Thursday, October 28, 2010

For Those Who Wait

Canadians are not Vampires, at least that's what the members of Manic Drive would have us believe. I'm getting a little ahead of myself. Last Friday the For Those Who Wait Tour came to Central Massachusetts and this blogger and about 500 other concert goers enjoyed an ear shattering head banging extravaganza that will not be soon forgotten.

The Venue was the Liberty Assembly of God in Shrewsbury, MA, a 1000 seat mega-church Just off Route 20 in the heart of the Commonwealth.  It looked pretty much like a traditional New England Church from the outside. On the inside, the high cathedral ceiling complete with 3 humongous front projection HDTV screens and a hybrid padded seat front/traditional padded pew rear and theater style stage seemed to scream mega church. My only complaint to the venue? The official capacity of the sanctuary was 990?! Could Ye Not Have Found Ten More Seats? (Sorry for slipping into King James Version). As I said, I estimate the final crowd at about 500. I was pleased, if only that, If I didn't check iTickets for free downloads every week I may have never known about this event. The promoter, New Sound Concerts, despite being the force behind the immensely popular Summer festival Soulfest, never seems to promote concerts to the best of their ability, with the result that they barely fill small venues.  Flood the zone with ads, posters, and promotional materials and we could fill the DCU Center. We'll never know if we don't try.

Manic Drive was first to take the stage. A pretty basic rock and roll band out of Toronto started by brothers Shawn (Lead Vocals, Keys, Guitar) and Michael (Guitar, Backing Vocals) were introduced via a 5 minute Twilight Parody selling the members as Vampires. "Their skin was pale and cold, and they avoided the sunlight." I think that can pretty much sum up all Canadians, especially those from Montreal and Toronto with their underground cities. Later they reassured the audience that they weren't really vampires, they just really hated the movie Twilight.  They did a four song set, of which I couldn't recognize a single song.  That's really no surprise, since I only really know their song Blue, and they didn't do that one.

After a ten minute intermission things got kicked into high gear with Group 1 Crew, a Rap/Dance group out of Orlando, Florida. Think Black Eyed Peas but Saved. Almost all the songs came from the current release Outta Space Love, which was their opening song. We all tried to get our gangsta lean on with the song Live it Up. I think they were kinder than we were successful. It was fun. And Vocalist Bianca Reyes really got to shine with Walking on the Stars. Not only a good rapper Manwell Reyes (no relation to Bianca) is also a pretty good comedian, after the set he did a unusual appeal for World Vision, bringing in Redbox, Movie Theatres, Geico, Kool Aid and American Idol into a passionate appeal. I don't know if the results were any better this way, but it made the appeal more palatable. It sure beats the typical "while you enjoyed that last song twenty million children died of hunger you selfish brats" appeal. I am new to the hip hop/rap style of CCM, DC Talk excepted, but it is definitely a favorite of mine these days. For my review of Outta Space Love click here.

After a 15 minute intermission Fireflight took the stage to the piercing cry "This is for those who wait."I have been a fan of Fireflight since Unbreakable came out in 2008, but this is the first time I have seen them Live. I knew they were loud, but...Every time drummer Phee Shorb struck the drums the building shook as if from an explosion. Lead Vocalist Dawn Michele orchestrated the 15 song set with nary a break for introductions. Most of the songs were done medley style, though, unlike a traditional medley, the complete song was sung. Also unlike most bands, they did songs from each of their three albums. Eight of the songs were from For Those Who Wait, five were from Unbreakable, and two were from The Healing of Harms. Also this reviewer noticed a nice homage that probably passed unnoticed except by me and a few of the parents in the audience. During several songs Dawn Michele, flanked by guitarists Justin Cox and Glenn Dennen orchestrated what I would best describe as Synchronized headbanging, where the guitarists would dip their guitars and heads Stage Left and Dawn, sans guitar, would match their movements. I have not seen this done since 80's supergroup Mylon LeFevre and Broken Heart invented it. It was a nice touch. Wendy Dennen, Glenn's wife, plays Bass and rounds out the quintet.

Except for styles like Metal-core, I have always considered Skillet to be one of, if not the, hardest and loudest rock bands out there in the CCM world.  Having heard the CD's I had placed Fireflight alongside an Audio Adrenaline.  Now, I think they are more of a Heavy Metal band, at least an 80's style like Whitecross. Still, they did slow it down once, for Name, a heart rending ballad that really showcases Dawn Micheles beautiful voice. The original set was 14 songs. When the audience began to chant "one more song", Fireflight, literalists that they are, came out for one more song. Fortunately for the audience it was Unbreakable. Having their two most famous songs bookend their set was fitting for a concert that spanned their entire career so far. For Those Who Wait made my list this year for a Platinum Vinyl Award for Best Rock Album and is a strong contender for Album of the Year. My live experience only confirmed my opinions about the album. I expect to hear a lot more form this band in the future. I waited a long time for Fireflight to come to New England for a concert, and the the saying is definitely true, good things come "For those who Wait."