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Florida Powerfest II – St. Petersburg, FL  - December 18, 2010                                   9/10

By Jill Hughes Kirtland

Sanctum - Photo by Minerva PhotographyThere are very few events in the United States where you can gather with a small group of likeminded people and listen to one quality metal band after another, building up to the headliner of the night. Camden Cruz Entertainment did just that for the second year in a row with Powerfest II at the State Theater in St. Petersburg, Florida.  With six opening bands and the headliner German power metal band Blind Guardian on the bill, the venue filled up with those ready to rock and throw up the horns!

Sanctum
Opening up the festival was up and coming technical progressive metal band Sanctum hailing from Lakeland, Florida. What stood out about their performance was the fact that there were two singers in the band.  Guitarist Trey Hawkins provides the clean vocals while lead singer Jon Deloe grabs us by the balls with his death metal vocals.  Deloe has a lot of energy, not exactly in the vein of Blackguard’s singer (whose shirt he was donning) but he still tried hard to capture the audience. The keyboardist Vernon Meigs climbed out from behind his backstage territory to jam out on a keytar, Jordan Rudess style.
And to top it all off Deloe joined in on the mosh pit action towards the end of their performance, still carrying on his vocal regiment.   This was a good indication as to what was to come the rest of the evening.

Halcyon WayHalcyon Way - Photo by Minerva Photography
Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, Halcyon Way has been hyped up for quite a few years now with the release of their two albums on Nightmare Records. They are frequent attendees of the ProgPower USA festival in their hometown, and have even played ProgPower VIII showcase in 2007.  Unfortunately this is the first time I’ve had a chance to see them perform live, and I was very impressed by the professionalism on stage.  They didn’t act like they were playing for a room of a few hundred, but a full stadium. The drummer was a powerhouse on the kit, and the energy radiated throughout the audience. Singer Steve Braun took command of the stage with his epic metal vocals, thrashing around his long blonde locks.  They are definitely influenced by old school metal such as Testament and Slayer, and the progressiveness of Queensrÿche but with more epic components such as full band back-up vocals. It was a short set for a band such as this, but they made a lasting impression on all of us.

Great Awakening - Photo by Minerva PhotographyGreat Awakening
Thrash to its fullest, Great Awakening hailing also from Florida put on a performance that got you headbanging. With obvious inspiration from Metallica, Pantera and Slayer, these guys were swinging their hair and instruments everywhere getting the crowd roaring to go and moshing. It was quite a reprieve after the technical progressive metal we heard earlier in the evening. Even if you didn’t know the band’s material, you jumped right into the energy of the songs and ripped some abdominal muscles thrashing your heart out.

TheocracyTheocracy - Photo by Minerva Photography
One of my weaknesses is soaring vocals and epic symphonic metal. Theocracy delivered on both. Although I missed the first couple songs of their set due to a dinner break, I regretted that immediately when I returned to listen to the final songs.  Founded in 2002 in Athens, Georgia, they are thrown into the niche of power progressive metal with epic vocals by Matt Smith. What I didn’t realize until I picked up their album Mirror of Souls (released by Sweden’s Ulterium Records) is this also a Christian band.  If that is not really your cup of tea, see past the lyrics and really engage in the musicianship of this band which is incredible.

Seven Kingdoms - Photo by Minerva PhotographySeven Kingdoms
Fresh, young, and one of the supporting bands for the entire Blind Guardian Sacred Worlds And Songs Divine 2010 North America tour, I saw this line-up already in Philadelphia & New York City the month before, and got a taste for the female-fronted epicness this band brings.  Although short in stature, Sabrina Valentine, grabs the metal vocal lines by the balls and projects a clean powerful sound. She can stand beside any of the great metal male singers and give them a run for their money.  The powerful onslaught of guitarists Camden Cruz and Kevin Byrd puts you up against the wall. I can see how they got this supporting slot.  When I first saw them earlier in the tour, the shyness of their stage presence didn’t quite showcase the power of their music, but now that they had been on the road for a few weeks it was evident this was a whole new band and they were coming into their own. I expect great things from this band in the future.

SetList
Vengeance by the Sons of a King
Somewhere Far Away
Wolf in Sheep's Clothes
Into the Darkness
Seven Kingdoms

Holy Grail
Still trying to figure out what niche to place these guys …viking metal? Thrash metal? Power metal? Whatever they are, they are METAL.  Combining all five of them together in wet clothes, they probably don’t weigh more than 150 lbs total, but don’t let that throw you off because they rock hard. These guys hail from California and bring all the rage as they tour with Blind Guardian. Lead singer James-Paul Luna has a high-pitched metal voice and can scream like any of the best European power metal vocalists out there.  Their stage presence was much more hyper than the previous shows on the tour, with Holy Grail - Photo by Minerva Photographythe guitarist jumping up and down and the singer screaming things like “Are there any Viking warriors out there?” , “We’re ready to rip your face off!” and “Want us to fuck your brains and make them into mush?”   They even have a token song about Valhalla. Now that’s metal.  Bring it on.

SetList
Immortal Man
For all Eternity
Call to Valhalla
Crisis in Utopia
Hollow Ground
My Last Attack
Fight to Kill

Blind Guardian
German power metal legends Blind Guardian were the guest of honor that night at Florida Powerfest II.  As mentioned before, I had the opportunity to see them in Philadelphia at The Trocadero, and New York City at the Best Buy Theater earlier in the Sacred Worlds And Songs Divine 2010 World Tour so I have many shows to compare.

Blind Guardian - Photo by Minerva PhotographyBlind Guardian is the type of band that is not known for its glitz or glamor, but for their well-crafted songs and execution. They have been road warriors for years and have played some of the largest festivals and arenas in Europe.  Hansi Kürsch is a strong frontman who sings the band’s songs with almost flawless delivery. However, I did notice that by the Florida show later in the tour his speaking voice and higher register was a little hoarse.  Germans are not used to air conditioning.

A nice treat from seeing the tour three times is that they did not do the exact same setlist every show. They were there in support of their latest album At the Edge of Time, but they pulled songs from many of their previous albums as well.  In Philadelphia, I got to hear a few different songs with “Traveler in Time”, “This Will Never End”, and  “Valhalla.”  New York City had a similar set-list minus “Traveler in Time”.  Perhaps they were feeling things out while they went along.  I was quite disappointed to not hear “Valhalla” again in Florida, especially since I promised my concert-mate it would be played.

A Blind Guardian show’s cherry on top is Hansi Kürsch’s dry sarcastic German humor with a touch of geekyness. When he did speak,  it was lines such as, “Everyone behind me is an asshole,” which got a chuckle out of the audience. And when the crowd starting chanting Hansi’s name, he quickly reprimanded them for singling him out and not giving some credit to his band. So the crowd started to chant guitarist Andre’s name. But there was no response from the axemaster so Hansi’s reaction was “He’s too shy. He can’t handle it. That’s why we have a hologram.”  Epic nerd humor. It made me smile because earlier in the evening my friend commented on how many nerds were at this metal show.

Blind Guardian was a joyous ending to a long day but fantastic event.  And a nice thing about having a festival in Florida in December is when you leave the building, it still is warm enough to hang outside. Kudos to Camden Cruz Entertainment for a job well done and hopefully there will be a Powerfest III.

PowerFest SetList
Sacred Worlds
Welcome to Dying
Born in a Mourning Hall
Nightfall
Fly
Time Stands Still (at the Iron Hill)
Banish from Sanctuary
Time What is Time
Lord of the Rings
Tanelorn (Into the Void)
Imaginations from the Other Side
Encore:
Wheel of Time
The Bard’s Song
Majesty
Mirror Mirror

 

* Photos by MInerva Photography

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