Vintage Concert Bill: Metallica, W.A.S.P. & Armored Saint - 6th February 1985 Print E-mail
Written by Bill Lindsey   
Sunday, 28 September 2014 03:00

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Metallica/W.A.S.P./Armored Saint - Minnesota, 1st Ave. - 6th February 1985

 

Early 1980s young musicians were amping up the speed and aggression in their Heavy Metal. Emphasis on the METAL. Initially inspired by the Hard Rock/Classic Rock bands from the '70s, but, newly injected with the fresh blood of the NWOBHM bands, the music climate in the U.S. and around the world was ready for a change and the next step in metal music. The West Coast's Bay area for one example was turning out bands who were not focused on commercial appeal but hard and heavy credentials. They were more interested in the speed and raw aggression of bands like Motörhead,Venom or Accept then being safe and soft for the FM radio or MTV.

 

A whole culture would spring up in its wake. One of Xeroxed fanzines, demo tapes collected by fans from hundreds of bands from all across the globe, and late night metal shows on public radio airwaves to play the music. This was the Golden Age of Thrash Metal!! And a band called Metallica was leading the way with mass popularity that was looking to spill over and challenge the main stream music of the day.

 

As a matter of fact they had just jumped from indie label Megaforce Records to major label Electra. So along with a multitude of bands on labels like Metal Blade, Combat and Megaforce the young metal fans of the world were gathering together and making a movement that was very grass roots and very special. They came together and came out in battalions to buy indie records and attend concerts by touring indie metal bands. It was glorious and it was more important than any one band on the scene. The fans helped create it all. Not some duder at a big record label who saw himself as some kind of hip taste maker for the youth of the world. Fuck that shit!!! These kids were showing everyone that THEY were in charge and THEY would make a difference with this music they loved so much.

 

So back to that band called Metallica. They were touring for that major release titled 'Ride The Lightning'. They were doing a double bill with L.A. shock rockers W.A.S.P. and Armored Saint. A bone crushing package! All the bands had just released great new albums that all appealed to fans in different ways. They brought the tour to legendary Minneapolis club 1st Ave.

 

In the late afternoon of that day both W.A.S.P. and Metallica did meet and greets at local records stores - Down In The Valley for W.A.S.P. and White Bear Ave. Northern Lights for Metallica. I couldn't go to both so I went over to Northern Lights and there were all four members behind the counter and a bunch of metal kids there to see them. We all got Xeroxed pictures handed to us for them to sign if you didn't bring a record or something (I did not). It was cool to have talked with Cliff Burton and I remember he looked at the picture I had and said "I hate this picture of me, why would they make this a promo?!" and then he signed right across his face. Very funny memory of him. So it was a very laid back and casual event with metal music pumped over the store speakers.

 

After that we took off for the venue. It was packed to the gills with long hairs and denim jackets. A club girl in her Madonna outfit I knew was hanging around and she was just beside herself that her danciteria was over run with greasy metal dudes. She looked at me and said "I have NEVER seen people sing along and jump around to the pre-show videos before!!" INDEED woman!! These people are not here to POSE they are here to BANG THEIR HEADS and ROCK OUT!! The enthusiastic audience was indeed getting revved up and stoked by the pre-show music and videos by Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Motörhead. Most of them had no way of ever seeing these things. No public broadcaster was playing these treasures for us. It was really fun and amazing.

 

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First up was Armored Saint whose image was inspired by Priest and Mad Max at the time. Leather and armor (painted hockey and soccer pads) were their uniform as they opened the show playing tracks off their newly released album, 'March Of The Saints', and their excellent self-titled EP which had come out on Metal Blade prior to the LP's release. Can U Deliver? Of course they did and it was classy metal in a classic vein with John Bush singing with a powerful voice reminiscent of Gillian and Coverdale.

 

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Now W.A.S.P. was also coming around after a jaw-dropping EP and song called 'Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)', plus a self-titled LP on Capitol Records. Frontman Blackie Lawless was from the Alice Cooper/KISS school of metal and he came off like a hornier Gene Simmons and was a great frontman at that time and place. I wish they had stayed on this track because it was the best era in their history.

 

Two giant fibreglass skulls with red glowing eyes adorned stage left and right. Big black boxes were at the front of the stage with chain mic stands to elevate all the six foot plus band members even higher on stage looking like giants peering down on the minions below. They took the stage and shook the audience with high energy and  showmanship. Guitarist Chris Holmes was a pure nut job on stage! Never slowing down, sweating buckets and coming across like a six foot six Angus Young! Randy Piper delivered great backing/harmony vocals to match Blackie's and a smoking jet pack on his back. Steve Riley had just taken over drumming duties from Tony Richards who I really wanted to see because I thought the drumming on the early W.A.S.P. records and demos was amazing! They played most of the S/T album and of course 'Animal'. Blackie threw out posters (got one!) and drank blood from a human skull all while singing with one of the coolest voices from that L.A. hair band era. I really liked the live show much more when he played bass and wrote hard rockin' songs like 'Hellion' or 'Show No Mercy'. I lost interest in them fast when he kicked out Piper and started prancing around like Paul Stanley on rythmn guitar and writing silly songs like 'Blind In Texas'. But on this day W.A.S.P. was a force to behold.

 

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As great as the other bands had been there was a tension and anticipation brewing that you could almost touch with your studded, fingerless, leather, gloved hand. As the crew moved away the fibreglass skulls exposing a wall of Marshall stacks and Lars' drum kit everyone seemed to get a bit more riled up and anxious. Then the soundtrack of Clint Eastwood's The Good, The Bad and The Ugly began to blast from the P.A. (a bit Motörhead inspired methinks). They ripped into their set and heads began to BANG! They were just starting to hit their stride and kicking it up a notch in the tight and professional dept. In my mind they never bested 'Kill 'Em All'. To me that's the best Metallica record of all time. Every song is great! That being said, the next release 'Ride The Lightning' was very strong and added some great songs to their live show like 'For Whom The Bell Tolls' and the always ass-kicking 'Creeping Death'.

 

So the set was packed with primo 'Tallica. They played 'Four Horsemen', 'Hit The Lights', 'Seek And Destroy'. All of them long hairs at the time, the stage seemed like a mop shop in a cyclone. The highlight for me was Cliff's bass solo. He had stage presence in spades!!! He was without a doubt one of the coolest and most rockin' bassists in Rock 'n' Roll, Metal or Southern Rock (he was ALL of that rolled into one). James has always been a solid frontman and his vocal stylings have been carbon copied over and over as the years have passed by. Kirk was riding the lightning quick and fluid with the leads and Lars was tight as well. Metallica were on, the fans were into it and everything seemed possible.

 

They would kick it up another notch professionally and sucessfully the following year for 'Master Of Puppets' and then they'd lose Cliff in a bus crash and lose something that was special about the songs they wrote and the attitude they had at this point in time.

 

But the important moral of this tale is not Metallica or W.A.S.P. or whether they are even still relevent today. You may still dig them, you may not. But it's about metal music itself and the fans that love it and make it great. It's about what a group of like minded fans can accomplish when big labels are not delivering to them or their taste. I truly believe that big labels are dead but music can not die. Like Dr. Ian Malcolm said in Jurrasic Park, "Life will always find a way!" As long as people hold a passion for this type of music they can come together and create a movement. It may happen in a different way in the future and that's what makes it all so cool and in the same breath made this time in history so special.

 

[Photos of the show and flyer courtesy of John Stradinger]

 

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