The 120 Tavern, Marietta, Georgia
August 27, 2016
For years, the name Pathfinder Promotions has been synonymous with quality. Head honcho Hoyt Parris has worked tirelessly to bring well-organized, reasonably-priced metal shows to the Atlanta area, featuring both top-notch local talent and selected underground bands from around the country and even abroad. It’s a constant uphill battle, given the challenging financial aspect, the relative absence of a developed traditional / power / progressive metal scene in metro Atlanta (outside of ProgPower weekend, of course), and the sometimes-fickle loyalties of patrons and venues alike. But Hoyt and Pathfinder keep plugging along. Jen and I don’t make it to Pathfinder events nearly as often as we would like, given that we live 300 miles away, but we’ve enjoyed every single one we’ve ever attended. Tonight was no exception. We were positively giddy to walk into the 120 Tavern in Marietta, around 15 miles north of downtown Atlanta and just a couple of miles away from the new Atlanta Braves ballpark being constructed in Cobb County to lure affluent customers to watch sub-par baseball. The 120 is a fantastic place to watch a show, featuring a large stage, pro sound and lights, delicious food, courteous staff, effective air conditioning, cheap drinks, and proximity to hotels and good beer. To paraphrase Klaus Meine, to us it was like coming home.
First on the bill tonight were Atlanta’s local metal heroes Brazen Angel, who had been fixtures in the Atlanta metal scene (and at Pathfinder events) for quite some time, before abruptly going silent last year because of personal issues, band dynamic issues, and goodness knows what else. Tonight was billed as the “Return of Brazen Angel,” because not only were the boys back onstage for the first time in many months, but also popular guitarist Doug Neal had returned to the fold. As if all that wasn’t enough cause for celebration, tonight also marked promoter Hoyt Parris’s 50th birthday party. So the mood was festive indeed. I’m not sure how I’d describe Brazen Angel’s sound to someone who hasn’t heard them before. They’ve got elements of classic metal, hair metal, power metal, hard rock, and good ol’ Southern boogie mixed in there, with an insanely gifted singer in the form of Reese Martin. All of them are fine showmen who give each gig their all, but something seemed different tonight. It was like they had an extra spring in their step, the glint of the eye of the tiger, as if they both wanted to prove something but also were deliriously happy to be back together on stage again. The results were amazing. I’ve seen Brazen Angel more times than I can count, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen them better than they were tonight. They promised us a classic set and, wow, did they deliver. Songs like “Silver Tongue Devil” and “Southern Water” and “Metal for Eternity” are bona fide crowd pleasers, and they sounded terrific this evening. Jen and I were especially touched when the band dedicated “Crusaders,” to us, knowing full well that it’s our favorite Brazen Angel tune. Another highlight was the band’s stellar rendition of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” with red lights and fog machine blazing, bassist Joey Phillips commanding the microphone, goofy hats on everybody’s heads, and even a bit of magic in the form of flames bursting forth from Phillips’ hand as he delivered the line, “And fire flew from his fingertips as he rosined up his bow.” For one final unexpected surprise, the band closed out their set with returning guitarist Doug Neal taking over lead vocals for a spirited, attitude-laden romp through the KISS classic, “Cold Gin.” I dearly love Brazen Angel and am ever so happy to have them back, especially in such dominating form. Setlist: Evil of the Night, Silver Tongue Devil, Mob Rules, Crusaders, No Raincheck on Evil, Sonic Decapitation, Southern Water, The Devil Went Down to Georgia, Metal for Eternity, Cold Gin.
It had been four long years since North Carolina’s Widow last played in metro Atlanta. The band definitely have a following here; indeed, Brazen Angel drummer Evans Martin was sporting a Widow shirt before the gig (although he changed into his mighty Michael Bolton attire afterwards). The audience was clearly excited to have Widow back in town, and the lads themselves were likewise thrilled to be back. In contrast to when I saw Widow in their hometown of Raleigh last month, tonight they didn’t fool around with intro tapes of any kind. Instead, the trio strolled onstage, bassist John E. Wooten said, “Happy birthday Hoyt,” and they immediately ripped into “Burning Star” from their new album, ‘Carved in Stone.’ Widow were in top form tonight. This is still a fairly new lineup (drummer Robbie Mercer having played just a few shows with the band thus far), but things are gelling nicely. Indeed, this incarnation of Widow sounded tighter and more in synch with each other tonight than they did at the Raleigh show, excepting one rough patch at the beginning of “Of the Blood We Bind” from which they recovered quickly. As usual, guitarist Chris Bennett was an absolute beast on the fretboard, coaxing one monstrous riff and killer lead after another from his trusty white Les Paul. On the other side of the stage, bassist/vocalist John E. Wooten was a turbocharged fireball of energy, bouncing across the stage away from his mike and headbanging maniacally at every opportunity. And the white bandana-wearing Robbie Mercer is just a joy to watch behind the kit. His face is stoic, but he is amazingly solid and locked-in, giving the songs exactly what they need without overplaying his parts. Visually, the band are trying a slightly different look than in years past. Gone are the ever-present band t-shirts from days of yore, replaced with a simple, classic, timeless black-on-black presentation. It looks cool, professional, and somehow unique in a time when it seems like everybody’s wearing band shirts on stage. Anyway, Widow ruled, and gave an altogether fantastic performance tonight that guaranteed everyone would go home happy. One other note about the gig: In addition to bringing new CDs, Widow also had in tow for the first time new ‘Carved in Stone’ shirts. They look killer, so keep an eye out for them at the next gig, or pick one up from the website. Setlist: Burning Star, Carved in Stone, American Werewolf in Raleigh, Nightlife, Of the Blood We Bind, Lady Twilight, Anomaly, Wisdom, Pleasure of Exorcism, Take Hold of the Night.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~