Here's a review of the Minneapolis show last night from a local concert promoter named Swordlord:
Tonight was my 10th time seeing Manowar on US soil – not an easy feat considering they tour the United States about once every 5 years. Also, as near as I can figure, it has been at least 15 years since they last played Minnesota – therefore it was a foregone conclusion that I would be attending the show to see one of my all-time favorite bands perform in my home state. As always, Manowar shows are a sight to see but, lately, by the end, they always end up being “pretty good” instead of amazing. This review will attempt to figure out why.
Mill City Nights was the perfect venue for Manowar – capacity, stage and ceiling height were all ideal for the type of show they put on. Upon walking into the venue, ambient orchestral music filled the venue, house lights were at mid-level while the stage lighting threw beams of alternating cool and hot colors on the stage and the audience. On the video screen behind the stage, the Manowar logo dominated the scene, making it very clear that only one band was playing tonight. This is by far the best pre-show mood setting I have ever seen by this band.
As usual, the band was late. The advertisement was for “8:00pm sharp,” but Manowar didn’t actually take the stage until about 8:20pm. This time, in addition to their familiar choral opening with voice of God intro, they had video accompaniment – smoke and flames on the backdrop introduced Manowar to Minneapolis. This, again, was a marked improvement over previous openings I have seen.
For the first few songs, I really thought that this might be the greatest Manowar show ever. As always, the band opened with their self-titled song which they have opened with every single show that I have ever seen. From there they went right into Blood of Mine Enemies which was a welcome addition to the setlist and I don’t recall having heard that before. The video accompaniment added to every single song either with live action video or a simple shot of the corresponding album cover. By the time the third song, Sign of the Hammer, came up, the crowd was at a frenzy and everyone was in full metal fury. Even the next offering from the rather weak 2012 offering Lord of Steel (they played the title track) came off much better live than I would have thought. The audience obviously was not that familiar with the track but it still was well-received. Manowar then launched into Dawn of Battle which is one of their most brilliant and under-appreciated songs since it was only featured on an EP. I had heard the song live before, but I never get tired of it. The majority of the audience had not heard it before and they responded with thunderous approval.
Right after the band performed Kingdom Come, a video was played entitled Fallen Heroes which was dedicated to a number of individuals who had passed that had influenced Manowar in various ways. I was pleasantly surprised at who was honored. Technical and musical pioneers and technicians as well as Ronnie James Dio and of course, Scott Columbus were all featured in an especially moving way. The band then did a very intimate take of Heart of Steel where Joey, Eric and Karl all sat and did the first verse in an almost acoustic manner. That was far and away the highlight of the show for me.
And that’s where it all started to go downhill. The soundman, who previously had the room dialed in, started tweaking the levels and never got it right again. Logan’s guitar came and went with an almost comical effect. At one point, the bass was so overpowering that it drowned out nearly everything else on-stage.
And then … Joey took the microphone.
After doing hundreds if not thousands of shows, you would think that Joey would be adept by now at public speaking. He isn’t. In fact, if anything, he’s gotten worse. Furthermore, he seems to confirm every bad rumor that has ever been said about him every single time he gets up to speak. First, he poked fun at the venue by relaying a series of situations that more than likely did not happen or if they did, were embellished for the sake of being on-stage. Why can’t he just say, “This is a killer venue, we’ve been treated great and we are so happy to be here!” Having done two concerts myself as a promoter at Mill City Nights, I can publicly state that it is an amazing venue to hold a show at and everyone is a top-notch professional and at the top of their game. The venue’s equipment is first-rate, the dressing areas are clean and spacious and my experience at MCN has been first class all the way. I have no idea why Joey has to make it seem like Manowar is some big heroic band for bringing in all their own gear. They are not the only band that does this. Even “smaller” metal acts like Kamelot have had lengthy production riders where I have had to rent small truckloads of equipment in order to give the fans the quality of show that was required. Manowar does this and it is reflected in the (very high) ticket price – Joey doesn’t have to draw attention to it with “fish stories” that now border on the ludicrous. He even said that the video projector that the band was using cost $100,000. Joey, I’ve got news for you – I’m a movie theater owner and my brand new state of the art Barco series 1 2K resolution digital projector cost $45,000. If you actually DID pay $100,000 for your tiny portable 1600 lumens video projector, you got ripped off! Instead of trying to justify the ticket price for the fans with lies, just be honest – just say, “Hey, this is an immense undertaking to put on a tour, we do the best we can, thanks for paying the price to come out and see us, we will try not to let you down.” And then deliver a great show.
Joey went on to give marriage advice to a male audience member (“get some road miles on her before you marry her”), said all of the Minnesota men were tough like New Yorkers and basically sounded like a buffoon. It has been said, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.” Somebody should engrave this on Joey’s bass guitar.
The encore was Warriors of the World which is easily one of Manowar’s best songs of all time followed by Black Wind Fire & Steel which has been played on every tour since 2005. 14 songs, barely a 90 minute set when we were promised "an evening with Manowar." Not to mention the “technical difficulty” that followed Warriors which just has to be a stunt. They have “technical difficulties” where Joey comes out and rants about how they are going to fix it and soldier on – does he really think that’s cool? The mark of a good show should be that a band has rehearsed and checked their gear enough so that difficulties, especially ones that cause the show to literally cease, are kept to a minimum. Yet this has happened at every show I have ever seen. What is the deal?
When I saw Manowar in the 90’s, the band would stay afterwards and meet the fans and sign autographs, sometimes at their own peril! I remember meeting the band outside the tour bus in the middle of downtown Detroit in 1999! That is not a safe place to be at one o’clock in the morning! Yet the band sat there and took pictures and signed autographs. I have a picture on my wall right next to me of myself and Joey DeMaio from that very show. This doesn’t happen anymore. Now the band flees the venue and nobody gets to see them. Other bands do “AN Evening With …” shows that encompass 2 or 3 hours’ worth of material. With all of the sudio albums and EP’s that Manowar has, they could easily play this long. Why don’t they? For a $100 ticket, the price certainly warranted an extra 30 minutes worth of music.
It pains me to write this and feel this way, but after being a Manowar fan for over two decades, I think I’ve earned the right to rant. A band that calls themselves the Kings of Metal should be able to earn that title – not only with their recorded media but with their live shows. US fans have always taken a back seat to the epic shows Manowar has put on in Europe and yet again, we have to wonder if this band that we have all love so much will ever really show us that love in return.
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