Demons & Wizards @ Concord Music Hall, Chicago (US)

DEMONS & WIZARDS / LIZZY BORDEN / TÝR

Date: 28th August, 2019
Venue: Concord Music Hall
Ticket: $45.5 (€41)
Promoter: n/a


It was 2000 when DEMONS & WIZARDS added Greece in their tour schedule, supporting the self-titled album that was every Power Metal fan’s wet dream, featuring two iconic musicians from two iconic bands; Jon Schaffer from ICED EARTH and Hansi Kürsch from BLIND GUARDIAN. Both bands were adored in Greece (and still are) to the extent that the local promoter decided to cancel the show in Athens after seeing the local record store being swarmed by fans who wanted to see their idols and get autographs. This was a huge bummer, and watching the two gentlemen being heavily busy, no hope that we would get a reprise was in sight. Fast forward 19 years, I finally got the chance to redeem myself with Jon and Hansi reigniting the DEMONS & WIZARDS engine, roaring the stages in both sides of the Atlantic. This meant that appropriate schedule had to be made because the evening commute in Chicago is relentless...

After all, there were two bands on the billing that I wanted to see; starting off with the younger (compared to the rest) TÝR who have been always fun to watch, and then, the almighty LIZZY BORDEN and the revamped lineup supporting the awesome “My Midnight Things”. With that being said, I think everyone will agree that this billing was a strange mix and match, and therefore I was curious to see how the US audience would react. Personally, I love shifting through Metal genres because there are so many things to like and hence it is borderline stupid to restrict your listening pleasure into specific genres.

That was kind of a long intro, however, I do believe it was worth it to give you some context. The venue filled up pretty fast, and half an hour after the doors had opened, the mood was almost Friday night-like. Just by hearing people around me, I realized that lots of them had driven from neighboring States and this says a lot about the interest catching DEMONS & WIZARDS live for the first time. Right on schedule, the lights went out and the sounds of a raging sea marked the time for the Faroe Islanders of TÝR. Without bells and whistles, Heri assumed his trademark ‘one-foot-on-the-monitor’ position and with his wingmen, bassist Gunnar and guitarist Attila, kicked off their rather unique Pagan Metal with the riff driven “Blood Of Heroes”. Yes, TÝR is not the typical Pagan Metal band, with their music featuring slower breaks and in time non-English lyrics. To me, these are the things that make TÝR so special but you have to know their stuff to fully enjoy their set. There was not pausing, with “Mare Of My Night” coming back to back, and this song is a great representation of this band’s writing; there is a fast chorus along with mid-tempo verses and bridges. The other characteristic of this band’s song-making, and strong card if you’d ask me, is the use of their native language; I mean, how awesome do the a-cappella lyrics of “Tróndur Í Gøtu” sound? That’s right; this type of pronunciation is a tailored suit to Pagan Metal. Bassist Gunnar, with a constant smile on his face, was the tip of the spear as far as working the crowd; he was roaming the stage and occasionally stepping on the subwoofers to get closer to the front rows.

After the sing-along “Gates Of Hel”, it was time for the setlist-constants; despite being mid-tempo, “By The Sword In My Hand” has this stuck-with-you quality through the fantastic vocal lines and the main riff. Damn, I love that one! Heri broke his speaking silence to greet the audience and mention the band’s name to whoever was oblivious of the Metal these fine Islanders have been putting together for almost two decades. The setlist-closer was the difficult to for me to sing-along “Hold the Heathen Hammer High”... too many h’s for my non-native speaking English tongue. After half an hour of Pagan Metal from the Faroe Islands, it was time to make a 180o turn to something more classic... Oh yeah, Lizzy was ready for us!

TÝR setlist:

01. “Blood Of Heroes”
02. “Mare Of My Night”
03. “Tróndur Í Gøtu”
04. “Fire And Flame”
05. “Ragnars Kvæði”
06. “Gates Of Hel”
07. “By The Sword In My Hand”
08. “Hold The Heathen Hammer High”

TÝR

Tyr @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Tyr @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Tyr @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Tyr @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Tyr @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Tyr @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Tyr @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Tyr @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Tyr @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Tyr @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

(click to enlarge)


I was curious to see what part of the relative young on average audience would react to LIZZY BORDEN, especially when considering that there was no direct connection to the headliners or the first band. Still, Lizzy happens to be one of the great performers in the Metal scene and I was so happy when he released the killer “My Midnight Things” breaking the 11-year dry spell as far as releasing new music is concerned.

The short intro let everyone know that the show was about to start with the word “show” in bold letters. You, Lizzy belongs to the rare breed of musicians who know exactly what it means stepping onstage and how to use visuals to support the music and create images. No, I am not talking about pyros, laser or anything fancy, but pure performance with different outfits, different roles, some stage props and the unique ability to support all this with theatrical moves. What was the last time you’ve experienced something similar in a Metal show?

I knew that the title track from “My Midnight Things” would be ten times better in concert and I was not disappointed. In fact, I got super-excited to the point I was torn between taking photos and headbanging along… However, I have trained myself to do both so I got my fair share of singing / jumping / headbanging during this up-tempo LIZZY BORDEN tune. Ok, the split-in-three faces mask Lizzy was wearing was a bit disturbing but at the same time wasn’t that its purpose? A quick outfit change and the band went straight to the trademark LIZZY BORDEN tune “Tomorrow Never Dies” from the underrated “Appointment With The Devil” album. Yep, fists-in-the-air and sing-along just became a “top-priority” even for those who have not heard this before.

The trip down to memory lane kept leading back in time with “Redrum” visiting the genre-shaping “Love To Pieces”. It is amazing to realize how LIZZY BORDEN’s quality still goes strong 34 years later. The baseball bat on Lizzy’s left hand meant only one thing (ok, for those who have seen this band live before) and that is the sing-along “Notorious”. To my delight, more people started to react but at the same time, I was not surprise me because I was well-aware of the effect Lizzy’s onstage presence and performance have on a live audience. I loved the fact that I could recognize almost right away what song would follow based on the outfit as I knew that “Master Of Disguise” and “There Will Be Blood” were next. Okay, it does not require to be a high-level sheer to understand that an axe and some fake blood are not the precursors for “There Will Be Blood”. Lizzy stepped into the photo-pit to “paint” some faces red, adding an image to the song’s title. I love such stuff especially when they are performed the right way and I am sure after reading this far you should have understood that Lizzy is an expert in these. Another outfit that quickly gave away its title was the one with two American flags hung on the singer’s arms. That’s right; it was time to sing “Red, white and blue - American Metal” for “American Metal” and that’s how this went down. The clean guitar chords revealed the next one that got me pumped up; back in the day, it was common to feel against the world with Metal being your best secret and the world you feel part of something giving you the strength to withstand anything blocking your way. The setlist ended as it started with a song from the latest album; “Long May They Haunt Us” dropped the curtain and it felt too early, especially if you consider that there was only room for two new songs. Because you cannot skip any of the classics, so hopefully we will be seeing LIZZY BORDEN on US stages really soon.

LIZZY BORDEN setlist:

01. “My Midnight Things”
02. “Tomorrow Never Comes”
03. “Red Rum”
04. “Notorious”
05. “Master Of Disguise”
06. “Terror On The Town”
07. “There Will Be Blood Tonight”
08. “American Metal”
09. “Me Against The World”
10. “Long May They Haunt Us”

LIZZY BORDEN

Lizzy Borden @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Lizzy Borden @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Lizzy Borden @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Lizzy Borden @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Lizzy Borden @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Lizzy Borden @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Lizzy Borden @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Lizzy Borden @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Lizzy Borden @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Lizzy Borden @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

(click to enlarge)


It was time to get what I was looking for, one year shy from two decades. Yes, it was time to see how the Schaffer / Hansi collab would work in concert. The stage with three crosses at the back and lots of good lighting were ready to host this project that back in the day had blown our minds. As I said, this happened after ICED EARTH and BLIND GUARDIAN had released “Something Wicked This Way Comes” and “Nightfall In Middle-Earth”, respectively. I got what I bargained for and maybe a bit more than that, although I cannot consider myself as a fair judge because the emotions and the anticipation were too high. Jon assumed his trademark stage-right spot and Hansi showed his friendly face wearing his characteristic smile, standing with his arms wide open. The rest of the band was a split between ICED EARTH and BLIND GUARDIAN with the also familiar faces of Marcus and Frederik from the latter. Ok, Jake was the younger one of the bunch as he joined ICED EARTH three years ago. “Heaven Denies” and especially my favorite “Poor Man's Crusade” sounded awesome and it was great to see Jon in such a good form as it seems he has totally recovered from his neck surgery.

Hansi was more talkative than I have ever seen him onstage; obviously he was in a great mood to the point that he was sharing the same level of enthusiasm with the audience. “Finally, a demon and a wizard came together and here we are in Chicago for the first time”, said Hansi, confirming once more how great a concert becomes when the band onstage is on that good mood. Yeah, it did not require to be an experienced detective to see how great the atmosphere is between these guys. By the way, Hansi promised to be a fair judge whether the Chicagoan crowd would be as good as or maybe better than what the band has experienced thus far. “Love's Tragedy Asunder” slowed things down a bit and based on what was coming, it was a clever choice to offer us a breather. More laughs and a bit of a chanting the name’s of almost everyone onstage turned out to be an additional mood booster.

It was time to honor the ICED EARTH / BLIND GUARDIAN alliance at the right moment as Hansi described the strong friendship he and Jon have built. A killer and maybe slightly faster version of “Burning Times” fell like a ten ton hammer upon us, although I would have loved to hear the classic chanting following the song’s main melody. Hansi surprised me with his higher pitch that fitted this ICED EARTH and at the same time giving it a different flavor. And to follow this with “Welcome To Dying”? My goodness, moshpit was the audience’s immediate reaction and this made absolutely frickin’ sense. Yep, this was the ICED EARTH / BLIND GUARDIAN heaven and we felt jolly to be there. I guess this was the right moment to take another breather both on and off stage with two bar chairs placed at the center. Jon and Hansi were the only ones onstage and gave us a live version of my favorite “Wicked Witch”. Yeah, a metalhead can have acoustic songs as favorites, especially when those are delivered by Hansi’s distinct timbre. Really, the only downside on this performance was the volume of the pre-recorded backing vocals and effects. Honestly, I would love to have a stripped down version but - again - this is strictly a matter of personal taste.

The lyrics of both bands and obviously for their spawn, DEMONS & WIZARDS, often draw inspiration from fantasy stories told in books, and in this instance we got a powerful triplet with the “Moby Dick” inspired and the next two, “The Gunslinger” and “Terror Train”, from Stephen King’s – probably best work – “The Dark Tower” (definitely not the crappy movie adaptation).  Fun fact, I started reading “The Dark Tower” after interviewing Hansi sometime back in the ‘00s. The last ICED / GUARDIAN (I wonder if they ever considering this name instead of DEMONS & WIZARDS) pairing happened with “I Died For You” and the hair-raising “Valhalla”. In an unofficial singing-along contest, the winner would be the latter, mostly based on how the audience kept singing the chorus long after the band had stopped playing. This was one of the rare moments when Euro and US audiences behaved with the same passion for the same song - just awesome! If you don’t believe me, then this is what Hansi said after the audience stopped chanting the chorus: “You are fucking crazy, Chicago - you have been one of the best audiences we have played for, we are happy to end this set with three depressive songs, so you have to help us”. Unfortunately, we are marching towards the end of the set with the powerful trio of “Tear Down The Wall”, “Gallows Pole” and “My Last Sunrise”. Do you think we got depressed hearing those three? Nah, not even close.

A brief goodnight meant that we were seriously close to the end; however, we would not move an inch if we did not get a couple more to sweeten this bitter pill... Ok, I am exaggerating because my heart was full and kind of overwhelmed after waiting for too long to hear these songs live. However, there were two more for us; “We are obviously back for a few more songs, is that alright with you?”, asked Hansi in a rhetorical manner of course. The end of the fast “Blood On My Hands” saw an acoustic guitar brought onstage (on Jon’s side); the band offered another hair raising moment with “Fiddler On The Green” during which the stage was lit with green lights. You may think having an acoustic song to end the show was not “ending the set with bang” but – trust me – it was, especially when the guitar distortion kicked in.

Of course, having followed DEMONS & WIZARDS from day one did boost my emotions and did blur my judgement but it does not matter because I have just created new memories and things to recall and be happy about. And this is the core of loving this music! Thank you, gentlemen!

DEMONS & WIZARDS setlist:

01. “Heaven Denies”
02. “Poor Man's Crusade”
03. “Crimson King”
04. “Love's Tragedy Asunder”
05. “Burning Times
06. “Welcome to Dying
07. “Wicked Witch
08. “Beneath These Waves”
09. “The Gunslinger”
10. “Terror Train”
11. “I Died For You”
12. “Valhalla”
13. “Tear Down The Wall”
14. “Gallows Pole”
15. “My Last Sunrise”
16. “Blood On My Hands”
17. “Fiddler On The Green”

DEMONS & WIZARDS

Demons And Wizards @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Demons And Wizards @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Demons And Wizards @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Demons And Wizards @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Demons And Wizards @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Demons And Wizards @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Demons And Wizards @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Demons And Wizards @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Demons And Wizards @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Demons And Wizards @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Demons And Wizards @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Demons And Wizards @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Demons And Wizards @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Demons And Wizards @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Demons And Wizards @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

(click to enlarge)