KK Downing and KK’s Priest step out in support of his brilliant second album, The Sinner Rides Again. He’s joined by a brilliant supporting cast. Priests, Killers and Witches!
Sporting an impressive stage set for an opening band, Burning Witches hit the stage with the Ritz filling quickly.
Their dark opening incantations set the mood for the quintet’s performance. With a backdrop showing off their latest release, The Dark Tower, Laura Guldemond hits an opening shriek to welcome the masses. She soon has the crowd pumping their fists during the first of several sublime guitar solos.
“Thank you so much Manchester…we are Burning Witches.” A song for metal heads follows; We Stand As One. Guldemond orchestrates the crowd through the opening vocal chorus before the music swishes in with Burning Witches trademark groove. It’s a call to arms that Burning Witches are so adept at and a style that has won them legions of fans over the years.
Hexenhammer sees the crowd warming with full involvement with the band. More and more fists and horns get raised as Burning Witches shred solos, bash out blistering rhythms and headbang in unison. “It’s so brilliant to be here, but we only have one song left for you.” Boos greet the announcement however the bands’ title track, Burning Witches, which is a fitting close to their short set. With lights raised, the crowd show their appreciation and pose for a picture with the band. A brilliant start.
“Hello Manchester….it’s been a long time…let’s fackin’ have it…” are the opening words from Paul Di’Anno before flying straight into Wrathchild. It’s the first of a set comprised of Iron Maiden’s first two albums, on which Di’Anno recorded with the band.
Over the past few years, Paul Di’Anno has had numerous battles with his health. It prompts him to thank the doctors and nurses of the NHS during his performance. Whilst he is wheelchair bound for his performance, he doesn’t half give it both barrels from the stage. Vocally, his distinct style is front and centre, and the best thing about it, is that he seems really happy. His patter from the stage ranges from comments about Aqua, Labi Siffre and Elvis to swipes at the local ‘shit’ football teams in Manchester and equally shitty local weather.
Sanctuary and Purgatory are early highlights; they are delivered at breakneck speed which sees Dianno commenting that his band play the punk versions. The delight that the crowd offers after each song brings a unique energy to the room. It isn’t the Rainbow in 1980 but the buzz feels good. It is clear to see that the band are thriving off the energy too.
Remember Tomorrow is hulking and on this night, and it is poignantly dedicated to Clive Burr; Iron Maiden’s early years drummer who sadly died due to Multiple Sclerosis. Remember Tomorrow is one of Iron Maiden’s early epics; the shift between tempos still hits hard and the soloing is of the highest calibre.
Murders In The Rue Morgue, Killers and Transylvania are all present and given the same gusto. However, it is one of Iron Maiden’s calling cards that makes the most impact. Phantom Of The Opera is truly a Maiden classic. Ghost covered it on their latest EP and Iron Maiden have still played it to this day. Dianno orchestrates the crowd and somewhat ambitiously asks the crowd to jump during it. The crowd obliges…in spades. With every line, Manchester bellows along; the sheer glee is clear to see from all quarters.
Running Free closes out Di’Anno’s emphatic set but not before more banter with the crowd. He is clearly a man who loves doing what he does; “I just wanna play music wi’ me mates – that’s all I wanna do.” The sentiment is echoed as a thunderous support slot closes out to rapturous applause. It is wonderful to see him back.
So after the Killers and the Witches, we get the Priest. KK Downing, The man whom Paul Di’Anno had earlier called “the real Metal God,” the iconic figure in black leather with the Flying V tucked between his thighs. And while the ‘other’ Priest are out entertaining the vast crowds at the huge Power Trip event, KK’s version allows us up close and personal in the UK, topping a fine bill that proves an embarrassment of riches.
With two bands working the legacy, some would argue that you get the best of both worlds, with KK’s version having their own material to build into a set while the ‘other’ Priest recently announced a new album. In fact, relatively little of the new The Sinner Rides Again makes tonight’s cut, and is reserved for the very start and end of the set. A set that’s weighted heavily in favour of the Judas Priest songbook and pays a superb tribute to the legend, with Timothy S. ‘Ripper’ Owens proving why he held his own when he held the mantle of Priest singer. “What’s my name? WHAT’S MY NAME?” he demands three songs in as one of his well-planned song intros, before the quintet unleash The Ripper.
Opening excitement dusted off, we get the chance to admire the ornate KK logo on the double bass drum that bears an impressive ‘KK’ cipher, while the cloaked ghoul who’s acted as a chilling MC to introduce the show on a large electronic backdrop resurfaces further into the show. The established Owens/Downing combo clearly has a connection. Ripper shadowboxing with the boss who’s more intent on grinding into those familiar and very Metal riffs. As the familiar trades off favourably with the new material, particularly in the first part of the set, it’s hard to spot any joins.
With AJ Mills on second guitar – Flying V naturally – he gets his chance to shine, posing with K.K. on the riser, either side of Sean Elg’s drumkit in a pleasingly symmetrical set up, as they whip up a storm on Hell Patrol and Brothers On The Road. It’s a mid-set highlight as they’ve just come off the one-two whammy of the epic Beyond The Realms Of Death (that rivals set close Victim Of Changes as a showcase for how well they do the JP classics) and a Burn In Hell that swings while maybe owing a little nod to Enter Sandman.
Metal Meltdown sees both KK and AJ deliver face melting solos while on the Ritz balcony, the Burning Witches cause mayhem with their very own mosh circle and there’s much fun as Breaking The Law delights those at the barrier whose flags proudly display the Spanish and Brazilian worshippers while their excited and distinctly non-Mancunian accents reinforce the pulling power of KK’s Priest. As the encore of Raise Your Fists gives anyone with a second wind the chance to do exactly that, it’s a triumphant declaration of all things Metal.
Categories: Live Reviews