A SPECIAL NIGHT OF METAL FEATURING TIM “RIPPER” OWENS AND FRIENDS
Date: March 5, 2016
Venue: The Rockpile
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
“One night and one night only” — those were the words (paraphrased) from MC Drew Masters just before the all-star line-up of ex-Judas Priest singer Tim “Ripper” Owens, ex-Megadeth guitarist Glen Drover and drummer Shawn Drover along with bassist Adrian Robichaud went onstage.
I didn’t know exactly what to expect when The Rockpile advertised “A Special Night Of Metal” featuring Owens, the Drover brothers and Toronto’s own Ronnie “Dawg” Robson. I was not familiar with Robson (who ended up not being part of the group for unknown reasons) but obviously, the resumes of Owens (Judas Priest, Yngwie Malmsteen, Dio Disciples and Iced Earth), Glen Drover (Megadeth and King Diamond) and Shawn Drover (Megadeth and Act Of Defiance) speak for themselves. Given the group members’ individual pedigrees, I suspected that I would hear songs from each of the performers’ past such as Judas Priest (including tracks from Jugulator and Demolition), Megadeth and Dio Disciples. A few days before the show, I checked out the event’s Facebook page and was surprised to see a post from Robson stating the following: “A very special one-off show celebrating the music of Judas Priest, Megadeth, Black Sabbath, Dio, Motörhead, and Metallica….with Tim Ripper Owens, Glen Drover, Shawn Drover and Ronnie Dawg Robson!!” Clearly, there would be a few cover songs in the set.
Due to my family responsibilities (i.e. putting the kids to bed), I arrived just before Owens and company would hit the stage. The Rockpile was quite packed to my surprise. It’s always funny to me how certain “big name” performers can’t seem to pack the place while a make shift line-up such as the one on this night draws a big crowd. The inconsistency in that regard must be frustrating for rock venue owners. I was able to get a spot within one person of the stage in the general admission area and was surprised to see the setlist once it was posted on the stage. Classic song after classic song — “The Mob Rules” and “Heaven And Hell” from Black Sabbath‘s Ronnie James Dio era, “Rapid Fire” and “Grinder” from Judas Priest, “Flight Of Icarus” and “22 Acacia Avenue” from Iron Maiden, and “Seek And Destroy” and “Creeping Death” from Metallica just to name a few. Needless to say, I was pleased with the setlist but did note that there were no original songs in that setlist from any of the performers. In other words, I was going to see a tribute band — albeit an all-star one — on this night.
This takes me to an issue that seems to come up more and more with an increase in “solicitations” in that regard. Should Sleaze Roxx cover tribute or cover bands? My position has always been “no.” After all, Sleaze Roxx celebrates and promotes bands that play original music and while there may be only one Black Sabbath, occasionally two versions of one band (L.A. Guns and Queensrÿche come to mind), and past members playing mostly their former bands’ songs (Bret Michaels comes to mind), there could literally be thousands upon thousands of tribute or cover bands for one specific group such as AC/DC. You can just imagine the nightmare scenario for Sleaze Roxx to cover thousands of AC/DC tribute bands. I am mindful that a number of Sleaze Roxx readers likely play in their own cover or tribute bands and Owens would have likely never got the coveted Judas Priest gig if he hadn’t been in a Judas Priest tribute band. I also know tribute bands can draw big crowds — and often sadly bigger crowds than groups playing original material. And while I have enjoyed the couple of times that I saw an entire set from a covers band (Adrynaline in May 2013 and Motley 2.0 in July 2014), this would be the first time that I would go see a gig where the featured headliner was a “covers” band. That being said, if you are going to see a covers band, there is nothing like seeing a premier singer such as Tim “Ripper” Owens tear through some classic metal songs.
With an absolutely phenomenal and very promising setlist about to be delivered, the question became more about whether the Drover brothers, Owens and their bassist for the night could deliver the goods and pay justice to the classics that they were about to play. I had little doubt that they would given that I suspected that the Drover brothers along with whomever was playing the bass could more than handle the music component even though a lot of the songs that they would be covering usually featured two guitar players. And let’s face it, songs like “Highway To Hell” should be pretty easy to play. If there is one guy that can handle singing songs from world famous heavy metal singers like Judas Priest‘s Rob Halford, Iron Maiden‘s Bruce Dickinson or Ronnie James Dio (Rainbow, Black Sabbath and Dio), it has to be Tim “Ripper” Owens. He just made it look easy out there. In fact, he is such an unbelievable singer that it seemed that he was holding back when singing songs such as Megadeth‘s “Symphony For Destruction” so as to stay true to the original and Dave Mustaine‘s “ahem” singing. On that track as well as the two Metallica songs that he sung, it just felt like Owens could have taken them to another level with his singing but he was holding himself back.
Over the last few years, I have been to tons of concerts at The Rockpile but it was the first time that I could remember seeing a mosh pit forming and this occurred on most of the heavier songs played on the night including the two Metallica songs “Seek And Destroy” and “Creeping Death.” Owens was at times pretty funny advising that he had just learned the song “Seek And Destroy” in about 10 minutes during his 6.5 hour drive to Canada for the gig. He also poked fun about playing some hair metal bands’ songs. It was pretty cool to hear Glen Drover play the opening guitar riffs to Dokken‘s “In My Dreams” but alas the song was not added to the setlist. Owens also gave props to both of The Rockpile clubs although he was apparently not informed that one of The Rockpile clubs (the “East” club) had recently and unfortunately closed down. Owens also poked fun at the Drover brothers who were doing a homecoming of sorts since Glen Drover apparently originates from and currently resides in a suburb of Toronto while Shawn Drover was apparently born in Montreal in the province of Quebec.
My favorite songs of the evening were the ones I really was not expecting to be played and that are usually not played by the original bands that penned them. Songs such as Iron Maiden‘s “Flight Of Icarus” ad “22 Acacia Avenue” along with Judas Priest‘s “Grinder” were super cool to hear! Frankly, every track played on the night was a good one and that includes “Living After Midnight” which was mostly sung by two fans (well done by the way!) who just came out of the audience to sing it after the open invitation to do so by Owens. That song also saw a bit of a game of musical chairs with Glen Drover taking over the drum kit for his brother Shawn, Owens playing the guitar and Shawn Drover handling some of the vocals.
The most “metal” performance of the night has to go to bassist Adrian Robichaud who apparently flew in from Nova Scotia and learned 15 songs on three days’ notice especially for the gig. You would have never known that to be the case had Shawn Drover not pointed that out towards the end of the evening and just prior to the band playing “Living After Midnight.” It was definitely an impressive performance by all musicians and especially Robichaud taking into account how little time he had to learn the songs and presumably the little rehearsal time that he had with the guys in the band leading up to the show. I had never seen someone play a six string bass before so it was neat to see Robichaud handle it on this night. The evening was capped off with rousing renditions of AC/DC‘s “Highway To Hell” and Judas Priest‘s “Hell Bent For Leather.” As the evening grew to an end, Owens advised the crowd that they would be coming out to hang out and have a few beers with whomever in the audience wanted to. It was nice to see that Owens and company were seemingly down to earth guys and had not been stricken by the “rock star” syndrome.
I really enjoyed A Special Night Of Metal and the covers set that the band played. I think what made it so special was that it wasn’t just anyone playing those songs. Although the Drover brothers and Owens did not play any of the original material that they were a part of in their respective superstar bands (Megadeth for the Drover brothers and Judas Priest for Owens), somehow it did not feel like they were playing cover songs when Tim “Ripper” Owens was singing the Judas Priest classics or the Drover brothers were playing “Symphony For Destruction.” Thank you to The Rockpile for hosting and presumably putting together A Special Night Of Metal. It was indeed a special night of quality heavy metal music by some accomplished musicians.
Setlist for A Special Night Of Metal:
01. E5150 (Dio cover)
02. The Mob Rules (Black Sabbath cover)
03. Rapid Fire (Judas Priest cover)
04. Flight Of Icarus (Iron Maiden cover)
05. Stand Up And Shout (Dio cover)
06. Seek And Destroy (Metallica cover)
07. Neon Knights (Black Sabbath cover)
08. Grinder (Judas Priest cover)
09. 22 Acacia Avenue (Iron Maiden cover)
10. Heaven And Hell (Black Sabbath cover)
11. Ace Of Spades (Motörhead cover)
12. Symphony Of Destruction (Megadeth cover)
13. War Pigs (Black Sabbath cover)
14. Living After Midnight (Judas Priest cover)
15. Highway To Hell (AC/DC cover)
16. Hell Bent For Leather (Judas Priest cover)