I don’t head out to many gigs these days, but after being absolutely blown away by Blaze’s performance at Sabaton Open Air last year, I wasn’t going to miss out on a full headlining show. As a bonus, Manchester’s Vice were opening (the support band varies across the tour) and I’ve also enjoyed seeing them in the past.
The three-piece came on to a decent sized crowd and immediately demanded noise in return for their playing a set consisting of songs from The First Chapter as well as some newer numbers. There were definitely a few in the audience who knew the material and Vice went from strength to strength in terms of audience response throughout.
“Vultures” and “Strive” went down as well as the older material and bodes well for what’s coming next from Vice. It’s been around two years since First Chapter so we’re due something by now!
As well as churning out some quality metal, Vice put on a good show. For three guys, they make good use of the stage and drummer Connor is suitably mental sat at the back making silly faces while hammering out his frustrations.
Vice will be back in this neck of the woods at Wildfire 2019. Definitely one to put on your “to see” list.
By the time Blaze Bayley strolled on stage to Aerosmith’s “Love in an Elevator”, the venue was definitely much busier and the crowd’s voices nicely broken in courtesy of Vice. I will confess I’ve not followed Blaze too much since the Maiden days, but what I have picked up is that he’s produced a slew of original material and the more recent of this is a huge overarching concept which has spanned three albums. This formed the core of the set and it was an absolutely amazing experience.
While some of the chat between songs was about the usual stuff (glad to be here, great motorbike ride from Dudley, and so on), it was Blaze’s introduction of the songs that really worked well. I noticed in Sweden that he has a unique way of speaking on stage — very theatrical with pregnant pauses where you’d not expect them. When put into the right setting, this works perfectly — and detailing upcoming tracks is that ideal situation. As a result, the show sounded almost like a musical, with a narrator detailing the events ongoing and upcoming. It actually reminded me a little of The Rocky Horror Show!
Credit also goes to the band — three quarters of Absolva, who’ve been working with Blaze for some time now. They’re great musicians and I like that they got their time in the spotlight as well. It’s easy for a frontman like Bayley to hog the crowd’s attention, especially when it’s his name plastered all over the banners and t-shirts — but this is definitely not the case with this band. Blaze frequently stepped to the side of the stage to allow Chris Appleton and Karl Schramm to step up for their plaudits, and drummer Martin McNee was permitted a solo of acceptable length. I also noticed that Schramm has a Blaze autograph tattooed on his arm. I wonder if he got this before they started working together?
As well as songs from the Infinite Entanglement series, we had “Silicon Messiah” which raised a huge cheer. Blaze’s first solo effort which flopped at the first outing due to poor promotion, has gone on to rightly be recognised as a classic. And of course, a couple of Blaze era Maiden tracks were squished in as the encore.
After a show like this, you can tell why Maiden went with Blaze to front them when Bruce stepped away all those years ago. He’s an incredible entertainer and showman, but he manages this without being a walking ego — a tricky balance.
As I said right at the start, I don’t get out to too many gigs these days but I’m definitely glad I made the effort to attend this one. I can only imagine what this band would be like on a bigger stage with a huge budget behind them. But you know what? They don’t need it. The music and showmanship speak for themselves.
All photos by Coops Gig Photography.