Iron Maiden And Wintersun - Two Days, Two Concerts
|Event:||Wintersun: North American Tour 2013|
The other day I set out on a heavy metal road trip; two concerts in two days. Iron Maiden with opener Megadeth, and Wintersun with tour support from Fleshgod Apocalypse, Arsis and Starkill; a trip totaling more than 1,000 miles. This is what I learned and these are my precautions.
For the last few years, it seemed like every time Iron Maiden decided to tour the states, attending one of their stops wasn't in the cards. Usually a combination of work and a distance too far to travel were the factors putting this band, which is on my "to see before they call it quits" list, just out of my reach. Last year, Iron Maiden hit my hometown Atlanta, but I was living six hours away in the southern part of the state of Georgia at the time and couldn't make it. It didn't help that my best friend was getting to go and my boss at the time, who happens to know a member of their road crew, got to go as well, and got backstage passes at that.
Fast forward to 2013 and I'm back living in the Atlanta area, my friend who saw them last year has moved to Nashville, TN, and Iron Maiden announces a stop in the city that's more known for its country music and blue grass. I decide to take some vacation time to go up there, see my friend, and catch the Maiden show with him. Then, a few weeks after we bought the Iron Maiden tickets, Wintersun announced a full U.S. tour with a stop in Atlanta on the same night as the Maiden show in Nashville. However, they also announced a date the next day in Charlotte, NC, about a six-hour drive from Nashville.
Say what you want, but I love Wintersun. I didn't get to see them last year when they toured the states for the first time because they didn't come anywhere near the South. So I pitched the idea to my friend, who also had another buddy coming up from Atlanta for the Maiden England 2013 tour, that we make a trip out of it; he agreed and the three of us made plans to attend both shows. Two weeks before the concerts, the Wintersun show gets moved to Spartanburg, SC, which is slightly closer at too Nashville, so we had to rebuy tickets since the new venue was using a different promoter.
I headed up to Nashville on Sept. 5, which was about a 3 1/2 hour drive or 225 miles from my home in a suburb north of Atlanta, for the Iron Maiden concert. We went to the venue, the Bridgestone Arena, right away and decided to do dinner after the show. The place was packed, as any Maiden show is of course, and prices were outrageous: beer was $10 per cup and T-shirts started at $40. The two drunk guys in front of us had at least four or five beers a piece and each a bag full of merchandise; they spend more than $200 on food and merch alone I can imagine.
Our seats were pretty good though; directly in front of the stage in the first section of seats right behind the standing section on the floor. It didn't take long for the show to start and Megadeth opened with "Hangar 18," a personal favorite of theirs. Thankfully, they only played one song off Super Collider, "Kingmaker". The only real problem with Megadeth's set was the sound. It wasn't quite as dialed in as Iron Maiden's would turn out to be later. Shawn Drover's drums and Dave Ellefson's bass sound overpowered the guitars, which were hard to tell apart in the wall of sound. I'm guessing since they weren't headlining, Dave Mustaine decided to be reserved on stage. His only political rant was pretty mild and was about how the U.S. shouldn't go to war with Syria.
Next up, Iron Maiden. They were spot on, musically and with their stage show. They had no sound issues and since this was only the second show of the U.S. leg of the tour, they were in great shape. From what I had seen on their various DVD releases and online videos, the show was what comes to be expected from them; pyrotechnics, a giant Eddie mascot tromping around the stage, and plenty of places for Bruce Dickinson to run and jump around theatrically. Toward the end of the show, Bruce was standing on the riser that ran around the perimeter of the stage behind the drum kit, and one of the pyrotechnics went off pretty close behind him. He shook out his hair and looked down to the side of the stage at the crew muttering something that looked like "that was a close one".
Overall, it was a great experience and I'm happy to have had the chance to see Iron Maiden. With this, being the 2013 version of the Maiden England Tour, the setlist was pretty much exactly the same as what my friend saw last year when they toured over here in cities they usually don't hit - a mix of Iron Maiden hits, along with select songs from the Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son album.
After the show we headed into downtown Nashville, which was active with live country music spilling out onto the streets from the local restaurants and bars. With the streets filled with foot traffic, performers and panhandlers, we made our way into a Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville restaurant to get some burgers and beers before heading to my friend's house to get a few hours of sleep. before hitting Interstate 40 to take us the majority of the way to Spartanburg.
The next morning we got onto I-40, which took us the majority of the way into Spartenburg, SC. My friend road with his other buddy from Atlanta, who had to leave right after the Wintersun show, to head back home since he had to work the next day. I road separately and would be accompanied once again by my friend on the ride back to Nashville.
Interstate 40 and Interstate 26, which take you from Nashville through Knoxville, TN., to Spartanburg, is a 353-mile trip and takes you through some of the most beautiful parts of the Appalachian Mountains in Tennessee. It is also a route you better pay attention on, because the road goes downhill, winding through the mountains for 15 miles at a time. Once we arrived in Spartanburg, a place none of us had ever been, we found the venue, Ground Zero, which was a small, concrete block building off a rural road. It seemed like an odd place for metal bands from Finland and Italy to be playing, but nonetheless it was the right venue. But the show, which was the last one of the tour, was delayed by a lot of technical issues as the bands changed out gear.
First on stage was a local support act named Images. There isn't much to say about them; they played pretty standard melodic death core with a lot of muted chugging, broken up by screams and arpeggio sweeps. Next up was Starkill from Chicago. I had not really listened to them before, maybe one song, but they were OK. I think they have a lot of potential as musicians but what they played on Sept. 6 was pretty average melodic, symphonic black/death metal.
Up next were Arsis, and at this point my friends and I had made our way in front of the stage. I hadn't seen Arsis since 2007 on the Summer Slaughter Tour, and the band has had several lineup changes since, so I was curious to see if they played as tight as they did back then. They were just as good live and their new guitar player, Brandon Ellis, had the chops to accompany James Malone's unique style.
Since they were not direct support on the tour, their setlist was pretty short, but it included a lot of their classics. In fact, no songs were played from the band's three middle full-length albums (United In Regret, We Are The Nightmare, Starve For The Devil). My only gripe about the set was the sound in the venue was not very great. We were slightly left of center stage and it was hard to hear James' guitar, which was mainly pumped through the right-side speakers.
After about 30 minutes of dialing in sound levels and fiddling with cables, Fleshgod Apocalypse finally took the stage. I'm not really all that familiar with them other than one music video I have seen, and I can't really say I'm all that familiar with them after the show. I blame mostly the sound in the venue. The guitars were very drowned out by the wall of sound produced by the drums, bass and vocals. The keyboard, which was mounted in an upright piano, which I'm sure is a pain to lug from venue to venue, and the opera vocals were also only slightly audible. The less than desirable sound and my unfamiliarity with Fleshgod Apocalypse's music really didn't do much to turn me onto the band. I guess I will have to check out their studio productions online.
Fleshgod Apocalypse Setlist:
It seemed like it took forever for Wintersun to take the stage. The sound guys were having trouble rigging the stage to facilitate the playing of Scorpions's "Rock You Like A Hurricane", which at the end of the show, all the touring bands were on stage to perform too. (ed: Google it - it's pretty awesome) Once the technical issues were finally worked out, Wintersun finally took the stage. By this point however, my friend had gone out to the car to sleep and his buddy had left to go back to Atlanta since he had to work the next day. Oh well, they missed out.
Wintersun played a great set, which, as an intro, included the entire song "When Time Fades Away" of their lates Time I album in addition to "The Way Of The Fire" from the upcoming release Time II and a handful of songs from their self-titled debut. For a band that had been on tour, headlining for a month, they still had plenty of energy and played the songs well. The venue, which probably only had only a couple hundred attendees at most, was amped up and I was surprised at how many people were singing Wintersun's lyrics.
Overall, I was glad I finally got to see Wintersun, and Arsis were great to catch live again aswell. However, the next couple of days did definitely make me reconsider cramming two concerts into in such a short time and driving such a distance. We left the venue and immediately started our trip back to Nashville after a brief stop to fuel up on gas and shovel down some grub at the Waffle House; thank goodness for 24/7 breakfast diners. I drove the first half of the 5 1/2 hour trip back to Nashville fueled by the coffee from our breakfast meal, a carbonated energy drink, one of those energy shot things, and a bag of candy. The trip back up the mountains wasn't as pleasant because it was dark and the fog was heavy, but we made it through. We stopped and got more junk food just outside of Knoxville and my friend took over the driver's seat from there back to Nashville.
It was after 6 a.m. by the time we got back and we both only slept a couple of hours after getting to his house. I felt like I had a sugar hangover. I left the next day, Sunday, to head back home to Atlanta after a full night's sleep and wasn't feeling much better. Come Monday, I was prescribed antibiotics, a nasal spray and steroids for a bad cold/bronchitis and a sore throat (probably the result of me screaming ... my bad).
If there is anything I've learned that weekend, it's to make arrangements to stay somewhere overnight to get some rest before heading home, or pick one concert over the other ... or don't load up on so much sugar and caffeine. BUT, in the end it was a great experience.
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