I’ll be perfectly honest: I hadn’t ever heard Blaze Bayley’s work until Friday, May 17th. Not his solo work, not with Wolfsbane, not even with Iron Maiden. But when I heard he’d be coming to Sparta Inn for his Tour Of The Eagle Spirit, I knew this wouldn’t be a show I’d want to miss. I’d heard great things about Blaze’s showmanship, and coupling that with the fact that he’d be playing tunes from all three of his Infinite Entanglement concept albums, I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t go. I mean, how often do you get the chance to catch an artist who’s touring behind a three-part concept?
I didn’t have the opportunity to arrive early, but I did manage to come in with a few of the regional acts still left.
Offensive is a heavy metal band out of Essex, MD, and played a combination of originals and cover tunes. The bassist and lead singer, Leon Sohail, and guitarist Maxim Sobchenko, took turns with the vocals – the former handling the harsh and the latter the clean. The standout moment for me was when they performed a solid version of “Holy Diver” in honor of Ronnie James Dio.
A Sound Of Thunder is always a favorite of mine. It would be obvious if you saw me, wearing a battle jacket with their creation, Udoroth, displayed in vivid color through the artwork of the talented Trav Hart. In fact, I brought my wife along to this show and she finds the foursome as delightful as I do. And, as usually, the band didn’t disappoint with heavy hitters such as “Queen Of Hell,” “It Was Metal,” and the aforementioned “Udoroth.” Unfortunately, the song they wrote which features Blaze, “My Disease,” didn’t make an appearance that night, but Bayley did end up selling one of their CDs for them while they were rocking out onstage.
I had a chance to speak with Blaze just before his set. I let him know that this was my first time seeing him live, but that I was very excited for it. He was so humble and down to Earth during that interaction, but when he took the stage, something clicked and he became larger than life. It was really like watching live theater with the way he wore his expressions so vividly. Adding to that feeling, as Blaze introduced each of the Infinite Entanglement tracks, he spoke as if a narrator, giving us background on the origins and the struggles of the main character, William Black.
Somehow, despite the downtrodden position Black finds himself in, Bayley managed to carry a positivity in his performance that he imbued into each person in attendance. I think, in part, this is due to the chemistry he and his band have. They’re really having fun on stage, even at times when Blaze wants you to be certain that the guitarist (and co-producer of the Infinite Entanglement records), Chris Appleton, has committed mutiny by commandeering his vocal melody into a guitar solo. I couldn’t help but laugh as Appleton urged the crowd to be silent during Bayley’s melody sing-along, but felt too committed to helping Blaze to remain silent myself!
Of course, the crowd went wild for the Maiden staples, such as “Futureal” and “Virus.” I think Blaze was excited for them too, and he made a point of commenting on how wonderful a time he had during his five years in the band. He told us that he was living the dream then, but he’s still doing it now, thanks to all of us. He told the supporting acts to never let people nay-say and discourage them, because if he could come from nothing and be the singer of one of the most renowned heavy metal bands on the planet, they could achieve their dreams as well. Honestly, his conviction makes it easy to believe, and his stage-show makes you want to dream. So if Blaze Bayley comes to your town, and you have even an inkling of doubt whether you should attend, wash that thought from your mind. Regardless of what he and his band play, you’re going to leave happier than you entered.