Heart of Steel: Concert Reviews

Dio, HammerFall, King's X

Roseland Theater, Portland, OR  U.S.A.
November 8, 2002

Review By Michael De Los Muertos
Additional Commentary & Pictures by Ice Maiden

Ronnie James loves to play Portland. That much is obvious. He's been here three times in the past 2˝ years--contrasted with bands like Manowar, who manage a Portland performance on average of twice a decade!--and there are a fair amount of Portland's true metalheads who have a locally-bought Dio concert shirt (or two) hidden away in their closets. I'm a fan of R.J.D. (who isn't?), but having seen and reviewed two prior performances I was mostly interested in this show to see HammerFall. In fact, among the Portland metal folks--Ice Maiden, Stormwriter, Witch Hunter and his wife, and myself--who gathered at Fellini's an hour before the show, HammerFall was the main topic of conversation. Sadly the advance verdict on their new album is generally unfavorable. I was therefore a bit nervous about their long-awaited performance. Would they play any of their new stuff, which Witch described as "nu hair metal?" Or would they revert to their old-style crushing power metal performances, such as at Satyricon four years ago or the headlining shot at Wacken 2001?

Alas, Fellini's, although a pleasant and convenient gathering place for the metalheads, has lost its game. We had to wait several minutes before the barmaid even acknowledged our existence. Having been ill for much of this week with severe allergies, downing the last half of my Black Butte Porter in five or six swallows on the way out the door probably wasn't the best idea. I wouldn't want to spend the HammerFall set in the Roseland Theater's squalid men's room, puking into some grimy toilet! For all of these reasons this show, although exciting, was a bit touch-and-go for me at first.

(Ice Maiden's Commentary: I was super-pumped for Hammerfall and Dio, and had never heard of Kings X. After I few Midori Sours-mmmm, engine fluid.-I was ready to go. Not willing to miss any of Hammerfall, I left Muertos with WitchHunter and took off with Stormwriter for the venue. In like Flynn..woohoo! And they started the show EARLY!!!)

It remained so at first. Unfortunately I was still in line at the door when HAMMERFALL began their set. Hearing the muted drone of "Steel Meets Steel" from one floor up I was astonished--please tell me some sadistic promoter didn't make HammerFall the opener! As soon as my press credentials were verified I eagerly bounded up the stairs to the main room. Inexcusable! HammerFall, one of the guardians of modern power metal, and fellow citizens of my girlfriend's home town of Gothenburg, Sweden, was relegated to the opening slot, like they were some third-rate mallcore act! Nevertheless, my worries at the bar turned out to be unfounded. HammerFall were just as dynamic and enjoyable as they've always been. Their performance did not quite match the unbridled power of their jaw-dropping outing at Satyricon in December 1998 (on the Death tour), but it was still excellent all around. Frontman Joacim Cains is an energetic and charismatic spokesman for the band. His vocals aren't the greatest that power metal has to offer, but he has a very familiar, fun-loving style that definitely helps to whip up the energy onstage. Also it was good to see the rest of the band having fun. Guitarist Oskar Dronjak--whom I had the pleasure to meet in the lobby of our hotel at Wacken this past summer--and bassist Magnus Rosen were grinning like Cheshire Cats through most of the set, which was due to its short length necessarily an abridged version of HammerFall's highlights. "Renegade," "Let The Hammer Fall" and "HammerFall" (not to be confused with each other) were probably the best songs of the shockingly short thirty-minute presentation. I heard no "nu hair metal." I really wish HammerFall had more time, because I would have loved to have heard "Heeding The Call" or even "Glory to the Brave," which, given the enthusiastic mood of the true-metal crowd in the audience, would probably have gone over surprisingly well. It was an absolute sin to put a band as strong as HammerFall at the top of this bill. Bring me the head of whatever promoter made that decision! Enough of Portland's power metal fans own swords that this guy should watch his back when he walks the streets…

(Ice Maiden's Commentary: 30 fricking minutes. Scandal and waste. The set list: Riders…, Heeding, Renegade, Let the Hammer Fall, Hearts, and Hammerfall. This was an AWESOME set, but Hammerfall, the best band on the bill, opening??? WTF???)





Between sets, as always, it's great fun to catch up with the Portland metal folks, and I saw several of them on tap, including some cool guys I'd met at the Kreator/Destruction show at the end of September. Several of them, who had no interest in King's X and Dio (!), were departing for Satyricon to see whatever non-metal band was playing there, but one cheerful fellow who couldn't stop raving about the December-scheduled Blind Guardian show in Seattle remained and we talked for a while. It's definitely good to see some local people appreciate good metal. Why don't we get more bands like HammerFall and Blind Guardian here in the Northwest? It's a complete sin.



KING'S X, a band that I don't really think is metal, took the stage next. I admire Doug Pinnick, one of the few openly gay personalities in and around the heavy music scene, for his tenacity and sticking to his principles despite decades of harsh criticism, but I can't say his music did much for me. A song and a half into the King's X set we fled downstairs to the bar, where several more beers were downed and Stormwriter, Witch Hunter and I had an enjoyable time surveying the human wildlife drifting through the Roseland Theater bar. We waited until King's X finished. Opinions were split on whether Dio would be any good. Granted, he's a great singer and musician, but when he came in March 2001 his set was quite limp--probably because he decided (unwisely, in my opinion) to spend most of it playing the entire Magica album from beginning to end. But, everybody was certainly willing to give Mr. D. the benefit of the doubt.

(Ice Maiden's Commentary: I stayed for the King's X set. Who was the emaciated walking-stick-half-black, half-asian dude in a cowboy hat? Granted, they harmonize amazingly well, but what is this band doing on a metal bill? Still, to their credit, though not metal, these guys did have a very moving sound. They were able to sway a very metal crowd, which at the end had to give some honest cheers. Get these guys their own bill, please.)


Ronnie James DIO showed us how wrong we were to doubt him. From the first moment the ex-Rainbow, ex-Black Sabbath man burst on the stage, he had the entire crowd enthralled. I don't know if it was an exceptionally good night for Dio or whether it was just the collective mood in the place, but I have rarely been as completely entertained by a metal performance than I was this night. Dio ran the gambit of older stuff, newer stuff, and stuff in between. Rushing about from one side of the stage to the other, exercising his formidable lung power in all the right places, Dio never threw a note that wasn't perfect, and perfectly-executed. There was very little from Magica, and in my opinion the set was a well-balanced survey of Dio's more than 30 years in the metal business. Like most fans there I was most happy with the old classics like "Rainbow" and "Man on the Silver Mountain." As soon as Dio said the words "Holy Diver!" the entire place went berserk. Indeed this was probably his finest rendition of the evening, and the audience appreciated it. There wasn't a slow moment in the entire set. At one point I looked at my watch, thinking only twenty minutes or so had passed, and discovered it was almost one AM. Dio came back out for an encore, of course, and he closed the show with an audience-participation version of "We Rock." I recall he'd done this on both previous tours through Portland, but after the power and fury of this night's set it had added kick. At the true end of the show when Dio and his band came onstage to take a bow you could tell that they really felt like this had been a great performance that they were satisfied with. Regardless of whether you came for HammerFall, King's X or Ronnie James himself, if you were in that crowd at the end of the show you were a diehard Dio fan.

(Ice Maiden's Commentary: This was definitely my favorite Dio performance (I've seen him maybe 3 times?) to date. The little guy was everywhere-hamming it up to the crowd, to the cameras (me) and to his band-mates. Incredible set:

--Killing the Dragon
--Egypt/Children of the Sea
--Stand Up and Shout
--Rock and Roll
--Don't Talk to Strangers
--Man on the Silver Mountain
--Long Live Rock and Roll
--Lord of the Last Day
--Fever of Dream
--Holy Diver
--Heaven and Hell

3 Encores!
--The Last in Line
--Rainbow in the Dark
--We Rock

There was also an incredible drum solo near the beginning of the set, and an incredible guitar solo after Man on the Silver Mountain. This was a long, long, night, and I never felt tired and never felt like the energy was ebbing. Awesome!)

For a pleasant change the crowd at Roseland was composed almost entirely of real metalheads. (Part of this was probably because it was a 21-and-over show, fairly rare for the Roseland). No Shitknot T-shirts, no fourth-graders with liberty spikes, no stupid goth chicks in black PVC coats. Just lots and lots of cool metal people. Proof positive that moshing is an unknown and unnecessary art among progressive/power metal fans: at this show you could get right up to the stage without worrying about getting knocked on your ass by some sweaty mosh-pit asshole in a wifebeater T-shirt. Indeed this was the perfect crowd. We need more shows like this one!

I might also add, for whatever it's worth, that over the course of the evening I was approached by no less than four people, none of whom I'd ever seen before, who said they were regular readers of the Metal-Rules.com site. That I was recognized as a Metal-Rules writer was virtually an accident. Before the show I was frantically scouring my closet for my HammerFall T-shirt, which seems mysteriously to have disappeared, so at the last minute I put on one of my Metal-Rules designs and left it at that. In retrospect I'm certainly glad I did. It's great to have some positive feedback on what we do, and the compliments I received from these readers about the site make the long hours and hard work worth it.

With the possible exception of Wacken and Manowar, this was the best metal show I've been to in 2002--a fantastic, energizing, and immensely entertaining evening where everybody, including Dio, was enjoying themselves tremendously. At the end of the show Dio thanked Portland and promised he'd return. Given his track record we probably won't have to wait too long…and we're virtually guaranteed a stellar performance. Long live Ronnie James!

(Ice Maiden's Commentary: I have much to say about this show, but my ride to the airport to head to Atlanta for ProgPower is waiting, so, suffice it to say: Go see this show if it comes anywhere near you!!!)