GULF OF MEXICO -- Playing two concerts over four days on a cruise liner with 40 other bands wasn't enough for Warrel Dane. He had to go ahead and play four. And still, Dane had enough time, energy and enthusiasm to judge a belly-flopping contest.
It was that kind of "vacation" aboard the first 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise vessel that sailed Jan. 24-28 from Miami to Cozumel, Mexico. But it was extra special for Dane -- unofficially the hardest working musician aboard Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas -- and fans of Nevermore and Sanctuary. Nevermore, which played San Antonio last Oct. 8 at Backstage Live and, according to the venue, is slated to return May 15 opening for Symphony X (tickets here), delivered hard-rocking, entertaining shows with a fill-in bassist and extra guitarist.
But of the two bands, and arguably of the 42 groups overall, Sanctuary held the most mystery for the sold-out throng of 2,038 passengers from 48 countries. That's because Sanctuary, which released Refuge Denied in 1988 and Into the Mirror Black in 1990 before disbanding and forming Nevermore in the mid-'90s, used 70,000 Tons of Metal to mark their first shows in 20 years (save for a cruise warm-up in their hometown of Seattle).
Dane and bassist Jim Sheppard are in both bands, but Sheppard only played with Sanctuary on the cruise. Guitarist Jeff Loomis, who was not an original member of Sanctuary but among the final lineup, joined Dane in pulling double duty. Nevermore was rounded out by Poland native Dagna Silesia, who plays bass in Dane's solo band and owns a guitar shop in Seattle, and a second guitarist who was not Attila Voros -- the axeman who played alongside Loomis in San Antonio. At least one cruise fan appreciated that the attractive and skin-tight, black leather pants-wearing Silesia "wasn't trying to be a rock star" and simply played her role to a tee without drawing extra attention to herself as the lone female on stage.
Meanwhile, guitarist Lenny Rutledge and drummer Dave Budbill reunited with their Sanctuary mates to throw down a pair of heavy shows. The first occurred inside the intimate Spectrum lounge aboard the ship's eighth deck. Dane hit a majority of the high notes on Die for My Sins, Battle Angels, Future Tense, and Seasons of Destruction as he did two decades-plus earlier when the debut album -- produced by Megadeth's Dave Mustaine -- came out.
Following third song Battle Angels, Dane asked the crowd what it wanted to hear next. Standing front-row center next to an international fan who was singing every single lyric, the SAMME yelled out "Taste Revenge" -- the lone Sanctuary song that was surprisingly tossed into the middle of Nevermore's set at Backstage Live. And as he did several times that night, Dane displayed his sense of humor, declaring, "Oh, come on. You know that's the last song."
It was tempting to reply something along the lines of, "No, we don't know, because you haven't played in 20 years!" Instead, laughter from Dane's comment and the overall festiveness of watching Sanctuary rock on a boat prevailed. By concert's end, Dane gave props to that fan next to me before slapping yours truly a high-five and holding on securely for a couple seconds. It was the kind of brotherhood moment that screamed, "We're all on this boat together in the name of rock and metal."
Alternating between Nevermore and Sanctuary sets, Dane and Co. played their second show as the latter at 11:30 a.m. aboard the main deck during the cruise's final full day. Declaring "it's very weird for us" to be playing at such an early hour, Dane, Loomis, Budbill, Sheppard and Rutledge nevertheless tore through mostly the same songs. They also added the 1967 Jefferson Airplane cover White Rabbit after promising it to fans at the first show. As passengers rocked out up close, relaxed in jacuzzis or watched from lounge chairs on the top deck, Sanctuary again ended with Taste Revenge (see my video, top left).
Dane then reminded folks that Nevermore would play its second show at 12:45 a.m. that evening, but not until he had other business to attend to. First, he posed for a pic for the SAMME's 40th birthday (see slideshow, top left), then joined Budbill and Silesia as belly-flop judges.
Stay tuned for more 70,000 Tons of Metal coverage featuring Exodus, Testament and Uli Jon Roth. Visit the links below for coverage you may have missed earlier.
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