Ragman and I have long been fans of Kamelot, but I had yet to see them live. So when we heard about them playing in town recently - with Dragonforce opening no less, we knew we had to check them out for a night of some serious shredding and fist pumping. Needless to say we were not disappointed. Let's get down to brass tacks.
Performances - I've noticed many people divided on their opinions of Dragonforce's live shows, but I think they put on a great performance. There's no shortage of energy from the band, especially guitarists Herman Li and Sam Totman, whose playful back and forth displays a youthful exuberance while simultaneously making it look like their musical feats of derring-do are no big deal. I swear these guys must mainline coffee, cuz they seem to have no shortage of energy from the beginning of the show through to the end. Kudos to them. Meanwhile lead singer Marc Hudson kept the crowd going like a good frontman should. Adding to the playful chaos, bassist Frédéric Leclercq had a stuffed dog that wanted to crowd surf, and the audience complied gleefully as the giant toy flew around the venue with quite a bit of force. Basically, the vibe was all about fun and self-deprecating humor, something the band does quite well.
Sound & Lights - Live shows can often be problematic when it comes to sound and light setup for opening acts, but you wouldn't have known it with Dragonforce. The guitars were sometimes a bit hard to hear in the mix, but it have been attributed to my earplugs, or the fact that Herman uses that whammy pedal for those crazy high notes (possibly controlled by his Hot Hand controller ring?), which can sometimes get lost in the thundering rhythm section's onslaught. But no complaints.
Setlist - The guys played a little something from every album in their catalog, save for Ultra Beatdown, with half the set relying on their last two releases as expected. I especially enjoyed hearing their cover of Johnny Cash's Ring Of Fire off of Maximum Overload. The crowd seemed to dig that flow of the set as well with a little mosh action during their last song, naturally, Through The Fire And Flames. After opening with 2004's Fury Of The Storm they even managed to throw in the title track of their first album, Valley Of The Damned. before the final couple of songs, for fans of their earlier stuff. For a quick set, it was a nice spread of their catalog that flowed well and got the crowd suitably pumped for Kamelot, so all in all mission accomplished. Kudos to Dragonforce, nice work, lads.
Performances - Kamelot took the stage with a strong presence from the get-go. It's clear this band knows what they're doing and have a great respect for the audience. Tommy Karevik is a prefect frontman for the group, interacting with the audience with the right mix of cheerleading and rockstar appeal, garnering fans of both sexes while delivering the goods from a pure singing perspective. His duets with Kobra Paige (Kobra and the Lotus) were nicely choreographed as well, the two weaving about each other at times like a pair of dancers surrounded by smoke and wind. Guitarist Thomas Youngblood, playing against a rock-solid rhythm section, was the confident veteran who shared freely with the crowd, from picks to bottled waters, in between effortless solos.
Sound & Lights - A decent mix all around - though I would've liked the guitars up more, and it was a little difficult to discern the bass amidst the rhythm section. It may be kind of unimportant to some, but I was pretty impressed that the band had some powerful fog machines used for dramatic visual effect, (a proportionately-sized stadium experience in a small venue) which was a nice touch - especially when Tommy took the photo opportunity to pose menacingly through a column of it like the Wizard of Oz during one song.
Setlist - As expected, a third of the show was devoted to songs from their recently released Haven album, which played very well live, along with a couple of songs each from Silverthorn, The Black Halo, and Karma. I especially like that the first few songs were each from different albums in their catalog, skipping back and forth in time to provide a nice appetizer. But more importantly, with a half of the entire setlist being Roy Khan fronted songs, I was impressed that Tommy performed the whole show like he was born to do this. He played to the crowd while making the songs his own.
The Bottom Line
Fans of Kamelot would surely enjoy this year's tour. Dragonforce did a good job of getting the crowd ready with a good mix of six-string pyrotechnics and self-deprecating, good-natured tomfoolery. And Kamelot came in like total pros to finish out the evening with some kick-ass American power metal. And end of the tour dates scored a concert shirt for half price, so fuck yeah. Great evening!
- Genghis can scratch another great band off his concert bucket list...