70000 Tons Of Metal Day 3: Jamaican A Lot Of Noise You Metalheads!
February 17, 2016, 2 years ago
Awoke to find us docked in Jamaica, the morning sun already blazing. A quick perusal of the Royal Caribbean owned port found nothing but trinket shops, a few eateries (including Dairy Queen & Nathan's Hot Dogs!) and the Margaritaville bar where many offloaded themselves. After returning to ship, we learned that the DJ (under contract w/ the cruise line) couldn't play any objectionable language music and had no metal, thus they resorted to one of the patron's cellphones, for music. Metal Tim and I had other plans, especially after seeing the giant billboard posting fares of at least $120 USD, per person, to go anywhere. Venturing beyond the guarded gates, into the proper town of Falmouth, where you'll instantly accosted by an assortment of peddlers, we pondered our next move. Usually stocking up on bottled water and/or Gatorade type thirst quenchers/nutritional replenishing is a priority, before finding a beach, local cuisine and some refreshment.
Neither one of us are averse to hiking several miles to a desired destination: bar, beach, Wacken taxi stand. However, the roads were cut out of thick vegetation, no sidewalks and precious extra width for cars, let alone trucks. So we opted for a cab instead. A 15 minute drive outside of town, we were dropped off at Burwood Beach. It's a public beach, with $5 entrance fee (at least for tourists). There were a couple of native families already on the white sand, but there were no towels, no beach chairs for rent. In fact, just a couple of thatched roof gazebos dotted the otherwise barren landscape. No food, but Red Stripe, the ubiquitous homeland brew, was available for $3 apiece, or less, when bartering with other attendees.
Doesn't sound like much of a destination (and on the surface it isn't), yet it turned into a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon, filled with unique sights and hearty laughs. It was just 9:30 AM when we arrived, but over the next couple of hours, there was a trickle of other 70000 Tons sailors, most notably (and completely unplanned on our part), the cruise's Pool Girls (aka Bikini team!), opting for a promotional photo shoot on what they deemed to be a secluded spot. Pity those poor sots back at Margaritaville! A group of local guys in their twenties were curious about these beach invaders. Over the course of the next few hours, as they smoked and drank rum, the entire time, they regaled us with local history (we were there on Bob Marley's birthday!) and learned of their musical careers. Only time constraints prevented us from taking them up on their offer of a home cooked delicacy, but they did give Tim a small flask of rum, as a parting gift.
In Falmouth, on the recommendation (kickback? from our cabbie, we went to Peppers Jerk Center an outdoor cantina, located in a back alley affectionately called Puke Street, according to a hand-painted sign on the wall of the main thoroughfare. Lo and behold, there were more ship patrons there, than at the beach, including Dead Cross (ex-Slayer) drummer Dave Lombardo. Jerk Chicken is an island staple and the sauce was to die for, definitely worth the visit. Stopped in a market/bodega for a few supplies and then back on the ship, well before the 3:30 curfew. Once under sail, the live music resumed, with Stratovarius playing topside.
Most bands choose to alter the two setlists they'll play, to what degree is optional. The Finns saved (or repeated) most of their best known songs for the on deck experience. Now headed north and west, the prevailing currents blew back the artists' hair (no wigs for this lot) and if long enough, entangled around the face. Keyboardist Jens Johansson played barefoot and Timo Kotipelto announced, "Sorry to ruin you reggae boat with power metal. This one's dedicated to those of you wearing a Speedo," cue 'Speed Of Light'. The singer mockingly turns the tuning keys on the guitarist's headstock as Matias Kupiainen blazes away. 'Kiss Of Judas' sees bathers in the hot tub, in front of the stage, lofting a Nerf football to the upper decks. Some singers adhered to the usual onstage banter, those that were more relaxed, tried to infuse the exclusivity of our locale into the show. To that end, the Finnish frontman prefaced the song by saying, "Something you don't want to hear on this cruise...SOS." 'Black Diamond' and the set concluding 'Hunting High & Low' were both resurrected from the earlier set.
By this time, all the bands, except one, had already played once, if not twice. Thus, when Vision Of Atlantis, the dual-sex vocal group from Austria, took to the big theater stage, frontwoman Clémentine Delauney announced, "We're glad to finally get to play!" They were supposed to christen the Pool stage, on Thursday, soon after leaving port, but were bumped when construction ran too long. The tall, rail thin, former Serenity singer proved energetic, playing off all her bandmates and shaking her mane. After the likes of 'Through My Eyes' and 'Seven Seas' she made reference to (lest anyone not get the significance) how appropriate it was for a band entitled Vision Of Atlantis to be performing aboard a ship, in the middle of the ocean. Their brand of Nightwish inspired pomp met with much approval, judging by the numerous attendees in the largest theater. Located in the front of the ship and at the lowest depth, could start to really feel the floor sway beneath one's feet, as the seas roughened.
At the top of the ship, the winds whipped around Katatonia. In fact, one fan leaning against the barricade, yelled at singer Jonas Renkse, "I can finally see your face!" The Swedes usually perform under dimly lit conditions, locks combed forward. Not tonight, as gray clouds threaten a storm in the dusk sky, affecting both Renkse and mainstay guitarist Anders Nyström. After the initial 'Buildings', 'Forsaker' opens with a storm of strobes. The Dance Of December Souls gem “Without God” kicked off with the Judas Priest-influenced group headbanging motion, while “Ghost Of The Sun” and closer “July” ebbed and flowed like the ship itself. Katatonia in the world of Enslaved with unlimited vision and tireless potential.
It would appear Herr Hansen had a band meeting between the first Gamma Ray performance and the second (or maybe a little too much indulgences?) as new (co-)singer Frank Beck had a much more prominent, at the front of the stage, role this time around. Kicking off today with 'Heaven Can Wait', for 'Last Before The Storm', it was obvious Beck was unfamiliar with all the lyrics. Kai was still master of ceremonies, even with a dual vocalist aboard, greeting fans at the first break with, "Thank you Love Boat. Anybody have a hangover? Me!" Working from the front of the stage, Beck handled most of 'I Want Out', random designs popping up on the electronic board behind the band. Bassist Dirk Schlächter hopped on one foot, the one not usually immobilized in a brace. In honor of the departed Jamaica, Hansen got everyone to sing "yeah-o" and Henjo Richter breaks into a reggae beat and Kai does his best Jimmy Cliff impersonation..."We don't give a fuck about the metal police," before suddenly tearing back into 'I Want Out', without a segue. The Judas Priest inspired 'To The Metal' sees Hansen almost channeling KK Downing stage moves. Forgotten from the set list, but remembered by the guitarist, it's on to 'Master Of Confusion' (making some quip about how it's an accurate description of the band, what with their absentmindedness). A seemingly faster than normal, speed metal rendition of 'Ride The Sky' recalls how different the Gamma Ray "power metal" pedigree is from countless others. Ending with 'Send Me A Sign', an hour just isn't enough. Come back soon!
Ran upstairs to catch another glimpse of Lacuna Coil, this time, out in the open, under the stars. In black, Victorian crinoline dress and cinching corset, Cristina Scabbia had black soot purposefully smeared on her neck, up to, but not including her face. Due to the computer sequencing and effects, the Italian group offered virtually the same set as the opening evening. Hair in a ponytail (at least at to start), to combat the fierce winds on deck, it wasn't until 'Intoxicated', up third,that she and co-singer Andrea Ferro, came together to sing as a duo. The rest of the time, they remained split, although most eyes were trained on Ms. Scabbia. All too short highlight of the set was a duet between Scabbia and Epica singer Simone Simons on 'Heaven's A Lie', the two ladies singing into each others' face, oblivious to anyone else being there, until they asked the crowd to join the final chorus.
Downstairs, in the theater, it was time for another moody, almost unlit Paradise Lost engagement. The same five Plague Within tracks were part of the allotted hour, as well as the somewhat shocking inclusion of piano begun 'Erased' off 2002's Symbol Of Life. It saw Aaron Aedy stomp out the opening rhythm with his left foot, then explode into the track. It was a half dozen in before 'Pity The Sadness' returned, the first of just three Nineties heyday era tunes, alongside 'As I Die' and the 'Last Time' finale. Nick Holmes was his sarcastic/snide best behind the mic. Noticing the lack of initial crowd, he mocked, "Should have brought your friends with you." Later he said, "It's not about an airport, but it is called Terminal." Not seen PL on successive nights since accompanying them for a few weeks in Germany on the Draconian Times tour. Appropriately entitled, given today's port of call, next came the slow/heavy 'Return To The Sun'. Spoken like deadpan comic Steven Wright, Holmes prefaced the aforementioned 'Pity The Sadness' with, "I watched the Poseidon Adventure today." On the heels of a death metal-ish 'Flesh From Bone', the lighting director seemingly awoke for the angelic accompaniment of 'Requiem', bands of green slowly crossing the stage. Announcing the cello/symphonic strings begun 'Eternity Of Lies', when a lone voice screamed approvingly, Nick mocked, "Don't pretend you know it." Ultimately,the sludgy 'Beneath Broke Earth' gave way to 'Last Time', sadly prophetic, as who knows when our paths will meet again. Net score: In 24 hours, two concerts, with live renditions of 'Gothic', 'Widow', 'The Painless', 'Last Time', 'Say Just Words', 'As I Die', 'Pity The Sadness' (twice) and a ton of new stuff.
Although his hair is streaked with grey, don't get the idea that Vader founder/guitarist Piotr Wiwczarek is slowing down. Lest one get the wrong impression, we was metal-to-the-max, head-to-toe in studs and leather. Rabid fans rode atop another's shoulders in the circle pit, sort of a mosh version of summer camp chicken, albeit without a watery safety net underfoot. As noted, the extremity on the cruise could’ve been beefed up, Vader filled a much-needed void with deathly pit-friendly anthems like
“Come and See My Sacrifice”, “Where Angels Weep”, “Abandon All Hope” and the epic tinge of “Reborn In Flames”.
Just time enough to snap a few photos of the lovely Simone Simons, with Epica onstage, before heading to the second (and final) stop in the minuscule Pyramid Room, for Jag Panzer. Stuck around to hear 'Chemical Insomnia' (following 'The Fifth Guardian' intro) as well as 'Storm The Sorrow'. Knew the low ceiling, with fans packed against the barricade and no risers would virtually leave no opportunity to shoot photos, so wasn't worried about arriving a little late for the Jags old school set. There in time to hear Harry "The Tyrant" Conklin belting out the amazingly high pitched squeals on 'Symphony Of Terror'. 'Iron Eagle' sees returned guitarist Joey Tafolla shredding up a storm, while the acoustic (pre-taped) introduced 'Chain Of Command' followed. Talking about Conklin's highs, listen to the vocal sustain on 'Viper'! 'Harder Than Steel' had Tafolla bending backwards, simultaneously playing the guitar vertically, in vintage 70s rock god pose. Alongside Tafolla is mainstay/founder Mark Briody, the two on dual leads for the crowd sung 'Warfare'. American metal treasure, see them whenever the opportunity arises.
Each day, one act was afforded a 1:15 time slot (the rest were either 45minutes or an hour), on Saturday, the honor fell to Children Of Bodom. Off to a better start than the night before, in that they don't have to take a Mulligan and restart the 'Follow The Reaper' lead-off. Wind, already plastering his hair to face, threatens to blow waif-like guitarist/vocalist Alexi Laiho into the sea, as the Psycho inspired notes commence 'Hate Me'. His legs splayed wide stance providing more stability than typically necessary. He manages to hold the guitar vertically, braced against his knee. On the riser, keyboard wizard Janne Warman looks wind shipped. Although given more time, it's essentially the same set as yesterday, just rearranged: still 14 songs on tap, but a few extras, namely yellow lit 'Needled 14/7', 'Bodom After Midnight' and 'Sixpounder', which ends the show. Police sirens greet 'In Your Face' and when Laiho lifts this axe overhead, by the whammy bar (to start 'Needled 24/7') had to wonder, for a nanosecond, whether it was intentional, or had it been caught by the wind. Interested to see if this will be the set for their upcoming North American jaunt, in support of Megadeth.
At 1 AM, in the theater, it was time for HammerFall. Those who declined the late (?) hour, or thought they'd already seen the Swedes, missed a set that showed why these guys were the 90s saviors of traditional metal, complete with more early material and the odd surprise. Giant backdrop of a castle and icy landscape hung behind the band, they opened with 'Templars Of Steel', the two guitarists on opposing sides of the riser, flanking the drums. Right into 'Heeding The Call', Joacim Can's black outfit was embroidered with silver icons down one leg, including the HF logo. 'Any Means Necessary' witnesses synced stage moves. Cans ditched the jacket, for just a vest, imparting a story about how he found metal as a kid, prior to 'BYH'. The tale also gives Oscar Dronjak time to strip down to a t-shirt. Once started the three instrumentalists live up to the 'Bang Your Head' title, as Joacim stands off to the side, shaking his mane side-to-side. 'Blood Bound' gives way to a smoking, bass drum driven rendition of the Warlord cover 'Child Of The Damned', seated nicely next to the aggressive tone of the evening, what with 'Heeding', 'BYH' and, later in the set, 'Won't Back Down' plus the parting duo of 'Renegade' and 'Hearts On Fire'. 'Glory To The Brave', a ballad, if you will, gives Cans a chance to strut his stuff. Band will be recording the next album this summer, with vocal sessions already set for LA,with Sixx AM man James Michael once again produced by James Michael.
Can't believe there's only one day left...where did the time go?
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