As I’ve previously noted, we’ve always aimed to deliver a year end “Best Of” list and with the end of the decade just having happened, it’s time to continue our thoughts about what was the “Best Of The Decade” from 2000-2009 – I’ve already doled out the Music and Video picks and now it’s time to get into the live concerts that we found the most enjoyable over the past ten years.
I was not really planning on doing a decade spanning concert “best of” but many of the readers of the site had sent me emails after the list posted inquiring about those events which I thought were the biggest highlights to me. Based on the interest, I figured that it was better to append the article to also feature this information of be stuck answering emails over and over. I’ve been fortunate as a writer and photographer to get to enjoy a large number of shows and I hope that you enjoy the list I came up with.
Van Halen @ Madison Square Garden (Warner Music Group): The Brothers Van Halen reunited with David Lee Roth made this one of the highlights of my decade. Yes Michael Anthony was no longer a part of the band but I could live with that since it gave me back Dave. The hits were non-stop at the show and I think I watched it five feet above the floor where my seat was. Everyone in NYC was dancing the night away that’s for sure.
Iron Maiden @ Madison Square Garden (EMI Music): This show was for the “Brave New World” CD that many loved for bringing back Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith into the fold. I loved it for its amazing level of energy and how it showed just how good Maiden was and the fact that it had Rob Halford as the opener and Queensryche. OK I admit that I didn’t feel the Ryche were all that good that night and were rather slow after the Halford set. It was fantastic seeing Rob’s then new band in action of course as he was still years away from rejoining Judas Priest.
The Gathering @ The Knitting Factory (The End Records): I was a casual fan of The Gathering and my buddies who went to the show with me were much more into them, but seeing them in this smaller space was fantastic. Very moody and atmospheric stuff and done well in the live sense. Anneke sang like a siren and one of the openers was an unknown group called Unexpect. I’ve been a supporter of theirs since that night and feel that this appearance gave me a heads up on a terrific band many years before the rest of the folks would catch on.
HIM @ The Bowery Ballroom (Universal Music): While working at one of the investment banks from hell I scanned a video for HIM which was “Join Me In Death” and I was hooked and did my best to find a couple of the bands albums. Their first show on US soil in NYC would be at The Bowery Ballroom and the two nights were close to sold out. We caught the first show I believe but its been awhile and in any case it was amazing to see HIM in such an intimate room. Going forward we would watch the band play larger places each time and having all of the shows sell out well in advance.
Kamelot @ B.B. King Blues Club (SPV Records): I am referring to the first time that I ever caught Kamelot performing at B.B. King Blues Club and not one of the other four times. I was very new to the band and how they did things but it was a smoking show and one that made many fans for the guys who would rally to their cause in the future. They continue to impress the masses and we love them for it.
Ozzfest 2004 @ Jones Beach Ampitheater (Epic Records): This particular Ozzfest was one that would find a reunited Black Sabbath once again and Judas Priest who were now back in action with Rob Halford on vocals. The show also featured Slayer and the mighty Dimmu Borgir which brought the heaviness and the darkness into play. A dramatic night that had a thunderstorm looming over our heads and definitely making the atmosphere electric. My companion and I arrived during the Superjoint Ritual set and honestly hated the way they sounded. We were fine in picking up the musical night from the Dimmu set and onward.
Nightwish @ L’Amour’s (Century Media Records): Back when this show took place I had been listening to Nightwish casually but steadily and while I expected no one to be in the club it was jam packed like the old days. Turns out they had a lot more support over here than I realized. I commented about the show on the Bravewords site and ended up with the words posted online. This led me to receive an email asking for more information about the show and I gladly complied to those folks over at the Metal Circus. I’ve been writing concert and product reviews ever since.
Ozzfest 2007 @ PNC Bank Arts Center (Epic Records): The free Ozzfest was very appealing to me as a fan of Metal and as a growing in scope music journalist because of the bands that it presented to the audience. Ozzy would headline of course but opening up for him would be Lamb Of God, Static X, Lordi and Behemoth along with up and comers like In This Moment and Chthonic. It would be perhaps the heaviest of this festival yet when it came down to it and those who wisely got their early enough never forgot the show.
Type-O-Negative @ L’Amour’s (Roadrunner Records): During the bands “Life Is Killing Me” tour, the band played two nights at the now shuttered L’Amour’s and had opening support from Lacuna Coil who I eventually became a fan of. The band was at their best in my opinion and I had seen them a number of times since as far back as 1993.
KISS @ Continential Airlines Arena (Universal Music): This was back in 2000 and during the bands “Farewell Tour”. The retirement would not happen but it would be the last USA appearances of Peter Criss and Ace Frehley in the makeup. I enjoyed this a lot because of the classics being delivererd on top of some of their better new stuff and the fact that I saw this show with friends who grew up with me listening to KISS music. Ted Nugent was the opener, but we would miss him this evening. Oh well.
Trans-Siberian Orchestra @ Beacon Theatre (Lava Records): My first time seeing the TSO live is one of my decade highlights because it was just so different and just so magical. I was way up top but that didn’t matter with the cool light show they employed. The music was excellent and the project looked to have some serious potential. This was the second year for such a tour, and I don’t think anyone expected just how big it would get. This show was back around 2000.
KISS @ PNC Bank Arts Center (Universal Music): I saw KISS about five or six times over the past decade and I think that this show with Poison and ZO2 as opener was one of the best. Yes KISS had some new faces in the familiar makeup now, but that is how the dice rolled in order to keep the band playing. A live DVD would be released for this “Rock The Nation” tour and I felt this was a favorite based on just how close my seats actually were for this one.
Trans-Siberian Orchestra @ Madison Square Garden (Lava Records): The first time that the TSO played MSG was in 2004 if my records are intact and this was a great experience because the show was just getting too big for the mid-sized theatres that it had been running in for a few years previous. I had made sure to attend every year since 2000 at this time and found it incredible how they were kicking it up an entertainment notch every year. Bigger and better were never more proper a description.
Iron Maiden @ Izod Center (Universal Music): Here we were in 2008 and Iron Maiden had been going stronger than ever since Bruce’s return. This particular tour was called “Somewhere Back In Time” and focused on several albums from the past which meant no later years material – there was no “Dance Of Death” nor “A Matter Of Life And Death” stuff and no one was complaining. The show was nothing less than astounding and cemented into everyone’s minds how Iron Maiden was possibly one of the greatest Heavy Metal bands of all time. It was a show that would be featured as a part of the bands documentary “Flight 666” which we also referred to as one of the best releases on DVD for 2009.
Twisted Sister @ Nokia Theatre (Razor & Tie Entertainment): The third year of the band’s “Twisted Christmas” shows was one I considered the best of the decade because of how much fun it actually was. Since their reunion the band had been playing on and off, but the Christmas album made a bizarre turn take place and yet in the end it would work out immensely well. Santa Dee Snider and company were joined by Lita Ford, Mini-KISS and a whole host of elves who kept the toy factory operating while the band played. A new yearly holiday tradition that’s for sure.
KISS @ Madison Square Garden (KISS Records): This was the 2009 show and I loved it because I had not seen KISS in a number of years and missed the overall experience that I would get from a KISS show. Yes Tommy and Eric have replaced Ace and Peter but we had to deal with it. Despite this fact, the band still kicked ass and probably was doing it better in the musical sense based on the fire inside these newer and younger players. Couldn’t care less for openers Buckcherry and felt someone else would have been the better choice. Not a bad song in the set this evening. KISS was back whether you liked it or not.
New York Steel @ Hammerstein Ballroom: This was the mammoth show that was done to raise money for the families of the NYC firefighters and policemen and other rescue workers after the terrorist attack that took down the World Trade Center. Metal bands and fans were united under the direction of radio host Eddie Trunk who brought us Anthrax, Overkill, Ace Frehley, Sebastian Bach and a reunited Twisted Sister. Talk about a loaded weapon of a show and one that seemed to go off without a hitch so few weeks after the tragedy that was 9-11.
Savatage @ Birch Hill Night Club (Nuclear Blast Records): Supporting their “Poets & Madmen” release, Savatage was back in action with new singer Damon Jiniva and also had strong support from the Mountain King himself Mr. Jon Oliva. The band did a lot of great stuff from the back catalog and everything sounded great even though I was a little bummed about Zak Stevens being gone from the lineup. The opener was Fates Warning who did not impress me that night, but I was not into them all that much back in 2001 when this show took place. Sadly this would be one of the last area shows of Savatage for the region as the band went on an indefinite “hiatus” not long after and focus energies on the eventual juggernaut of Trans-Siberian Orchestra. This was also the second to last time that I would attend a show at the Birch Hill Night Club. The venue would close and I think has been torn down at this point. A shame since it was a fantastic place to catch a show out in New Jersey. It will be missed very much.
Bent Brother @ L’Amour’s: Not long after the NY Steel show, we learned of the band called “Bent Brother” who would be doing a set of classic Twisted Sister. You probably get the joke in the name and realize it was Twisted Sister who would perform without costumes and really get a rousing night in play. Full on Sister shows and releases would commence from this particular show and all was well in the Metal kingdom. This was back in 2003.
Halford @ L’Amour’s: The man with the voice, the one and only Metal God Rob Halford was delivering a set of his new originals and Judas Priest classics with his kick ass band. Saying the club was packed tight was an understatement and the opening act was Symphony X. This was 2003.
Quiet Riot @ Don Hills: This show was back in 2004 and my friend Kevin had won tickets to access it and at this point I was so new to the writing game that events were just not second nature to me. The show was awesome and found the full original lineup of the band, or at least the lineup of those historic releases like “Metal Health” and “Condition Critical”. They played every song that you wanted to hear and afterwards met the fans. I spoke to both Kevin DuBrow (RIP) and Frankie Banali at length about way back when they first played L’Amour (when that club was a juggernaut and had not yet been on its eventual always closing and opening mode).
Jon Oliva’s Pain @ BMT Club (SPV Records): Jon Oliva’s Pain seemed to be the closest that fans were going to get to the music of Savatage and this stop in Brooklyn where the second version of L’Amour’s ended up going was the place to see it. He had Chris Caffery and Tim “Ripper” Owens new band Beyond Fear opening up and it was a no holds barred kind of show. Musically off the ricter scale, they delivered the goods even with the venue conditions and temperature inside being absolutely dismal. The failure of this space at being a good one would be documented by the bands on personal sites and their tales of survival from its walls legendary. The club closed quickly and would not be missed based on the great spaces that would begin to manifest themselves in the city.
Megadeth & Gigantour (Capitol Records): This would be the second go round for Mustaine and Gigantour that I found to be among my best of the decade experiences in the live sense, and this was primarily because the talent on the bill made the most Metal sense. Yes they had some amazing bands on the first go round but a lot of the roster was deemed uneven and sporadic in the fans that flocked to see Dave and co-headliners Dream Theatre. This bill had Opeth, Lamb Of God, Arch Enemy, Overkill and Into Eternity and was thundering to say the least.
Roger Waters @ Madison Square Garden: I would get the chance to see the legendary Pink Floyd founding member twice when he played at MSG back in 2000 and while we originally only went expecting to see a scant few odd Floyd numbers, the musician surprised everyone by delivering an almost completely classic Floyd set. He blended in his own best originals for maximum effect and it was an amazing show. This tour would eventually be released as “In The Flesh” live CD and DVD are also among my decade favorites.
Fish @ B.B. King Blues Club (Chocolate Frog UK): I love the Fish years for the band Marillion and when the enigmatic storyteller did a show in NYC back in 2008 it was an unforgettable night. His new material is the forward thinking next chapter from where he left off in Marillion while his former band are essentially “clutching at straws” in terms of what they are delivering to fans and leaving many of them confused as the years go by.
Leaves Eyes @ C.B.G.B.’s (Napalm Records): I think this was the first time that the band had ever been on tour in the states and they played with Atrocity as well as God Dethroned and while the event as a whole was terrific when it arrived here, the event was plagued with adversity. Still, the Leaves Eyes camp and Atrocity camp (pretty much the same when it comes down to it) delivered a wonderful set of material and convinced me that my support of them was a wise thing.
Poison & Cinderella @ PNC Bank Arts Center (Capitol Records): Talk about a Glam Slam Rocking Blues type of night and this was it. Oddly enough I had never seen Poison in concert before even though I had enjoyed a number of their tunes over the years. They rocked and really delivered “Nothin’ But A Good Time” for all in attendance and Cinderella were also at their best. I knew that if Poison came back again next summer, which they would, that this would come to be one of those fun Summer nights and something to definitely try to take part in once more.
Overkill @ B.B. King Blues Club (Spitfire Records): Back in 2005 when Overkill played at B.B. King Blues Club it was the first time I had seen them in a number of years so it was again a treat. The intimate space was packed to the rafters and they brought along Sonata Arctica as their openers. I had been enjoying Sonata since early 2002 I think and they had never been here before. The crowd at this show was insane beyond imagination and the small barrier between the audience, the media and the stage failed us. Folks scrambled but all made it out safe and sound and despite this I would not have taken the show any other way. Talk about a band that delivers.
Iced Earth @ B.B. King Blues Club (SPV Records): In 2004 I was getting more into the writing and starting to help out on a couple of different websites and even though the band had been around for years tonight would be my first time ever seeing them. The other important item is that this was the first time I had ever seen a show at B.B. King Blues Club. The show also featured Evergrey and Children of Bodom and was excellent even though guitarist Jon Schaffer was suffering some kind of flu. Suffice it to say I have been back at this venue over one hundred times since and I don’t see that stopping any time soon.
I’m stopping now because when I look back on the show listings that have been attended purely as your Metal Ambassador; I realize that I am “this close” to finalizing my 400th concert review for the website and this number does not include any of the myriad of events that I went to in the years before we started this whole thing. That’s a lot of shows to reflect upon but I think I rewound pretty good for the purposes of this particular “decade best” outline. So that’s all folks, the decade is over and we are onto 2010 already with a firm resolve to review a lot of albums, and to continue presenting relevant archive as much as possible. We know that there are people who will be left scratching their heads at some of our selections and screaming for blood at either some omissions or some inclusions when this makes the rounds and that is wonderful. A healthy debate makes for some cool Metal discussions. As we move closer and closer to the websites fifth anniversary we would love to hear what some of your own favorite Concerts might have been over the past decade if you can recall them. Have an enjoyable 2010. Make the most of it for yourself and the bands and music that you enjoy.