Heart of Steel: Concert Reviews

Iced Earth, In Flames and Jag Panzer

April 9, 2002 at Jaxx in Springfield, VA

Review by CrashTest
NOTE: Credit for the pictures goes to Sherry Young from Richmond, VA. She bailed me out when the pics I took ended up looking like shit.

Heavy metal... what a way to spend a rainy Tuesday night! If you're a fan of Iced Earth, the most encouraging thing about what happened on this night was that it marked the first time Jaxx sold out before the doors opened. Pretty impressive when one considers that the club has hosted seminal acts like Dio, Nevermore, Testament, Savatage, Malmsteen, W.A.S.P., Steve Vai and Dokken... too name only a select few. Yes, my friends, Iced Earth are finally building a head of steam in the USA! Unfortunately, the big crowd also meant a long line and, despite my early arrival, I had to stand for a good 45 minutes before getting into the club just as Jag Panzer was playing their last song. Enough bitching though, because once I got inside it ended up being worth the 5 hour drive and the standing in line. Put simply, In Flames kicked my ass and then Iced Earth beat me within an inch of my very life.

The journey began on Tuesday afternoon. I took off from work just after lunch, put my Iced Earth, In Flames and Jag Panzer albums into my CD case and hopped in the Civic. However, before I could make it across town to pick up a metal brother, the "check engine" light came on. No problem, we took his Jeep and decided not to sweat the outrageous gas bill that would result. But cruel Fate would slap us in the face yet again, as the "check engine" light came on in the Jeep just as we hit Durham, NC. After a quick examination under the hood, we kicked Fate in the balls and decided that Destiny was on our side.

I was bummed to have missed Jag Panzer, but In Flames got my night started right. Their set began with a fiery rendition of "Bullet Ride", with Anders jumping into the crowd just as he started singing. Yeah, the surfing bit may have seemed a little mallcore-ish, but it got people fired up right away. As one would expect, the band played several songs from CLAYMAN, including the first three tracks and the title track. Regrettably, the band only played one song from THE JESTER RACE, but they did offer up ass-kicking renditions of "Episode 666", "Gyroscope" and "Ordinary Story." Anders kept things lively with the banter between songs, announcing that the new album would be out in the Fall and informing the bouncers who were yelling at people to back up that they were at a disadvantage because "it helps when you have a microphone fucking." Haha, I love when foreigners cuss, they always put the profanity in the wrong place! Peter was a non-stop whirlwind of headbanging and Bjorn was obviously having a good time. So was the crowd.

The anticipation was high for Iced Earth from the minute In Flames left the stage. This fact was no more evident than when the crowd broke out into a chant of "Iced Earth" as the band's crew began to walk onto the stage. Classic! When the lights went down and the band finally walked out to take their spots, the place erupted. Iced Earth broke into a stirring rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" as Matt Barlow ran across the stage waving the American flag with the crowd singing the words. That may seem over the top to fans from other parts of the world, but it was a nice touch. Just imagine the band playing your national anthem and waving your flag if it makes you feel better!

The majority of the songs on the setlist were from the three most recent studio albums, but I didn't feel robbed in the least. Especially since the band played the trilogies from DARK SAGA and SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES in their entirety. In a word, the trilogies were "breathtakinglyawesome". And yes, that is a word. Among the other highlights were "Violate", "Pure Evil", "My Own Saviour", "Damien", "The Hunter" and "Jack". Simply killer.

As anyone who has heard ALIVE IN ATHENS would expect, the band executed the music with a finely-tuned precision. Richard Christy was on top of his game, pulling off the double bass insanity of "Wolf" while hardly breaking a sweat. Barlow was godly, further cementing his position among the upper echelon of metal voices. The lamb chops he was sporting were pretty cool. Jon Schaeffer was his flawless self. Tarnowski and McDonough were solid. As seems to be the case with most of the metal shows I have been to lately, the mix on the vocals left much to be desired. Barlow was often too far back in the mix and the backup vocals were so low that the mics might as well have been unplugged. Minor problem though, because whenever the voices on stage could not be heard, the voices on the floor filled in nicely. If ALIVE IN ATHENS did anything, it set a benchmark for the way fans should behave at an Iced Earth show. The crowd participation was great.

The band played their signature eponymous tune as the encore, which caused me to break loose into spontaneous, uncontrollable headbanging for about the hundredth time. That was the straw that broke the camel's back, as my neck is still a little sore almost a week later. I guess Father Time is finally catching up to me, old bastard that I am.

It was a long trip home after the show ended, but we had no choice. I had clients to meet with the next day and sleep was not an option. Once home, my friend and I parted ways as the sun was beginning to rise. I looked Scooter in the eye and asked, "They're playing in New York tonight ... wanna hop a plane?" We laughed, but deep down I think we might have done it if we thought our wives wouldn't kill us for staying out all night two nights in a row. Oh yeah, and there's always that important thing we all need from time to time ... sleep!

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