Manowar’s ’The Final Battle World Tour’ finally descended on Birmingham’s 02 Academy for 2 nights of unleashed war-crying mayhem. The second night on Saturday 20th April, saw me join the ‘Manowarriors’ for the triumphant end to this leg of the tour. There has been a mass of comments regarding these concerts, mainly the price of the tickets and merchandise, but also the ban of any camera or phone being used. I respect Manowar for taking a stand against this in a way, as all too often a phone distracts us from the actual stage show. Also there are no support acts, another welcome twist, many recent events have had as many as 4 bands billed on a night, too many in my mind. So we get 2 hours of the main band, that’s value for money. Well, the floor is packed, the balcony is closed, so its not a sell out, nevertheless the audience are heaving and I can sense the warmth of anticipation among them. The Intro ‘March of the Heroes into Valhalla’ heightens the tension, we are bravely awaiting the unknown. The stage is lit and the band storm into ‘Manowar’ immediately the fists are in the air, punching in unison. The thunderous ‘Call To Arms’ sees leather-clad Eric Adams penetrate us with his demonic vocals and the guitar of recently recruited E.V Martel starts to scream into action.
The scenography must get a mention so you can imagine the sight, flanking the stage there are two volcanoes, spurting out smoke. The colossal drum kit of Anders Johnansson is encased with more rocks and a stone arch, flames and lava flowing behind him. With a screen at the back to display more close ups, it’s a magnificent set-up and a colourful change from the usual stack of Marshall’s. ‘Blood of my Enemies’ reaches back to 1984 and the classic ‘Hail to England’ album, we are getting into full marching action now, this anthem summons more impressive guitar from the Brazilian, who was formally of Manowar tribute band ‘Kings Of Steel’. ‘The Gods Made Heavy Metal’ is more smoothly paced, the Academy is truly rocking now. ‘Hand Of Doom’ signals a more frantic direction, racing power chords and destructive, menacing drums. No wonder Manowar have been crowned the loudest band on the planet on 3 occasions, every now and again the sound is turned up to a shaking maximum, just to remind us. ’Swords in the Wind’ with its dramatic melancholy sound, ’House Of Death’ which is a pulsating masterpiece and ‘Sons of Odin’ keep the flow moving. Thumping his chest, Adams knows he has us in his grip, his voice remains as powerful as it did in the early 1980s.
We are then entertained by Joey DeMaio, Bass player extraordinaire, with his solo take on the classic ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’ entitled ’Sting of the Bumblebee’. Not many would include Joey in their list of top bass players, but this guy is right up there with the likes of Billy Sheehan, it’s awe inspiring stuff. Earlier he was using his skinny neck Bass like a gun, aiming at the devotees down the front, now he uses it to play one of the fastest renditions I’ve ever witnessed on four strings. Completely stung.
The adored ‘Kings of Metal’ gets the crowd chanting and even though we are well into tonights performance, Manowar are now hitting a still higher level. ‘Warriors of the World United’ brings us to the encore and then Joey returns with a speech, respect for the UK and heartfelt thanks are finished off with him downing a can and showering fans with its contents. Entertaining theatre, in warrior style. ’Hail and Kill’ from 1988 is still a winner with its chorus enabling the Manowarriors to respond at the top of their voices, ‘Hail, Hail, Hail and Kill’. There has been a cleverly crafted mix of numbers, from all the era’s, that remind us of how enduring Manowar have been. They have remixed and remastered most of their best albums and sell themselves from every available angle. So much effort is rewarded with an army of truly dedicated fans, judging by the wide array of T-Shirts I see everywhere. The final song ‘ Black Wind, Fire and Steel’ allows DeMaio another chance to show his skills, bending and breaking his strings to create unique wallowing, an amazing finale. ‘Army of the Dead part 2’ is played as the lights come up, wow what a show. I was a bit sceptical at first, its a few years since I last saw them, (Though I remember they wore less clothes in those days!) and I haven’t really followed them for a while. But yes, worth it, these type of shows are in fast decline, so when a band does pull out all the stops and make it a spectacular experience, it’s something to treasure. Awesome !
To coincide with the tour Manowar have released, ‘THE FINAL BATTLE 1’. This is a new 4 track EP and part of a trilogy, with parts 2 and 3 yet to be unleashed. As they will be, quote ‘inspired by MANOWAR’s adventures on the remainder of the tour.’