Live Report - Manowar - Earthshaker Festival 2005 & Manowar Fan Convention - Live Report
This years Earthshaker Festival sounded like it would be something of a once in a life time event. That is, if you are a Manowar fan. Next to the festival, topped by personal favorites like Manowar, Nightwish, Rhapsody, Masterplan, Primal Fear and Grave Digger, Manowar also held their first three-day "Mega Fan Convention" with lots of promised events and surprises. So of course I just had to be there. I will try to make my report as detailed as possible for all the unfortunate ones who could not make it to the festival (Hello Tommy...)
I got on the train to Copenhagen and along with five other Danes I caught the slightly delayed Festivalbus to the Manowar capital in Germany, Geiselwind. As soon as I entered the top deck of the bus I was met by some Swedish guys singing Manowar songs and I did not hesitate long before joining in and thus the trip had started. At the ferry crossing I managed to find an absolutely huge bottle of Dooleys, so the breakfast was saved for this festival.
I partied with the Swedes all through the night and around around 4 in the morning when I had decided to get some sleep the bus driver apparantly decided to blast the whole "Sign of the Hammer" album through the bus speakers. At this point I had not discovered that each seat had individual speaker volume and mine was turned to the max. So I had an interesting sleep where every 5 minutes I woke up with a shock as a piercing scream or guitar solo came from the speaker. Doh! This kinda set my intellectual level for the entire trip.
In the end I got a couple of hours of sleep before we arrived at the festival grounds. Unfortunately we were a bit late so after finding a camping spot, setting up the tents and getting the festival tickets I arrived at the fan convention hall an hour after they had opened the doors. Standing outside talking to the Swedes I amazingly met Lunah and Tobias, fellow Danes who had just arrived and was looking for a place to set up their tent.
Impressions from the fan convention
Entering the fan convention building, hoping not to have missed anything I went right to the info center in the hallway, where they gave out a complete 16-page program schedule, which detailed all the events happening at the fan convention. Walking into the actual convention hall was like walking into a Manowar shrine. It was a big room with balconies on each side and a stage at the end. Huge Manowar tribute banners lined the balconies and walls, on the left of the entrance stood the four harleys as well as a fifth one, which would be given away to a lucky fan during the convention. That was what I had heard anyway. Several bars were also present and this was where I first headed. After finding out that none of them had Jack D. And Coke I started on my round of the convention hall and looked at the sights.
There was a special theater set up which showed a 40 minute preview of the Hell on Earth Part 4 DVD. It was already running when I arrived, and since it was running several times a day I decided to head back later. At the back was a lot of historical Manowar things, like articles from newspapers and record contracts as well as a wall filled with Manowar fan dedication pictures. There also was a memorial site for Dan Lee, Manowar's head of Security from 1988 till 2005, where fans could write their messages. At the far back was a room where people could get video taped while recording special messages for Manowar. The recording guy tried to convince me and the Swedes to go in, but we decided that it was still too early to perform the entire Achilles song...
A big area was also set aside for a Viking traing program. People could sign up and get educated in the way of the vikings by the Jomsvikings Brotherhood. All through the festival there were lots of viking clad people walking around all over the festival and it gave a special atmosphere. The vikings were also used as security people and I thought they did a great job.
After my first round I spotted a Japanese girl and it turned out to be Yuki, who was the lucky winner of our Convention and festival ticket competition a couple of months ago. We had already arranged to meet later so since I was headed for the nearby McDonals to get some food we just said a quick hello and decided to hook up later.
The Opening Ceremony
At a quater to 12 I was back at the convention area and noticed a lot of people gathered around the stage. Amazingly I had missed that the opening ceremony was about to happen so I considered myself extremely lucky as I got a spot on the left side of the stage.
Suddenly the lights dimmed and as songs from Manowar's most epic and warrior-like album (Intro Glory Ride) blasted from the speakers a whole army of vikings began to do battle on the stage. Sparks were flying when the swords collided and the wooden shields were slowly being smashed to bits. The viking demonstration lasted about 40 minutes and the best bits included a nicely synchronised battle to the sounds of March For Revenge as the crowd sang along, even including the "Fallen Brother..." bit, a guy being lashed with a burning whip and The Warriors Prayer spoken by everyone. Also the part where four girls got on stage to pick out their warrior who then did battle for the girls was pretty fun. I thought this was a different and fitting way to open the convention.
At the end of the Viking display they lined up at the back of the stage and our host, Marjo Verdooren came on stage and welcomed everyone. She then started introducing all the special guests of the convention and they came on stage one at a time to big applause. Too many to mention here. In the end Scott, Karl, Eric and Joey joined us and Joey made a welcoming speech to all the people gathered there, which was actually quite humble by Joey standards. Basically we were told to have a great fucking time and as Joey asked us what we would do we all responded the obvious "Rock, Drink and Fuck!". You can take a wild guess at which of these I focused on... Anyway, I definitely felt welcome and the special atmosphere that was created here at the opening ceremony was kept through the three days. It was a mutual feeling of respect and celebration of Manowar and it was shared among everyone I met.
Right after the opening ceremony I met Lunah and Tobias and we decided to head back to camp to talk and get a few beers before the meet and greets started a little past 3 pm.
When I got back it amazingly seemed like the bars had heard my Jack D. complaint since it was now possible to buy this drink! Top score for that! Of course I proceeded to celebrate by buying a double drink in a beer glass.
Everyone had gotten a number when we entered the convention hall and these numbers determined what activity we could be part of. Looking at the program I saw a meet and greet with Karl Logan and Donnie Hamzik coming up, so I naturally headed upstairs, where I met the fellow Danes from the bus. Suddenly Karl walks by and sits down at the table right next to me. He was very relaxed and took time to talk to everyone which was cool.
Thursday was basically one big blur of cool things happening. After the meet and greet I ran into a guy who had travelled all the way from Australia (Hey Aston!). He even knew Neil Johnson who I hoped to run into later so I could talk about the DVD's. There were also several lotteries going on where you could win all sort of things. I was pretty psyched when I won a picture session with the band and all the old members. Coolness!
Later in the evening all fan convention people were invited to watch Manowar's soundcheck and while we waited for that there was plenty of time to hit the bar, and party with the other people there.
Manowar songs were blasting from the speakers in the convention hall all through the day, every day. Different albums each day, but today, especially Into Glory ride was a favorite. It was quite an experience to be there with so many crazy fans and we partied in front of the stage for some time. I especially remember vividly when Gates of Valhalla was played... When March For Revenge came on later in the evening it was chaos and luckily I was not the only one down on my knees for this one. People were headbanging all over the place and waving their flags. I remember getting hold of the Swedish flag at one point and that was definietly not good publicity for that country...
The Joey beer drinking contest
Suddenly it was time for the "Joey beer drinking" contest, which turned out to be great fun, especially for the guys. Several guys and two girls were competing. Personally I liked the style of the viking guy clad in full sheepskin. But the prize went to the German girl who stepped on to the stage, quickly stripped off her Manowar shirt to reveal nothing but a nice firm body beneath and then emptied a horn of ale all over her. Then she jumped around a little to the delight of pretty much every guy there. That was apparantly what it took to convince the judges and she won the whole thing. This girl later ran onto the stage again and started to strip off her pants before she was carried away by an unnamed guy.
Marjo announced that the soundcheck was not ready yet so they started setting up tables for the Manowar quiz but right in the end we were told to head to the soundcheck right away. I and a couple of the Swedes sang Manowar songs all the way to the festival grounds but I was a little disappointed that not many others joined us. Probably because we were singing so great... Not.
The soundcheck seemed to be almost over when we arrived but we got a taste of what to expect as the the band played Herz Aus Stahl. After the sound check I walked around a little and bumped into some new friends and one old (Hail Eric, Bernd & Barbara!), who I proceeded to party with at one of the many bars in the Event hall. Very cool to meet some fellow Savatage fans as well. Unfortunately after drinking all day and only two hours of sleep on the bus before arriving I have severe memory burns after the soundcheck. Thus I missed both Powergod and Holy Hell since I just couldn't tear myself away from the good company at the bar. We were singing Savatage songs long into the night. I do remember that Holy Hell played a cover version of Nightwish's Phantom of the Opera but they unjustly never got more than a glance from me. I think it was around 4 when I entered my tent on the hill to get some sleep. Blowing up my new air mattress proved to be too big an effort to me and so I just laid down on the ground and fell asleep promptly. Since my tent was placed on a hill I slowly rolled down in the end of the tent during the night and had to claw my way back several times. Not very smart.
I awoke about 4 hours later feeling surprisingly good so after a small breakfast I headed down to the fan convention hall again where I met Lunah and Tobias on the way. They had both disappeared the night before and their stories made for lots of teasing later. It was raining pretty much all day this day.
The Arm Wrestling contest
I had signed up for the Arm wrestling competition which was about to start at a quater to 11. For some reason my right arm was really hurting this day and I did not remember if I had been practicing the night before or if I had just been waving the Swedish flag too wildly... Anyway the competition was delayed so I had time to grab a beer to calm my nerves. As I got on stage I stood next to this big Russian guy and it turned out that he was my first competitor. So we sit down at the table, I hold his hand (in a tight grip of death, sort of), Marjo counts down 3... 2... 1 and Wham! My hand is smashed into the table. Foink! I think I lasted for half a second. Yeah great. It was fun all the same. On my way down I got a cool Manowar hat to wear for those long winter nights.
After this terrible display of power I walked around for a while and sucked in the atmosphere (and beer) at one point I asked a guy setting up a camera close to the stage if something special was going to happen and before I knew it I had a microphone in my hand and was asked to record a message to Manowar right there. I'm sure that I managed to completely embarass myself and I have now suppressed that event completely from memory. After this I stumbled back to the bar for another beer.
(Update: Amazingly, I am part of Manowar's "The Absolute Power" DVD where I appear several times and finish off the "Words of the Immortals" section by proclaiming the immortal line: "Ears will bleed, heads will explode, fire will burn from the stage.... It will be Hell on Earth". It really has to be seen. I also appear several times in the documentary on the Sons of Odin EP.)
Achilles, Agony and Ecstasy in 8 parts...
Today the albums that were playing across the sound system were Kings Of Metal and The Triumph of Steel. As called from the sky I suddenly heard the opening moments of Achilles, Agony and Ecstasy blasting across the hall. Of course I jumped on to the floor and began singing. A German Brother of Metal joined me and we proceeded to sing, headbang and jump through all 28 minutes of this song. That was just far out and definitely a highlight of the festival for me (Probably not for anyone alse). I will just say Hail Benno(War)!, we must do this again someday.
I had been lucky enough to win a picture session with the whole band the day before and this was set to take place at 5 in the afternoon. I was hoping that I would be able to run straight to the Grave Digger concert afterwards. Unfortunately the picture session kept drawing out and finally after an hour of waiting, we were told that it was not going to happen today but tomorrow instead. Unfortunately all the waiting around meant that I had missed Grave Digger's concert. Damn!
The Interview session with band and guests
Instead I watched as all present and earlier band members got on stage to do an interview session where Marjo asked the band questions, which people had sent in from all over the world. Several interesting issues came up, among them why Manowar hasn't played the UK for so long. Joey told us that no promoter over there could give them what they wanted and they didn't want to put on an inferior show for the fans. He also told a story of how he had begun playing bass. It was a good session, but way too short. But I of course wanted it to go on all evening. My favorite part was when Eric was asked:
"What's your first thought in the morning and your last thought at night?"
His answer was:
"Morning - What was her name?"
"Night - Why does it matter?"
Miss Manowar contest
Now it was instead time for the Miss Manowar contest. 5 girls were attending, among them Yuki, our competition winner and my newfound sister of Metal. I was of course rooting for her and amazingly she won the whole thing in the end, which was very cool. Most of the girls were fondling their breasts at some point but Yuki won the contest without exploiting to such easy tricks. She did give the best answers to the questions everyone was asked and had taken the trip all the way from Japan, so that was in her favor. Ok, so there was actually a serious lack of titty-action at the Miss Manowar contest and some of the guys I talked to later were a little disappointed... The beer drinking contest actually had more skin than this. The winner was set to go on stage with Manowar and when I talked to Yuki later she was very excited.
I had apparantly not looked properly in my convention program because I went to see Rhapsody right as the "Longest Eric Scream" contest was about to begin. I later found out that Eric Adams had actually attended and given some very funny singing lessons. Damn why did I miss that! I know I could use some singing lessons myself...
Ah well, I didn't know at the time as I was happily charging through the crowd on my imaginary green dragon to the Main stage where Rhapsody were about to perform their songs of long forgotten glory. I parked in the photo pit for the first three songs and as the show started the first disappointment set in. Christopher Lee would not be there" The big video screen played a message from Mr. Lee (floating head) where he said that he was sorry but he could not be there as he was in the middle of filming a movie. What the fuck!!!?? That was a seriously bad excuse. When you announce a live show so far in advance with a special guest like Christopher Lee you gotta know that he is not available sooner than this! Haven't anybody heard about signing a friggin' contract??? They announced his presence in a press release in February, so I think the way his absense was explained wasn't very respectful to the fans.
Anyway onto the concert...
The Christopher Lee intro ended with him saying "I introduce to you, 5 immortal warriors..." and then the crowd went mad! The band appeared on stage as they blasted into Unholy Warcry, complete with spoken interludes. Forgive me, but the spoken interludes do not work very well live. There were several places during the show where these were severely out of place. In my opinion the songs don't actually have to be exactly as on the record when played live. The pauses during the long narration sequences seemed out of place more often than not.
Wisdom of the kings was next and it was apparant that the band was better than the last few times I have seen them. They seemed happy and excited and interacted very well together. A flute player was brought on for several songs and the stage set gave a pretty good atmosphere. Unfortunately the atmosphere was severely hampered by the video screen, but I will get back to that.
After the powerful Land of Immortals I was very surprised when I heard the sounds of a dragon with a serious speech impediment coming from the speakers. This could only mean Erian's Mystical Rhymes, which is one of my favorites from the new album. Indeed the band managed to perform the entire song with great conviction but then they lost all respect in the end when they let the tape play the end of the song and we were treated to the absolutely horrible narration of Toby... Then they didn't even follow it with The Last Angel's Call and then what is the point of the narration??? Doing stuff like this makes it very hard to take the band serious. But the performance of the actual song was flawless and really cool to experience.
After a short bass solo the drum set of Alex Holzwarth began rising in the air as he gave a short drum solo. Pretty cool. Dawn of Victory was next and the crowd went mad again as did I. Now for the low point of the show. The band "performed" The Magic of the Wizard's Dream in the new single version. Fabio sang a duet with a video screen version of Christopher Lee (Mr. Floating head) as well as a second Fabio who was apparantly played back from tape. This part of the concert really killed it for me, especially since I am a huge Rhapsody fan. It just hurt to hear and see something like this, which was in every sense amateurish and did not work. It was just a true Spinal Tap moment for me.
Anyway, the band slowly climbed back on their shattered throne with Nightfall on the Grey Mountains and Holy Thunderforce. They rebuilt and reclaimed it with a seriously great version of The March of the Swordmaster. Closing off a good concert was the alltogether fantastic Emerald Sword where everyone spent the last of their energy.
Now that I'm in a critical mood I will get back to the video screen which ruined much of the atmosphere throughout the show by flying back and forth on a seriously lacking map of The Enchanted Lands. I found it really hard to concentrate when the huge map on the screen behind the band suddenly pans across "The Desert of Varg" or "The Sea of Trolls"... Maybe it was the bad video screen but the "Forest of Unicorns" looked like a barren desert. A suggestion would also be to change the actual font since it was not very fantasy-like and way too big... If you wan't to do stuff like this then do it right.
While it had its ups and downs overall this was the best Rhapsody concert I have experienced yet. The band played a very cool selection of songs, several which I had not expected. There are still many ways to improve their live show, but I am sure that I will be back in the future to see how they develop. They still have a long way to go before they can live up to their awe inspiring albums.
The Manowar Battle bag
After Rhapsody it was time for an event which I had been looking forward to for a long time. It was time to get my hands on the Manowar Battle Bag, which was free for all Fan convention ticket holders. We had all been speculating what this Manowar Battle Bag would contain and everything from swords to a horn of beer had been sugested at some point. I had imagined the bag to be kind of a sports bag which I could pack stuff into and bring to festivals. So you can probably imagine my initial disappointment as the actual Battle Bag turned out to be a normal plastic bag.... This bag would never even survive The Dawn Of a Battle... Anyway, inside was a selection of merchandise. Sticker, Manowar Single, Lighter and best of all a fan convention t-shirt. Ok, so the Battle Bag of plastic wasn't what I thought it would be, what I was really happy about was the fan convention t-shirt which I'm sure will be used in the future.
I got back to the main stage in time to see the best Nightwish concert I have ever seen. The band was in a great mood and Tarja really beamed of confidence tonight. Three great outfits, a lot of headbanging and wonderful singing. What more could you want from the Nighwish leading lady?
The band naturally launched into Dark Chest of Wonders from the new album and the concert was off to a flying start. I was busy taking photos for the first three songs, but amazingly we were all allowed to stay in the photo pit for the entire concert. It was cool to stand so close to the band and notice all the little details and interaction between the members. Most of these I have unfortunately forgotten due to a self inflicted state of euphoria (Jack D.) My personal highlights of the show included Nemo which came of very powerful, Slaying the Dreamer which had a great dose of Tarja-headbanging and the beautiful Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan where she spellbound the crowd completely. Also looking at the always smiling Emppu, who does a lot of small tricks while playing was a lot of fun. I especially like the way he played his guitar with a beer at one point.
The band did a cover of Pink floyd's High Hopes and I didn't think that worked too well. The Kinslayer and Wishmaster were high points as well and when the band ended with Nemo a huge explosion occured and suddenly the air was filled with confetti which streamed down on the audience for a few minutes. This looked great!
It was not over yet and the band came back and gave us an explosive version of Wish I had an angel.
A great element of the show was the staggering amount of pyros which went off all the time. It was very impressive to watch.
This was a much better concert than when I saw them live in Denmark half a year ago. The band seemed more alive and happy.
After Nightwish I entered the Event hall where I managed to locate Eric and Barbara again and saw the beginning of the Cage show, which was as impressive as the muscles on the lead guitarist are big. Very cool band which I must check out, but we were all just so damn tired that we went for the camping grounds halfway through the set.
Another night of sleep was just what I needed to get ready for the biggest day of the festival. I got up at 11 and had timed it just so I could catch After Forever. But to my big surprise it turned out that the organisers had moved the schedule for all the bands back 30 minutes. That meant that as I entered the festival grounds After Forever was finishing their set... That was just a huge shame and I wish the organisers had done a better job of informing people of the schedule change. I even met Manowar fans shortly before the show was about to start who did not know that Manowar was going on half an hour earlier than planned! Bad bad organisation.
I spent most of the afternoon and evening looking for people I knew. That was not successful so I lay down in the grass to keep my energy intact for the Manowar show later in the evening. Back at the fan convention hall I got my picture taken on one of the harleys and since I looked like a 3-year old kid on christmas eve that picture will never see the light of day. It was fun anyhow.
I somehow missed Primal Fear as well due to the schedule change but I made it to the front of the stage to see Masterplan and I never regretted that. All the times I have seen Masterplan they have played a solid and entertaining show and today was no different. Jorn Lande's voice was just fantastic. He commanded the stage with his powerful voice and seemingly effortless singing. Opening the show was Crimson Rider closely followed by Crystal Night and Wounds from the new album. My personal favorite Kind Hearted Light was not forgotten either. Other favorites included Back for My Life, Heroes (without Michael Kiske) and Enlighten Me. We also got great versions of Soulburn, Crawling From Hell and one more song from the new album which I just can't remember. It was overall a very satisfying concert.
Back at the Fan convention hall it was time for the picture session with all the members of the band. I think about 40 people had won this. It was not a picture of just me and the band as I had dreamed. Instead we had to run to the stage 5 people at a time and get the picture and run down again to let the next group up. I never found out how to get the picture but I heard it would be available online at some point. It was pretty hectic but I did manage to say Hi and shake hands with both Eric and Scott who was smiling and enjoying themselves.
At around 6 in the evening the fan covention was ending and a short ending ceremony was held where the band members came on stage and especially Marjo was hailed for doing a great job organising everything.
For me the fan convention was a successful event, mostly because of meeting so many cool people. It was a great undertaking and I hail all those who spent their free time organising it. Especially Marjo, who was a great host and did a good job of working out all the issues. Organisation-wise there was definitely room for improvement, but nothing is perfect the first time I guess. The schedule seemed to slip on several occasions and since the numbers on your wrist band decided which events you could participate in it was sometimes frustrating that you could not go to an event which you really wanted to go to. I never found out what happened to the quiz which I had also signed up for, but that might be my own mistake. There were other slight disappointments but never mind those now. I certainly hope that this is not the last Manowar fan convention, but maybe a ticket just shouldn't be so expensive the next time. Anyhow, I will be there next time as well.
I went back to the festival grounds and soon it was time for the main event...
This was it. Everything had built up to this moment. Manowar would take the stage in mere minutes and I was right there at the left side, waiting to run into the photo pit to get a good spot for pictures. Finally we were given a green light and I got a spot on the right side of the stage. All the fans were chanting like mad and an enormous roar came from behind me as an impressive light rig with the Manowar symbols started to move down from the sky.
Soon the well known introduction from Orson Welles set the stage for an event that the world will never forget. Joey, Karl, Scott and Eric were suddenly on the stage and Manowar blew the concert off to a solid start. Since photographers were only given one song to shoot I watched this song through the lens of a camera and of course I was overwhelmed, when I by the end of the song removed my camera and watched in awe as Eric Adams stood right in front of me screaming "Strike while the iron is hot..." Wow... Yes, my personal favorite Brothers of Metal was next. Unfortunately the security people signalled that it was time to get the hell out of the photo pit. On my way out I walked past the left set of speakers and moving past them so close was a pretty scary experience in itself. It was as if walking into a thunderstorm. Blasts of wind hit my face, the ground was shaking and my ears screamed. I felt the pressure of 120+db that night and I can tell you it is not something you experience every day.
I quickly got into the crowd where I found the perfect spot right in the middle of the stage in row 20 or thereabouts. From here I felt it was the ultimate place to enjoy the show. Unfortunately one thing kept my enjoyment level at a controllable level for at least the first part of the show. It was the sound... The sound was awful and nowhere in the vincinity of being close to something Manowar deserved. The bass and drum sound was so loud and booming that it completely overshadowed both Eric's voice and Karl's guitar. It was such a fucking shame that I felt like falling to my knees and start crying. The show had every sign of the perfect show but the sound pretty much ruined that chance for me. From my past two Manowar concerts I knew how amazing they could sound and this was nowhere near it.
I had serious doubts if my ear drums could stand the booming bass but I decided to stand my ground and pray that the sound guys would fix it during the show. So with my ear plugs pushed all the way into my brain I proceeded to sing and jump through the end of Brothers of Metal. Call to Arms was next and while there wasn't quite room to fall to my knees I raised my hands high and sang this hymn into the ear of the guy standing next to me. He did not notice... This is one song which should be part of every Manowar show.
Karl Logan got the first solo spot of the evening as he showed his amazing skill while playing My Spirit Lives on. Everyone was jumping along to Kings of Metal and it was quite overwhelming to hear 20.000 people scream "Manowar Kill!". The band were in great shape. Eric was always walking around with a smile on his face and the big video screen on the stage showed some cool closeups from time to time.
Three old classics were next with Sign of the Hammer, Blood of my Enemies and Kill With Power. The band still puts on a great show with Karl suddenly falling on his back while playing guitar and Joey running across the stage, jumping over him and right after Karl gets back on his feet without missing a note. Eric Adam's voice sounded awesome and I find it amazing that he has been screaming like this for more than 20 years and still holds up so well. He still does the high pitched screams without problems and he sings the slower more emotional parts with an amazingly full voice. He is simply a vocal god.
After Kill with Power everyone but Joey left the stage and it was time for his bass solo. Unfortunately his bass sounded like it had a cold. Joey thought so too as he stopped playing and apologized to everyone for the bad sound and told the sound guys to fix his fucking bass sound. He told us that they would have to move some things around in the show and now it was instead time for one of the special moments.
A huge piano was rolled on to the stage and set expectations for things to come. But right now two old members of the band were introduced and invited to take their place on the stage. I watched in awe as a second drum kit slowly rose on the left side of the stage and behind it was Rhino, the amazing drummer from The Triumph of Steel album (He is the drummer of Holy Hell now). David Shankle entered the stage from the right with a guitar strapped on and after much cheering the 1992 version of Manowar went right into Metal Warriors. It is moments like these you have to treasure. Very, very cool. So thought everyone else as we all shouted along to this Manowar-defining hymn.
I thought that this would be the perfect opportunity for the band to play all 8 parts of Achilles, Agony and Ecstasy, especially since the band had gotten 30 minutes extra to play, making for a full 3 hour show. Well, the band showed that they haven't forgotten the song as they played a frenzied version of The Glory Of Achilles, which was immensely cool. Eric's screams and especially David Shankle's guitar playing was absolutely fantastic here. So my dream still lives on...
Then Manowar took us back with them, a long way in time as Joey introduced the first Manowar drummer, Donnie Hamzik. He rose from the right side of the stage on a third drum kit! Ross the Boss got the biggest cheer as he entered the stage with his guitar. He started playing right away and it was so cool to hear his wild style again. As he began on the well known opening riff to Metal Daze there was a roar of recognition and Eric again proved that his voice is as strong as it has always been. The way he sings "I feel the power, rolling off the stage" always gives me the chills and it was no different this night.
A press release from February had proclaimed that "legendary actor Mr. Christopher Lee will narrate the original parts recorded by Orson Welles in the songs Dark Avenger and Defender live on stage with Manowar". But that didn't happen. Mr. Lee never showed up and Manowar never explained why. I think that was very unrespectful to the fans. Defender wasn't even played! The least they could do was to give an explanation. And no I don't think the video before the Rhapsody show was a proper explanation. Did Christopher Lee chicken out in the end? But bitching aside we still got a phenomenal version of Dark Avenger with the original narration by Orson Welles and a cool guitar solo by Ross. After Dark Avenger everyone but Joey left the stage while he gave away a lifetime achievement award.
The band got back and started on a high octane version of Outlaw. Halfway through the first verse Joey pulled the plug and told the audience that the drum sound was shit and they would not play until it was fixed. So we waited 10 minutes while people worked on the sound, guided by Joey. The band started on Outlaw for a second time but it was still not good. I'm not sure if Joey gave up or not but on the third try the band went through the whole song and while the sound was slowly improving the quality was still nowhere near a satisfying level and this kept me from going all out bananas during the show.
Outlaw was pretty cool, but as the band started on the next song I got really happy and jumped high in the air. I was sure they were playing The Power and I started to sing along loudly, but to my surprise Eric began singing the words of House of Death... I don't know what happened there but I am sure that they started on The Power or was that just me? Anyway we got a cool version of House of Death without the distorted vocals in the middle part. Eric's clear singing really sounded glorious in this part and I think it works better without the effects.
After this there was another pause in the show as Joey called the organiser of the festival and his two daugthers on the stage to present them another award. He ended up drinking a beer Joey-style.
As Joey began introducing Herz Aus Stahl the huge curtains, which were hanging from each side of the stage fell to the ground and revealed a huge orchestra and choir in three stories. It looked absolutely overwhelming. The band had decided to do the German version of Heart of Steel, which I personally think was a mistake since so many people from all over the world had come to see this show. From where I stood it sounded like half the audience was singing the English version and the other half was singing the German version. Very interesting stereo effect to say the least. Anyway Eric really sang this song beautifully and it was seriously overwhelming to watch the huge orchestra and choir, which came from the Czech Republic. Unfortunately when the drums entered the sound they proceeded to drown out all the small details and that was a damn shame.
After Herz Aus Stahl Joey gave a lenghthy speech about Richard Wagner's grandson who had denied to accept an award on behalf of the Godfather of Heavy Metal, Richard Wagner. He didn't want anything to do with the band. Joey then spent 5 minutes along with the audience to tell him to basically go fuck himself and Joey ended up wiping his ass with the reply letter which had been sent to Manowar and was shown on the "piece of shit" video screen. He showed us the award and told us that it would be kept at the Magic Circle Music headquaters. The band had planned a tribute to Richard Wagner with the orchestra and so the orchestra played a segment of Lohengrin while the video screen showed Manowar's tribute to Richard Wagner. A montage of video clips and images. A very nice tribute but the orchestra sound was a bit too low. While Joey is a true speaker and holds the audience in his palm, I still felt that this part of the show became dangerously close to crumbling due to the over the top presentation.
After the tribute it was time for another highlight as Joey introduced the new single King of Kings. There was a big roar in the end when he said "And now we are going to play it live!". King of Kings is a very symphonic song and the orchestra played alone for the opening moments when suddenly a deep voice began a narration. My first thought was "Ah hello Mr. Lee!" and then "Is this Rhapsody?". In the end Eric's clear voice sliced through it all and by this point I thought "Wow, this sounds amazing!". An explosion of double bass drums and heavy guitar riffs soon filled the air. Eric's deep voice gave the song a majestic feel and the chorus sounded like it would be another ear hanger. A slow middle part with Mr. Lee again and Eric's amazing singing made the whole thing sound very impressive.
Now the show seemed to be on a roll and as Scott kicked into the opening beat of Warriors of the World everyone around me went nuts. Everyone had their hands in the air and through the song the air was filled by flags from all countries. I'm sure this will look absolutely amazing when you see it on Hell on Earth Part V. I got chills from looking at the big video screen and of course proceeded to hold my hands high and sing as loud as I could. Being a Manowar fan was a proud moment during this song and it was a definite highlight of the show.
The band left the stage only to return one by one, riding their Harleys on to the stage with a couple of girls on the back and I was surprised to see that Yuki, the winner of the Miss Manowar contest was not among them. I wonder what happened there. Also the guy who had won the chance to be on the stage to play guitar with the band never appeared either. Joey had also told us earlier in the show that he would tell us how to win the Harley they would give away and he never came back to that either. Just a few things that made me wonder what was going on.
Hail & Kill was a perfect opportunity to utilize the huge choir, but unfortunately they were once again drowned out by the monstrous bass and drum sound. Still it was so cool to hear the song live and everyone sang along to the slow part and screamed along to the chorus.
Nearing the end of the show we got a cool version of Black Wind Fire And Steel, where it became obvious that Joey's bass problems had still not been solved.
After this the speakers began playing the outro, The Crown And The Ring and I was left with sort of mixed feelings. It could not be over yet, something was missing. Sure enough, all of a sudden the music cuts out and Joey walks back on stage asking us if we want more. A resounding roar of approval came from the crowd and so began what is without a doubt my favorite part of any live concert I have ever been to.
Joey, Eric, Karl, David and Ross came on stage all wearing their instruments. Meanwhile all three drum kits were rising in the air to reveal Donnie, Scott and Rhino behind them. As the opening chords of Battle Hymn were played the whole crowd blew up in cheers. Yes, Manowar pulled a double Iron Maiden this night, and they did it right! They played Battle Hymn with three guitarists and three drummer all playing AT THE SAME TIME! I cannot succesfully describe how powerful this sound was. The whole experience of living through this song really defies words. It was 20 minutes of pure chills. You had to be there to feel the glory and satisfaction everyone felt. As the drums slowly rose, leading into the first guitar riff there was an incredible amount of power pulsating from the stage. It was one of these moments you just knew would never ever happen again and as I stood there all signs of fatigue vanished from my body. I was awake and jumping up and down and headbanging with a big smile on my face while singing along.
Eric's singing was fantastic and after the slow part everyone got their solo spot. First it was Ross The Boss and Donnie Hamzik who played a lengthy solo and then David Shankle took over with Rhino on drums. Then Karl Logan and Scott cleaned up and in the ending section all three drummers were playing together again. It was pure mayhem and at this point I couldn't do anything but stand there smiling and enjoying every moment. During the crazy ending part Scott stood up and started tearing down his drum kit. The big guy was smashing his drum set with one of his cymbals. While smashing his drum set one of the other cymbals fell down to the stage and almost hit Eric on the head. It looked crazy. A true Manowar moment.
This whole song lasted for more than 20 minutes and afterwards I was filled with a feeling of calm and satisfaction. I was just happy that the band had pulled out a real surprise at the end. Something special like this was what I had expected and I almost thought that I would leave disappointed. Well, I didn't!
The whole audience seemed to be in a trance and wouldn't leave. We proceeded to sing loudly the whole The Crown And The Ring before everyone started to move towards the exits. I think it was really a missed opportunity that the band didn't play this song live for the first time. The whole orchestra and choir was there so what else do you need?
Ok, so looking back at the Manowar show overall it was not perfect and had a very uneven flow. All the speeches, awards and constant interruptions gave the show a fragmented feel. The whole show was filmed for DVD so that is probably the explanation for all the things that happened, but I would always prefer a few more songs compared to a speech. The music of Manowar speaks for itself and that is all I need.
In the last songs I noticed a lot of effects on Eric's voice, which in my opinion did not work successfully, but the one overshadowing thing that was incredibly sad about the show was the bad sound. Only during Battle Hymn had it been successfully cleared up. It was a crying shame and I don't even want to think about how euphoric this show would have been if the sound had been perfect. In spite of these things this was still a show that I will never forget. There were so many unique highlights that I will always remember as something special. And that goes for both the show and the fan convention. It was three glorious days.
Now I am back home and I miss the Manowar bar!
Manowar's set list (as I remember it)
Brothers of metal
Call to arms
My spirit lives on
Kings of metal
Sign of the hammer
Blood of my enemies
Kill with power
Metal warriors (with Rhino and David Shankle)
Glory of Achilles (with Rhino and David Shankle)
Metal daze (with Ross the Boss and Donnie Hamzik)
Dark avenger (with Ross the Boss and Donnie Hamzik)
House of death
Speech - Award ceremony
Herz aus stahl
Richard Wagner tribute
King of Kings
Warriors of the world united
Hail and Kill
Black wind fire and steel
I don't know where the years have gone
Memories can only last so long
Like faded photographs, forgotten songs
And the things I never knew
When the skin is thin, the heart shows through
Please believe me what I tell you is true