Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Metal Masters

The Metal Masters Tour Featuring:
Judas Priest / Heaven And Hell / Motörhead / Testament

Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mt. View, CA

August 31, 2008

THE concert lineup of the year, and if you weren't there you're kinda, like, a poser. When I was a teenage Metalhead in the early-80's, this was the type of bill I could only read about happening in a muddy field somewhere in Europe.. A show like this:

Port Vale Football Stadium, England
August 1, 1981

Shows like this never happened in America then because the U.S. was not Metal. Trivia: Ironically, Ozzy replaced the Dio-fronted Black Sabbath at Port Vale.

Fast forward to the 21st Century: Shoreline was the final stop of the 16-date Metal Masters North American Tour.. After picking up my pass at Will Call, who should I run into but The Legend that is Steve Von Till of Neurosis!! Since he now lives out of the area, I hadn't seen Steve in years so it was really cool to chat with him and to catch up on the latest regarding standardized test scores for Grade Schools..

Backstage Lemmy strode around like the badass Lord of The Manor that he is, and it was funny watching people's reaction as he walked past them.. EVERYONE'S head turned to watch him. My favorite Lemmy moment was when he sat down next to someone holding a puppy and Lemmy pet the baby dog and gave it attention. LEMMY AND A PUPPY!!? I almost shit myself it was so cute..

Local boys Testament should be named the Comeback Heroes of 2008; their new album (the band's 1st with original Guitar God Alex Skolnick in 18 years!) hits on all cylinders and onstage they live up to the comeback as well. Also, Chuck Billy beat cancer! In other words, he defeated DEATH and he still looks and sounds great.. AND he's still the nicest guy in person.. There is NO ONE more Metal than him!

To top it off, as an end of the tour prank, Motörhead's Phil Campbell rode a horse onstage while wearing a blue wig, Micky Dee led the horse wearing a sombrero and blanket, and Lemmy dressed as a sheik followed behind with a broom. Where the hell did they get a horse!? I didn't see it backstage prior to their set. "Over The Wall!"

Motörhead goofs with Testament
(Pic by Umlaut)

The backstage area was jam packed with a veritable Who's Who of Old School Bay Area Metal scenesters and Umlaut Nation members.. I'm not even going to try and name check everyone because I know I'd leave someone out (sorry).. I'm not gonna lie: It was a great scene in a "The drink will flow and blood will spill and if the boys wanna fight you'd better let 'em.." way. Nice.. Also, I have to give myself bonus points for wearing a High On Fire Blessed Black Wings shirt and Matt Pike noticing it when I said "Hi" to him.

Motörhead blasted through the daylight with a set that included 'Over The Top'..."Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!!" Awesome.. Lemmy commanded the stage like the badass Lord of The Manor that he is... However, while 'Ace Of Spades' was the obvious crowd pleaser, it was disconcerting to me how many people didn't seem to recognize the set closing 'Overkill'.. Kids, PLEASE do your homework!

To top it off, as an end of the tour prank, Testament threw an inflatable pig and a sex doll on the backline and some girls invaded the stage to bump and grind up against Lemmy while he played. LEMMY!!

However, THE best part of Motörhead was seeing old Umlaut friend DeVito's art emblazoned on the band's stage backdrop, the bass drums, the tour laminate, the tour shirt, AND on posters around the venue! Dreams really do come true... Congratulations, brother!

Motörhead's Art and Artist
(Pic by Umlaut)

In between bands, I was on the backstage patio chatting with people when a child darted past us... I took another look at the "child" and realized it was Ronnie James Dio making his way to the band's dressing room. Ooops.. Well, Dio IS small in person. "Lookout!"

I was kind of in "work mode" as Heaven And Hell went onstage... I watched the first song of their set from the VIP area at the side of the stage, which might seem cool... but it's really not because it's behind the PA and the sound sucks. At that moment my "work" side would have stayed in the safe confines of the VIP area.. but my Inner Metalhead told me to watch the set from out in the crowd.. so I did.. and The Mob Ruled.

I've seen every Bay Area show that the Dio / Iommi / Geezer version of Black Sabbath has ever played dating back to their first tour in 1980... and I think this was my favorite one. Iommi's guitar tone has ruled my life since I was 15, and his playing was at another level on this night; it felt like I was hearing him play for the first time all over again.. Dude, his tone was astounding!

My Inner Music Geek kept tripping that Iommi played the same vintage and beaten up red Gibson SG for the entire set; I'm pretty sure he's been playing that same guitar for at least 30 years, but on recent tours has mainly played his shiny new custom SGs.. Seeing him wield his old axe again only added to my geekdom over his performance. Note to self: Write "Tony Iommi Is God" on Pee Chee folder during 1st period homeroom.

Tony's Ancient Weapon on the video screen
(Pic by Umlaut)

In fact, all of Heaven And Hell were at the top of their game; Dio's voice was flawless and he worked the stage in similar fashion, Geezer owned the bottom end as always since he practically invented it, and even Vinnie Appice got my seal of approval despite his drum solo (which I usually can't stand because of the 80's-style electronic tape loop thing..). At one point the guy behind me said "Unbelievable!!" to his friend, and I could not have agreed more; 'Die Young' was especially inspiring and kinda left me reeling, man.. "Behind a smile there's danger and a promise to be told: You'll never get old..."

To top it off, as an end of the tour prank, Motörhead handed out newspapers to the first several rows so when Dio & Co. hit the stage the first 3 rows of Section 103 appeared to be reading the news instead of watching the Metal. HaHa...

Judas Priest were great only because of K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton... Man, Halford's voice is shot now.. There, I said it.. BUT he still knows how to work a crowd like no other Metal God. Kids, you will NOT learn how to play guitar like K.K. and Glenn by masturbating with Guitar Hero.. However, if you can score chicks by pressing those plastic buttons instead of caressing strings, more power to you.

K.K. in particular was working the stage above and beyond the call of duty; when he bent backwards while playing his white Flying-V at the end of each verse in 'Green Manalishi' I thought the skies would open up and rain molten metal down upon us... Also, Umlaut still loves the opening riffs of 'Devil's Child' as much as he did when he was 17.. "Feast your eyes on (Feast your eyes on!) a whole lotta sin..." Oh, and Priest dusted off 'Dissident Aggressor' (For the newbies: From their 1977 album Sin After Sin), which they have never played live before this tour! Wow.

This show would have been epic back in The Day and it was epic here in the 21st Century; the other old people know what I mean. It would have been incomprehensible seeing so many Metal legends sharing the stage in fucking Mountain View back in 1981. As I said at the top of this rant, back then shows like this only happened in muddy fields in Europe.

I didn't do a merch audit, and I probably won't until further notice. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag. Man, Timo and I attempted to meet up at a Denny's for our traditional post-concert grub, but here in the 21st Century that chain no longer exists in the vicinity of Shoreline Amphitheatre! The Denny's that used to be on El Camino near Tower Records Mt. View (R.I.P.) is now a Chink restaurant. WTF...

The Metal Masses during Judas Priest
(Pic by Umlaut)