The marquee Saturday night at Fitzgerald's Bar was just a little misleading. But that doesn't mean the sights and sounds blaring from within were too. Or that they were merely a reasonable facsimile.
A single word, MANOWAR, greeted patrons entering the parking lot, but that was only 25 percent true. Ross "The Boss" Friedman, co-founder, original guitarist and one-fourth of the power metal kings, was indeed in San Antonio for a pair of gigs with tribute band Blood Of My Enemies. The local group had reached out to Friedman and offered to fly him in from his native New York if he would play on stage with them. He accepted, and the rest became South Texas history, with a Friday night concert in Laredo preceding the one here.
For the intimate crowd of diehards who headbanged, possessed vinyl albums to be autographed and sang along to a set comprised of classics from Manowar's first six albums spanning Friedman's 1980-88 era in the band, his appearance was well worth it.
Forty-eight hours before the show, The Boss and I talked about his visit (click here), which included a story I shared with him pertaining to the recording of Manowar's 1988 album.
Fast forward 25 years. After paying the bills, I arrived shortly after the start of fourth song "Blood of the Kings" off that '88 album Kings of Metal -- which proved to be the only deviation from the original setlist regarding its placement within the set (see slideshow above). The tune was instantly recognizable from the back of the parking lot (with both bar doors closed, to boot), both in familiarity and loudness. A scream from the vocalist pierced the air before I even entered. Although I knew original (and current) Manowar singer Eric Adams wasn't playing, you had to at least wonder for a split second.
Vocalist Mauricio "Malls" Contreras, approximately half of The Boss' 59 years, would go on to hit all of the high notes. No small feat under normal circumstances, let alone given that Contreras had already sung as a member of support act Bad Obsession, which will open for Y&T and Faster Pussycat this Friday at Backstage Live (tickets and details here).
There was plenty of fan participation to go around. Military metalheads joined the group to sing Hail and Kill. Contreras occasionally leaned the mic in to front-row faithful (including a certain camera-toting guy) to sing the three words of the title track to 1987's Fighting The World. Later, a tall, mallet-waving, long-haired metalhead decided it would be appropriate to go on stage to reprise the role of Thor: The Powerhead (see slideshow).
The nice-touch award unofficially went to the dedication of Sign of the Hammer to late Manowar drummer Scott Columbus.
The Boss displayed his skills on the axe all night and pitched in on backup vocals. Afterward, he sang the praises of his bandmates (Contreras, Robert Garcia on drums and Merc on bass). Of his singer, Friedman told the crowd: "He has a big future ahead of him. A great gift. Keep an eye on him."
In the end, it was difficult to tell who was happier:
- The Boss, who said he just might have to return to San Antonio with his new band Death Dealer
- Blood Of My Enemies, for having the opportunity to jam with one of their idols on a slew of songs they grew up listening to
- The fans, who got to take it all in and get their merchandise signed.
Call it even across the board. But one thing was for sure: all in attendance had been caught in a metal daze. And we loved every second of it.
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