Thursday, October 16, 2008

Iced Earth at the Worcester Palladium, 10/15/2008

Lately I've seen the same bands in concert over and over again, so I was quite excited when I learned that Iced Earth, a band I have never seen live, was going to be on a headlining tour across America. I've seen snippets of their performances on video, plus own enough live material (including the excellent three disc version of Alive In Athens) to generally know what to expect, but that didn't curb my enthusiasm for the night.

First, I was a bit surprised at how many people showed up to see them. The club was pretty full, which is impressive for a band that doesn't receive one bit of radio airplay. The crowd was respectful towards the opening bands, but were clearly getting impatient once those sets were done and the club started pumping Iron Maiden songs ("Afraid to Shoot Strangers" being one of them; yes, quite an unusual choice) through the monitors.

Iced Earth's unveiling at the stage could only have been improved upon by Judas Priest or, well, Spinal Tap. As they stood solemnly in the darkness, a humongous banner of Set Abominae (via the album cover of The Crucible of Man) rose behind them while a recording of "In Sacred Flames" played. When complete, the band burst ferociously into "Behold the Wicked Child", the first rocker off their latest release.

I found the sound a bit mushy for the first few songs, but by the time the band paused, then introduced and launched into the chug-a-thon of "Burning Times," my fears regarding sound quality were put to rest. Throughout this song, and especially the faster galloping of songs like "Vengeance Is Mine", "Stormrider", and "Ten Thousand Strong", Iced Earth mainman Jon Schaffer's riffage on his Gibson Les Pauls and Explorers was tight and controlled. Troy Seele's solos were well played, which was welcome considering he didn't go out of his way to preen for the audience. Too bad the sound guy was probably told "Jon must be louder than everyone else," because the lead levels definitely weren't at the right volume until the encore.

I'd be shirking my duties if I didn't mention the excellent frontman work done by Matt Barlow, who recently returned to Iced Earth following Tim Owens' recent departure. Fan favorite Barlow commanded the stage, authoritatively belting out tunes that spanned across four singers worth of albums, and deftly engaged the audience during band breaks.

Although songs played came from the entirety of Iced Earth's long career, there were a greater amount played from Something Wicked, only one from The Dark Saga, and sadly, none whatsoever from Burnt Offerings (further proof that Schaffer really does hate this point of his recording career). We did get treated to a triumphant "High Water Mark", the highlight of their Gettysburg trilogy, even if the tune is a bit pompous to ever take completely seriously. But that kind of stuff is thoroughly enjoyable in a live setting, and the crowd ate it up. Also of note was a touching rendition of "Watching Over Me", a song Schaffer wrote for his childhood friend who came up with the band name before dying in an unfortunate motorcycle accident.

Set List:

In Sacred Flames
Behold the Wicked Child
Motivation of Man
Setian Massacre
Burning Times
Declaration Day
Vengeance Is Mine
Ten Thousand Strong
Pure Evil
Watching Over Me
The Coming Curse
I Walk Alone
High Water Mark

Melancholy (Holy Martyr)
My Own Savior
Iced Earth


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