BLAZE BAYLEY AND HIS BAND PUT ON FANTASTIC PERFORMANCE
Date: May 10, 2019
Venue: The Rockpile
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I never thought that I would be thanking my family’s pet poodle for allowing me to go to a concert but that is indeed the case for my being able to attend former Iron Maiden frontman Blaze Bayley‘s tour stop in Toronto, Ontario, Canada just a few days ago. You might be thinking, ‘How could this be?’ My original plan was to attend the inaugural KeelFest in Columbus, Ohio, USA on Friday, May 10th but that was soon thwarted by my eldest daughters’ dance competition and my wife’s plans for the family at Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. Yes, even though my wife may not think so, my priority is with my family and I squeeze in concerts around my family’s schedule rather than the other way around. KeelFest was quickly scratched from my mental calendar and I was looking forward to spending some quality and fun times with my wife and kids at Great Wolf Lodge. If you’ve never been there before, it’s a hotel with a huge indoor water park with just about every possible activity that you could imagine for kids.
With KeelFest definitely a no go, I was also disappointed that I would have to miss Blaze Bayley‘s tour stop at The Rockpile in Toronto since Bayley‘s tour stop at the same location two years earlier was nothing short of phenomenal. I rank Bayley‘s performance two years ago within my top five concerts of 2017 (out of about 20 that year). Just as I was resigned to missing Bayley‘s Toronto tour stop, my wife announced to me that our pet poodle could not be left alone for one night, let alone two nights. One of us would have to come back home from Great Wolf Lodge each night to walk the dog and keep him company. Really? The poodle was added to the family almost two years ago after I had a weak moment and succumbed to my kids’ constant badgering for us to get a dog. Frustrated with the seemingly constant bickering between my kids two summers ago (they are actually great kids and mostly well behaved), I told them that they could have a dog if they could accomplish 35 consecutive days of good behaviour. Just like that, my kids became angels for a number of days and by the 20th day, my wife (who had grown up with dogs) was already making plans to purchase a dog.
Getting back to the weekend at hand, even though there were lots of possible options like putting our dog in a kennel or some “dog hotel” for the weekend (that was never considered), having our dog stay with friends for the weekend (wasn’t an option this time) or getting someone to walk the dog (tried it once before with mixed results), it was obvious that my wife’s plan for our dog was going to come to fruition despite whatever I had to say. Given that my wife had to get our daughters ready for their dance competition on Sunday morning, my wife advised me that I would be going back home on Saturday night and she would go home on Friday night. Now, a headlining act at The Rockpile usually takes the stage at 11:00 pm so I figured that even if I left as late as 10:00 pm on Friday night, I would be able to make Bayley‘s set since it was about an hour’s drive from Niagara Falls to The Rockpile in Toronto with no traffic. Accordingly, I volunteered to go back home to walk the dog on the Friday night and the Saturday night. I ended up making it to The Rockpile on the Friday by 10:30 pm or so. The last opening act had just finished its set and I was pleased to be able to secure a spot facing the front of the stage.
Now although I clearly remembered that Bayley‘s last visit to The Rockpile two years ago was a great one, I forgot how funny Bayley can be. Bayley and his all-star caliber backing band consisting of Absolva band members — guitarist Chris Appleton, bassist Karl Schramm and drummer Martin McNee — came onto the stage with little fanfare with Bayley, Appleton and Schramm eventually turning their backs to the audience near McNee‘s drum set. Before long, Bayley addressed the audience asking whether this was a “rowdy” crowd because he had been asked to come back to The Rockpile under the promise that the club would produce the most “rowdy” fans. That prompted a lot of cheers from the crowd. Bayley asked the crowd to forget whatever issues that they had and simply to enjoy the evening, which is exactly what I planned on doing! I didn’t really have any issues but was definitely planning on enjoying this 1.5 hour of metal music and fun.
Blaze Bayley addressing The Rockpile crowd before beginning his set and excerpt of “Dark Side of Black” on May 10, 2019:
Blaze Bayley & band starting off their set last night at the Rockpile
Back in 2017, I was only familiar with eight of the 15 songs in Bayley‘s set at The Rockpile yet it turned out to be one of my favourite concerts of 2017. This time around, I was more familiar with Bayley‘s material given that I ended up purchasing Infinite Entanglement on CD after the singer’s 2017 set at The Rockpile. I ended up knowing 10 of the 17 songs played on this night and just like back in 2017, it didn’t matter if I knew all the songs in advance because they all sounded great live. Bayley‘s solo material for the last three albums at least seems to be pretty close to Iron Maiden‘s material on their X Factor album. There’s some great guitar work, Bayley‘s distinctive singing (almost talking at times) and lots of opportunities to sing “Oooh oooh oooh” with the song melodies.
I loved how Bayley and his bandmates seemed so into it. I really felt that Bayley was genuine when he thanked the crowd for its support. I love that Bayley does free “meets and greets.” Given that Bayley was scheduled to play in Quebec City the next night and likely had an 8.5 drive ahead of them, Bayley announced prior to The Rockpile gig that he would do his free “meet and greet” from 8:00 to 9:00 pm rather than stay after his set for however long that people are there. There’s only a handful of artists that seem to do these free meet and greets. Bayley, Mike Tramp and Y&T are the only artists that come to my mind. Frankly, it’s to their advantage to do so since I am sure that their respective merchandise sales are way better with them mingling and meeting the crowds after their shows than if they stayed away because people had not paid to meet them.
While there is no question that Bayley‘s Iron Maiden songs got the loudest and most enthusiastic reception from The Rockpile crowd, I also really enjoyed many of Bayley‘s solo material such as “A Thousand Years,” “Dark Energy 256,” “Fight Back” and “Calling You Home.” One new song from The Redemption of William Black — Infinite Entanglement III that I really enjoyed was the quasi ballad “Life Goes On.” I loved how Bayley shared some cool stories with the crowd and only had great things about his time with Iron Maiden despite being cast aside for Bruce Dickinson in 1999. Before the track “Silicon Messiah”, Bayley pointed out that that record of the same name, which was his debut solo album after leaving Iron Maiden, bombed because his management at the time reportedly did not book a single show to support that album. A couple of years later, Bayley was playing an acoustic gig in (I believe) Manchester, England when guitarist Chris Appleton came up to him and told him that if he wanted to give it another go playing a full heavy metal set, he would love to be part of it. The rest is history as Appleton seems to be a key person in Bayley‘s resurgence and the Absolva band (minus Luke Appleton) backs up Bayley now wherever he seems to play.
One band that I have always loved — especially in concert — is Steel Panther because they are able to mix humour with some great songs and showmanship. While no artist or band has really come close to Steel Panther in terms of mixing comedy and humour into a heavy metal concert, Blaze Bayley is a funny guy and once again proved to have a great sense of humour. I mentioned his opening address to the crowd but that did not stop there. Towards the end of the set, Bayley “battled” with guitarist Chris Appleton on who could get the loudest cheers from the audience. In essence, Appleton would go up towards the front of the stage (with his guitar) and get everyone to cheer. Bayley then took his turn getting to the front of the stage but Appleton encouraged the crowd to stay quiet behind Bayley‘s back. As I describe this event, it seems so basic but Bayley and Appleton “battling it out” on who could get the loudest roar from the crowd elicited many smiles (including my own). Bayley also made funny faces whenever he felt that the audience was not cheering loud enough. Again, not rocket science to execute but a great way to keep the crowd engaged and cheering throughout the show.
It was also fun to hear Bayley explain parts of the story with respect to the trilogy of albums (Infinite Entanglement in 2016, Endure And Survive – Infinite Entanglement II in 2017 and The Redemption of William Black – Infinite Entanglement III in 2018) that he has released in the last couple of years. Given that The Redemption of William Black was the last studio album to be released, Bayley spent the most time explaining the rationale behind the lyrics of songs from that record. At the end of the day, you can do everything right in terms of presentation between songs but if you don’t have the material to back it up, it doesn’t really matter. Obviously, Bayley has the stellar Iron Maiden songs to rely upon but his solo material is nothing to scoff about either. I do find that there is a tad more melody to most of the Iron Maiden songs from Bayley‘s era but Bayley‘s solo material is also very enjoyable and frankly in some ways closer to classic Iron Maiden than Maiden themselves who have almost gone progressive with way too long “epic” songs on their last studio album The Book of Souls.
Bayley kept the humour going by advising everyone before the encores that he was now doing “unpaid overtime.” Bayley and his stellar cast then finished off a great set with “Stare At The Sun” from Bayley‘s debut solo album Silicon Messiah and a pair of Iron Maiden classics — “Man On The Edge” and “Futureal.” Although Bayley and his crew had to leave for Quebec City shortly after, Bayley still went over to his merchandise booth area to have photos taken with whomever wanted to take one with him. I didn’t wait around to say hello but did pick up the two CDs that were for sale — the studio album The Redemption of William Black – Infinite Entanglement III and the live album Live In France. The latter was a fantastic surprise as I didn’t even know about its release! Overall, Blaze Bayley and his band put on a fantastic performance and I hope that they do not wait two years again to rock The Rockpile! As I got home, I was greeted by the family poodle who was extremely excited to see me and totally up for going for a long walk at 1:00 am. It’s funny to think that if it wasn’t for the dog, I would have likely missed the stellar performance from Bayley, Appleton, Schramm and McNee at The Rockpile!
Blaze Bayley’s setlist on May 10, 2019:
01. Dark Side of Black
02. A Thousand Years
03. Dark Energy 256
04. Lord of The Flies (Iron Maiden song)
05. World The Wrong Way
07. Life Goes On
08. Escape Velocity
09. Fight Back
10. Virus (Iron Maiden song)
11. Silicon Messiah
12. Day I Fell To Earth
13. Eagle Spirit
14. Calling You Home
15. Stare At The Sun
16. Man On The Edge (Iron Maiden song)
17. Futureal (Iron Maiden song)
Blaze Bayley performing live at The Rockpile in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on May 10, 2019:
Blaze Bayley at Rockpile