Live at the House of Blues
Los Angeles, CA
September 25, 2010
It seems like I had been anticipating this show for nine months or at least since I saw the postings for the four US dates. I have never seen Iced Earth before but have been a fan for quite some time and was more than just a little excited that one of the limited dates would be here on the Sunset Strip.
Iced Earth is based around one man's vision and although it has had a volatile roster of members, Jon Schaffer is the anchor point of superb song writing and consistency.
I was also excited to see Jon's side project, Sons of Liberty and it was a special show in many ways, one of which was the debut of this side project and even better, they were going to be the only opening act so the night was all about Jon.
Early press for the tour touted this as a "fan selected setlist" that would hold quite a few surprises. With that statement a lot of anticipation for what would be included and what would not abounded and I spoke to quite a few fans before and after the show just to see where people stood on the material. With twenty plus years and nine full length releases, several singles, compilations, a cover album, and live recordings to select from, there was bound to be an interesting plan.
As the curtains lifted the instrumental "1776" played. They went immediately into "Burning Times", an awesome song which starts off both the original album it was released on as well as their "Best Of" compilation so a great way to start off the set.
Iced Earth has a deep sound built around the rhythm sections, especially Jon's rhythm guitar playing and I really love his musical style. It has a unique quality that reminds me of a relentless juggernaut, or an evil locamotive (but that just could be thanks to "Terror Train" off of his other side project Demons and Wizards).
Lyrically the songs vary from theological discussions to love songs with a gothic touch to historical and political expositions and this intelligent diversity is what sets them head and shoulders above the standard metal mentality and brings in the equally diverse fan base that includes straight up metal heads to industrial and gothic minded followers as well.
The next song was "Declaration Day" off of "The Glorious Burden" which was the most recent album touched in the night's set selection. I was surprised in many ways that nothing from either of the two latest full length albums were played and was a little sad to not get to hear at least "10,000 Strong" but with that said what followed was a superb selection of many of their best hits from the early albums.
They did "Vengeance Is Mine", "Violate", "Pure Evil", and "Travel in Stygian" all of which are awesome songs from the "Dark Saga" and "Night of the Stormrider" eras.
A few of my favorite songs of the night ended up being the intelligent love songs "Last December" and "I Died For You" which surprised even me by how much I love those and how great they were live. I also really liked "Jack" off of "Horror Show", it is just a really well written song.
What was arguably one of the strongest songs of the set had to be "The Hunter". It is a powerful song about a killing angel sent down from heaven to set the stage for the coming end times and was just as powerfully done live. As with most of the songs, the crowd sing alongs were very impressive.
For the next three songs, they did the trilogy of older songs that were re-recorded for the "Overture of the Wicked" EP and done in the story telling order as they appear on that release. "Prophecy", "Birth of the Wicked", and then "The Coming Curse".
This gave way to the last song of the main set which was another classic from "Dark Saga": "A Question of Heaven".
After a short break with heavy chanting from the audience they came back out and treated us all to a lengthy four song encore which included "Colors", "Watching Over Me" (which for me was another one of the amazing high points of the set, just superbly done), "My Own Savior", and finally ending the night with the name sake of the band, "Iced Earth".
Matt Barlow really did a perfect job vocally. He has a great voice and hits every note in person as it sounds in the studio. I had a great time watching the entire band and while Jon usually sings the back up vocals on disc, the bassist did all the back up vocals live and it sounded really good as well.
Jon is very impressive on stage both in his own vocal right (see the link for the Sons of Liberty review at the end of the photos) but also as the musical center point of Iced Earth. The drummer and lead guitarist both did great jobs and every song sounded better than I had hoped.
Of course there are songs I wish they would have done live, "Wolf" being one of my all time favorite songs and "Damien" coming in right behind and as I said, I would have loved a few off of "Framing Armageddon" and "The Crucible of Man" not to mention how much I love "Melancholy" and "Desert Rain".
All in all I think they made a very good selection of songs that surely made the audience happy and it wasn't until I got home that I even thought of all the "ones that could have been". If only they could have played another eighteen songs!
Iced Mother Fuckin Earth!
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