Concert Review: Sonisphere Milan (Rho Fiera) June 8th, 2013 (Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Mastodon, Ghost)

sonisphere2013v2_lr1Between countless bits of memorabilia, various t-shirts, an extensive Iron Maiden discography, and a tattoo of Eddie the Head taking up half of my back it’s quite obvious that I am quite the die-hard Iron Maiden fan.  So the second I heard that Bruce, Steve, Adrian, Nicko, Dave, Janick, and Eddie were going to be making a stop in Milan to headline the Sonisphere festival it was an immediate ticket purchase, especially after a 6 year dry spell where I haven’t seen my all time favorite band live.  At first the only band that was announced was Iron Maiden, and even if Justin Beeber and The Spice Girls were also playing I would have dropped the €60 regardless, I was still curious to which other bands would be on the bill.  Lucky for me the ridiculously Satanic doomsters Ghost were announced as well as a band that truly lives up to their name, Mastodon.  Also on the bill was Megadeth and a couple of other bands whose names escape me and were on the stage too early for me to see.  With such a damn fine line-up and my expectation blasting through the roof did the show live up?  Long story short, Hell Fuck Yeah!!!

The concert was held in Rho Fiera Milano, the same venue I saw The Gods of Metal festival last year (Ozzy, Opeth, Lamb of God) and it isn’t a horrible venue if the sun isn’t in full effect or you’re not of a short stature.  I would have preferred something on grass or dirt in lieu of a large parking lot, but beggars can’t be choosy.  I lucked out with a somewhat cloudy day as the sun didn’t roast my heat hating ass like a Thanksgiving turkey and the climate was rather pleasant as twilight rolled around.  Standing at 6’3″ (190.5 cm) I’m a pretty tall person and given that the grounds are flat with no incline and the stage was set a bit lower than I’ve seen at other festivals, even for me getting a really good panoramic view was just barely attainable.  I felt bad for my wife who accompanied me for her first Iron Maiden concert (and also amazingly took all of the pictures featured here while I was standing in amazement at the bands playing) as getting a decent view was pretty difficult in the sold out show, it must have sucked for the others that aren’t lanky giants like myself too.  Anywho, not a terrible venue, but I think the people involved in designing the stage could have done a better job, like setting the stage a couple of feet higher.

IMG_3917

Preach on Papa, preach on.

I got there at about 4 P.M. just in time to comfortably find a nice spot to settle and join in the Satanic ritual with my favorite new band of this decade, Ghost.  With the Nameless Ghouls garbed in black robes and front man Papa Emeritus II in his usual anti-pope tunic and mitre they stunned the unsuspecting crowd with their musical proclamations to the Dark Lord.  For as little as Papa Emeritus moves on stage, he has some outstanding stage presence and the majority of those in attendance were very receptive to his subtle gestures to clap your hands, put the horns up, and sing along to the Hail Satans.  The thing that surprised me the most about Ghost was just how heavy they are live when compared to the albums.  The drums and bass sounded like lightning rumbling right next to my ears and the guitars had a deep gut punch sound to them not heard on the records.  And they were loud, very, very loud.  All in all they sounded excellent and I can’t wait to see them pass by on a headlining show.  The setlist was: Infesstisumam, Per Aspera ad Inferi, Con Clavi Con Dio, Prime Mover, Elizabeth, Stand By Him, Death Knell, Year Zero, Ritual, and Monstrance Clock.

Leave it to Brann Dailor to play the clown ;)

Leave it to Brann Dailor to play the clown 😉

Next up was a band that always lives up to their name, Mastodon.  This was my third time seeing them, and as usual they didn’t disappoint.  Musically meticulous the Georgian prog metal quartet crushed the stage like a, well, like a mastodon.  The last time I saw them was about 7 years ago when they were opening for Slayer, and I do have to say they have come a long way since that show.  Live vocals were much improved, especially on Brent Hinds cleans, and they brought a lot more kinetic energy to the stage with co-vocalist/bassist Troy Sanders running, jumping, and dancing all over the place like he was hopped up on 3 cases of Red Bull.  But for me, the set stealer was in Mastodon’s mind bending drummer Brann Dailor.  Easily my pick for the best modern drummer, that man hits the skins in such unique patterns and with such conviction you can’t help but to be mesmerized by him.  They also played quite a nice mix on their set list with a more focus on the newer material, which has me going back to The Hunter and finding a new respect for an album that didn’t quite hit me when it first released.  The setlist was as follows: Black Tongue, Crystal Skull, Dry Bone Valley, Thickening, Octopus Has No Friends, Blasteroid, Crack the Skye, Spectrelight, Curl of the Burl, Blood and Thunder, and The Sparrow (and boy did they rock the fuck out of that song).

Third on the stage was a band I have mixed feelings for.  While I respect Dave Mustaine for all he’s done for the metal realm like being one of the forefathers of thrash metal and releasing a few really damn good albums (Rust in Peace, Countdown to Extinction, Peace Sells..) and being an amazing guitarist, I just never could really get into Megadeth outside of the previously mentioned records and a couple other songs here and there.  I also really don’t care much for his vocals.  So take the rest of this review with a grain of salt knowing my predisposition to Megadeth.  I can’t say they were horrible, but I felt that they were really lacking, even when they played their classic material.  Dave’s vocals teetered on acceptable to downright terrible at times (and this isn’t my first time with Megadeth, and his live vocals have always been an issue).  The only time he really sounded good was on the easier songs like “Peace Sells…” and “Sweating Bullets” where his snarl didn’t have to worry all too much about time and range.  And for the big ‘surprise’ of the night was one of the worst vocal performances I’ve heard in a long time.  Joining Megadeth on stage for “A Tout Le Monde” was Lacuna Coil’s Christina Scabbia and it sounded like neither one of them gave the song an ounce of practice before jumping on stage.  Dave mumbled the vocals like he was chewing on a potato and Christina, who voice did sound great, was way off time.  It was just a jumbled mess and the atrocious vocal performance took away from the rest of the band who were actually playing quite well.  Especially new lead guitarist Chris Broderick who at times seemed to outshine Dave.

Dave really needs to hang onto Mr. Broderick here.  Dude can shred like a mofo.

Dave really needs to hang onto Mr. Broderick here. Dude can shred like a mofo.

The rest of the set was rather lackluster with Dave getting the crowd going by playing a nice classic and then boring them with a more recent, less exciting tune.  They didn’t really hit stride until the end of their set when it was too late.  I will say however, guitarwise, they were great and anytime mouths were closed my ears did perk up a bit, especially for “Hanger 18” and “She-Wolf”.  There was also a decent cover of Thin Lizzy’s “Cold Sweat” that would probably sound much better recorded in studio than live.  The set-list was: Trust, Hangar 18, Kingmaker, She-Wolf, A Tout Le Monde, Countdown to Extinction, Sweating Bullets, Public Enemy #1, Super Collider, Cold Sweat, Symphony of Destruction, Peace Sells, and Holy Wars.

Next and finally up for the day is the band that the capacity crowd has been waiting all day to see.  Getting everyone’s attention with the stage lights turning on and a recorded audio playback of UFO’s “Doctor Doctor” my eyes started to become misty as the theme of the stage was reveled.  Let it be known that my all time favorite album of all the music in the world is 7th Son of a 7th Son.  And beyond the music of the record, I also find myself drawn to the rather unconventional yet extremely Iron Maiden, Derek Riggs artwork of the album.  So when I saw that the stage had been set up with 7th Son as it’s theme, well let’s just say I was slightly overwhelmed.  And then, after the obligatory epic music intro I hear “Seven deadly sins; Seven ways to win; Seven holy paths to Hell and your trip begins”.  Words and pictures can not put into context the emotion I felt as the started off their show with the iconic song “Moonchild”.  It felt like a dream and at any moment I would wake up and then have to force myself back to sleep in futile hopes I can continue said dream from where I left off.  But that wasn’t the case, with grandeur and fireworks Maiden made some of my boyhood dreams come true in the span of mere moments.

Can I play with madness?

Can I play with madness?

As always, Iron Maiden were on point.  Bruce sounded great for the most part, though he did struggle on a few of the higher octave sustained notes, but given his age and complexity of the songs he was singing it was easily excusable.  And even if he missed a word or two, the enthusiasm of the audience was more than loud enough to fill in any part.  He was his usual live wire self zipping all over the stage like a caffeinated squirrel as he ran up and down the backdrop and climbed rafters.  Simply put, Bruce yet again proved why he is one of the very best, top of the line, royale supreme w/ cheese frontmen out there.

And for as show stealing Bruce can be, he is never undermined by his band who are just as enthusiastic and energetic as Bruce.  Maiden mastermind Steve Harris ran, leaped, spun, headbanged, and did that trademark play the bass like a machine gun stance at every opportunity.  Adrian, Dave, and Janick zipped around with blaring smiles on their face as they perfectly played every note on their guitars.  And Nicko shined like the sun behind his cage of barrels as his beats kept everyone in time and in order.  Musically, there are few bands that sound as good as Iron Maiden live and the amount of positive energy they bring to the stage makes ones heart feel as if it is going to explode with joy.

Want want want want.  I wonder what one has to do to get their hands on the props after the tour is over.

Want want want want. I wonder what one has to do to get their hands on the props after the tour is over.

And as usual the stage show Iron Maiden brings is abso-fuckin-lutely amazing.  From a colonial Eddie the Head terrorizing the stage during “Run to the Hills”, transitioning artwork banners running in concordance to the songs, flames, fire, fireworks, and giant animatronic Eddie’s rising behind the band, Iron Maiden isn’t just a joy to the ears, but also to the eyes.  My highest points were for the performance of “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” where a 15 ft Eddie (modeled after the single cover) stood with an ominous organ seated to the left for Bruce to deliver the dramatic middle section in.  And for the ‘fake closer’ I got to witness my favorite album cover come to life as Eddie with his glowing eyes rose above the stage holding that creepy, gyrating stomach sac or whatever it is filled with the 7th Son.  Again, words can not properly convey the overwhelming happiness this Iron Maiden superfan felt at that moment.

So with a setlist of pure classics with the majority composed of 7th Son songs, needless to say every note was a crowd pleaser.  I walked away in awe and elated.  I could not have asked for a better evening, set list, and stage show.  While this may never top when I saw Iron Maiden for the first time at Madison Square Garden in NYC during the Brave New World tour (really, that first Iron Maiden show is something that sticks with one forever), it came really damn close.  I would have loved to hear “Infinite Dreams” and “Hallowed be thy Name” on the set list, but the inclusion of “7th Son”, “Moonchild” and “The Prisoner” more than made up for them.  If you ever have an opportunity to see Iron Maiden in concert, do not miss them.  Time and time again they reaffirm why they are and always will be my favorite band and have yet to deliver nothing less than excellence on stage.  Grande Iron Maiden, veramente grande!  Grazie ancora.  Milano vi ama!

Iron Maiden set-list: Moonchild, Can I Play With Madness, The Prisoner, 2 Minutes to Midnight, Afraid to Shoot Strangers, The Trooper, The Number of the Beast, The Phantom of the Opera, Run to the Hills, Wasted Years, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, The Clairvoyant, Fear of the Dark, Iron Maiden, Aces High, The Evil That Men Do, and Running Free.

Ya, that about sums it up.  Fire, metal, and horns.... and cellphones.

Ya, that about sums it up. Fire, metal, and horns…. and cellphones.

Here’s a photo dump of all the pictures take of the show.  Thanks to my lovely wife for shooting them so I could focus on being a fanboy!

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About RiffRaff

Just takin' it easy for all you sinners.

Posted on June 10, 2013, in Concert Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Maiden is on my list of bands to see live. Great review.

  2. It’s nice to hear you had an awesome time at Sonisphere! And maybe you knew this already, but you’re a really good writer.

    • Awww, thanks 🙂 You’re making me blush and feel all giddy!
      I had a wonderful time and it will be a show that I will never forget, ever. Now excuse me while I go listen to 7th Son for the 7th time today 🙂

  3. Great review and it sounds like a great time. Sorry Mustaine didn’t shine like he used to despite the snarly vocals he always had. Getting old must be rough…Though, you pointed out the rest of the band can still shred on guitars so all was not lost there. I am glad you got there in time to see Ghost, they are phenomenal live. I don’t know what it is, but from CD to the stage there is remarkable impact to their sound. I saw Mastodon once during the Unholy Alliance Tour with Slayer. I didn’t know them at the time, but they were so loud and seemed to have good timing. Sounds like you hit the last four cool bands of the day. I have only seen Maiden once and vow to never miss them again, if given the chance. The 7th Son…set must have been killer. I need to add that to my digital device ASAP. I sure do miss the festivals of England. The States just doesn’t compare when it comes to that atmosphere and overall experience.

  4. While reading your live review I’m instantly brought back to their last tour where I saw them live in Frankfurt. I can affirm everything you said about their live performance. An outstanding experience and one of the three or four best live shows I’ve seen so far.

    The reason for reading this today is that some good friends of mine watching Iron Maiden at this very moment in Frankfurt. I would have been with them, but my internship just finished today (I’m now an “official” writer for the Ox Fanzine 🙂 ) So when their enthusiastic text messages reached me I put in Seventh son of a seventh son, wrote them one should please do a Wasted Years video, opened a beer and decided it’s time to take down a trip to memory lane. Great and vivid review!

    Next time I really hope I can make it to another show!

    • Congrats on finishing your internship and becoming an “official writer”!!!!!! What kind of fanzine is Ox?
      As always, thanks for reading!!!!!!!!!!!

      • It started as a Punk and Hardcore Fanzine, but now they review a really wide range of music (about 500 reviews of music, books and comics in every two-month issue). Its a small core of about four people working full-time and about 60 other writers. Also it is very DIY (the editorial office, is just the main floor of the house of the chief editor) and familial its very professional. I had the chance to do an internship in-between my studies and didnt want to miss it. Its not paid (Therefore the quotation marks. Also – after 25 years – they are emphasizing that they are fans and not music journalists, which is quite likeable I think), its just for the sake of doing what you do here as well: Writing about and sharing music you love with people. It gave me a nice and interesting insight and I hope to do further things along this lines.

        http://www.ox-fanzine.de/

  5. Also superb pics!

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