By Mark Gromen
While Northeast Ohio is renown for ethnic neighborhoods and their cuisine, the attendance at the Agora was decidedly one-sided. Hell, there were faces in the crowd I remember going to shows with 30 years ago! The Midwest has always been a stronghold for live music and metal in particular. Perhaps it was a Sunday night, or the trio of local bands before the touring package, somehow in Cleveland there was a disconnect between the under 25 crowd and Primal Fear. After the aforementioned local acts (including Wretch) and then tour mates Arctic Flame, it was finally time for the German Commandos, pretty late for those with work/school the next morning.
Paradoxically, "Final Embrace" kicked things off, the band moving around the small, but ample Agora stage from the get-go. Behind a curtain, there's space to one side where they could "hide" from the crowd, if necessary, but the Germans weren't into playing games. Situated in a sunken cement bowl, some fans could stand in the back, looking down on the floor and stage. Despite the potential for less than friendly acoustics, the sound was clear and powerful throughout. Guitarist Alex Beyrodt, in particular, was more active than witnessed in NYC, less than a week earlier. "Alive & On Fire", followed by "Delivering The Black" kept the tempo upbeat, leading to the first break.
Clearly in a good mood, frontman Ralf Scheepers greeted the crowd warmly, prior to "Nuclear Fire", another high intensity number that saw Beyrodt and bassist Matt Sinner playing off one another. As it ended,it received one of the biggest ovations of the evening. Hands clapped along to the prerecorded orchestral intro to 'Seven Seal', the first song that gave the guys a chance to catch their breath. Blue lights greeted "One Night In December', where Tom Naumann toyed with his left-handed guitar, in various positions and poses. "Angel In Black", the song I walked onstage and preempted Primal Fear from playing as an encore in Cleveland, a decade ago at the second BW&BK 6-Pack Weekend, enlivened things once again, Beyrodt headbanging madly.
"When Death Comes Knocking" was followed by a supercharged "Chainbreaker", all four across the front of the stage together. "Fighting The Darkness" sees Sinner take a large portion of the backing vocals, filling in for the female accompanied recorded soundtrack. During "The Darkness" reprise, as the band played, Scheepers ducked offstage, ultimately reappearing and walking unnoticed/unprovoked through the audience, to the backstage area. "Bad Guys Wear Black" and a screaming rendition of "Metal Is Forever" (complete with piercing highs, courtesy of Scheepers) rounded out the proper set.
Didn't take long for a return, offering "Unbreakable 2" and "Running In The Dust" as an encore. The printed setlist has a second option, which has apparently yet to be aired Stateside, "King For A Day", also something of a surprise in the Say Goodnight slot. Like the high end automobiles produced in their country, Primal Fear are a smooth running machine that (apparently) not everyone can afford to appreciate. Don't be one of those left out. The tour continues for another three weeks.
More photos from Cleveland can be seen here