Geriatric Metal: live In Germany! Only a trio of bands on the entire two-day main bill: Kissin' Dynamite, Delain and Atlantean Kodex, didn't have a lineage dating back at least two decades (or more!). OK, Unisonic has only been around a couple of years, but their line-up includes members of Gamma Ray, Krokus, Helloween and Pink Cream 69. Worse yet, the female fronted Dutch played indoors, while Twisted Sister (the overall festival headliner) were onstage and the Kodex crew were opposite Europe (of "The Final Countdown" fame).
Still my favorite for an outdoor European festival, basically one stage and just 15 to 20 minutes between each act, just enough time to visit the restroom (guys actual pee in outdoor urinals!), grab something to eat or drink, visit the merch area, or just sit down for a second. If you're looking to try an overseas metal event, situated in the town of Balingen (where hotel rooms are available, rather than camp in tents), this is the model. Apparently nothing's better at keeping the rain away than to preemptively begin writing a review, anticipating the difficulties in covering an outdoor event during inclimate weather. Needless to say, the German weather forecasters are no better than their North American counterparts, as a storm soaked, Metal Monsoon weekend never (thankfully) materialized. An unusual weekend none the less, as Deutschland was not preoccupied with heavy metal and beer. There's this little thing called the (soccer) World Cup final, a national obsession. OK, maybe not as big a deal as beer, since the competition only takes place every four years.
Thursday, July 10th
While the 80s were an overriding theme for BYH 2014, even decorating the official merchandise, even before setting foot in Balingen, I'd personally dubbed the warm-up show as a Teutonic metal evening. Imagine the surprise when the back of T-shirts said just as much, even though Bullet call Sweden home. No matter, they boast a twin Flying V, synchronized stage movement Germanic cred. Truth be told, a heavy dose of the crowd was there to see the foreigners, as Grave Digger, Stromwarrior and old-timers Victory are viewed as “local” talent. Would that we all had such “problems”!
Bullet took the stage beneath a logo spelling out their name in mini light bulbs. The centerpiece is the gruff vocals of rotund frontman Hell Hofer, tonight sorting a mini cape emblazoned with the tiger head artwork from the Full Pull album. The opened with “Midnight Oil”, lots of heads down, shaggy hair shaking and headbanging, and that's just from the five guys onstage. “Turn It Up Loud” gave way to “Dusk Til Dawn” before the bearded singer left the stage to let the twin guitars jam on “Rolling Home”. The stage went empty and black to start “Highway Pirates”. Hof (funny, given our hereabouts and the German affinity for David Hasselhoff) said the meaning of life was to “Stay Wild,” the title of the same name followed. Speaking of appropriate, early in their career, the Swedes wrote “Bang Your Head,” which HAD to be aired here! The frontman pointed at the audience, as if demanding everyone adhere to the titular advice, although most were already obliging. He pointed the mic into the crowd for the “whoa whoa” segments, never a bad move in Germany. The final song was “Bite the Bullet”, the backs of the two guitars and bass each sported a single word of the phrase, as the crowd screamed the chorus. New album Night Of the Blades coming soon, a reported return to old school, underground ethics, Check them out.
For the first time (but not the last), the between song raps were not in English, but then again, Stormwarrior were on native soil. The band has a penchant for adding extra letters, typically an E to normal Anglican spellings. After the opening “Iron Gods”, it got louder and louder as the quartet kicked into “Thunder & Steele”. Orange lights pulsated during “Metal Legacy”, while a virtual onstage lighting thunderstorm, complete with rapid flashes, greeted “Sacred Blade”. Really could (should?) have flip-flopped standing with the aforementioned Swedes, but I digress.The infectious chorus to "Steelcrusader" and “Heavy Metal Fire” shows this really is a two-man operation, with bassist Yens Leonhardt backing guitarist/singer Lars Ramcke. “Steele Crusaders” made room for the blue lit “Heading Northe”, although when time for the solo, Ramcke in white spotlight, gold colors the rest. "Odinn's Warriors" saw them highlighted in copper, leaving the stage as victors.
Speaking of Victory, the band, featuring current Accept rhythm guitarist Herman Frank, were, for many (myself included) a respite before the headliners. Only familiar with some of their catalog, yet was able to pick out some of the big hits. "Take The Pace" was up first, followed by "Are You Ready (To Rock n Roll Tonight)". Between 'Power Strikes The Earth" and "Backseat Driver" there were a few trips to the beer line (guy's gotta have some fun, right?) before they dusted off "Check's In The Mail".
While already a fan, was really looking forward to seeing Grave Digger, as Return Of The Reaper, their just issued disc, is a return to old school values. Sure enough, the band thinks so too, as this set was chocked full of new material, opening with the roaring title track and then into "Hell Funeral'. Mainstay frontman Chris Boltendahl was clearly enjoying himself. "Knights Of The Cross" was a bit of a surprise, then back to a ripping newbie "Grave Desecrator", under yellow lights. Green was the color scheme for "Ballad Of A Hangman", the well lubricated crowd chanting the title chorus. Would never have seen "Wedding Day" making an appearance, not in a million, or at least 21 years (since it's release). Wow. The alternate red and yellow lit "Tattooed Rider" is speed metal, through and through, another just birthed track, leading into the rollicking "Hammer Of The Scots". Remember thinking, at that time, how the whole Highlands sound/motif had righted the Germans' ship, but now it pales in comparison to the latest material. Ah, the perspective of time! "Dark The Suns" and new single "Seasons Of The Witch" slowed things to a mid-tempo, prior to the always rousing "Excalibur" kicked off a proper set closing trio that also included "The Round Table" and "Rebellion". Despite being after 1AM and with two more full days of metal ahead of us, they marshaled on with "Yesterday" (another completely unexpected choice) and the appropriately titled "Highland Farewell" (only it was not the end). That honor is reserved for "Heavy Metal Breakdown" a manic, drunken sing-along, air guitaring finale. Make sure to pick up a copy of Return Of The Reaper!
Friday, July 11th
After a local band (for the canceled thrashers Warrant) and Accuser, the first band of importance was Warlord, beginning at 11:20 AM. Not bad for a band that released just three real albums, in thirty years. A huge backdrop, depicting the Deliver Us artwork, hung above the two guitar/keyboard six piece. "Lucifer's Hammer" kicked things off. Had heard reports that in other years, they'd begun with vintage material, only to finish with newer stuff. "Child Of The Damned" under the watchful eye of mainstay/creator Bill Tsamis (guitar) showed no signs of altering earlier rumors. The band were very static onstage and apparently used to the confines of a club, the singer never ventured too far, either side of the massive stage, swaying back n forth, in place, was about as much emotion as we got. Was great to hear those old songs again, many a classic in the bunch, but truthfully, it was rather flat (monotone), vocally. "Winter Tears" also from the '83 debut was a nice inclusion (no "Black Mass", what with Tsamis religious affiliations these days), followed by "Aliens", the last vintage chestnut, or so I thought. "Wings Of Thor" was the lone inclusion off Rising Out Of Teh Ashes, the album they did with HammerFall vocalist Joacim Cans at the helm and when the pre-recorded helicopter intro to "Kill Zone" started up, aided by drummer Mark Zonder (aka Thunderchild, also of Fates Warning), thought the predictions were true, as it comes off last year's Holy Empire CD. Not sure who the soundman was, but he finally got it right for "Deliver Us From Evil", as this vintage gem marked a vast sonic improvement over the initial half hour or more. Unfortunately, rather than that speedsters, they opted to close with the slower, more plodding "70,000 Sorrows", ending on a sustained high pitched vocal, the lone one of the afternoon.
One of the first (if not THE first) promotional CD I received, in the era when vinyl was still king, was the No Respect debut from Vain. Twenty-something years on, I sold it for a hefty sum. Barefoot and no longer keeping the sleaze/glam image, although the rest of the band does, Davy Vain had long curls tied back with a bandanna: akin to a rock n roll version of comedian Carrot Top. Opening with "Secrets" one of the big hits off the aforementioned, bang Vain was down on the catwalk that juts into the audience and venturing to the far wings of the stage. Next was "Greener", the lead track from their most recent (2011) Enough Rope. All the good will of the strong start dissipated. When will festival bands learn to play a few "known" numbers before plugging sales of newer material. Remember, most of the crowd is NOT there to see you specifically (unless you're WAY up the bill). As if to prove the point, "No Respect", with backing vocals, got a big response. Before "Love Drug" Davy Vain admitted that he was usually going to bed around this time (of day, before 1pm). Later he added< "We like to fuck around between songs, hope you don't mind. Hear Britny Spears is coming to town and she plays all the hits right in a row. Nice girl. We fucked her." Speaking of wham bam, thank you mame, it was on to "Triple x". Vain, who was later seen aside the stage to watch Frisco brethren Exodus said, "Hope everything's OK with you evil metal guys. Know I produced the first Death Angel record, so I have some metal credibility," before ending with "Beat The Bullet".
A double dose of glam slam with Swabian act Kissin' Dynamite to follow. People finally packed the front of the stage, a huge portion of the attendees apparently there to see their local (regional) heroes, one of the largest gatherings of the day! "Sleaze Deluxe", frontman Hannes Braun fumbling a steel tube/baton as his did laps around the stage. The band doesn't need any need any invitation to go topless and the bright sunshine on exacerbated the situation. "Sex Is War" is a sing-along, clap-along triumph with more than a like Sex Pistols in it, as Braun ventured onto the catwalk. "She's A Killer", "Love Me, Hate Me" and "Welcome To The Jungle (no, NOT that one, Still a dumb name for an original, given their genre of choice) and "I Will Be King" are built around sing-along/live environment. "Operation Supernova" has a GnR feel about it (surprise, surprise), During which they built a human pyramid, ala The Scorpions. Next was an as yet unreleased track (off the forthcoming Megalomania album) entitled "D.N.A" where the titular enunciation is delivered to an AC/DC inspired stomp. "Money, Sex & Power" closed things out.
I'd seen Riot V (then minus the Roman numeral) Stateside, shortly after guitarist/last original member Mark Reale's death. Was eager to see if they could sustain the momentum, minus the emotion of that time. Hell yes! One of THE bands of the weekend, storming through hit after hit, at hyper-speed and mostly fast/heavy material. If you get the chance, see this band immediately! The musicians came onstage first, playing the instrumental "Narita", guitarist Nick Lee feigned (?) difficulty in pulling off the speedy agility. Todd Michael Hall wore sunglasses and tried to engage folks in a discussion about the upcoming World Cup. No sale, so it was faster & faster, They did not try to live off the glorious Guy Speranza/Rhett Forrester days (like some bands might): witness "Wings Are For Angels" and, as Hall announced, "From the Mike DiMeo era, Angel Eyes". The band has too many songs with warrior in the title, all of which were aired in the second half of the performance: the classic, next-to-last "Warrior", "Flight Of The Warrior" off Thundersteel, the album they were focusing on and a new track, from the soon be be released Unleash The Fire (SPV) called "Metal Warrior", which ends with a piercing scream of the title. "Swords And tequila" was dedicated to Reale, "His spirit is all around us tonight," ultimately closing with a blistering rendition of "Thundersteel". Can't wait for the new platter, which should mean more live dates, yeah!
If that wasn't exciting enough, next was Exodus, the first show in a decade with reunited singer Steve Zetro Souza, who stalked the stage from jump, mouthing F-bombs as he charged the gangplank. He wasn't the only American to repeatedly mispronounce the host city. Here's a hint: "Balling en", NOT "Bal engine". A giant backdrop, with the logo and impaled heads (also superimposed, in greater visual depth on a pair of scrims that graced the stage), hung behind the band. Opening with "Bonded By Blood" it was quickly evident that Souza needs to lose a few pounds (or get a bigger Hariot shirt, one that covers his belly) as we was sweating profusely after just two song wandering across the stage. I know a used monk's robe, hanging long dormant in Sweden, size appropriate. Perhaps Souza can take some lessons from Gary Holt (blood splattered paint-job, fin tailed guitar in-hand), who obviously learned a few things about over-the-top headbanging from his double duty with Slayer and the robust, whammy bar master, Kerry King. The set often alternated between classic Exodus and new millenium releases, like, "Blacklist" teamed with "Piranha", "Braindead" (lyrics I mentally repeat almost daily at my job) alongside a thunderous "War Is My Shepard". Watching in the wings was Hirax mainstay Katon De Pena, who'd played early the next day. The crowd sang the "whoa whoas" for "And Then There Were None". After a brief World Cup discussion and taking credit for bringing the Cali sunshine (even though the Bay Area has notoriously fickle weather), it was "A Lesson In Violence". Acknowledging next year was the 30th anniversary of Bonded By Blood, Souza thanked all the no hair, gray hairs (the singer admitted to dying his) who had been there for the band all these years. "Toxic Waltz' and a brutal "Strike Of The Beast closed. Band will open for Slayer, in the North America, this fall. Have to believe the setlist will be similar, ie. killer. Don't miss it!
The first show in more than two months, hence Michael Schenker, brought the A Team to his ongoing Bridge The Gap tour, that's Doogie White (vox), and ex-Scorpions Herman Rarebell (drums) and Monty Python funny man Eric Idle doppelganger, aka bassist Francis Buchholz. Beginning 10 minutes late, with the monstrous UFO hit "Doctor Doctor", most of the choices were from Schenker's various incarnations, including MSG, the Scorps, and naturally, the English hard rockers. Only "Where The Wild Wind Blows", "Horizons" and Dio dedicated "Before The Devil Knows You're Dead" were culled from Bridge The Gap. Despite teh balmy temperatures, Schenker wore a black knit stocking cap, although the sleeveless shirt showed there's not a lot of meat (insulation) on those bones. After "Lovedrive", the former Rainbow singer queried from the catwalk, "Friday afternoon in Germany. Why aren't you at work?" "Another Piece Of Meat" and then some Schenker noodling ("Assault Attack"), that led into "Armed & Ready". Not sure why they played "Rock You Like A Hurricane', especially at the expense of another MSG classic, but it's certainly not essentially, especially outside the USA, although it does give Rarebell the opportunity to lead the "Here I am" chant from behind his kit. "Rock Bottom" was a fitting, if not unexpected finale. Great stuff.
A storming "Slave To The Grind" was former Skid Row singer Sebastian Bach's introduction to the BYH. In leather jacket, he charged onto the catwalk, whipping the tethered mic overhead, in unison headbanging madly. After the first song, he headed for sunglasses and a few later, the jacket was gone, eventually rolling up the long sleeves and unbuttoning it down the front. Seb complained about the mic (or lack thereof), saying, "I'm a loud singer, but don't think they'll hear me in the back without a microphone." Much of the set was big time titles from his former employer. After "18 And Life", he said "Danke Schoen", which prompted a short Wayne Newton impression. It was not the first ad lib. Although guitarist Metal Mike Chlasciak was not in attendance, his "American Metalhead" was amended, for the day, to "German Metalhead". Showing his love of Teutonic metal, Bach sang a few impromptu bars of "Balls To The Wall" then asking :What about Fast As A Shark... hi de hi do!" Later, he stopped the show and said, "I want to see everybody jumping up and down. Are you with me?", cue the industrialized start of "Taking Back Tomorrow'. The closing stretch included "Monkey Business", a steel guitar rendition of "I Remember You" and the closing "Youth Gone Wild".
Although only 8pm, there was just one act left: Axel Rudi Pell. It was pre-announced that this was a 25 year anniversary, three hours, which included a Steeler reunion. In reality, there were numerous guests (also made available beforehand) and breaks, guitarist Pell being the lone constant, often changing the onstage line-up. Each incarnation was introduced by an in uniform police officer. Tech issues aside, up first was the Steeler reunion, lasting about a half hour and included the opening "Call Her Princess", "Rockin' The City" and "Undercover Animal", the heavily accented and guttural singer being night versus day compared to Johnny Gioeli, Pell's outstanding frontman. Five cones of sparks and one loud explosion ushered the old guys off. A brief break and Rob Rock came on to sing "Nasty Reputation". A little beefier, someone has been lifting weights, judging by the biceps. Under purple lights, it was over quickly, the namesake guitarist and singer hugged, then Rock was gone. In his place was the very animated Jeff Scott Soto, in scarf and sleeveless tee for a pair: "Warrior" and juggling the mic between hands, mid-air, "Fool Fool".
Pell took the mic and spoke to the crowd, a rarity, but it was his night. Exaggerated intro, as they got ready for the real Axel Rudi Pell (ARP) band, As flash pots and six repeated plumes of flames shot upwards across the front of the stage as Gioeli appeared amidst the yellow and red oscillating lights of "Burning Chains". Odd to hear songs like "Strong As A Rock", typically reserved for the encore, so early in the evening. Jets of compressed "steam" shot upward on each utterance of the titular phrase, the final producing a loud bang that scared a few. "Long Way To Go" and the pedestrian cover of Neil Young's "Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)", both off the newest Into The Storm. The later saw the singer playing air guitar and the crowd singing the "Rock n Roll will never die" chorus. The teal lit "Mystica" gave way to the first guitar showcase, Pell taking center stage and getting everyone to clap along and eventually moving to the opposite side of the otherwise vacant stage, a virtual Long March for the usually almost stationary musician.
On legs, elevated six feet above the stage, a pair of fire pits were lit as a keyboard flourish introduced the slower "Into The Storm". Thus began the medleys. First was "Too Late", with "Eternal Prisoner" sandwiched between, Gioeli, when not pirouetting around, introduced the individual band members. Next the stage goes black, apart from some rotating pink lights, as the stage front and catwalk highlighted in aqua.for "Masquerade Ball", which eventually explodes (literally) into the crowd aided "Casbah" with more flames. "Rock The Nation" featuring fire, yet again, marked the exodus of the ARP band, after more than an hour. With about an hour left, the stage produced a pair of drum kits, where Bobby Rondinelli and Vinny Appice staged an all-instrumental simultaneous drum "battle" Once cleared, Pell was back with most of his band intact for what was essentially a star-studded cover band, running through a trio of Deep Purple hits, including "Black Knight" with Pretty Maids' Ronnie Atkins at the mic, then John Lawton on Uriah Heep's "Sympathy". Long a Rainbow/Ritchie Blackmore fan (just look at his guitar set-up), Pell opted for Graham Bonnet and Doogie White (filling in for the absent Joe Lynn Turner) on "Since You've Been Gone" and "Long Live Rock N Roll". The confetti snowing finale was "Smoke On The Water". If you missed it. the entire show was filmed for DVD (not sure how thrilling the drum battle, in its entirety, will be onscreen).
Quite a stunning day of all-around headlining talent (and still another day to go)!
Saturday, July 12th
Yesterday, there was a back-to-back glam slam, today it's a pair of Heavenly metallers: Rob Rock and Stryper. Before that, however, there was teh Hungarian version of Soulfly, aka Ektomorf, down to the dreadlock guitarist. Plying a similar punk infused nu-metal, they bounced up and down, calling for pits and horns while shouting out songs about violence, injustice and hate. Pretty much the yin, to the yang, that would follow.
Rob Rock started by having to (covertly) read the lyrics off the floor, but by "Judgement Day" he found his stride. Not sure how he would have adapted, had there been the threatened rain storm. "In The Night' off the 2000 Rage Of Creation debut saw him flashing his infectious smile, clapping along as he took the mic stand onto the gangplank and held it outstretched atop the crowd. The title high note was really the first, truly high pitched vocal of the weekend. A fast, fist pumping "Salyer Of Souls" won points, while "Only A Matter Of Time" featured an extended guitar showcase for CJ Grimmark. Like Schenker a day before, Rock visited many different phases of his career, including a crunchy version of Impelliterri's "Father Forgive Them" (off Screaming Symphony) and "I Am A Warrior" (Driver), as well as his own "Millennial Reign" and the closing, double entendre "The Sun Will Rise Again", also a pun given the day's cloudy skies. Guy's voice is impressive and deserves greater recognition.
Stryper were one of the most anticipated bands of the weekend and reports backstage suggest industry people couldn't get enough of the Yellow & Black Attack. Visually, there were more bumble bee colors in the crowd, than onstage, the original foursome (beyond the color coordinated instruments) featured only yellow lacing up their black trousers. Speaking of which, is there a reason a God fearing frontman like Michael Sweet needs a leather reinforced codpiece? Just asking. His brother, drummer Robert, still pulls off all the 80s video moves. No Bibles were distributed, but plenty of guitar picks found their way into the hands of an adoring throng. During "Loud n Clear", Sweet stopped the song and had bassist Oz Fox (the only one minus a "colorful" instrument) explain how the chorus goes. Otherwise, the set was delivered rapid fire, virtually no conversations or breaks between songs, cramming in as many as possible: "Reach Out", "Calling On You" and Kiss' "Shout It Out Loud". OK, I know they did a covers album, but really, in place of another vintage Stryper track? "Marching Into Battle" and "All For One" met warmly, but you know what people were waiting for, it had been more than 40 minutes... "Soldiers Under Command' would have blown the roof off the place (good thing we were outdoors, at least for the next half hour), paired with the obligatory "To Hell With The Devil" finale. The rain had off until both they and Rock had finished, so maybe they are God's chosen bands after all, especially since Obituary were up next.
The Floridian death metallers lost a portion of the fans, reviewers and photographers, running for shelter as lightning flashed in the distance and the skies opened. Worse yet, the VIP tent, although only about 50 yards from the main stage, was rendered deaf by an all-ages marching band performing under the protection of the tarp. Never seen so many metalheads (even with earplugs) scatter, as the brass section renditions of Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It" drowned out the Tardy brothers onstage. Before reemerging, to catch the tail end of their show, intrepid eyewitnesses confirmed they'd heard the Obits' "The End Complete". For the encore, they debuted "Inked In Blood", a new, forthcoming tune, as well as the classic "Slowly We Rot".
Unisonic is an All-star band, but most notable for the re-connecting of former Helloween bandmates Kai Hansen (Gamma Ray singer/guitarist) and frontman Michael Kiske, essentially returning to metal. Opening with their signature track, in brick red leather jacket, Kiske almost toys with the crowd, while newly shaggy haired Hansen, who isn't used to playing second fiddle, prances, pogos and poses, open mouthed, tongue out. Producer/Pink Cream 69 bassist Dennis Ward and Mandy Meyer (ex-Krokus), no slouch pedigree either, are almost after thoughts on the opposite side of the stage. The two guitarists trade licks on "For The Kingdom", while Ward and Hansen add backing vocals to "Star Rider". A steady driving rain develops, forcing Kiske to loose the (totally unnecessary) sunglasses. "March Of Time" fittingly sees the Helloween pair sharing the microphone, while "We Rise" sees Kai rest his guitar on his hip, as he plays it vertically. Paradoxically, during the guitar break, the singer seats himself at the side of the stage (in view of the audience) for a sip of bottle water. As they begin "I Want Out", The singer takes the mic/stand out on the catwalk, to hold over the crowd for the first verse. Hansen then joins him out front, to do leads, as Kiske mimics an orchestra conductor, directing the fans to sing the "whoa whoa" parts. When Kai and Mandy do the twin leads, Kiske again sits, Something of a competition ensues, with the guitarist getting everyone to sing, without him using any vocal cues, just pantomime gestures. Impressed with the response, Kikse applauds and rejoins his bandmates center stage and they depart silently, much to the dismay of everyone onhand. Hansen does come down front to liberally sprinkles a handful of picks to the crowd. Strange ending.
Anthrax, need no introduction, and have been tearing up the concert trail since reuniting with singer Joey Belladonna. However, the setlist, while hit laden, has remained virtually unchanged, festival, tour or otherwise. It was the last night of the tour, but Belladonna was particularly revved up and it wasn't just the can of Red Bull that he inadvertently dumped on photography row, skanking around the stage, on the drum riser, running from one end of the stage to the other and making the house camera men shoot individuals in the crowd, of his choosing. "Among The Living" got things flowing, followed by "Caught In A Mosh". The frontman repeatedly demanded a war dance (ie pit) for "Indians" and cello (yes, the classical instrument, not Bello) and tolling bell introduced "In Teh End", a tune still being used to commemorate the deaths of Dio and Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell. Must be the weekend for ad libs, as two lines of Judas Priest's "The Ripper" precede "Madhouse", which sees the somewhat localized Scott Ian make just his second trip to the opposite side. He finally gets wound up, literally in a clockwise motion, for "I Am The Law" and they end with "Antisocial".
A quick duck into the hall to check out a few minutes of the epic traditional metal sounds from Atlantean Kodex, before returning to the great outdoors. Rob Rock only had the second best smile of the day/weekend, as Joey Tempest, toothpaste advertiser's dream and longstanding Europe frontman, was in the house. Haven't really kept up with the Swedes, but most the of choruses are easy to sing along to, from the opening twin -bill of "Riches to Rags" and "Firebox" through to the predictable, keyboard dominated closer. While guitarist John Norum has put on a few pounds, Tempest looks much the same, minus the curly head of 80s feathered hair. Not that he's bald, mind you. "Superstitious" breaks into a snippet of Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again". They announce it's the 30th anniversary of Wings Of Tomorrow (still my favorite Europe disc, great hard rocker!), offering both "Scream Of Anger" and "Wasted Time", giving Norum a chance to shine. Yes Virginia, there was life before The Final Countdown. Between songs, Tempest gives glimpses of his Deutsche language lessons and tells stories, "Went to see Deep Purple, Whitesnake (damn are you guys old! Me too.) and dreamed of putting a band together. Norum solo leads into "Girl From Lebanon" which makes way for a drum solo. Although they return with "Sign Of The Times", people are polite, but waiting around. There a pounding "Diamond Head", orange lit "Let The Good Times Rock" and Norum going sick on the guitar during, appropriately enough, "The Beast". There's an Iron Maiden "Run To The Hills" teaser, before "Rock The Night", which ends with a few bars of the Scorpions' "Rock You Like A Hurricane". They leave the stage and reappear for the encore, Tempest twirling the mic stand, a trick he apparently stole from all those Whitesnake shows as a kid. He even headbangs as thrusts his fist skyward as "Last Look At Eden" reacquaints him with the crowd, before ending with "The Final Countdown". Fun
Seen Twisted Sister and/or solo Dee Snider many times in Balingen over the last fourteen years. They always get a huge welcome and go down a storm. No exception in 2014. It's a machine gun delivery at the start, nothing simple for guys in/pushing 60. Snider stayed onstage and allowed JJ French to pace back n forth, patrolling the foreground and catwalk during the three-song photo-only barrage: "Stay Hungry", "Shoot Em Down" and the quintessential "You Can't Stop Rock N Roll". To start, the toothy frontman had on a white, floor-length duster, similar to outfits he wore in the 80s, post-MTV video success. His "Shits Happen" tee is undoubtedly a play on the well-worn saying, but a tongue-in-cheek update for a man of advancing years. Both were dispensed with rather quickly and it takes some balls to go publicly topless at 59 years of age, but he's in (relatively) good shape and still bounds around the stage with a seemingly unending supply of energy.
The 30th anniversary of Stay Hungry unearths "Captain Howdy" and "Street Justice", but there's a lot more of that album to be heard this evening. Nice to hear "We're Not Gonna Take It" so early in the set, not reserved for an encore, although the audience obliges, by repeatedly singing the chorus, a cappella, despite the band having finished. After the third time, JJ feigns, "Thank you, good night, sing it for yourself." Snider jibes whether the same thing happened (repeated adoration) for Europe, with "The Final Countdown". French makes a speech decrying the nature of music today, especially programs like American Idol, that make/break an artist in a matter of weeks, giving shout-outs to contemporaries who have been in the biz nearly 40 years, the lead into "The Kids Are Back", then a yellow lit "I Believe In Rock N Roll", which sees a heretofore rare appears by Dee on the catwalk.
Snider offered, "Tomorrow is Sunday, but I don't think most of you will be going to church. Welcome to the church of Twisted Sister. We only believe in rock n roll." To honor one of their patron saints, they cover Motorhead's "Born to Raise Hell" since Lemmy is still recovering and off the summer festival circuit. In a matter of weeks it will be a years since the Wacken incident that first sidelined him. The turn up the lights and have a camera record the audience singing to Lem. Perhaps in a bit of thanks, perhaps drunkenness, someone throws a patch vest, with Twisted on back, onstage. Dee models it briefly and goes to return it, but no claims it, so he decides to keep it on and band goes into "The Fire Still Burns" and "The Price". For "Burn In Hell" Snider is highlighted in crimson.
Only half the show is about music, the other is about the commentary, and while toned down from the early 80s (before they were signed), when both French and especially Snider diatribes were vicious, precious moments still occur. "We played Sweden last night," begins the singer, "there was some kid onstage. That's not a festival, that's child care, so we're happy you're here to see a fucking metal band!" cue "I Wanna Rock", which finished the proper set, but not before the comedic frontman adapted the lyrics, getting a bigger response, then saying, "I wanna fuck. OK, you guys want to fuck more than you want to rock, which is a consensus. If we'd had that chance, there'd be no show." As the song ends, everyone but drummer AJ Pero is on the narrow gangplank, Dee jokes, "Don't knock anyone off the stage. Might break a hip (always the old peoples' worry)."
The clinking of bottles and sing-song taunt echo on the empty stage, prior to the encore kicking off with "Come Out And Play". Afterward they get the crowd to sing Happy Birthday (a day early) to bassist Mark 'The Animal' Mendoza, before blistering the stage with anthem 'S.M.F." Still crazy after all these years!
2015 will mark the 20th Anniversary of the Bang Your Head festival, and as such the concert is expanding to three days outdoors and the usual indoor evening kick-off show. Keep updated on band announcements at the festival's Facebook page or BangYourHead.de. Hope to see you there, rain or shine.
More photos of Grave Digger, Bullet and all the bands from the Warm-up show can be seen here
Additional photos from Day 2, filled with guitar gods, can be seen here
Even more photos, from the third day: Twisted Sister, Europe, Anthrax, Stryper, Unisonic and other, can be seen here