It was reported that the USA had not seen a tour from original Iron Maiden vocalist Paul DiAnno in something like fifteen years and while I couldn’t verify that with great certainty I could agree that it was a very long time since I had seen his name on any concert marquee. Fortunately for all in attendance, this evening at B.B. King Blues Club the Metal faithful of NYC would be treated to an evening of bona fide Maiden classics and I am sure that Paul would toss a couple of surprises in there for good measure as well. The crowd arrived early which was a good thing and it was nice to see the venue crowded for the second day in a row. Last night had been the Metal tribute act HAIL! and while they did a seminal early Maiden tune, Paul did not drop in for an unplanned visit. I think he had a show of his own last night but now all that mattered was that he was back in the New York Groove if I could borrow a line from Ace Frehley. The show would find Power Metal favorites Operatika starting off the night and a set from Icarus Witch. Let’s rock.
Operatika: It’s been a very long time since I have seen Operatika perform so I was glad to find them on this bill with DiAnno and his band. The band had impressed me a number of times when I had seen them over the past years and I smile when I think of how I spoke to them at the only time that Nightwish had played L’Amour in Brooklyn so many shows ago. That night I missed their performance but I caught up since then and have documented their own adventures whenever possible. The band is fronted by the always lovely Slava Popova who I think has one of the brightest smiles in Metal. She truly enjoys performing for her audience and you can feel the sincerity in her delivery with every tune. Tonight they would showcase a lot of material from their debut CD “The Calling” and also be joined by Symphony X bassist Mike LePond who helped record that smoking release. There wouldn’t be a lot of time for them to play, but they would manage to get about seven songs in along with a blistering solo by guitarist Bill Visser. He has a great technique and while an incredibly fast player, he does not lose any of the style in his speed. It’s very noticeable that while the band does possess a keyboardist in the also stunning Anna Dok that the tunes are more guitar driven. Keeping the time from behind a massive kit is the powerhouse Yuri who seems to have two speeds – fast, and faster. Operatika cooked this evening and that was plain to see but while they were executing their material with great levels of expertise and drive, one has to wonder if this kind of Metal will bring them the ever hard to catch brass ring going forward.
Icarus Witch: The guys in Icarus Witch hail from Pittsburgh, PA as I was told and I had to say that they were known to me more in name than in sound. I did know that they played a Traditional Style of Metal which many are still referring to as Old School, but in all honesty I prefer the other way to refer to it since I don’t need my music’s description to age me any more than time manages to do. Listening to their set with new ears I had to say that it was pretty good but nothing that blew me out of the water based on my comparing it to other bands that play this kind of stuff. They are tight musically and offer some good guitar riffs with solid drumming, but I was not all that crazy about how singer Matt Bazilla did his thing. His voice is more of a screaming one and for me personally I tend to prefer the more soaring melodic register in this kind of material but that's just me – the audience seemed to be digging them and that’s all that mattered. Their newest CD is called “Draw Down The Moon” and my guess is that a good chunk of this evenings set came from it. I did find it surprising that they were doing a full set this evening because when I arrived at the venue I learned how Icarus Witch’s players would also be serving as Paul DiAnno’s backup band for the tour. After a good hour the guys left the stage to get freshened up for their return as the band for the DiAnno set. I plan on finding their CD so I can do a better analysis of them so watch out for that in the hopefully near future.
Paul DiAnno: It was before ten PM when Icarus Witch left the stage and since there was no backline or gear to changeover it was a little bit of an annoyance to find an almost forty minute span of time happening before DiAnno took to the stage. The Metalheads were restless to say the least and after a quick introduction by the cast of “That Metal Show” is was down to business at about 10:30pm. Paul walked onto the boards with a slight limp so I was unsure if he had recently hurt himself but when he got to the microphone he was all smiles as he began what appeared to be a great set list. He would start us all off with “Wrathchild” from the first Maiden album and then follow it with “Prowler”. He sounded pretty good so far and while some of the original register of his voice seemed a little lower, he was managing rather well. He talked to the audience a lot with a thick British accent and said how happy he was to be back in NYC and the USA for that matter. He said how he almost didn’t make it because he had been hit with the swine flu in Poland so we were all glad to find him recovered when it came down to it. The singer appeared to be in good and very visibly humble spirits this evening and who could blame him with an almost completely full venue directing all of their Metal attention at him and the band. He broke into “Marshal Lokjaw” which is a song from the band he fronted called Killers and then it was back into some classic Maiden with “Murders In The Rue Morgue”. The whole crowd was singing and fist pumping for this one but that would seem to end the excitement for the next twenty minutes as DiAnno’s set then shifted to four more of his own tunes and found both Killers and Battlezone material being presented. This might have been a necessary evil for the singer because he does have solo material to focus on but doing that many of the songs in sequence really seemed to disrupt the vibe that the old Maiden stuff was putting into the night. He did make the audience laugh when he said how this next one is about my ex-wife as he began “The Beast Arises”.
The instrumental of “Ides Of March” gave him a quick breather before he launched into the tune “Killers” and the place was moving again. Maiden material was now going to be the full on focus of the remaining part of the night and you were not going to find any complaints about it from me or anyone else in the venue. “Phantom Of The Opera” was great but I could have done without his doing some growling in the song. “Transylvania” became the second instrumental of the night and would give the singer another quick break while the band showcased their chops. They were doing justice to the Maiden stuff in terms of execution but they also sped a lot of it up unnecessarily and this was getting some of the audience members complaining where I was standing. DiAnno returned to the stage and gave us a rousing sing along with “Running Free” and given this is usually a close to set ending song in Iron Maiden’s own set it was pretty apparent that we were on our way to the end of Paul’s visit as well. He spoke to the crowd again and said how the guys in the band convinced him to do this next one and that he had not done it in about twenty five years and with that delivered a nothing less than crushing “Iron Maiden”. While it would have been funny to see there was no “visit” from Eddie this evening. I expected this to be the final tune of the evening but he would speak again about one of his favorite bands and then do the odd choice of “Blitzkrieg Bop” by The Ramones. He did this rather well but I found it a bit strange to sacrifice the time that could have been used for another Maiden tune with a cover of someone else’s classic. In all honesty he should have done this one before doing “Iron Maiden” because that would have sent the audience home in better style. This would be the final song of the night and since they were clearing out the venue rather fast I guess that there was no meet and greet for the audience to partake in. That never seems to bother some of the hard core fans as they gather around the loading doors to catch a moment with the artists whenever possible.
In the end while having a great time with some long time friends and some truly solid Metal, I did have a few minor criticisms about the show and the first fell on DiAnno who made the audience wait a good 40 minutes before taking the stage with the guys in Icarus Witch. There was no real need for that kind of a delay especially since there was no change in the backline or musicians. In observing the audience it was easy to see how many of them were watching the time since this was a Wednesday and many of this demographic had work early the next morning. The second critique was in the fashioning of the set list and while I know that he has original material to sell us on, I think that it was ill received by the crowd as they only seemed to come to life when the classic years of his Maiden tenure came up. Doing four of his own numbers in a row clearly lost a lot of the evenings overall vibe and that is not a good thing. It had been reported that past shows had featured songs such as “Remember Tomorrow” (a favorite of mine for many a year), “Genghis Khan” and “Sanctuary” but sadly all of these were all left out. Without meaning any offense, I would have made tonight’s show an exclusive Iron Maiden era performance and left the audience quivering in their boots. Since this was a “return” to the region tour it might have gone over even better had this been the case. I think if he had done “Women In Uniform” that you would have had to call the police into the room based on the chaos it would have inspired. Some folks were not too into the guys in Icarus Witch being the backing band as they expected a full throttle note for note execution of the Maiden stuff and while the guys were good at the tunes; they were not letter perfect and as mentioned were sometimes faster than the songs required. They did a good job considering, but wow how much bigger this would have sounded had DiAnno called upon the talents of the Metal kids in the School Of Rock. Those young ladies and gentlemen are scary good but of course their ages probably limit them from the rigors of a tour like this. Paul’s voice was not bad this evening but not as vibrant as some folks expected it to be. We should remember that this is now material that is over thirty years old and as time progresses our abilities also change in what we can do (especially in Metal singing). Either way I enjoyed myself and would attend another performance should he come back for a return visit. Fans of the early Maiden years should try to attend this tour if at all possible.
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Official Web Site: www.pauldianno.com
Official Web Site: www.icaruswitch.com
Official Web Site: www.operatika.com
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