Okay, here's my account of going to see one of my favorite Heavy Metal bands; Iced Earth.
After getting out of bed, the worst part of the day occurred...WAITING!!! I swear time nearly came to a stop and I kept staring at the clock, willing time to move forward at a faster pace. My uncle Kevin and our good friend Jim arrived at 2:15 just as they said they would. 2:30 comes and the damn van hasn't arrived, so the secretary calls to find out where the driver is. She finds that they are enroute.
Needless to say, I was not very pleased. I had everything planned out so that we would arrive at the venue before 4:30 to have extra time for any unforeseen problems. The driver finally arrives at about 2:45 and by the time I get in the van and locked in place and ready to go, it was 3:10. At this point, my blood is boiling, but I kept my cool. The drivers usually arrive about 15 minutes before the scheduled pickup tiime.
Our driver ends up taking a longer route to the venue. In my mind's eye I'm strangling him. When we're approximately 10 minutes away from the venue, my uncle calls Andrew (Iced Earth's tour manager) and leaves a message telling him we're running late because of the traffic we ran into. Again, I want to kill the driver for being late picking us up. A few minutes pass and Andrew calls back and tells my uncle not to worry about being late and to call him when we get there. To top things off, the freaking driver nodded off when we were heading out, so our friend Jim strikes up a conversation with him to keep him awake.
We finally arrive about 15 minutes late. In the cold, we have about a 100 yard trip to get to the front doors of the venue and when we reach them, we encounter a wheelchair's worst enemy...STAIRS!!! A little step up to door level and beyond the glass doors, steps leading up and steps leading down.
While Andrew and the venue staff are working on a solution, I've become so cold that I can't drive my wheelchair because my hand has become a popsicle. As we waited, Andrew hands my uncle the VIP stickers and my VIP laminate, which my uncle hung around my neck. After about 10 minutes, it's decided that a side entrance would be the best option. It was that or on the stage. I decided against the stage because when I did that at the same venue 8 years ago to see Iced Earth, the sound was horrible because the speakers are facing out towards the crowd.
After another 15 minutes in the cold, the door opens and we're led to a small balcony area. This was a pretty good location, but I couldn't see well because I can't look downward due to the position my neck is stuck in, but we made it work out as best as we could. Symphony X was doing soundcheck when we got inside.
A couple minutes later, Jon Schaffer (rhythm guitar), Stu Block (vocals), Troy Seele (lead guitar), Brent Smedley (drums), Freddie Vidales (bass guitar) and his wife Connie come over to me. With Symphony X doing their soundcheck and me being a bit congested, it was difficult to talk with them, which was frustrating for. If I had made a slight adjust to my ventilator before I left the hospital, I would have been able to speak better. Thankfully Andrew took a few pictures because my camera was dead. I got the autographed Dystopia poster and a guitar pick Jon signed. I really only got to speak with Brent, Freddie and Connie a very little bit.
As they were leaving for dinner I think it was, they all thanked me for coming. Brent asked if I would like a drumstick after the show and I said definitely!
Symphony X finished up their soundcheck and sounded simply amazing. I was impressed and couldn't wait for their set. About 15 minutes later, Warbringer began their brutal soundcheck, which practically rattled my teeth. I was looking forward to their set as well.
The lights go out and Warbringer hit the stage after a messed up intro to which singer John Kevill responded "What the fuck was that?" He said a bit more, but I can't remember what it was. They tore through a very short set of 5 or 6 songs. I was a little surprised it was that short.
Next up was Symphony X. Their light show had me squinting because the strobes were so bright. I love their music, but only really know one song by name and that's Inferno (Unleash The Fire), which was their final song before a 3 song encore.
The mighty Iced Earth were next. The intro to Dystopia came on and the crowd roared. All the bands were great in my opinion, but Iced Earth really stole the show. They had an amazing connection with the crowd. They sounded phenomenal, but getting Stu's mic just right seemed to be a battle during the entire set. But damn, he can sing. He was simply incredible and his falsetto screams were ear-piercing. The entire band was flawless. People who have trashed Troy's playing must have bad hearing because his solos were spot on. When they played V and Stu, Jon and Freddie sang the chorus, I got the chills and got teary eyed because I was so happy and it was just so powerful. Watching Over Me was tearjerker because I played that song at my best friend's memorial service over a decade ago.
Iced Earth made all the difficulties I went through well worth it. As promised, Brent gave a drumstick and it was one he actually played during the show. My uncle told him for me that I didn't get the VIP t-shirt and he took care of it immediately and a few minutes later I had one. After thanking him, we headed out, but not before buying an Iced Earth and Symphony X t-shirt.
In closing, I had a GREAT time and can't wait to see them again. My most sincer thanks go out to Bill Murphy (Iced Earth's publicist), Ulf Zick (Iced Earth's manager), Andrew Peters (Iced Earth's tour manager) and all the guys in Iced Earth and their road crew for making this night one to remember!