Metal music is alive and well in Louisville

It had been a very long time coming, for me to attend a real, full production concert. Actually, it had been 21 long months since my wife and I saw Korn and Breaking Benjamin in Columbus, before the world came to a screeching halt. As 2021 has progressed, I’ve been able to see some really good tribute bands and a couple weeks ago I was able to catch a small scale concert from 80’s rockers Great White. The lineup for yesterday’s final day of the Louder Than Life Festival in Louisville was too good to pass up and was just what I needed.

The Wife and I had planned to be down to Louisville in time to catch The Hu and Skillet but unfortunately, for us, Cincinnati happened. I’ve been driving for a lot of years. Never in my life has there been a casual drive through Cincinnati. I don’t know what it is about that town, but traffic delays there and between Florence and Kentucky Motor Speedway added considerable time to our voyage, unfortunately putting us there at the end of Skillet’s set.

Having been to many other Danny Wimmer Presents productions in the past, we explored the grounds for a little; making comparisons to Rock on the Range/Sonic Temple Music Festival. Concession prices were quite steep, but the atmosphere was great. More relaxed than some other festivals I’ve been too, we were able to make our way fairly close to one of my favorite bands, Sabaton. As they have each of the other three times I’ve seen them, they were phenomenal. While my wife couldn’t really see much, I’m hopeful that I was able to make a fan out of her. Joakim Broden and the boys from Sweden raced through a ten song set of most of their biggest hits as well as their new single. Virtually between every song, the band would pause long enough to let the deafening “Sabaton!” chants die down. As always, one of the best performances of the event.

Sabaton Set List per setlist.fm

  1. Ghost Division
  2. The Last Stand
  3. Swedish Pagans
  4. The Red Baron
  5. Carolus Rex
  6. Fields of Verdun
  7. The Attack of the Dead Men
  8. Primo Victoria
  9. Steel Commanders
  10. To Hell and Back

From there we went to the main stages area to see the rest of Breaking Benjamin, who had started before Sabaton had finished. As always, BB sounded great and it was fitting that we were able to see some of them in our first big concert, since they also played at the last show we had gone too 21 months ago.

After Breaking Benjamin finished up, it was on to the two main stage headliners for the evening. The festival could not have nailed it much better either. Judas Priest, one of the founding bands of heavy metal, are touring on their 50th anniversary. Sadly, they were only allotted a one hour time slot, which is just way too short for a band of Priest’s stature. Halford and the band were firing on all cylinders; albeit with some curious setlist choices, it did me good to see so many young people witnessing this band probably for the first time. The scream in “Victim of Changes” is still one of, if not the, best screams in heavy metal history.

Judas Priest Set List

  1. One Shot at Glory
  2. Lightning Strike
  3. You’ve Got Another Thing Coming
  4. Freewheel Burning
  5. The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown) *Fleetwood Mac cover w/ Kirk Hammett
  6. Turbo Lover
  7. Hell Patrol
  8. The Sentinel
  9. Victim of Changes
  10. Hell Bent for Leather
  11. Painkiller

After a short break, the main event of the festival took the stage for the second of their two headlining appearances of the weekend. Saying they had something special planned would be an understatement, as they played their self titled “black” album in its entirety. I’m not one of those people that says that Metallica sold out with that record. I’ve always thought that was a lazy take. Is it my favorite Metallica album? No. That would probably be And Justice For All. But, what the “black album” did for metal music cannot be ignored. It is the defining record that made metal acceptable in the mainstream & it has many songs that flat out jam. Is it thrash? No. Is it heavy metal? Yes.

As the band is celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of that record it was pretty cool to see the album played in its entirety in reverse chronological order. It’s my wife’s favorite record by the band also, so that was a cool moment being able to share that with her; at her first Metallica show. The band sounded fantastic as always. Some people might complain because it’s the edgy take, but DWP will never fail to sell out a festival when they’re able to secure the biggest metal band in history to headline his shows. Period.

Metallica Set List

  1. Hardwired
  2. The Four Horsemen
  3. Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
  4. The Struggle Within
  5. My Friend of Misery
  6. The God That Failed
  7. Of Wolf and Man
  8. Nothing Else Matters
  9. Through the Never
  10. Don’t Tread on Me
  11. Wherever I May Roam
  12. The Unforgiven
  13. Holier Than Thou
  14. Sad But True
  15. Enter Sandman
  16. Blackened *Encore*
  17. Creeping Death *Encore*

First gig, post apocalypse

Still Life performing Iron Maiden’s Aces High

Prior to last Saturday night, the last show I’d been able to attend in person was KORN and Breaking Benjamin in January 2020. Those of you that know me, know that going over a year in between concerts is not really a thing. Alas, that is the world that we’ve been left with after the ongoing pandemic.

Much to my delight, some smaller venues are starting to host socially distanced events again, and I was quite pleased to be able to catch a band that’s been on my radar for a few years. Still Life, an Iron Maiden tribute band based out of Columbus, and their friends from Sanitarium (a local Metallica tribute) were booked to play a gig in Dublin. I had previously caught Sanitarium once before at the Al Rosa Villa as one of the opening acts for The Iron Maidens a few years back. On that same bill was a local Judas Priest cover band which is how I heard about Still Life. For whatever reason, I hadn’t been able to catch them until now.

And how fitting would it be, that my first live show since the pandemic, would be two tribute acts playing songs from two of my favorite bands; Metallica and Iron Maiden.

Sanitarium kicked off the night with a set that primarily focused on the 80’s thrash era of Metallica’s catalog. While their set was shorter than I’d have liked and I would have liked to hear some songs from each of the bands albums (minus St. Anger), time was limited and they kept it to the classics. The band sounded great, played the songs true to form, and had the packed crowd headbanging and singing along throughout the entirety of the set.

Sanitarium performing Metallica’s Ride The Lightning

Before moving on to the evening’s headlining act, I’d like to shout out the venue. It was the first time my wife and I had ventured to Last Call Music Bar and Grill and we were quite impressed. The women that made up the wait staff that night were fantastic to us. Our table was visited at least every fifteen minutes throughout the evening. Drinks and food were served with a smile and the hospitality was fantastic.

After briefly sound checking with 1982’s The Prisoner or Invaders (I don’t recall, just was surprised either way), the stage appeared to be set for the main event. Now, and this is being picky, the person controlling the house music has to know that it’s criminal to play anything other than U.F.O.’s Doctor Doctor as the last song before Maiden or its tribute brothers and sisters take the stage. But I digress.

As far as Maiden tribute bands go, I’ve seen three, this quintet might have been my favorite. From song choice and musicianship they were top notch. Post-gig we were able to mingle a little with lead singer, Rachl Raxx Quinn, who admitted to having to shake off some rust as the band hadn’t been able to play out in quite some time. Metalheads may also recognize her from her work in Graveshadow, a self described symphonic metal band from Sacramento that I’ve been listening to since speaking with her.

As stated, after brushing off some early rust, she and the rest of the band were on fire for the entirety of the night. Maiden is not an easy band to play or sing. The musicians sounded flawless and Quinn’s vocals hit the high notes of the Air Raid Siren himself. They raced through a set that almost entirely consisted of the 1982-1988 Bruce Dickinson era of Iron Maiden. This was a popular choice, as that era had a run of five albums that are essential to all Maiden fans. They completely ignored the Blaze Bayley era of the band in 90’s and only played one song since the “classic” lineup returned in 1999. If they do venture into any of the 90’s material, I think Quinn’s pipes could do a monster rendition of Lord of the Flies (the Bruce version from Death on the Road of course) as well as a great many of their post-reunion songs. Alas, this is the struggle of trying to contain a band with Maiden’s catalog into one concert set. You, quite literally, can’t please everyone.

Even so, the set had a great pace and the song choice was varied enough between staples and deep cuts that surely everyone left happy. I know that I was certainly stoked. I got to take in some live music. Iron Maiden music at that. It was a great night! Concerts are back! As a proper Maiden concert always ends: “Always look on the bright side of life….

Still Life Set List 4/3/2021 Dublin, OH

  1. The Ides of March (1981)
  2. Wrathchild (1981)
  3. The Wicker Man (2000)
  4. 2 Minutes to Midnight (1984)
  5. The Trooper (1983)
  6. Revelations (1983)
  7. Flight of Icarus (1983)
  8. Still Life (1983)
  9. Aces High (1984)
  10. Wasted Years (1986)
  11. Powerslave (1984)
  12. The Number of the Beast (1982)
  13. Run to the Hills (1982)
  14. 22 Acacia Avenue (1982)
  15. The Evil That Men Do (1988)
  16. Seventh Son of a Seventh Son (1988)
  17. Hallowed Be Thy Name (1982)
Still Life performing Iron Maiden’s Wasted Years