Holy Grail @ Reggies, Chicago (US)

HOLY GRAIL / STRIKER / BEWITCHER / BEAST WARRIOR

Date: 29th July, 2019
Venue: Reggies Rock Club
Ticket:
$15 (€13)
Promoter: Empire Productions


Now, this was an amazing billing from start to finish with the only downside being on a Monday. Yeah, this is not best day of the week to have a Metal show but with such full-on bands I was pretty sure that Reggie’s would host more bodies that one would be expecting at the beginning of a week.

My schedule did not go as planned and I entered the venue in the middle of the BEWITCHER set. Damn, I knew beforehand that this trio from Portland, Oregon would deliver the goods as I have sampled a bit their latest “Under The Witching Cross” album. At least, I was aware of the musical direction and their MOTÖRHEAD influences that are bound to also point towards VENOM. Can this get better than that? You bet it can because on stage, I saw three fully energized guys whose performance had nothing to do with a supporting band trying to get the crowd going. No sir, BEWITCHER had dropped their foot heavy on the gas pedal with “Rome Is On Fire” having the MIDNIGHT quality that works every frickin’ time. After all, I would expect no less from a singer who’s wearing a SODOM t-shirt with the “In The Sign Of Evil”, right? Mateo Von Bewitcher had the right attitude to deliver this type of Metal that I happen to hold dear to my heart as it was the sub-genre that opened the door to Black Metal. Oh yeah, there was an era when Thrash was too ‘noisy’ for my young ears but this type of Metal managed to get me hooked. “Are you still alive? This is dedicated to all the ladies” said Mateo, although I think he knew that the audience was indeed alive because the more BEWITCHER playedthe more lively everyone looked. And that’s a great accomplishment when adding the Monday effect that plagues shows all around the world. The high-octane “Sins Is In Her Blood” was followed by the “Bewitcher” and man, the opening riff made my blood boil. This is Rock ‘n’ Roll alright, paint with all the shades of prime Black Metal when the Norwegian scene was in its infancy… With “In the Night (The Cult Will Rise)” echoing in my ears, I felt quite bad for missing half of the set and hopefully, I will soon get a chance to redeem myself. Now, where is some vinyl to buy?

BEWITCHER

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

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I think I did miss STRIKER last time they were in Chicago and I was not going to create some sort of a losing streak. On a bit out of subject way, I have to state that once these guys had decided to go independent their music has become ten times better. The band had some additional lights on the stage so I guess, their DIY attitude has expanded to doing a bit of show productions... Seriously, STRIKER can be a blueprint for lots of bands out there that are willing to work a little bit harder and reap the rewards later.

The band stormed on stage with the up-tempo “Heart Of Lies” and right there, everything I was suspecting about STRIKER was confirmed. The onstage energy is the perfect match to the mood-lifting music and to my delight, the front rows were packed with STRIKER fans who were already singing along. To be honest, the backing vocals on this one are super-sweet to sing-along and they make feel genuinely feel part of the show. Without pausing, “Born To Lose” kept everyone pumped and I really didn’t mind that the spot-lights were giving me a run for my money taking photos.

Bassist Pete Klassen is a fresh addition to STRIKER but he looked like he has been playing live with these guys for quite a while. I mean, his constantly moving, jumping onstage presence is something that you have to get used to if you do not want to bump into each other. By the way, this is a great feat with STRIKER especially on the relatively small stage of Reggie’s where five people can make it feel crowded. Still, these guys were busting almost every onstage move under the sun without a single mishap.

“We are STRIKERsaid singer Dan Cleary before announcing the next one the list; the kinda relaxed “Headfirst” was next and man, the audience was loud in the singing the backing vocals. The nostalgia atmosphere in the studio recording, you know that 80s breeze hitting your face, became stronger during “On The Run” that, I think, has some Hair Metal groove in it and in case you don’t know what I am talking about you have some serious studying to do. “It is good to be back”, said Dan before the groovy “Former Glory” and the double-bass drum attack of “Crossroads”. Oh yeah, it was time for some serious headbanging and some even more serious [sic] oooohhh chants.

“Do you believe in UFOs? Are you going to Area 51 this December?” were two questions that normally you don’t get to hear in live shows. Of course, Dan was referring to the “Phoenix Lights” (the lyrics deal with the famous UFO incident) and in case you didn’t know, aliens and Metal mix great together…. The next funny moment was when Dan asked the audience to choose PRIEST or MAIDEN. After realizing that the fans of the latter band were louder he admitted: “that will be a great segue to the next song”. That’s a funny one but also a “told you so” moment for me, because I had already made the connection between “The Front” and “Turbo” in the “Play To Win” album review. Anyhoo, the song sounded even better live and in fact, all the songs from the latest STRIKER were a click better live than in studio.

Aside from getting closer to the end, Dan had some bad news to share; this tour was the last one for drummer Adam Brown “unless, he comes back with his POISON-tribute band” as Dan added. The setlist closer was dedicated to him and I am sure hearing that loud singing-along was the proper send-off. That was a great show and I hope for a reprise soon. Thanks guys!

STRIKER setlist:

01. “Heart Of Lies”
02. “Born To Lose”
03. “Head First”
04. “On The Run”
05. “Former Glory”
06. “Crossroads”
07. “Phoenix Lights”
08. “The Front”
09. “Out For Blood”
10. “Fight For Your Life”

STRIKER

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

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It’s been a long time since the last HOLY GRAIL show in Chicago for but the time was not long enough for me to forget that these gentlemen are always putting lots of energy in their performance. And soon, I was about to reaffirm the impression I had for these Californians. The lights went off and after a short taped intro, HOLY GRAIL gave us the first blow with “Fight To Kill”. Aside from looking a bit older, the band had the same kick-you-in-teeth attitude with their up-tempo Heavy Metal. Singer Luna and guitarist Eli Santana were the tip of HOLY GRAIL’s spear constantly moving and staying connected with the audience. The clapping-along during “No More Heroes” proved that even though it was getting late on a Monday, the people inside Reggie’s had enough gas in their tanks to keep the Metal flowing. After all, you cannot enjoy a show if the audience is not into it. After a brief ‘hi’ by Luna, “Crosswinds” was not on the menu. The Lee-Santana guitar duo is awesome to observe even though these gentlemen are not on the same side of the spectrum as far as performing live goes; Lee is more focused on this playing not in an ‘being isolated way but in a humble ‘the focus is on the music’ way. On the other hand, Eli checks all the boxes of a great performer busting lots of guitarist moves without losing a bit from this playing. Performance aside, Luna’s powerful vocals and the riff-driven songs are the perfect storm for shows and no matter if you feel tired, you will join the fun. This is one of the main reasons to go to a Metal show; step into a different reality and get away from what’s bothering you and away for those who are trying to make your life tough.

Once again, the single-colored lights made my camera’s life a living hell but did not mess my mood with the fast ones “Sudden Death” and the hard-rockin’ “Caall Of Valhalla” leaving no space for anything less other than have some Metal fun. “It feels great to be back”, said Luna and I think he mentioned something about the last time being six years ago… Damn, time does fly, right? “Wasted Time” seemed the right follow-up to his comment about time…

After the killer riffs of “The Blackest Night” the band left the stage and after a short and awkward silence, the audience realized that you need to shout or make some noise if you want to bring the band back. This is why I hate encores, because people have learned to anticipate them and therefore, there is no excitement to get a couple more. “Ride The Void” was the first of three and if I am not mistaken, Black Mount dedicated the encore to Vinnie Paul. In fact, Luna repeat the dedication adding how grateful the band felt to Vinnie and HELLYAH for getting HOLY GRAIL on tour some years ago. I have total respect for famous bands helping new ones and also, for those who know when to say ‘thank you’. The latter has become a rare commodity and it feels so gratifying witnessing such move. Surprisingly, HOLY GRAIL did not choose a ‘usual suspect’ from PANTERA’s back-catalogue to play. Oh yeah, they did “Hard Ride” from PANTERA’s early Hair Metal days. BEWITCHER and STRIKER’s singer Dan showed up for this one and proved how awesome a tour can be when the bands like and respect each other. “Thank you for sticking around on a Monday”, said Luna before the last attack (pun intended) that was “My Last Attack”.

This was an amazing billing from three bands (my apologies for missing BEAST WARRRIOR) that work hard and know how to break a sweat on the stage. Good times even on a Monday!

HOLY GRAIL setlist:

01. “Fight To Kill”
02. “No More Heroes”
03. “Crosswinds”
04. “Crystal King”
05. “Sudden Death”
06. “Wake Me When It's Over”
07. “Rains Of Sorrow”
08. “Call Of Valhalla”
09. “Those Who Will Remain”
10. “Waster Time”
11. “Off The Rails”
12. “The Blackest Night”
13. “Ride The Void”
14. “Hard Ride”
15. “My Last Attack”

HOLY GRAIL

Holy Grail @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Holy Grail @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Holy Grail @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Holy Grail @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Holy Grail @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Holy Grail @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Holy Grail @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Holy Grail @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Holy Grail @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Holy Grail @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Holy Grail @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Holy Grail @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

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