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Unser Konzert-Special/Our Concert-Special
I really like Cologne and I also like to fuse a trip to that beautiful city with visiting a good gig... or vice versa. Sarkophag teamwork is on schedule, so Hans and I met up at the station. It was pretty cold outside but the sun was shining, and drinking a cup of coffee with a view to the Cathedral... that's a must! Later off to the hotel, check in, a little bit of sightseeing in Cologne and then straight to Annihilator.
The gig was supposed to take place at the Stollwerk, but a last-minute venue change led us to Luxor. I've never been there and I never thought that this could be a venue where bands show up. Means: a smaller club at the main street, somewhere between restaurants and shops. So we let our taxi driver find that address. A tourbus in front of the venue, a few guys with backstage passes - yep, that's the right place :) An interview was planned before the gig, so we're able to see an empty Luxor. Actually, Jeff Waters should be our interview partner but he caught a cold and had to rest and treat his voice with care, so Dave Padden did it instead - a really nice and easy going representative. The result can be found at SarkoTalk.
Later, after the interview, we went outside to wait among the small group of waiting fans. There was no crush at that time, no wonder, cause it was really cold and on weekdays most of the audience tend to arrive on time. Doors opened at 8 o'clock, dead on time, and admission was trouble-free and fast. There was the bands merchandise stand on the right side, followed by a bar, the club was on the left. Somehow it reminds me of the Garage in Saarbrücken... a longer bar on the left side, bistro tables, barstools, long, rather small, a wide area with two levels in left of the stage and longer metal stands to put your beer... or to rest your elbows on. Great, that fits, I now found my place to be. The stage was knee-high and not that wide, without crush barrier or photo pit, so Hans had to install himself right next to one of the speaker towers.
The first support band> Adimiron. The five guys from Italy started with a song called Oriens to show the audience what this night will bring. The first group on stage always has to deal with an almost empty venue while admission still goes on. Adimiron didn't care and rocked pretty hard, with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. Andrea, the singer, put some oomphh into it, all other musicians did too. You could see them bang their head, jumping around and the fans in front of the stage went crazy. One of the guitarists caught our eye, not only because he played his guitar so well but also because of his excellent facial expressions. The stage was way too small for five musicians but they didn't care and gave us a really good show. They played six songs and after almost 30 minutes they said arrivederci with their last song To Whom It May Concerns. Not bad at all! During their gig more and more people came in and the Luxor filled up slowly but surely.
Support number two entered the stage shortly after reconstruction> Sworn Amongst from England. They started like a hurricane with The Storm and the band around singer/guitarist Liam got stuck into it. Especially Jonny Barker, the guitarist, caught my eye: a stylish white guitar and, god, his playing... yes, really, that was well done. They really rocked and did that pretty fast, hard, powerful. They mostly played songs from their album Severance and from the album And So It Begins they played one song> The Rules Of Engagement. Nothing happened after Liam's introduction of that song, and the reason followed in beautiful "Denglish"> die Drums are kaputt... but have been repaired immediately and so the show could go on. The sound was ok and the audience got carried away by the music but not as much as I expected at a Sworn Amongst performance. Most of the people rocked quite contained, even tentative. The band played eight songs and for almost 40 minutes, and I tagged The Storm as my personal favorite. Both support bands didn't use any gadgets, just a simple lightshow... that's it.
Cuddly crowded is what I call the Luxor at that time, but thanks to an excellent ventilation system it never got too warm or muggy. I had to write this cause I know some smaller clubs - also bigger ones - without such good ventilation system. The reconstruction went very well and fast, and now everything was ready for the headliner from Canada. Everyone's full of expectation... but nothing happened. A few people tried to get them on stage with whistling but that didn't work, so they started to scream - and speaking choirs for Annihilator finally did it. It got dark and darker, and then, while playing an intro, the four guys of Annihilator entered the stage. I have to admit I never saw them live before this tour, but this nights experience was gigantic - musically, but also because of how they treated their fans.
The first few notes of Ambush rumbled out of the speakers and the audience danced and sang along with the band, going wild with excitement. While playing their second song Clown Parade a girl entered the stage to jump into the crowd. Ok, the stage wasn't that high so she couldn't get hurt - nevertheless, it was a stupid idea. Jeff said “Hello” to the fans and his comment “Holy Shit, it's hot in here” was really perfect to describe the temperature on stage and the action in front of the stage. The atmosphere was phenomenal, so electrifying - and we had this special feeling till the end of the gig. I knew that bass player Al and drummer Carlos were just new to this band but that's a fact you really couldn't hear. Everything worked well, with a good sound and the band's teamwork was simply awesome! The new guys let rotate their long hair and the old stagers Jeff Waters and Dave Padden - with nice short hair and undercut, almost like an iro, let us separate the new ones from the old ones (sorry, had to say this, greets to K.)..
As written earlier, Jeff caught a cold - a fact you couldn't see or hear while singing a few songs... but since it's Dave's job to fight with the mic, he did the rest. The setlist was very well chosen and a nice mix of all Annihilator albums, but also contains some instrumentals like e.g. Crystal Ann. To hear Jeff and Dave play with two guitars while performing The Fun Palace was a very special treat. As we know from our interviews, some titles were very special cause they've never been played during an Annihilator show - or if played, it was a long long time ago.
Now some characteristic stuff I remember and call positive /impressive /entertaining:
As already mentioned the stage wasn't really wide or high. On the left side, right next to the speakers, was a small area where the musicians could enter the stage. Al and Jeff showed up there every now and then so we had a really nice view. Jeff used this area to visit the audience, to continue playing among the fans and to let them take some photos. That's what I noted before: I've never seen such nice handling of fans. Want another example? I saw just one security guy and he always got stopped by Jeff. During King Of The Kill a young guy entered the stage, took the micro and started to sing. The security guy wanted to stop him but Jeff shaked his head to say "No". So the fan sang one verse and left the stage with a jump off and into the crowd. There was a perfect communication between the musicians and the audience.
We also had a lot to smile. Jeff was laughing all the time, made funny faces and some jokes. He praised the audience for helping him with singing and laughed: "Money back at the door!" Later he stopped with introducing the band to tell us that the name Annihilator wasn't the best idea. His story about the name Annihilator was a huge laugh too - how people in other countries pronounce it, etc. He also gave us some examples... sooo funny!!!
And... no matter whether it's interesting or not - I really loved to see the band drank water on stage...
I personally am fascinated by Jeff's guitars and how he played them. Wow, that was so brilliant! There was a Gibson of a very special shape and making, some parts of the guitar were blinking blue, then red, which looked great on stage, when it was a bit darker. He also played his red Epiphone Annihilation-V. Well, nice looking guitars are useless if the guitarist can't play... but Jeff is pretty damn talented! I could have watched him play for hours, that's why I'm more than happy about that gig. And the whole gig-package made me add this to my private Top Ten.
My very special highlight was Phoenix Rising and Sounds Good To Me, played as an acoustic medley by Jeff, Dave and Al, sitting on three chairs on stage. Dave and Al sang in two voices, green spots flood the stage with mystic light. Dave's voice really impressed me, especially while singing this medley. That part of the gig was really soft and flowery, a huge difference to all the faster and harder songs, but showed us another facing of this band.
Although it was a long gig, the last song Alison Hell came too damn early - a brilliant ending where Dave was able to prove his enormous lungs volume in two longer screams at the end of the song... gosh!!! The audience wanted to hear some more, the band came back on stage but Jeff told us, that there'll be no encore - unfortunately.
This was my very first Annihilator gig, but surely not my last! Hans survived without any damage in the first row. I'm a short person so I had to crane my neck to see if he's ok, there in the first row, between an audience that freaked out completely. Later we stopped at the bar, then shopped at the merchandise stand... a band shirt was a must-have for both of us. Later we had a nice talk to the singers of the support bands (thanks for the setlists to Andrea and Liam!) and met Jeff at the merchandise stand to chat for a while. Then back outside, out into the cold weather to get a taxi back to our hotel. This trip to cologne was really worth it!!!
Report by Marion Ney
Translated by Susanne Blum