Review by Rob Billingham, photos by Lisa Billingham
The highly rated metal outfit Neonfly were the lucky ones to be chosen for the UK leg of the Dragonforce Maximum Overload World Tour and with the wife grinning from ear to ear having already seen and photographed Neonfly supporting Magnum earlier in the year, I was looking forward to seeing them for myself.
Within the first song, it was easy to see why the likes of Alice Cooper and Magnum have availed themselves of their support in recent times. With Willy Norton’s distinctive and powerful vocals leading the charge, Neonfly gave us nine examples of what they live for, mostly taken from their debut album Outshine the Sun. We were also given a couple of tasters from the soon to be released long player Strangers in Paradise which has already received rave reviews.
Despite having some sound issues, Neonfly’s underlying commitment to their music shone through and the capacity crowd knew they had been royally entertained. Although opening number, ‘Ship With No Sail’ was a particular highlight for me, it was well and truly trumped by the new album track, ‘Heart of the Sun’; a melodic rocker which I think is Neonfly at their best.
Neonfly are Willy Norton (vocals), Paul Miller (bass guitar), Frederick Thunder (guitar), Patrick Harrington (guitar) and Boris Le Gal (drums).
Setlist – Ship with no Sail, The Enemy, A Gift to Remember, The Revenant, The Ornament, Spitting Blood, Fierce Battalion, The Heart of the Sun, Morning Star.
“Dra-gon-force, Dra-gon-force” was the cry as the lights dimmed and the intro theme started up. A sell out at the Institute’s Temple proved that Dragonforce continue to draw the crowds albeit the Temple isn’t the largest venue they will ever grace.
This was the Birmingham leg of their Maximum Overload World Tour to promote their new album of the same name and was described by vocalist Marc Hudson as an up close and intimate tour. To be honest, you couldn’t get more up close and intimate than this venue! Does it work for Dragonforce? I’m not so sure. Perhaps the idea was to always be within a handshake of a fan or to be able to jump into the crowd as Herman Li did, complete with guitar, although I think he will be nursing a few bruises following that exploit!
Personally, I believe that Dragonforce are at their very best on a big stage, where they can move around at speed, all barrels blazing and guitars duelling. That aside, the guys gave us a full on set at their usual thousand miles per hour / thousand beats per minute as is the Dragonforce style, and opened with ‘Defenders’ just to get the crowd in the mood. What followed was quite a breath-taking performance of power metal, spoiled only by the PA mix which from my position towards the back and left of stage, was so bass heavy that at times, everything else was a distorted mish-mash. A little less volume may have helped save the sound, although it didn’t seem too much of a problem to the die-hard fans who clapped, chanted, moshed, and generally gave their all throughout the evening. Most of the songs were taken from the August album release, Maximum Overload, hence the tour name, although a few oldies but goodies were thrown in along the way.
Marc Hudson arrived following the departure of former front man, ZP Theart. He has a comparable vocal range and certainly interacts with his audience well. New drummer Gee Anzalone, was introduced to the Birmingham Dragonisters just before ‘The Game’; a track which puts his credentials to the strongest of tests and which he overcame with some style – stickman extraordinaire I must say!
When you have Herman Li’s flamboyant fingers (and tongue!) delivering all his usual trademark guitar solos, Sam Totman letting loose with some astounding musical masterpieces, Vadim’s brilliantly effortless keyboard playing which also included some awesome keytar work at the front of the stage and finally, Frederic LeClercq’s heavy, pounding bass licks at times threatening to shake the fixtures and fittings off the walls and ceilings, Dragonforce raced like an express train through a ten song set with the packed Temple well and truly aboard. You couldn’t ask for more. This IS Dragonforce.
Highlight of the set for me was ‘Cry Thunder’ which was Marc’s debut song after joining the band. With an almost Lizzy-esque feel to it, it was a set closer made to leave the crowd wanting more, much more. Of course, they got it ………. in the shape of Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire for which the crowd went into a mosh frenzy for a second time, goaded on by vocalist Marc’s request to “make a ring and go for it!” But ….. Dragonforce performing a cover? Can this be so from a band who said they would never play “mid-tempo shit or covers”. Ok so this was a cover but mid-tempo it certainly was not!
And so to the final offering, as predictable as the sunrise and sunset, the awesome Through the Fire & Flames, off the Inhuman Rampage album, met with a reception on a predictability scale as high as the song and will probably remain forever more in the set. Classic Dragonforce to round off what could have been a night to remember had it not been for the less than memorable sound quality.
2. Fury of the Storm
3. Three Hammers
4. Black Winter Night
6. Symphony of the Night
7. The Game
8. The Sun is Dead
9. Heroes of our Time
10. Cry Thunder
11. Ring of Fire
12. Through the Fire & Flames.