this did not hold up KILL RITUAL who pushed the audience to show its Metal appetite right away, no matter if it was the start of the set.

"Alright Chicago, welcome to the last show of this tour”, said David before “Megalomaniac” from the band’s last album which sounded great but this should be expected as this song comes from the second album with him behind the mic. The singer invited the metalheads to do some singing-along during “Rise” and, in fact, he stepped off the stage and walked around the venue getting more and more involved. It was a fun thing to watch because there were some absolutely excited fans by having the singer in their face singing while others were feeling awkward getting on the spotlight... (Yeah, I definitely belong to the latter group). However, this really stirred things up and I think it was during those songs where the first ‘end of the tour’ shenanigan took place. Someone who looked extremely like ICED EARTH’s Brent Smedley showed up wearing a bright yellow full-face and his briefs and started dancing in the most ridiculous way. Yep, this is a tradition for the final day of the tour for the bands teasing each other... There was a dart gun on the stage left and members of the crew took turns trying to hit KILL RITUAL while performing. The cover on UFO’s “Lights Out” saw David again among the audience and finished the opening set in a most enjoyable way. Yeah, we were definitely for a treat.

KILL RITUAL setlist:

01. “The Eyes Of Medusa”
02. “Megalomaniac”
03. “Rise”
04. “Just A Cut”
05. “Lights Out” (UFO cover)

KILL RITUAL

Kill Ritual @ The Bottom Lounge (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Kill Ritual @ The Bottom Lounge (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Kill Ritual @ The Bottom Lounge (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Kill Ritual @ The Bottom Lounge (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Kill Ritual @ The Bottom Lounge (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Kill Ritual @ The Bottom Lounge (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Kill Ritual @ The Bottom Lounge (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Kill Ritual @ The Bottom Lounge (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

(click to enlarge)


There was a strange atmosphere as the crew was setting up the gear for SANCTUARY. I mean, unless you are part of the close family and friends circle of the musician who has recently passed away, you cannot feel the loss at its full extend. This is not me sounding cold but as a fan I can only interact with the musician through their music and their live performances, so seeing the “Inception” cover artwork at Dave Budbill’s drum-kit but no Warrel Dane entering the stage is the moment that hits you. Warrel’s onstage presence was unique, so having SANCTUARY without him made his loss feel like it just had happened... However, the atmosphere as the intro brought the band onstage to hit us with the massive “Die For My Sins” was of a celebration and not of funeral. I have to give all the kudos possible to Joseph Michael for his amazing singing performance and for taking on this impossible task to fill in for Warrel who (in case you’ve been living in a dungeon) he had a powerful voice hitting those impossible to reach pitches like it was a child’s play. I have no idea if it is Joseph’s MO but he chose to mainly stand on the photo-pit almost during the entire set. At the same time, I do understand his intention not wanting to draw the attention because this was SANCTUARY’s farewell, so by doing this, he was going of stating that the stage with this band was Warrel’s territory. “It’s been a long time on the road and we are a bit beaten” said guitarist Lenny Rutledge looking and sounding tired physically and emotionally, just before the amazing and extremely demanding “Battle Angels”. Only a fool would not tip his hat to Joseph who did absolutely fantastic in this vocal-chord wrecking tune who introduced this one as Warrel used to: “Are you ready to go into battle?”

“Arise And Purify”, the killer “Frozen” and “The Year The Sun Died” with the crushing groove from SANCTUARY’s latest and last album followed without stopping, with both of them sounding awesome with the guitar ripping through the PAs with a loud but clear sound. I have to admit that the chorus of “Frozen” made the gap that Warrel left feel huge because that album marked the reactivation of SANCTUARY who sounded like they have lots to offer to the Metal scene. The atmosphere was significantly lightened up with the second cameo-appearance by the alleged ICED EARTH drummer who showed up wearing the same outfit but instead of a full-face he was wearing a lizard (?) green mask... Can you imagine how Joseph reacted when the almost naked figure threw his briefs (he was wearing a set of two of them) on the singer’s shoulder... “I don’t know what the fuck has happened” he said before throwing this bizarre souvenir to the crowd. I wonder, did anyone take this after all?

“Soldiers Of Steel” marked the return to the old-school SANCTUARY tracks with more extremely demanding vocals, while the bass doodle slowed things down with “Future Tense”. The set felt tense from the aspects; the band did great, the singer sang his lungs out being almost between the metalheads, while the song-selection was a wet-dream for all the SANCTUARY fans with the headbanger “Taste Revenge” being the climax and the end of the show.

SANCTUARY setlist:

01. “Die For My Sins”
02. “Seasons Of Destruction”
03. “Battle Angels”
04. “Arise And Purify”
05. “Frozen”
06. “The Year The Sun Died”
07. “Soldiers Of Steel”
08. “The Mirror Black”
09. “Future Tense”
10. “Taste Revenge”

SANCTUARY

Sanctuary @ The Bottom Lounge (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Sanctuary @ The Bottom Lounge (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Sanctuary @ The Bottom Lounge (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Sanctuary @ The Bottom Lounge (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Sanctuary @ The Bottom Lounge (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Sanctuary @ The Bottom Lounge (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Sanctuary @ The Bottom Lounge (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Sanctuary @ The Bottom Lounge (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Sanctuary @ The Bottom Lounge (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Sanctuary @ The Bottom Lounge (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

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After the special set by SANCTUARY, it was time for ICED EARTH to end this tour in the best way. The stage was prepped and looked bigger as there was only one huge drum-set which looked like a cage but for no apparent reason. We would learn why very soon...

There were some issues with one of the two smoke machines, so there was a ten-minutes delay during which one could feel the audience’s excitement and anticipation. Yes, everything felt right the moment the lights went out and the taped intro prepared us for “Great Heathen Army”. Seeing the band members hugging each other just before stepping onstage was one of the many indications of how ICED EARTH behaves as a family and, most importantly, the great state this lineup is. The reaction from the metalheads to this song from that band’s latest LP told me two things: a) people did not come just for the ‘hits’ or the ‘classics’ and b) (related to point 'a') the audience was well-educated on the ICED EARTH catalogue, so we would definitely have fun. Because this is a band that feeds from the energy of the audience, and really, the energy levels sky-rocket when there is singing-along, screaming, shouting, moshing and chanting-along those impossible to resist riffs. Can you imagine what happened during “Burning Times”? Oh my, trying to take photos and not headbang was nearly impossible but it was more than fun! Being in such proximity to Jon’s Marshall stack and getting a hearty taste of his metronome rhythm guitar playing is something I have been enjoying from my early days as an ICED EARTH fan. Without stopping came “Dystopia” and impressively the audience kept the energy at the same levels, proving what I said about having well-educated fans inside the venue. It also proves what a fantastic singer Stu Block is and how he can sing both the old and the new ICED EARTH material without losing an inch from this performing power. Also, since the last time I had seen ICED EARTH live, he looks more confident onstage and that’s the benefit of touring. I mean, being onstage is the best way for a band to build character and look honest, something that I think is extremely important for long-running acts that can easily switch into being professionals putting the feelings on the side. However, being a cold professional performer does not work for me as I could not care less about how great you sound when your attitude is sterile and it is all about doing the work, getting the money and going to the next one.

“Are there any pirates in the crowd?”, Stu asked before letting “Black Flag” prove the point of his question. And right there, I understood the point of having the cage around the drum-kit and that was for Stu to climb on... I am not sure how the management is letting him to do this dangerous act but it looked awesome with him stating on top of the cage acting like a seasoned Pirate looking for the next ship to loot. Things were really heating up, and during “Seven Headed Whore”, a nice mosh-pit was formed in the center of the venue’s arena, so yeah, the band and the audience were in total sync. The Chicagoan metalheads had their chance to prove their singing-powers during “I Died For You” which sounds 100 times better live than it does on the record and I will credit the audience for this. As I said, when the audience gets to participate this much on a Metal show, then it becomes a shivers-down-your-spine moment. There was no better way to introduce “Brothers” than talking about the brotherhood we, the metalheads, belong to. Sure, it may sound cheesy and all that, but can you think of any other concert where you feel like being at home with a bunch of friends sharing the same level of love for the band onstage? No? That’s what I thought, so please, do not use the word cheesy when talking about such precious moments. Of course, this only works when you can see in the eyes of the band members the emotions and the honest feelings surfacing up when they talk about these things.

And then, it was time for vengeance... Aside from the obvious “Vengeance Is Mine”, I am referring to the SANCTUARY members who had their chance for revenge by showing up onstage and messing with the band. Every one wore huge smiles and did not miss a note from this headbanger, so yeah, that was fun for us too. There is no question about it; I loved “Dracula” and “Raven Wing” but what happened next was so powerful that made me put those on the side. Stu left the stage and Jon’s mic stand was moved to the center and he started talking about the 30th anniversary of the band and got really emotional when he mentioned NEVERMORE and how close they had come by sharing the same touring bus for four long tours. The only way to let the emotions out was through music and the three-song treat from “Stormrider” made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. Jon did not lose a single note from this super-complicated and fast guitar chords, and with a loud sound made everyone headbang and mosh his / her way all the way to “Travel In Stygian”; un-frickin’-believable. And this one saw the band leaving the stage, but no, there was no leaving that night. The ICED EARTH, ICED EARTH chant soon kicked in along with the “ten more songs” one that made me smile... The lights turned blue and the taped intro marked the return to the band’s latest album with the Irish-melody-infused “Clear The Way (December 13th, 1862)”.

The beer was flowing on and off stage, with the band and especially Stu being in a festive mood. “This will be our last song” he said, and got a loud “booooo” from the crowd as a response. Jon got the message and asked the band: “Should we do “The Hunter”? We have not done this since Greece” and then addressing to the audience added: “We may screw this up” but I am sure no one would mind. “What’s the key of the song”, asked guitarist Jake Dreyer making everyone laugh. The last check Jon had to do with the venue was whether there was a curfew, and as soon as he got the green light, “The Hunter” caused mosh mayhem! Ok, Stu forgot the lyrics of the second verse but this only made this even more special. The real dropping-the-curtain moment happened with “Watching Over Me” which sounded like a perfect fit since Jon wrote this song for this friend with whom made plans for a band and came up with the ICED EARTH name. Sure, I’d love to hear “Iced Earth” as the last song of the set, but I am not sure there was time. What I do know is that this was one of the best ICED EARTH shows I have watched in the US (the European ones are on a different league for me) and I feel extremely confident that ICED EARTH will keep it strong for more years to come.

P.S: I also learned a new expression: ...although I am not sure who fu*ked whose couch...

"Watching them crumble
Watching them crawl
Iced Earth has risen
Nature will fall"

ICED EARTH setlist:

01. “Great Heathen Army”
02. “Burning Times”
03. “Dystopia”
04. “Black Flag”
05. “Seven Headed Whore”
06. “I Died For You”
07. “Vengeance Is Mine”
08. “Brothers”
09. “Dracula”
10. “Raven Wing”
11. “Stormrider”
12. “Angels Holocaust”
13. “Travel In Stygian”
14. “Clear The Way (December 13th, 1862)”
15. “The Hunter”
16. “Watching Over Me”

ICED EARTH

Iced Earth @ The Bottom Lounge (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Iced Earth @ The Bottom Lounge (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Iced Earth @ The Bottom Lounge (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Iced Earth @ The Bottom Lounge (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Iced Earth @ The Bottom Lounge (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Iced Earth @ The Bottom Lounge (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Iced Earth @ The Bottom Lounge (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Iced Earth @ The Bottom Lounge (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Iced Earth @ The Bottom Lounge (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Iced Earth @ The Bottom Lounge (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Iced Earth @ The Bottom Lounge (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Iced Earth @ The Bottom Lounge (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Iced Earth @ The Bottom Lounge (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Iced Earth @ The Bottom Lounge (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Iced Earth @ The Bottom Lounge (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Iced Earth @ The Bottom Lounge (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Iced Earth @ The Bottom Lounge (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Iced Earth @ The Bottom Lounge (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Iced Earth @ The Bottom Lounge (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Iced Earth @ The Bottom Lounge (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

(click to enlarge)