Saturday, July 7, 2012

From the Vault: ICED EARTH in 1999

Iced Earth recently played at Myth in St. Paul on July 26 as support for Volbeat and Hellyeah, so I thought it’d be a good time to dig out some thoughts and pictures from Iced Earth on the Something Wicked This Way Comes tour on February 15, 1999. Touring was pretty limited for Iced Earth in the 90s, so a couple friends and I made a road trip from Kansas City to St. Louis to catch this strong bill that also had AnvilJag Panzer, and The Quiet Room. The biggest draw for me was the chance to see Jag Panzer, whose classic cult album Ample Destruction had been a favorite of mine since the mid-80s. Little did we know that this night would also come to feature to two future members of Megadeth!

As a disclaimer, cut me some slack on the pictures from this show. These were taken on an old point-and-shoot film camera before I had any clue as to how to properly shoot live bands. Nevertheless, their fan-quality charm captures the mood and fun of the show.

Promotional shot of Iced Earth from 1999. Click on any of the photos to see additional live pictures (8).

Promotional shot of Demons & Wizards, the side project of Iced Earth guitarist Jon Schaffer and Blind Guardian vocalist Hansi Kürsch from 2000.

Before getting into the St. Louis show, the only other time I’ve seen Iced Earth was another headlining show with In Flames at The Lab (now Station 4) in St. Paul on April 22, 2002 in support of Horror ShowJag Panzer was also on this tour, but we arrived late and completely missed them. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures from this show or remember too much about it. I went to this show with Slipknot guitarist Mick Thompson, who drove up from Des Moines to see Iced Earth drummer Richard Christy. I caught a bit of In Flames’ set, but we mainly hung out in the “backstage” basement chatting with Richard while In Flames was playing. Iced Earth put on a typically great show and watching Richard drum up close with the rest of the band was a treat. After the show, I took Mick and most of the In Flames guys to eat at Village Wok in Minneapolis, the only late-night Chinese place I could think of. I don’t remember who all went with us on that late-night food run, but In Flames vocalist Anders Fridén (who was pretty ill that night), and guitarists Björn Gelotte and Jesper Strömblad joined Mick and I, along with a couple crew members. Hopefully the food there didn’t make Anders more ill, haha!

Okay, back to St. Louis in 1999. This show took place at Creepy Crawl, one of the dumpiest, run-down clubs I’ve ever been to. Attendance was sparse – perhaps 100–200 people were there. The Quiet Room had a great debut album, Introspect, out on Metal Blade at the time. They were a very promising progressive metal band in the vein of latter-day Fates Warning, and they made the most of their short set to deliver a few songs in impressive fashion.

Promotional shot of The Quiet Room from 1998. Click on any of the photos to see additional live pictures (8).

Next up was Jag Panzer who completely floored me and delivered on every expectation I had. I loved their current album at the time, The Age Of Mastery, and guitarists Mark Briody and Chris Broderick (now in Megadeth) really brought the songs to life. Chris was especially phenomenal, with some amazing solos that left no doubt as to why he’s in Megadeth. They were not to be outdone on stage by vocalist Harry “The Tyrant” Conklin, who took the stage clad head to toe in black leather and screaming his head off. Harry was completely absorbed in the show and during guitar solos he moved back behind a stack of amps to headbang and thrash in almost comical fashion. Their set was also too short, and I remember “Iron Eagle”, “Licensed To Kill”, and “Generally Hostile” being the standout numbers. Never did I think I’d get to see songs from Ample Destruction performed live, so I was pretty happy at this point.

Promotional shot of Jag Panzer from 1998. Click on any of the photos to see additional live pictures (13).

Back in 1999 it was already apparent that Chris Broderick (now in Megadeth) was a guitar god.

Harry "The Tyrant" Conklin raging on the side of the stage.

Guitarist Mark Briody.

Guitarist Chris Broderick.

The 90s were a rough time for Anvil, and most diehard metal fans were surprised they were still around. Despite their overlooked status, Anvil shocked the crowd and blew through a whirlwind set that had everyone wondering how things went so wrong for these former thrash gods. Older classics such as “Metal On Metal” were mixed in with newer songs from Absolutely No Alternative, Speed Of Sound, and Plugged In Permanent. Of course, the documentary Anvil!: The Story Of Anvil have made Lips and Robb Reiner virtual household names. If you’ve seen the movie or read their great autobiography you know that these were some of the darkest days for Anvil, but even then, as they proved in St. Louis that night, Anvil was a powerful as ever as a live force.

Guitarist/vocalist Steve "Lips" Kudlow and bassist Glenn Five. Click on any picture to see more live photos of Anvil (6).

Lips jumps into the crowd for a solo.

What is Lips playing his guitar with?

1999 was arguably the best time to see Iced Earth, right as they were on the cusp of finally achieving widespread recognition and acclaim as one of America’s leading power metal bands. I don’t recall the exact songs that were played, but I do remember it being primarily selections from Something Wicked This Way Comes and The Dark Saga. They had a tough act to follow in Anvil, but the band held their own and guitarist Jon Schaffer and vocalist Matt Barlow delivered the goods. Bassist James MacDonough later went on to join Megadeth from 2004–2006. Following Something Wicked This Way Comes, Iced Earth went on to greater heights with Horror Show and subsequent releases. All in all, this was a rare show where every band on the bill was phenomenal and each did a great job showcasing their talents.

Guitarist and band lead Jon Schaffer. Click on any picture to see more live photos of Iced Earth (8).

Drummer Brent Smedley gives his best.

Vocalist Matt Barlow belts one out.

Matt lets the band take over, including bassist James MacDonough (right, who went on to join Megadeth).

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