Primal Fear and Gus G. live in Athens 2019

Probably the first important show for 2019 and one in a series of more than a dozen Gus G. solo shows, that included two shows with German Power Metal veterans Primal Fear, in Athens and Salonica, this was an event that held quite a big promise to satisfy and entertain.
Primal Fear and Gus G. Athens show 2019 poster
There was a slight delay due to the bands arriving a bit later that predicted of about an hour, but cutting a couple of songs from each of the support bands and rushing changeovers a bit, managed to really make things get back on time by the time Gus and his chums hit the stage. But let’s go back to the beginning.
 
A completely overhauled line up of local heavy-power metallers, including one time Air-Raider Michalis Rinakakis, The Silent Rage took the stage to a fairly decent response from the few people that had arrived, early on. With a new single freely available from their forthcoming album, a selection of their catalog and a cover of Priest’s “Between the Hammer and the Anvil”, the overall vibe they gave was rather positive. Far from feeling perfectly tight, I think it’s their best “re-incarnation” yet and one that leaves genuine promise.
 
With little time to waste, long enduring heavy metallers Terra Incognita took the stage with the focal point being their animated and bulky frontman, who was try his best to be both theatrical as well as offer a good performance, achieving these goals to a certain extend. The choice of some of the band’s more idiosyncratic numbers, as well as their less than ideal sound/mix marred down their powerful metal, leaving a rather mixed impression about their overall presence.
 
Gus G., who was co-headlining this night (in reverse order than in Salonica) made a stand as a power trio with PC69er Dennis Ward on bass and vocals and Felix Bonhke (Edguy, Avantasia) on drums. With a recent album “Fearless” that featured the aforementioned Ward – the Greek virtuoso, offered a set heavy on songs from it as well as cover, which seemed a little unbalanced, but ultimately managed to be entertaining. Technically proficient and ever improving in terms of his songcraft, Gus, despite having had some wild dreams come true early on in life (ie playing for Ozzy Osbourne for multiple years) without making a big fuss about it, seem to be trying diligently to cement his place among the greats and he’s still got such a long way to go ahead of him, to one day become a legend himself.
 
Firing up his fingers with the eponymous “Fearless”, instrumental, to the roaring approval of an adoring crowd, gears were swiftly dialed down a bit for the harder rocking “My Will Be Done”. “Burn” from his sophomore album, (not a Purple cover) followed, a more modern rocker that felt a little out of place, a fact that was maybe equalized somewhat, by the fact that all the vocals were handled by one person, which made them sound more uniform. “Mr Manson” feels like something that Gus might have written with a view of a second Ozzy album that would have featured him, and sounds like a classic metal song, given a modern facade. It does sound a bit like an Ozzy pastiche of sorts, but in an interesting way, nonetheless. “Vengeance” another of G’s instrumentals, allowed for some time away from such complicated conspiracy theorizing, right on time for “Don’t Tread on Me” a contemporary rocker from the latest offering to come and dispel them altogether. The disruptive syncopated rhythms of “What Lies Below” a song sung by one Elize Ryd (Amaranthe) on the album, sounded quite different with male vocals, but other than the pretty shit hot soloing; I can’t say that I was originally much appreciative of the song’s overall heavily produced sound. “Letting Go” segued in well enough, with its inherent heaviness and it’s dark by melodic chorus, that easily lifts it above its predecessor.
 
Taking time to address the audience, Gus, forwarded the classic Thin Lizzy tune “Cold Sweat”, as one of his favorite songs, coming from a band that certainly inspired him. “Big City”, another song from his most recent batch, with it’s cool hard rock measured swagger, did feel like a fitting choice to get the show going again, despite not having the most impressive verses you’ve ever heard. It was time for a pretty huge throwback to basically, the second Firewind album with the scorching “The Fire and the Fury” an instrumental of unmatched ferocity that really showed how even back in the day, Gus was quite the consummate and impressive player, despite his youth, which was then followed by the more recent “Force Majeure” another instrumental in which normally Gus is dueling against the great Vinnie Moore, a Macalpine’ish tune that shows the long way that Gus has come since his beginnings, more in terms of refinement than anything else.
 
Despite having heard the song on the album, the switch from playing the first few real meters true to the original, prior to switching to a heavy – modern take – on the Dire Straits standard “Money For Nothing”, as well as the updated humoristic “new” lyrics, knocked me out of the park and left my smiling like a dork! “Thrill of the Chase” the other instrumental from “Fearless” fit in quite nicely after it, being actually that it might be one of the better tunes on it. Whether you like or not, his “vocal” tunes (*ie songs), pretty much near all his instrumentals are ranging from really good to phenomenal, with fluid playing, nice phrasing and ideas that really work.
 
Taking a short bow and a breather the band returned for a tri of “encore” songs in a pretty rad, Ozzy cover with “Bark at the Moon”. The redunculously cool instrumental “The Quest” and the rather cool “I am the Fire” that despite, being a rather modern tune, has a decently melodic chorus to go with it all, wrapping everything up. Gus G., with a little help from his two pals, upped up the ante considerably for the German heavyweights that were to follow him.
 
Near twenty or so years after their debut show in Greece along with Skyclad, at Rodon Club – one of the most enjoyable concerts I had the good fortune to witness back then/there, other than the fact that Ralf has gone even more Halford after losing the long mane, he sported back then and the fact that the band has released a shitload more albums, little seems to have changed otherwise. Obviously – that show was followed by a few more in the early 00s, when the band was still trying to establish it’s foothold on the scene – but living abroad at that time, I wasn’t able to bare witness to any of them.
 
After a noticeably longer break in order to changeover the stage gear and with a backdrop too big for the club, (since the usually play, bigger and taller clubs) the German stalwarts come out taking no prisoners. Matt Sinner – the other pillar of the band was banging away on his base a little to the left of the stage, with Ralf Sceepers taking it upon himself to not only impress us with his near flawless performances but also to act as the communicator for the band in Greek no less as he does have a reasonably good command of “basic communicational Greek” an aporia of him having a Greek girlfriend and gym buddy back in the day. Oh well… people seemed to like both the band and the songs but also Ralf’s funny banter as well.
 
Like Gus G., the band had a setlist that favored their most recent “Apocalypse” album, from which about 4 or so songs were aired, but the Germans also tried to revisit as many from their dozen or so albums as they could, in a pretty balanced / best of sort of, way.
 
The one-two of “Final Embrace” and “In Metal We Trust” mixed the old with the new and managed to get the crowd on its feet, with the band revisiting the one new – one older song formula once more with “Blood, Sweat & Fear” and “Face the Emptiness”. I suppose, promoting their latest album got em to play “Hounds of Justice” along with “The Ritual”, only to again delve in the past for the very melodic, but also full of dynamics classic that “Under Your Spell” has sort of become. “Nuclear Fire” represented its eponymous album, with “Fighting the Darkness” offering a much welcome “slower” ponderous moment among the metal meltdown all around it. “King of Madness” is probably one of the best tunes on the latest album and it also translated well “live”. “The End Is Near” from “Rulebreaker” is cut of a pretty similar fabric and had the band teasing the fans to scream louder, than the Salonica crowd did – the night before, you know, that usual BS fare to allow the band a breather! Along with the quite dramatic “When Death Comes Knocking” and the anthemic “Metal is Forever” however it gave the band a nice triple prong exit attack.
 
They did come back for a single song encore, taking things all the way back to the debut with the excellent “Chainbreaker” that may sound to my ears as a bouillabaisse of Riot, Priest and Pretty Maids in retrospect, but heck, if I didn’t scream my lungs out to it, as a youth, back then! And I didn’t seem to mind, now… I mean, nothing wrong with what I described above… right?!
 
After that the show most of the musicians made themselves available to fans to take pictures and the like, with the whole gig passing to history as the first really interesting metal gig of 2019. What’s not to like?!