Iced Earth @ Nokia Theatre Times Square (10/16/2008)

Iced Earth was not only making a triumphant return to the concert stages of NYC but was also celebrating the return of vocalist Matt Barlow. This was earth shattering news for the Metal Legions and as result offered the band a packed house at the Nokia Theatre in Times Square this evening. The opening slot was held by Into Eternity and we were on point to bring you into the action. Scroll past the logo below to be taken to article.

Logo - Iced Earth

Artist: Iced Earth
Venue: Nokia Theatre (New York, NY)
Opener: Into Eternity and Saviors
Date: 10/16/2008
Label: SPV Records

New York City has definitely got a lock on being the place for Metal, especially when one reviews not only the passed few weeks but also the upcoming events that we are to be treated to. I don’t say this lightly because it was only a week ago that I was at B.B. King’s for legendary guitarist Uli Jon Roth and last night was Kamelot at the same venue. Tonight would continue the musical adventuring for many as the one and only Iced Earth was set to perform at what appeared to be a completely packed room. The band’s visionary founder Jon Schaffer had recently delivered to the fans a two part prequel to his “Something Wicked” storyline and presented “Framing Armageddon” as the first chapter which featured Tim “Ripper” Owens on vocals. The recording was a pummeling one but no touring would be done until the storyline was completed and with this decision Schaffer shocked the Metal world by dismissing Owens and replacing him with former Iced Earth vocal master Matt Barlow. The second chapter of the prequel would be called “The Crucible of Man” and would feature Matt’s voice and also show the return of former Iced Earth drummer Brent Smedley. The tour would also take Into Eternity out on the road with them and I was very happy for this hard working band that I had seen in opening slots more times than I could easily recall. If you missed out on this amazing night, here are some of its highlights. The show would begin with a band called Saviors and based on a hectic itinerary for the evening would find my not catching a single note of them. I’ve not heard the name before this evening so assume that they are a new band and will probably be someone I will catch as an opener on one of the many shows that I plan on attending. I made it in just in time to see Into Eternity take the stage.

Into Eternity: The “Lords of the Opening Slot” is my no longer secret nick name for this incredible band that I have been watching climb the Metal ladder steadily and with earnest since about 2005. My first show that I had caught them playing on was during the Amorphis tour that had been held back then and they have never failed to impress me at gig after gig with their energy and overall exciting live performance. I’m hard pressed to think that local area Metal fans would be unaware of the bands sound and style at this point since they didn’t just open for Death or Black Metal shows but did a wide genre scoping infiltration that would make any up and comer jealous based on just how great many of the slots they found themselves on were. This was perhaps the most relevant and important show for the band to be on even though they had taken part in a tour with Megadeth and Dream Theater over the passed couple of years. I say this because the headliners material was the closest in context to what the guys were all about and fans of Iced Earth could truly easily find themselves being game for what Into Eternity was doing musically. The down side would be announced before the show hit NYC as founding member Tim Roth (the bands lead guitarist as well) would not be taking part in the tour based on family commitments. The band was told to press on and not sacrifice a tour of this kind and in his place would be the very adept axe slinger “Shred Sean” whose secret identity is Sean Michael Maier.

The band was supporting their newest CD entitled “The Incurable Tragedy” and with their being the direct support this evening would get a longer set than I have been able to enjoy from them over a number of gigs. Of course I would have dispensed with the lead off band entirely if the chance to enjoy some more of their tunes had been the offer but alas it was not. Fronted by Stu Bloch, the band was at its best and going over very well this evening. The lineup has been stable in the band for a couple of years now which is always a good thing. My hope is that some of this hard work finds them doing a headlining spot of some kind soon. They’ve played B.B. King’s enough to be able to at least do one there and I am sure that it would sell good. Iced Earth was up next and the crowd was already chanting their name.

Iced Earth: While I had seen Iced Earth a couple of times before it would be tonight that I was finally seeing them with the man who many proclaim as “the one true voice of Iced Earth” – Matt Barlow. As a fan of how Tim did the bands new and legacy material I had to say that I was just a little bit hesitant about Matt’s return but I also did hold some fondness for his melodies based on the older CD’s that were a part of my collection and on my music player. When the lights went down for the band to hit the stage the response was almost deafening and the logo of the group shined brightly as the lights hit us and within moments both Jon Schaffer and Matt Barlow were right in front of us. Barlow stood like a defiant warrior of Metal and was all clad in black leather attire as he held a grim countenance over the audience that seemed to be half intensity and half focus on the task at hand. How he didn’t break a smile knowing that he was one of the main reasons that so many were present tonight is beyond me but he kept the serious look going for quite awhile.

As we mentioned earlier, Brent Smedley was back on the drums and his was a welcome percussive feel to many of the fans tonight and the remainder of the group was rounded out by Freddie Vidales on bass and Troy Seele on lead guitars – both of the players handle some backing vocals which make the chorus parts all the more full. The band was on fire this evening and coming off almost like returning heroes to the Metal Masses and in some sense this was correct not only because of Matt Barlow being back in the fold but because the band had not been to NYC for any sort of touring since 2004 and that is a long time considering some bands manage to make their way here a couple of times in a year. The set list for the show was excellent and of course would focus on the pair of “Something Wicked” chapters for the most part. To be honest, I had preferred the first chapter and not only because of Tim but because of the pace of the material on that one as opposed to the second chapter. I felt that the first part packed the most punch and based on this I found it very interesting to hear just how good Matt would do the vocal parts that his successor-predecessor had done. He did a great job which I am sure many of you would not find surprising and some of these numbers like “Ten Thousand Strong” were big highlights of the show. Both Barlow and Schaffer talked to the crowd on a couple of occasions and a very poignant part was at the introduction to “Watching Over Me” which is a song that the guitarist holds very personal to his heart as the song is about a childhood friend who is no longer among us but who the musician has felt has been doing as the song title denotes for much of his life.

As the show progressed I would have to say that Matt Barlow truly belongs in Iced Earth no matter how much anyone might have enjoyed what Tim Owens did for the band. I liked him, but it was clear that the Metal fans were of mixed opinion on his being a part of the lineup. With him back in place the plan is to re-record the first chapter of the story and release the pair of albums together. I really loved the reception that he was getting as it left no doubt in his mind about coming back into this kind of music with the band that he was meant to be in. For me the biggest highlights of the set came by the way of the classics that everyone else also loves. I lean the most on “Dracula”, “Melancholy” and the aforementioned “Watching Over Me” along with a couple of the tunes that were done from “The Glorious Burden”. In the end I had to give props to Barlow for being able to handle “Declaration Day” because while a great singer in his own right, the register that Tim was able to hit for that one was glass breaking. Overall the show was a fantastic one and there was not an unimpressed Metal head in the audience to be found. One can only hope that they return again soon with another band who is worthy of the opening slot to help spread the support that they are blessed with and also that we will find some sort of live DVD that features more of the current material. This was a powerful tour that is sure to make for an excellent live performance film and I think that the fan base will respond to it very well. My hope is that Matt chooses to stick with the Metal music once again; it was great to have him back and see just how good he still was at this game. Welcome back Matthew.

Into Eternity Set List:
1. Diagnosis Terminal
2. Beginning
3. Severe Emotional Distress
4. Splintered Visions
5. Nothing
6. Time Immemorial
7. Paralyzed
8. Sean Maier’s solo
9. Timeless Winter

Iced Earth Set List:
1. Intro
2. In Sacred Flames
3. Behold the Wicked Child
4. Motivation of Man
5. Setian Massacre
6. Vengeance is Mine
7. Burning Times
8. Declaration Day
9. Ten Thousand Strong
10. Watching Over me
11. I Walk Alone
12. Stormrider
13. Dracula
14. Come What May
15. Gettysburg 1863 (Hold at all Costs, High Water Mark)
16. Melancholy – encore
17. My Own Savior – encore
18. Iced Earth – encore

Official Website: http://www.icedearth.com
Official Website: http://www.intoeternity.net

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