BLOG - HOCKEY & HEAVY METAL
March 04, 2014 • 08:38 AM
HOCKEY & HEAVY METAL WEEKEND, PART 1- MANOWAR: NONE MORE METAL
When it comes to heavy metal, it doesn’t get much more metal than Manowar, and that’s actually a blessing and a curse. See, the vast majority of us who live for this kind of music will rather easily admit that the genre has a number of clichés that are funny, especially to outsiders. But, you can still be a huge fan of metal while admitting said cliché-related funniness is indeed funny. In the 1980s classic movie This Is Spinal Tap and the lesser-known Bad News did the same, and they are still the last word on the subject now. There are the classic clichés: D&D-style lyrics about dragons and warriors and women and death and motorcycles and war and playing loud and stuff, musically astute songs but with lengthy and overindulgent solos, highly questionable stage attire, and so on. All good and all fun. But after most bands come offstage, they “break character” and revert to the normal guys that they actually are.
Well, almost all them do. But some of them don’t. And Manowar? Well, they most definitely don’t. At all. Ever. This is really, truly what they live for, what they obsess over, and to the best of my knowledge they have never, ever “broken character” publicly. Not a wink or a nudge, ever. Because they really are deadly serious about this. And as a result, a lot of people think that band are just out of their minds, in the way that people would think Hulk Hogan would be out of his mind if he never turned off his “Hulkster” wrestling character, ever.
And so I have to admit: I’ve always been a little weirded out by Manowar for that reason, and never been completely into them. Because what they do is so overblown, and so over the top, but without not a single ounce of irony. Kiss has freely admitted that what they do is ridiculous, but Manowar never has and never will. So it’s easy to make fun of them, and I’ve definitely done so more than once. So have a lot of other people, including one memorable occasion where Dave Grohl got up at an open mic night and read the lyrics to a couple of their songs in “Masterpiece Theatre” poetry style, and the reaction was as if he was a comic on a really good night. It also didn’t help that they are largely inaccessible as a live act if you live in the US, as they tend to do almost all of their businesses in countries where English is not the first language. I’d only ever seen them once before, and that was just part of the set at the legendary Dynamo Festival in Holland. It was late at night and, uh, the details are sketchy on that one.. So, when the band made their first Southern California appearance that I know of since moving here in 2002, I decided I needed to show the band some overdue respect and cough up $91.50 for a ticket to see them out in Pomona. Then a day later I admitted to my longtime friend and chief partner in metal crime Eric German that I bought the ticket, and he gave me a hard time for being coy about it and then went ahead and scored his own ticket, so now I had a buddy for the trip.
Due to some less-than-stellar service at a local restaurant in Pomona, we did not actually arrive at the venue until around 8:20, and as we walked into the venue and saw Manowar’s massive amps and PA stacked upon the stage I thought it was a little odd that they did not have music playing or have the curtain down before they came on, but then we overheard a couple conversations and asked around, and it turned out that Manowar had actually come onstage at precisely 8:00 p.m. and played at such a high volume that they...wait for it...they overloaded and completely blew out their PA during “Sign Of The Hammer”.
Well, of course they did.
See what I mean?
No Hollywood scriptwriter could have made this moment any better.
Anyway, Manowar’s bassist, leader and living legend Joey DeMaio soon came out from side-stage and apologized for the time it took to repair the damage and get the PA back up, and then house lights dropped and they went right back into the set.
For the first time in years, I bought earplugs to a show, and I was glad I did. It was loud, easily the loudest show I’ve been to in 5 years. It was actually too loud, and there were even a couple moments during the first 3 or 4 songs we saw when people around me were holding their ears or visibly showing signs of discomfort from the volume. Sorry, but that’s too loud. The floors and the walls were shaking, and eventually after a couple more songs I think the soundman recognized what was going on and dropped the overall volume a few decibels to AC/DC and Motörhead levels.
Eventually I was able to settle in and enjoy the show. I was able to recognize that all four musicians are excellent at their craft (in particular Eric Adams boasts an extraordinarily powerful voice, and he needs it to come in over the top of this racket), and I was able to recognize that if they dropped all the pomp and circumstance and all the chest-beating, the best songs would definitely stand up, the performance would definitely stand up and the band would definitely stand up. Manowar, once I gave them a chance, were really, really good. They get a lot of crap, but at the end of the day they delivered the goods in a big way, and the crowd just ate it up.
Then in between the set and the encore Joey DeMaio came back out front without his bass and just a mic and proceeded to deliver a speech that lasted the better part of 5 minutes, It covered why they charge so much for tickets (they bring their own baffling and custom-made PA), the high quality of their merchandise (they go to the factory themselves to check quality), the appreciation they have for their fans (part of this was delivered in fluent Spanish), why they like playing loud (because they do), why we should like that they play loud (well, duh), and that they were playing this show despite the fact that everyone was out to try and stop them from doing it (Huh?). It turns out that this was the first real, proper 15-date US tour that the band has ever done, and they’ve now been around for 30 years. I leaned over to Eric at the beginning of this speech, which was delivered in a thick Noo Yawk accent, and said Joey could do a spoken word tour. But by the end of his speech, and by the end of the encore, something happened. I realized that these guys are actually living their dream, and they’ve been doing it for 30 years, and they are so far past the point of caring about what anyone thinks of them. And in that way, they have won. How many people do you know personally that can honestly say that they are truly doing what they want with their lives? I don’t know many, but I just saw 4 guys who did tonight. That realization was actually downright inspiring, and just to make sure I don’t forget that moment any time soon, I showed the band some more respect and scored myself a bright red Manowar water bottle on my way out. Yes, of course it’s made of metal.
Manowar. How much more metal could they be? The answer is none. None more metal. And this time, I’m saying that with a straight face. Respect. Long-overdue respect, gentlemen.