Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Opening Band Ballet

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Photo by Wally Norton

Support bands. Opening acts. Special Guests. Whatever you want to call them, they have the responsibility of "warming up the crowd" before the headliners hit the stage. Sometimes this can be a daunting task, possibly even dangerous if the opening band doesn't find a way to win over an anxious, impatient, often alcohol infused audience.

Today's concert climate has brought forth the "package" tour trend where two or more Headliners go on the road together, often to ensure that butts get into the seats and the tour is a success. Back in the 80's, before the ticket prices escalated out of control most concerts were comprised of the headliner and a single opening band.

Sometimes the opening band makes no sense on the same bill, yet that can prove interesting. Other times they fit like a glove and make for a perfect evening of live rock and roll. Every once in a while, however, you get to see an opening band that is so hungry, so in the zone that they blow the doors off the building and either push the headliner to step up or they leave them in the dust.

I have been lucky over the years to have seen many concerts and have gotten to witness many great opening bands. Three concerts come to mind when I think of these great opening acts. Three concerts that I feel I had gotten my money's worth before the headliner even took the stage. Three concerts that the opening band literally blew me away.

In no particular order....

Guns and Roses / Skid Row @ Toronto CNE Stadium.  Skid Row had just released their Slave to the Grind album and they hit the stage like they were shot out of a canon. Like a tornado they were all over the stage with such energy and intensity it made me dizzy. Sebastian Bach is undeniably one of the best voices in metal and the chemistry that Skid Row had was electric. Definitely the way to open up a show. It was no surprise that they would be out headlining their own soon thereafter.

AC/DC / LA Guns @ Hamilton's Copps Coliseum. Now let's be real, there is not a band alive that is going to blow AC/DC off the stage. Not now and definitely not back on the "Heatseaker" tour. That said, LA Guns had just released their debut album and they meant business when it was showtime. Tracii plays with such passion and that sleazy lineup of Hollywood vampires were not intimidated by the AC/DC crowd. They left such an impression that I spent my hard earned money on an LA Guns T-Shirt and I became a lifelong worshipper at the Church of Tracii Guns.

Iron Maiden/DIO/Sword @Hamilton's Copps Coliseum. Iron Maiden rolled into Hamilton on the Virtual XI world tour with Dio as special guest. This was Iron Maiden with Blaze Bailey on vocals and although they put on a decent show, the night belonged to Dio. The pint sized powerhouse took the stage with zero effects, just a simple stage, a great band and RONNIE JAMES DIO. Truly a metal legend, his voice set fire to the classic Dio classics and Heaven and Hell never sounded so good. Dio played a set that had me saying Iron who?

Opening bands can turn a good show into a great show and sometimes they give the crowd even more than they bargained for. On the flip side they can also provide more time to go grab a beer because they stink (Rush / Voivod).


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