Concert review: Blaze Bayley @ Fubar (St. Louis, Mo)

Following Bruce Dickinson’s departure from Iron Maiden in 1993, the band recruited Wolfsbane frontman Blaze Bayley. With Maiden’s reputation largely built on Dickinson’s characteristic high-register wails and charismatic stage presence, the switch to Blaze’s baritone belting and static stage presence proved to be detrimental to the band’s popularity at the time. With Maiden, Blaze recorded two albums, 1995’s X-Factor, and 1998’s Virtual XI prior to his dismissal heralding the return of Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith.

In the nearly 20 years of his solo career, Blaze has released nine albums, the most recent of which, Endure And Survive: Infinite Entanglement Pt. II in March of 2017, only a year after it’s prequel, Infinite Entanglement. Inspired by the success of the tour supporting Infinite Entanglement, Blaze and his cavalier band of hungry, youthful musicians embarked on a second tour which stopped at Fubar in St. Louis on August 27th.

The Blaze Bayley that performed that night was not the same Blaze Bayley of his Iron Maiden reputation. Despite having visibly aged accordingly over the years, Blaze’s voice boomed out, un-aged and full of power and vigor. Where once Blaze used to struggle with crowd inolvement from combative crowds, he confidently and enthusiastically had the audience in the palm of his hands; despite only filling out the first three rows, Blaze’s excitement prevented the typical small show awkwardness from setting in. In contrast to the longer, drawn out arrangements of most of his work with Iron Maiden, the Endure And Survive tracks featured in the set demonstrated a more aggressive approach, confidently backed up by his much younger bandmates respective solidness at their craft. While the unavoidable, expected Iron Maiden influence found its way into the songs, the newer material toes the line between power metal and thrash.

When it came time to bust out the occasional Maiden song, Blaze clearly became more excited, as the fans joined in for the iconic choruses and “whoa-oh”s. The band tore through them at a slightly more brisk pace than Maiden would, but that lended itself well to Blaze’s energy. Often when singers tour performing hits from their previous bands, the performance can easily come across as glorified karaoke, but Blaze and his band gave it all during these tracks knowing they meant an awful lot to the small number of us in attendance.

Out of the blistering, hour plus setlist, only one track came from his first band, Wolfsbane. With the addition of a prolonged audience participation section, guitar and drum solos, and a Vaudeville style musical comedy routine, the obscure three and a half minute burner, Manhunt, became a 10 minute heavy metal extravaganza.

Prior to performing their final song, Blaze addressed the audience and told us he would not be going to the dressing room or the van, that he would be going and hanging out at the merch booth and hanging out with the fans, that it was not a meet and greet; it was him saying thank you. Blaze was beyond cordial and cool with all the fans who stayed and waited in line to talk to him, take pictures, and sign things. Blaze’s gratitude infectiously radiated from every pore the entire evening, and to witness his performance was truly a gift.

Blaze Bayley has announced that he and his band are working on Part III to Infinite Entanglement and will be returning next year.

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