Armored Saint at the Rebellion Bar – Manchester, UK – 24 March 2017
Armored Saint are a band that I have been a fan of for many years, dating back to my early teenage metal years. However, I have never previously witnessed that band play live. Finally, in 2017 I would be given that opportunity. The band had chosen to take an unusual step with their batch of UK/Ireland dates in that they would be playing towns that they had never previously visited. Thus, I ventured to Rebellion Rock Bar, a new venue to Antihero live reviews, but not to me personally. Rebellion have been putting on rock shows for many years and have endured through some difficult times – their longevity indicates that they are doing something right in a very competitive industry.
It is to the credit of the band’s legendary reputation that even in facing competition from other rock gigs the same night that they still managed to generate a very healthy turnout; no mean feat for a Friday evening in Manchester. I was fortunate to personally witness the band’s soundcheck earlier in the day, which just heightened the level of excitement and personal expectation for the show itself. Over the years, the band have continued to release new music right up to last year’s Win Hands Down, and the recent short but mighty live release, Carpe Noctum.
Kicking off with new tune “Win Hands Down,” it became immediately clear just what a well-oiled live machine the Armored Saint musicians just are. New songs sat easily and quite comfortably beside their older classic counterparts with the legendary “March of the Saint,” quickly following the new opener. Fronted by John Bush (voice of the best Anthrax albums according to friends), all musicians have attained legendary status of their own instruments. From bassist Joey Vera, guitarist Jeff Duncan, and the brothers Sandoval, all elements contributed with sublime musical talent to the Armored Saint sound. All also looked to be relishing and genuinely enjoying the experience of their debut Manchester show. Some solo spots leave me usually heading for the bar or the venue toilets, but certainly not with this band. The audience itself was a mix of older long-standing fans, new recruits, media people, and even one long-standing well-known UK label manager was witnessed to be personally singing along. (Yes, I spotted you… :))
The set list was a great blend of older classics and newer material, but the set certainly didn’t relax or let up in pace and drive. Favourites for me personally were the previously mentioned “March of the Saint,” along with “Mess” and the lighter and slightly more commercial sounding “Last Train Home.” It’s a genuine pleasure to witness a band from a classic bygone era that are not merely going through the motions when they play live. Giving everything and receiving a passionate response by the Manchester audience made this simply one of the best live shows that I have witnessed in quite some time – and I do go to a lot. It’s to the credit of Rebellion Bar that acted and secured the booking of this legendary band who were also content to hang with fans after their set and chat, sign autographs and pose for photos. No star egos with Armored Saint even though they all are legends within the heavy rock/metal musical genre. Another bucket list band ticked off finally, but wow, well worth the wait. With a “Nod to the Old School” the March of the Saint proved a “Symbol of Salvation” to Manchester rock fans. The show left the fans on the “Last Train Home” with a “Real Swagger.”