Live Music Round-Up
by Gary Spencer

What’s up gang? It’s been awhile since I’ve covered live music here in Extremities, but recently I’ve gotten around to seeing some really rockin’ shows so I’d rub it in. I lived in New York for five years, and I got spoiled bad because, aside from the one time I had to go to New Jersey to see Slayer, we got all the good metal tours. I still like to get back to the Big Apple every now and then when there’s a good show or two, and luckily I made it to catch two international acts that weren’t playing anywhere near my current locale of Dayton, Ohio.

The first show was Doro live at the Gramercy Theater. For those young ’uns out there who don’t know who Doro is, I’ll tell ya. Doro Pesch is the original queen of heavy metal, a female singer from Germany who cut her teeth as the vocalist for Warlock ’80s. She eventually went solo and continues to kick Teutonic ass. Anyway, Doro came to do a couple of US shows to promote her new CD/DVD retrospective, 25 Years in Rock, that features music from all decades of her storied career. While the Gramercy was only half full, damn near everyone at the show (mostly dudes) were Doro diehards and raged with the commencement of each tune. The setlist was a crowd-pleasing mix of Warlock-era Doro and solo material, with signature songs like “You’re My Family,” “Fight for Rock,” and of course, her classic power balled “Fur Immer.” The audience also got an unexpected treatment of “East Meets West” with Mark Tornillo from Accept joining Pesch for a duet on this classic Warlock number. Chris Caffery from Trans Siberian Orchestra strapped on his trusty ax to belt out some tasty solos on a couple of Warlock songs as well, and for good measure, Doro threw in a tribute to the fallen Ronnie James Dio, performing “Egypt (The Chains Are On)” to the delight of the attendees. Doro saved the best for last, though, the eternal rocker “All We Are.” With its big anthemic chorus, everyone wanted to sing along, but the mic was eventually given to a little kid near the right front of the stage to belt out the lines “All we are, all we are we are, we are all, all we need.” Now that was neat, and it was a damn fun show. Doro’s voice is still in fine form after 25 years, like a female version of that of Klaus Meine (Scorpions). And she looked damn hot with her flowing blonde hair juxtaposed against all-black leather top, studs and spikes—totally old school, and I was totally loving it. Like Jimmie Walker, good times!

The next night, I made my way to Terminal 5 in midtown Manhattan to catch a band who is arguably my favorite symphonic metal act, Within Temptation, all the way from the Netherlands to rock the States. And rock, they did! I struggled to find a decent line of sight to the stage with everyone in the soldout crowd trying to get the best view for when singer Sharon den Adel and the band hit the stage. The crowd roared as the band came out, den Adel looking radiant in tight black leggings, patent leather boots and a flowy white jacket on top. They opened with “Shot in the Dark,” the first song from their newest album, The Unforgiving, and followed in sequence for the next two songs, “In the Middle of the Night” and “Faster.” The audience was hot for every song of the roughly 90-minute set, singing every lyric to every song the band played. The orchestral elements were weaved effectively into the slick sound production, and the musicianship sounded exceptional in the live setting. More importantly, the soaring voice of Sharon den Adel was beautifully in top form, as she hit each note perfectly, just like on their records. The setlist balanced those songs promoting their new album with a plentiful amount of fan favorites from their back catalogue, with “The Howling,” “Ice Queen” and “Mother Earth,” in particular, amping up the crowd as the show progressed. Within Temptation ended with the ballad that closes The Unforgiving, “Stairway to the Sky” and it was an exquisite finale to a wonderful live performance. I had a blast seeing Within Temptation and it’s got to be a candidate for one of the best live shows I’ve seen this year.

Two days later, I made the 11-hour drive from New York back to Dayton. I arrived back in the Gem City around 8pm, sat down for a minute and then asked myself, “Why the hell not?” and hopped back into the vehicle and made the 50-minute drive from Dayton to Newport, Kentucky (across the Ohio River from Cincinnati) to catch the black metal community’s favorite whipping boys Liturgy perform live at the beautiful, historic Southgate House. On this particular night Brooklyn’s Liturgy found themselves playing in the venue’s upstairs parlor room. With its vintage wood flooring and shelves of books, it resembles a reading room with a bar in the back. Liturgy quietly took to their instruments without any fanfare and began to churn out blast beats and lightning fast minor-key melodies for the next 40 or so minutes. I will give the haters this: they do look like a bunch of douchey hipsters from Williamsburg (and yes, I am aware that they are actually from Bushwick). I spent the majority of the set watching skinsman Greg Fox, whose kit was exceptionally stripped-down: one kick, one snare, one floor tom, a hi-hat, one crash and one ride cymbal. When this guy would play, it was amazing to me how little his hand would move to create the furious flurry of blasting that I was hearing. Guitarist Bernard Gann stood with his back to the audience the entire set, bassist Tyler Dusenbury kept his eyes glued to his ax, and up front, guitarist/vocalist Hunter Hunt Hendrix looked like he was about to fall asleep as he barely moved his mouth while vocalizing high pitched howls for which he’s known. The setlist was almost nothing but songs from 2011’s excellent Aesthetica, and while I was hoping for a longer set, it was probably a good thing the show ended early considering how tired I was from traveling all day. Still, another worthy outing by a band that I really wish these hardcore metal elitists would give a real chance and judge solely on the music.

On the first day of October, I hit the road again, this time to Columbus to catch Enslaved and Alcest at Outland, a goth dance club that also puts on concerts here and there. France’s Alcest opened and got a 45-minute set. But due to the epic length of most of their songs, only got five or six numbers in before they finished. Alcest frontman and mastermind Neige, with his curly long hair and pretty boy looks, stuck to a muted vocal style, though for the last song he summoned up a bark that added some grit to their ethereal sound. Musically, the band sounded good, but holy shit were they boring to watch!

A short time later, Enslaved took to the stage. The Norwegian quintet kicked things off with “Ethica Odini,” an upbeat, fist-pumping melodic rocker that set the tone for the rest of their show. Enslaved erected a wall of sound, with keys mixed in with the tremolo-picked guitars, and the drums punchy and crisp. The band’s setlist mixed in a handful of songs from their two latest releases, The Sleeping Gods and Axioma Ethica Odini, with cuts from Vertebrae, Ruun, and Isa and a few oldies. Bassist and lead vocalist Grutle Kjellson frequently joked with the crowd and saluted the revelers with his beer, giving their show an unpredictably festive feel. For the encore, the band launched into an unexpected cover of Led Zeppelin’s “The Immigrant Song.” Nice. I anticipated Enslaved putting on a good show, but I was blown away by how tight and enjoyable they were in the live setting, with nary a dull minute across the duration of the group’s 90-minute set.