Yes, I know there were two other bands on the bill but we missed them despite getting there only 30 minutes after doors opening. Well, actually, 30 minutes after the door time advertised on the ticket and on the website earlier that afternoon. Turns out they opened at 6:00, but nobody at the venue reckoned fans would actually be interested in that kind of information which is, frankly, a bit shit.
As it happened we walked up the stairs just as Alestorm were coming on, which is a good thing. We’d have been fuming if we’d missed them, and the ABC wouldn’t want three angry cutlass-wielding pirate metal fans after them.
Alestorm were everything that could have been hoped for or expected. Great, stupid, drinking, pirating AAARRRRR fun. Cracking musicians, catchy songs, wonderful sense of humour… Probably the best support act that DragonForce could have hoped for. Given that this was as near a hometown gig as the Perthshire Pirates were going to get, it was no surprise that they received (and deserved) a rapturous welcome from an energetic crowd.
“Wenches and Mead” had people singing. “Keelhauled” kicked off one of the biggest circle pits I’ve seen at the ABC. “Shipwrecked” had people running for the bar after the warning that they should “get drunk or die!”, and then crawl away from the bar disappointed when they realised that despite the advertising propaganda of “Buckfast Powersmash” the Glaswegian drunk’s favourite fortified wine wasn’t on sale.
Simply a superb band who prove that keyboards in metal bands are, in fact, ridiculously cool. I can’t wait for another headlining tour. Surely they deserve a venue bigger than The Garage to themselves by now?
After a fairly short break (during which I managed to get a picture with Alestorm’s Elliot Vernon, at least I think it was him and my apologies if I have the name wrong), the lights went down, blue spotlights seared holes in the ceiling and DragonForce took to the stage.
Before the show began, I was a little concerned about new vocalist Marc Hudson. Now, this was in no way down to his ability but purely as he sounds that bit different to ZP Theart on the new album. I guess times change and band members come and go, but a voice is far more distinctive than a person playing guitar or a drummer (to me, anyway) and this new set of vocal chords jarred a little when I listened to The Power Within.
I apologise to him wholeheartedly here for any doubts I may have had. He was fantastic as were the rest of the band. Marc can hit a ridiculous range of notes and also sounds like Bruce Dickinson when he speaks.
Unlike Maiden, though, DragonForce rely purely on their music rather than staggering stage mechanics to exhilerate the crowd and they seemed to succeed pretty well tonight. The set was varied, including tracks from first album Valley of the Damned (such as “Heart of a Dragon”) right through to the current release. I still find it strange hearing a song called “Die By The Sword” that’s not a Slayer cover, mind.
Herman Li and Sam Totman simply shone as two of the best guitarists currently doing the rounds. I’m as amazed by them now as I was by the likes of Marty Friedman when I first saw him play live. I couldn’t believe someone could play music that precisely on a recorded album, let along onstage in front of a crowd. Blistering and awesome.
Add to them the lightning fingers of bassist Frédéric Leclercq and keyboardist Vadim Pruzhanov and it’s plain to see why they have been billed as the “fastest band on earth” for the last few years. Frankly, I’m amazed that drummer (and local boy) Dave Mackintosh can keep up. Must be the Buckfast.
The stage show was simple with blinding lighting (including some annoying strobes that make it impossible for my camera to focus, grr) and traditional “foot on the amp” rock poses aplenty. Guitars being played with the fingers over and under the fretboard, banged off thighs, help up in the air… all just ridiculous and over the top as a DragonForce gig should be.
My personal highlight was definitely “Through The Fire & The Flames”, but there wasn’t really a duff track in the set.
Only a shame that I’m a grown-up with responsibilities (and a driving license) or I’d have gone to the after-party at the Cathouse. However, I am old (I gather the average age in there is about 16 these days) with three kids and a wife-soon-to-be who wouldn’t be impressed with daddy coming home at 2am and the car being left on Sauchiehall Street.
Rock and roll may never die, but parts of it sadly age. Let’s hope DragonForce (and Alestorm!) resist the weathering tides for years to come.