Armored Saint @ Reggies, Chicago (US)

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ARMORED SAINT / ACT OF DEFIANCE / WRATH

Date: 21st July, 2018
Venue: Reggies Rock Club
Ticket:
$22/€19 (in advance) - $25/€20 (day of)
Promoter: n/a


Playing an album in its entirety live can be tricky business; on one hand, getting the chance to listen to an entire album back-to-back is enough to wake up memories from the days you were spinning this LP non-stop, digging deep into its finest details. On the other hand, and from the performance perspective, a band may look stressed and eager to get this out of the way as soon as possible, so sometimes the feeling is getting lost behind the expectation to sound like the studio version. So yeah, I always keep my expectations at bay because you never know how such a choice to play an entire album live was made, and if it was driven by the request of a paying promoter. With all these thoughts in mind, I did not hesitate to make it to the Chicago stop of the limited ‘Symbol Of Salvation’ run, because this is ARMORED SAINT we are talking about; a band that always delivers, if you catch my drift...

The first band of the night was the re-activated, re-energized, or whatever “re-" word you can think of, thrashers of WRATH. I have seen the Chicagoan band quite a few times in the most recent past, and each time feels better than the last. WRATH have moved to the final stages of finishing the successor to the 2014 LP “Stark Starving Mad” and the excitement for doing so is high-octane fuel kicking in the moment they hit the stage. And that’s exactly how the Chicagoans start off their set with “Conflict”. Even though the onstage space available to the band was limited (having two drum sets on the Reggies stage is always challenging for the opening bands), they started their set on a high gear and I think “Draw Blood” sounded the best, if I compared it to the previous times I had listen to this song, from the upcoming WRATH LP. Yeah, the catchy chorus and the Thrash-riff attack are two elements no sane metalhead can let go unnoticed. “Test Of Faith” slowed things a bit, reminding me of a the most difficult decades of Thrash; yes, I am talking about the '90s which were too harsh to Metal, but fortunately this is ancient history.

Aside from the title track from the soon to be released new LP “Rage”, I think I got to listen to another new song for the first time. Yeah, I do not remember hearing “What You Crave” before and in case you are wondering, “this is not about White Castle” and I am quoting Gary Golwitzer’s introductory words for this one... As a first impression of this mainly mid-tempo song is its dark character (especially if you compare this to the rest of the new ones) and how the heaviness is slowly creeping in, leading to a Thrash climax. To me, this shows that the new album will have more than just hard-pounding Thrash. After “Insane Society” that Gary dedicated to all of us, it was time to end the set with the MOTÖRHEAD cover, and if you have been in any WRATH shows, then you know what I am talking about. Of course I would prefer another new song, but considering the supporting slots these guys had to fill, choosing to prepare the way for the next band with something everybody knows is the way to go. After all, WRATH’s version of this ageless classic is a killer and I believe this was the first time I noticed how the singer tries to capture Lemmy’s trademark singing grit, and combined with the energy of the rest of the guys, this one came (once again) awesome.

WRATH setlist:

01. “Conflict”
02. “Draw Blood”
03. “Test Of Faith”
04. “R.I.P.”
05. “Rage”
06. “What You Crave”
07. “Insane Society”
08. “Ace Of Spades” (MOTÖRHEAD cover)

WRATH

Wrath @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Wrath @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Wrath @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Wrath @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Wrath @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Wrath @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Wrath @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Wrath @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

(click to enlarge)


For everyone who had done their homework, the next one was about to be a treat; ACT OF DEFIANCE is a band with two albums and with a lineup featuring some extremely well-known names. Yeah, Chris Broderick and Shawn Drover are the immediate standing-out names, and in case you (shamelessly) wonder why, then I suggest to google-search MEGADETH and this is the sole hint I am gonna give you. However, it would be unfair not to mention the SHADOWS FALL guitarist (bassist for ACT OF DEFIANCE) and, last but not least, singer Henry Derek Bonner with his impressive singing-style range (it’s worth checking out LILITU to listen another vocal side of his).

As you may be expecting, the crowds attention was heavily leaning towards stage left where Chris had set up his gear, and with a huge smile and an impossible to resist friendly attitude was about to shred his way with his 7-string guitar. The band kicked off the set with the groovy and NEVERMORE-ish “M.I.A.” and I will blame Chris’ guitar magic and Derek’s clean and growling vocals. Of course, during the solo some of the heaviness went away simply because there was not rhythm guitar to keep the groove as solid as the studio recording. Still, watching Chris doing his guitar magic at a spitting distance was amazing and this was my first time watching how he implements the pick-clip and how easy is for him to switch between finger picking to pick-playing; damn, he makes this look so easy... “Overexposure” came without pausing and, to be honest, if I did not know, I would bet some serious dollars that ACT OF DEFIANCE belong to the melodic Death Metal scene of the Swedish origin. Yeah, the groove, the growling mixed with clean singing, topped off with the melodic riffs galore, are more than enough to confuse your bearing. “Lullaby Of Vengeance” turned to be a serious headbanger and I think it was the point where the band started to really capture the Reggies audience’s attention who may have been too focused on Chris' playing. In this one, Derek pushed his vocal chords to Death Metal territories and it was impressive to listen to his performance switching style like it was the easiest thing to do on a concert setting. “Is everybody doing ok tonight, Chicago? It’s a pleasure for us to be here with our friends ARMORED SAINT, said Derek before switching gears into Thrash mode with “Legion Of Lies”. Oh my, I could not shake the NEVERMORE feeling listening to (another) killer guitar solo, and I am saying this in a positive way of course. The ease to switch guitar playing techniques was highlighted with “The Talisman”. Chris standing at the center of the stage started finger-playing the opening clean guitar arpeggios of this one before returning to the hearty distortion switching the headbanging mode on.

The bass intro of “Birth And The Burial” laid out another solid groove (and I think Derek said this one was written by bassist Matthew Bachand), while “Rise Of Rebellion” saw some singing-along action with “raising fists” part. The setlist ended with hard-pounding “Reborn” which was dedicated to everyone inside Reggies but also to ARMORED SAINT, and I made a commitment to check “Old Scars, New Wounds” since this was another album slipping through the cracks.

ACT OF DEFIANCE setlist:

01. “M.I.A.”
02. “Overexposure”
03. “Lullaby Of Vengeance”
04. “Legion Of Lies”
05. “Poison Dream”
06. “The Talisman”
07. “Birth And The Burial”
08. “Rise Of Rebellion”
09. “Reborn”

ACT OF DEFIANCE

Act Of Defiance @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Act Of Defiance @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Act Of Defiance @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Act Of Defiance @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Act Of Defiance @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Act Of Defiance @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Act Of Defiance @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Act Of Defiance @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Act Of Defiance @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Act Of Defiance @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

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Everyone had found a nice viewing spot as the stage was getting ready for the SAINT. The excitement was as high as the humidity inside Reggies with the A/C vents already sweating, and despite the general discomfort, they were signs that we were up for a treat. A few minutes past 10pm and while the venue’s DJ was spinning some old-school VENOM, the lights went out and JUDAS PRIEST’s “Delivering The Goods” became the last warm up for ARMORED SAINT. I realized that the band was in high spirits while watching Joey Vera headbanging backstage while listening to the PRIEST song. You see, if a band has fun, then the audience will definitely have a killer time. Still, I was not ready for the energy explosion that happened as soon as “March Of The Saint” became the first song of the night. Oh my frickin’ goodness... ARMORED SAINT stormed the stage with an amazing sound spearheaded by an ageless John Bush whose voice sounds as good as on record. I was not the only one seeing the state the LA band was, because the older than usual audience of Reggies seemed willing to match the energy coming from the stage. Yeah, singing-along the chorus with a raised fist were immediately added on the menu and the first sweat had already been broken... Was this an encore or the beginning of a show? “Long Before I Die” and the a-m-a-z-i-n-g “Chemical Euphoria” hit us without pausing, and one could say without mercy. Yeah, that was the best way to end the setlist... NOT. This was just the beginning and I think I should also say that this was ARMORED SAINT’s warming up (or was it sweating up?). “Windy motherfucking city, what-up?” asked John and I am sure he got his message loud and clear because everyone was tuned in and was definitely ready for the “Symbol Of Salvation” part. Before kicking off the entire album festivities, John explained the sequence of the first three songs which represented the first three ARMORED SAINT albums, leading to the one in question. Whatever I said in the intro about bands looking stressed to perform an entire album in its entirety as if it is some sort of a burden, had nothing to do with these guys who looked like they were having the time of their life. I mean, Joey was doing all these funny grimaces which could easily fill an entire photo book, Jeff Duncan and Phil Sandoval were exchanging riffs and bouncing off energy like they were teenagers and the other Sandoval brother was pounding the skins like it was the '80s all over again.

“Reign Of Fire” sounded equally amazing, but for me the jaw-dropping moments happened with the songs that had minimum or even non-existing presence on the band’s past setlists. The band proved to possess the amount of confidence and the high musicianship level to tackle these never-before played live songs and made them even better than the studio version. I mean, watching each musician being passionate about his performance and getting lost into the music makes my experience, as part of the audience, unique. Yes, this was one of the things that literary happen once in a lifetime, and in all honesty, I would not want to go to the next and final date of this tour, simply because I want to remember this time and how hard it hit me. Gonzo on the drums”, said John and was the only cue needed to start the high-hat action leading to “Dropping Like Flies”. Revisiting older albums also means awakening memories that for some of us go all the way to our childhood, and for me, “Last Train Home” was a trip down satellite TV days when MTV had crossed the Atlantic and had opened the door for so many US bands. And yes, ARMORED SAINT was definitely one of those.

“Tribal Dance” was another reminder and I am not afraid to admit it; for me, “Symbol Of Salvation” was a hard pill to follow in the early '90s as my young mind was not mature enough to comprehend the progressive aspect of ARMORED SAINT which clearly was (and is) a band that knows no boundaries, being eager to push the envelope farther than other bands would even think of doing. This means that songs like “Tribal Dance” were hard to register with my ears that were introduced to the LA band through the first three genre shaping albums. So, getting to listen to this tune live widened up my perspective, even though this album is getting closer to its third decade... “Chicago has some great bands”, said John and before stopping his train of thought, people started naming bands with TROUBLE getting most of those yelling votes. However, John was heading elsewhere because he mentioned the Blues for which Chicago should be proud of (aside from sports where he also said something about Lebron...). Anyway, this was his way of explaining how this band is always pushing the boundaries, trying to do more than the average Metal band is willing and able to do. And if “The Truth Always Hurts” cannot convince you, I don’t know what will. The slapping bass action, the killer riffs and Blues licks were more than enough for us to understand what John was talking about.

There was a black and white photo of late Dave Prichard taped on an amp stage-left, and as John said, this was a gift from a fan who gave it to the band during the meet-n-greet. The instrumental “Half Drawn Bridge” and “Another Day” were appropriately dedicated to Dave, and despite the slower tempo of the latter song, it felt heavier from the emotional point of view. Oh yeah, the faster part with the solo was another awesome point and the best way to vent out. “That was the end of side A, so let’s flip the record for side B”, said John before the title track of the honored album. “This one is dedicated to ACT OF DEFIANCE who helped us do this tour”, acknowledged John before adding “eventually one day you all are gonna meet your maker”, passing the baton to “Hanging Judge”. John was very talkative but he was not saying stuff just to feel the space between songs; sometimes his introductory notes were funny and sometimes he was talking about the past like the first time ARMORED SAINT played in Chicago at the Pavilion as part of the QUIET RIOT / WHITESNAKE package... Do you feel jealous like I am? Damn right! Anyway, the follow-up was a funny search for fans who had been actually there, with John being the lie-detector by judging by the looks of the fans claiming to have been there... “You were definitely there”, said to a fan whose white hair were telling more than he would care about his age...

“We are going to get a little Folk-y now”, the singer said, pointing at the acoustic guitar set on Jeff’s side. Yeah, it was time for “Tainted Past” but the guitar itself had different intentions, so the sound never reached the PAs. “I hope one of you captured this” was John’s funny reaction. So, Jeff gave the acoustic guitar the finger and went on with his electric... Wherever there’s a will, there’s a way, people! “This is the last song of the record; let’s finish this thing”, were the words John used before “Spineless” and I think this was received with the same energy level ARMORED SAINT had been spreading the whole damn time! “We did it again and this is a great accomplishment for us!”, John said and then explain how the term 'encore' should be perceived: “Encore is not about going off stage only to return. One should go backstage and do an encore by not returning”. Yep, that was the spirit during the entire set, and there were no signs of wear and tear. The band never left the stage and while drying their ears off, they kept hitting us with songs starting off with “Win Hands Down” and “Left Hook From Right Field”. During the latter, John surprised us by getting off stage and walking around the venue’s arena without missing a bit. “Hey guys, you look taller from down here”, said John straight from the front row...

It felt amazing to realize that neither the band nor the audience held back in terms of the energy level, and when those two parties are in tune, magic happens. “Old schoolers in the house?” were the right words that John used for “Can U Deliver”, and for the last one of the set (which was the best word to describe Reggies), right, “Madhouse” was the finishing blow that ended a fight that lasted a shy of two hours, having both sides of fighters as winners.

I have no idea if ARMORED SAINT will be expanding this tour, although I already feel bad for people who had not the chance to witness this performance that has already secured a special place in my heart. By the way, this was not a performance by a bunch of retirees but from musicians who love their music and (still) have the passion to go on tour! Thank you, ARMORED SAINT!

ARMORED SAINT setlist:

01. “March Of The Saint”
02. “Long Before I Die”
03. “Chemical Euphoria”
04. “Reign Of Fire”
05. “Dropping Like Flies”
06. “Last Train Home”
07. “Tribal Dance”
08. “The Truth Always Hurts”
09. “Half Drawn Bridge”
10. “Another Day”
11. “Symbol Of Salvation”
12. “Hanging Judge”
13. “Warzone”
14. “Burning Question”
15. “Tainted Past”
16. “Spineless”
17. “Win Hands Down”
18. “Left Hook From Right Field”
19. “Can U Deliver”
20. “Mad House”

ARMORED SAINT

Armored Saint @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Armored Saint @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Armored Saint @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Armored Saint @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Armored Saint @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Armored Saint @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Armored Saint @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Armored Saint @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Armored Saint @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Armored Saint @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Armored Saint @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Armored Saint @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Armored Saint @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Armored Saint @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Armored Saint @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Armored Saint @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Armored Saint @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Armored Saint @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Armored Saint @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Armored Saint @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

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