Iced Earth - LIVE: Academy 2, Birmingham 2011

Dystopia World Tour
November 5 (20:20-21:50)
Capacity 600

Like London the night before the venue for night two of three of Iced Earth's first ever UK headlining dates, after their 2004 tour was cancelled, was downgraded from the 3,000-capacity Academy to the 600-capacity Academy 2. The quality and resultant popularity of new album Dystopia perhaps suggest the promoters were a little too hasty to downgrade the venues based on early ticket sales.

At the time the dates went on sale fans had no idea what the band were going to sound like with new vocalist Stu Block, and by the time they released a free download of a re-recording of their classic epic Dante's Inferno with Block singing, promising to play it on the tour, and fans realised he really is the perfect replacement for twice-departed singer Matthew Barlow, it was too late. So they were forced to play short shows with daft curfews in small venues packed to capacity this time, but maybe that means there's a high chance of a next time.

The short sets occured in London and Birmingham because of early curfews for club nights taking place in the same venue after the show. Concert goers are used to this at club shows, but finishing as early as this (even earlier the night before in London) and cutting down the fans' value for money isn't really fair. It was even more inexplicable in London given that White Wizzard cancelled. And so, just like in London, the Birmingham crowd sadly missed out on Days of Rage, Pure Evil, End of Innocence and Burning Times.

Although fan favourites, cutting Burning Times and Pure Evil, which were both present in the setlist for the final tour with Barlow in the Summer, so that rarities like Slave To The Dark and Angel's Holocaust could be kept in was the right thing to do. But dropping End of Innocence, one of the best sing-a-long tracks from new album Dystopia, was a shame when something like V or Dark City might have been a better sacrifice to make. It might also have been interesting to hear Block sing a different song from one of the albums originally featuring Tim "Ripper" Owens on vocals instead of Declaration Day, which has been the only one played for the last two years or so. Nevertheless, the band are now supremely tight, and Block has settled in to his new role immediately. From the moment they ripped into Dystopia everyone in the brimming venue knew he was the right man of the job, and the pleasure on band leader Jon Schaffer's face for the whole set showed the pride he has in his new frontman. Block tackled most of the tracks perfectly, although perhaps still needs to put a little work into Dark City and Declaration Day, and the crowd reception to every track was ecstatic, especially when the encore arrived.

Although again due to the time restrictions the actual encore charade was also dropped and the band carried straight on, the much anticipated Dante's Inferno, before the inevitable Iced Earth close, produced the biggest cheer of the night, and it has to be said their new rendition is flawless. It was probably considered the make or break point of the show by many, and the band delivered with applomb. The rest of the tour continued through Europe, and is set to be followed by a US tour with Symphony X in 2012, a South American tour, and their first ever shows in Australia. Hopefully later in the year they will return to Europe and get to play the size of venue they wanted to, and should have, played this time.

“ band are now supremely tight ”

Setlist: Dystopia / Angel's Holocaust / Slave To The Dark / V / Stand Alone / When The Night Falls / Damien / Dark City / Anthem / Declaration Day / Tragedy And Triumph / Dante's Inferno / Iced Earth

Photo(s): Andy Lye

Written by Andy Lye
More: 2011, Gigs, Heavy Metal,

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