St. Paul, Minnesot'as True Metal Record Store (RIP as of Dec. 24, 2015)
Mill City Nights, Minneapolis, MN
Sunday, February 9, 2014
(Sorry, no photos. I prefer my shows through two eyes only.)
So…ManOwaR (hereafter MANOWAR, which looks less like the work of a “misunderstood” eighth grader). Were you there last night? If so, you had $75 at stake, or $100 for the people with low future time orientation. That’s a lot, rivaling any single-night performance I’ve ever attended. On a cost-capacity basis, it blows everything else out of the water. For a band I’ve never found terribly exciting, it is doubly daunting. Though as any metalhead knows, the nagging What If? may always linger if you choose playing Chutes & Ladders with your autistic cousin over getting shit-hammered in a loud room with a 100-6 penis-vag ratio. So onward I forged in the name of HONOR AND STEEL.
So…was it worth it? Depends who you ask as always, but I can say that the majority seemed entirely satisfied at night’s end. The crush toward the stage, with it’s monolith of speakers and Babylonian drum riser, was persistent throughout the 100-minute-or-so set. Crowd shots, occasionally flashed on the backing screen by a (as Joey DeMaio so helpfully pointed out during a scripted rant) $100K projector, told the same tale of rapt adoration. MANOWAR is MANOWAR, I guess; $75 is a mere pittance to lay at their feet for the privilege of hearing them perform the classics in the tumescent flesh.
In addition to a few early hits, since this is the Kings of Metal anniversary tour and all, they managed to
play that entire album [edit: PLAY PART OF IT, apparently? I hate ballads and tuned out or even left the room for those. They may have missed “Wheels of Fire,” as well, but fuck if I can remember now. Read on!]. This formed the core of the show and included the pointless interludes (“The Warriors Prayer” and, though I couldn’t make out any actual bass tones the entire night, presumably “Sting of the Bumblebee”); ballads/epics (“The Crown and the Ring”; “Kingdom Come”); and anthemic favorites (the title track and “Hail and Kill”), which I’m certain had the crowd chants from the album blasted over the PA.
That seems feasible, at least; I have a hard time believing Minnesotans have ever been that reliable rhythmically despite our shimmering reputation as frigid, humorless androids with the social skills of day-old lutefisk. Yes, even though DeMaio said he thinks we’re awesome because fuck when we want and say what we mean, ’cause where are we, Milwaukee? Oh right. But I can accept that it’s all part of the arena-show bravado, right down to the decision to pour a Grain Belt tallboy all over himself to smell like ethanol plant effluent the rest of the night.
Still, there’s no denying that, entirely as intended, everything MANOWAR did was over the top. They clearly spent decent money on video production even if it wasn’t always perfectly synched with the audio. Eric Adams’ vocals were nuts-on, up and down the registers, though in keeping with the video issues, there seemed to be minor issues with matching them to some of the chorus effects. Karl Logan was also testes tight, uncannily so the times I could hear him, which unfortunately basically meant during solos only. Blame the bass drum sound: the equivalent of being at a stop light between two ghetto-blasting Cutlass Sierras at full tilt that are also gunning their engines. I got mixed reviews from people in other spots about how true that was. At least from my loser perch in the back, I was feeling corporeal resonance more than I was hearing actual music.
Mission accomplished, apparently, for the Loudest Band on Earth. My conception of the self-proclaimed and legendary volume of a MANOWAR show was just as conceited and brash as things ended up being, but I expected a shrill guitar/vocal attack undergirded by DeMaio’s massive tones. Never in a million years did I expect to get the subwoofer-meets-impending-diarrhea treatment from the bass drums above all else. Sadly, this meant their best tracks, the double-bass heavy speed metal fist bangers, were rendered the most unlistenable, while the cheese-dick ballads mocked you with their soaring clarity.
And you know what? Oh well. As I hope I’ve made obvious above, it was all in good fun, even at a 75-chalupa price tag.
Rant coming. The economics of metal shows seem to always defy rudimentary logic. One can bitch just as fervently for having wasted $5 on some local hacks as having wasted $75 on the self-proclaimed Kings of Metal. In fact, I think the bitching might normally be an order of magnitude greater for a $5 show than a $75 one: we’re stuck with the psychological attachment to our greater investment for the big show and our willingness to lie to ourselves about what we just saw to justify the sunk costs.
However, prior to this show, I heard by far the most idle bitching about ticket costs I have ever heard in my life. And I’m just as guilty as the rest at poking a bit of fun at the sticker shock. This has to be what prompted Joey DeMaio to not-so-subtly defend the band on stage against namless accusations of money-grubbing that probably originated in mispelled tweets, Facebook shares or some other nancy sewing circle shite that was a mere nerd fantasy when MANOWAR put out Battle Hymns a mere 32 years ago.
Not knowing the man or his history very well, I can’t test his sincerity on the subject of money specifically, but I would also be lying if I said I’d ever seen anything quite like what MANOWAR put together as a one-band touring act. So good on them for keeping on. Whether a band is truly metal’s saviors to you or if their reflexive schlock just isn’t to your taste, we can always vote with our wallets and save the chit-chat for less steely souls.
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