Live Gig Review and Photos by: Zenae Zukowski
Dragonforce returned to NYC where it hasn’t been since April 2015 on the tour with Kamelot and for me, I cannot pass up on a Dragonforce show. This time around Dragonforce kicked off the ‘Killer Elite’ Tour to promote their greatest hits album that includes a collection of videos that was released in April under Spinefarm Records. The tour began in Japan and concluded in the United States that included ProgPower 2016 on Sept 7, a free show at Mohegan Sun and closing it at St. Vitus on Sept 10th and 11th. Now, for those who are not familiar with St. Vitus, it is a tiny venue, and it can pack up quick. I remember when tickets went on sale for Gojira’s surprise show in July, it sold out in less than three minutes. Therefore, Dragonforce opened up two shows for this location and both promptly sold out, especially the first night. I was shocked to see this show being booked there, I mean lately there have been fake Facebook Events created for example “Christ-Mess with Cradle of Filth! Live in the Greenwood Cemetery!” event. Go look it up; it is still there. However, this double event was legit. On the first night, September 10, I was one of the lucky ones to be extremely up close and personal with Herman Li (guitar), Sam Totman (guitar), Frédéric Leclercq (bass), Vadim Pruzhanov (keyboard), Marcus Hudson (vocals), and Gee Anzalone (drums).
Before I go into the full details of that night, there is a bit of information one needs to be aware of and I want to do it justice by explaining it in its near-entirety. Typically, it is bittersweet to conclude a tour, however, they are lucky it did end when it did due to Marc’s recent health conditions. Not sure if anyone was aware but, there were a few shows when Marc was unable to perform, that included Sabaton Open Air-Falun in Sweden, More Than Fest in Slovakia and Leyendas del Rock performances. What is incredible about Dragonforce, where people should understand, they do not want to disappoint their fans. They did what they could and quickly filled a last minute replacement that included Alessio Garavello (A New Tomorrow vocalist) to fill in for Marc’s absence.
While Marc’s health was in question, on September 5, Marc announced on his Facebook page that he is still not well. However, despite his illness, he forced himself to conclude the tour with Dragonforce. Here is what he said: “Hello everyone! So I’m currently en route to the US for Prog Power festival and the Dragonforce headline shows. My health issues have meant that my existence has been pretty uncomfortable (and to be honest, quite miserable) for the past month or so, but It’s nothing life threatening for those of you who have been worried, it’s also not related to my voice or anything like that. But my condition certainly didn’t lend itself well to doing Some of the recent festivals. At this point, I want to say a huge thank you to my friends @Alessio Garavello, and PelleK for stepping in and allowing the Dragonforce shows to continue without me. They both did a fantastic job and saved our asses by stepping in at such short notice! I have to admit, I would rather be at home resting but I absolutely want to do these last shows of the KILLER ELITE tour, so I will be there even if I’m pumped up to the eyeballs on medication. After this, I should have enough time to make an ‘almost’ complete recovery so I can carry on relentlessly touring the world like we always do! See you in a couple of days! Peace and love X Marcus”
With that said, on September 10, I had no idea Marc was sick at all and here is what happened. When I walked into St. Vitus around 8 pm, it was already packed with eager fans. Fans were desperately waiting by the door to sprint to the front of the stage; it was adorable. There were no openers that night, as everyone was there just to see Dragonforce and they ended up going on around 9:30pm.
As everyone held their places for over an hour, Dragonforce walked through the crowd and went directly onto the stage. Marc looked healthy and said how happy he was to finish the tour in New York City as they were surprised that the show for that night sold out within the first ten minutes. After the opening chit chat, they went into “Holding On” from 2012’s ‘The Power Within,’ “My Spirit Will Go On” from 2004’s ‘Sonic Firestorm,’ and “Heroes of Our Time” from 2008’s ‘Ultra Beatdown.’ It was during these songs when despite the super-small stage, the entire band was practically on top of everyone. I mean, they were so close I had to move my camera away several times when I thought Herman was going to hit it with his guitar. Speaking of Herman, he loved the crowd as he had people strum his guitar; he licked his strings in front of everyone, and a few fans manage to touch him similar to the recent Battle Beast music video of “Madness.” It was that intense.
The night progressed with “Operation Ground and Pound” from 2005’s ‘Inhuman Rampage’ where Vadim brought the portable keyboard to the front of the stage and joined in on the fun. Marc introduced the next tune stating how it was written by the bassist (Frédéric) that featured blood, vampires, darkness as they went into “Symphony of the Night” from 2014’s ‘Maximum Overload.’ Marc then asked the crowd if this was anyone’s first Dragonforce show, and many screamed. He then asked who had seen them before, as just a few responded. Marc laughed and stated, “where have you been the past fifteen years?” Marc moved on and asked if anyone wanted to hear any of their older tunes as they went into “Soldiers of the Wasteland” from 2004’s ‘Sonic Firestorm.’
Marc introduced the next tune being a slow song for the ladies, as they went into “Seasons.” At this point, Dragonforce was performing quite a few songs and well, they were getting a bit thirsty. Frédéric was craving a drink at the bar, and Marc spoke up for him asking if someone could get him a double Jack and Coke because he’s “hunky and has curly hair.” Shortly after, Frédéric’s drink arrived, and Marc along with the fans taunted him to “chug, chug, chug!” Frédéric appeared to be already hung over from a previous evening of drinking, instead of chugging he sipped. Frédéric got his revenge when he did a snippet of a few 80s tunes, and Gee joined him on the drums when they briefly performed songs from Hall and Oates, “Out of Touch,” and The La’s, “There She Goes.” Speaking of covers, it was after these snippets; Marc assured the crowd knew the next tune as they went into the Johnny Cash cover of “Ring of Fire,” followed by “Cry Thunder.”
Two songs after Frédéric received his drink, he looked at the audience and said “done” as he finished his drink. Marc wanted to have better lights, as they constantly were changing that night, so the lighting tech changed it to different colors, where I believe Marc was satisfied when he stopped at red. Once the tweaking completed, Marc asked if anyone was familiar with their debut album as they went into the 2003’s title track of “Valley of the Damned.”
Here is where the evening got a bit more casual, and beyond entertaining when the band teased Sam. Marc announced to everyone that night how Sam had about two hours of sleep as he alluded the fact that, he had a real good time the night before. Sam did look tired, where I just thought it was just how relaxed they were but it made sense after this because I did notice he seemed a bit sleepy. After everyone had poked fun of Sam, Marc mentioned how they would generally leave the stage and return for an encore but with how the venue was, it wouldn’t be right. He said how they would have to exit through the crowd and return, through the crowd. Sam volunteered to do this, but he was a bit too late since they moved into “Fury of the Storm” from 2004’s ‘Sonic Firestorm.’ It was during this performance that despite Marc’s health issue, he managed to crowd surf. This was when the fans let completely loose of themselves, as Dragonforce let them feel comfortable and welcome around them. Fans stood on the stairs; they tried to get even closer to the band, and this went into the final tune of “Through the Fire and Flames” from 2005’s ‘Inhuman Rampage.’
In the end, Dragonforce managed to come together and bow on that stage. For some strange reason, maybe I was just super close to the platform but, the friendship and brotherhood of these guys were heartwarming and quite visible. With that said, it was an incredible intimate night, and I thank Marc for being such a trooper for those last few shows. I do hope Marc has a safe and healthy recovery and perhaps they will return soon enough.