May 28, 2006

Concert Review: Sanctuary w/ Queen of the Ryche, Downfire, In Transition 5/27/06

It's been about a month and a half since I last went to a concert. Much to long in my estimation. I tried to go see Jani Lane (formerly of Warrant, and yes I have a soft spot for 80's metal), but he cancelled. I soon found out that the tour has been a disaster, with cancelled shows, shortened shows, late arrivals, and word that Jani is a mess. Well, that is neither here nor there. This is a show that I knew would go down as planned, and I had been looking forward to seeing. It promised to be a night of metal featuring a pair of well regarded cover bands, one I had seen before, and being supported by a pair of local original metal acts.

I got inside the club, The Chance, and waited for the show to start, while 80's pop (like The Eurythmics and Duran Duran) was piped through the sound system. 9:00 rolled around, and it was time for the show to begin.

The first band to take the stage was called In Transition. They weren't bad, delivering up a nice heavy metal sound, and not being merely another screamo act, which was what I had feared. Their set suffered a bit from a poor mix, the vocals weren't nearly as high as they should have been, and therefore got buried a bit behind the guitars, in particular. They weren't terribly original, but they struck me as being very young, which is a plus, gives them time to develop and hone their skills into a more powerful metallic beast. The twin guitars were the highlight, they had some nice thick rhythms and some decent lead breaks, although I did notice a couple instances where they hit wrong notes. The band's timing also seemed to be off during a couple of songs, but they got back in synch rather quickly. The vocalist has a good voice, but he could use a little work, I can't quite put my finger on it, but it needs more strength behind it. The bass and drum work came across as rather pedestrian, nothing terribly exciting there. It may sound like I am getting down on them, but believe me, that is not the case. I enjoy seeing these young acts, they clearly have potential, and it will be interesting to see how they develop. They aren't a band I would go out of my way to see, but I would be interested to see them open up shows for other bands that I am interested in seeing.

Once In Transition's set ended, at around the 30 minute mark, they left the stage and the equipment got swapped out for the next band on the hit list. They worked quick, and we were back into the metal after a mere 15 minutes.

The next band was Downfire, I first saw them last Fall when they opened for Testament, they put on a good show then, and after seeing them a second time, they have only gotten better. They deliver a straight up metal sound that is tight, heavy, and most of all rocks! I couldn't describe the sound as terribly original, although that may not be the right word. Perhaps I should say that I was not immediately blown away by their music, but I was instantly hooked by the solid metallic force that they presented. They more than held their own onstage, delivering their riffs and ripping through their songs. This is definitely a band to check out if you have the chance.

Downfire left the stage after their set, and the stage was set for the first of our two headliners. Again, the switch was pretty quick. It is always a plus to keep the show going.

Queen of the Ryche took the stage to give us their Queensryche show. I had heard good things about this cover band that was spawned by a combination of cover and original acts. As much of a fan of Queensryche as I am, I am very unfamiliar with a lot of their early work, which had me lost as the show started, I did not recognize either one! I will say that despite not knowing the songs, I was surprised to no end listening to what sounded just like Geoff Tate. Seriously, this guy sounded amazing, a physically imposing stage presence delivering an incredible range. The one thing that took a bit of getting used to was the presence of a keyboard in place of a second guitar. At first, it was odd listening to those parts that are so closely associated with the strings translated to the keys, but it worked. This was a tribute band, but theu did not settle on simply mimicking the band, they add their own flavor to the music, and it sounds good. After the first pair of unknowns, they broke into a track that I did know, "I Walk in Shadows." Following that we got something a little different, we got an original song from the band's back up singer, a young woman with a powerful voice, she sang a song that was fantastic and made me want to hear more of her band's work, dedLilith. Next up, they had a surprise up their sleeves for us, they played Kiss' "Stutter" and Judas Priest's "Touch of Evil." They played both perfectly, particularly the Priest cut, which is off my favorite Prist album, Painkiller. Then we were into the centerpiece of their set, a suite of songs from Queensryche's breakthrough Operation: Mindcrime. They opened with "Revolution Calling" then moving into "Operation Mindcrime," "The Mission," and "Suite Sister Mary." This whole section was great, the keyboards started to really sink in during this segment, I really liked the dimension they added, besides, the guy playing them was very good. To end the set they went back to the back catalog, playing "Take Hold the Flame" and "Queen of the Reich." Overall, this was one of the better cover bands that I have seen, granted I have not seen all that many, but these guys had the chops to back it up. This is definitely a band I would be interested in seeing again.

After an hour of Queen of the Ryche, they left the stage, although I would have loved to have heard more. I would have liked to have heard something from Empire, hopefully next time. The curtain came down as the stage was set for our second headliner.

Our final act is Iron Maiden tribute act Sanctuary. I have seen this band once before, and they deliver just what they say, an accurate recreation of Iron Maiden's music, along with a cool looking set design. The curtain went up to reveal a mock up of a Maiden set, complete with fake flames and a castle backdrop. They opened up the show with a pair of recent Maiden tracks, "Wildest Dreams" and "Rainmaker." I was surprised to hear these two, not sure why, but I wasn't expecting songs that were so recent. They were played perfectly, these a two of the better recent songs, now if we could get "Paschendale." From there we moved on to "The Trooper," complete with Eddie Trooper coming onstage to threaten the band. After the band survived the Eddie appearance, it was announced that the drummer was the band's original drummer, who had agreed to fill in for a few months while the current drummer was out of action. Next up was "Caught Somewhere in Time," which led to the introduction of the band's original bass player, and the singer's brother, who joined them onstage to play "2 Minutes to Midnight." The next song was "Hallowed Be Thy Name," during which they were joined by the guitarists son, who was onstage proving his young adoption of the music of Maiden. Rounding out the set was "The Number of the Beast," "Fear of the Dark," "Iron Maiden," and "Run to the Hills." This is the next best thing to seeing Iron Maiden in the flesh. These guys have been doing this for years, and the effort shows. They are clearly having fun playing the music onstage, inviting crowd participation and cultivating a party like atmosphere. Their singer would take frequent trips through the crowd, singing with them. After they closed, we were able to get one bonus song out of them, "Die With Your Boots On," which worked great to close the night on a high note, although if we could, I am sure we would have welcomed more.

In the end, this was a great night of metal. Each band building on the band before it, with the two tribute bands stealing the night. There is nothing quite like loud music in a great club, and this night delivered. I highly recommend checking these guys out if you get the chance.

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