Live Reviews – Doro – Empire – 2/3/13

Also featuring “A Sound Of Thunder” and “Sister Sin”

Doro Pesch is one of a select few female rock performers with “credibility” as a singer and front-woman. While many wanna-be contemporaries of Doro resort to flagrant sexism in an attempt to attract attention (or more accurately distract from the ‘music’…), Doro doesn’t need, or appear to have any desire, to play that game. Breaking onto the metal scene back in the early 80’s with her debut album “Burning The Witches” with the band Warlock that she co-founded, Doro has continued to bring her flavor of German power metal with a consistency that shames many coming from the same era.

I think the last time I saw Doro was at the 1986 Monsters Of Rock festival, but that memory is getting vague to say the least, but I am shamed into admitting that we passed on seeing Doro last time she was in town, back in October of 2010, so this time around we were determined to make it. Not even the Superbowl was going to stop us… yep, you read that right. This gig was scheduled to conflict with the biggest sporting event in the USA. I guess you could say this was a going to be a rough night. At least you could be sure that anyone who made it out to the show was a committed fan. Fortunately the clever scheduling of local favorites “A Sound Of Thunder” as openers brought a sizable number of eager metalheads to the show, who, combined with a few for the second billed “Sister Sin” and a clutch of die-hard Doro fans, brought something like 120 people to the show (unofficial NoVAMetalReview eyeball count), which I think was a respectable turnout. While not packed, Empire certainly didn’t feel empty by any means.

So, the evening was opened by NoVAMetalReviw favorite, “A Sound of Thunder” (ASoT), and this show marked the public release of their latest recording effort, the excellent “Queen Of Hell” EP (previously reviewed). As Josh Schwartz broke into the opening riff of the title track to kick-off the evening, a stirring chant, “Hail, Queen of Hell, Hail, Queen…”, broke out within the crowd. This was the “Thunder Choir” (or at least some members of it) who took part in the recording sessions at the invite of the band, now featured on the Queen Of Hell EP and on the forthcoming “Times Arrow” full-length release. Over time this could easily become a strong signature for the band.

ASoT are now beginning to introduce new material to their set list, both from Queen Of Hell and Times Arrow, so of the seven numbers played, only two were oldies from Out Of The Darkness – the title track and their namesake “A Sound Of Thunder”. That the band is able to bring five new tracks is a testament to their prodigious songwriting output and confidence in the new material.

Of the new numbers, the opening track “Queen Of Hell” has been creeping into the set for a good while, so I really only class this as ½ new, but this is a certain keeper, with all the hallmarks of a classic. Next up we had “My Disease” which features Jesse Keen (bass) on vocal, which is a challenge when stacked up against Nina Osegueda who we already know is a vocal powerhouse. Jesse was pretty sick, so I’ll reserve judgment on this track to a later date. Skipping over oldie “Out Of The Darkness”, we next met “Reign Of The Hawklords” which pays homage to the band Hawkwind. This involves the use of a musical instrument called a “theremin”, which makes weird sci-fi noises and is classic Hawkwind, played by waving hands near the two antennas. Anyway, I like this track. This was followed by “Hello Nurse” which is a rather campy track from the EP, somewhat in the mold of “Kill That Bitch”. While I like the EP version, I’m not convinced this is a worthy replacement for “Kill That Bitch” live. For now I’ve a mental note ‘question mark’ over this song. The bands namesake track was delivered with usual precision, leaving closing duties to the somewhat obscure Black Sabbath number, “Trashed” which worked well. Overall a good night for ASoT with a score 8/10.

Next up was Sister Sin, who I have to confess I knew nothing about before the show. Yes, shame on me indeed. I don’t know why, but I had an entirely different idea of what they would sound like, and, preconceptions being what they are, I was firmly seated in the rear bar when they started their set – I might have been able to use the Superbowl as an excuse normally, except the power had failed at the stadium…

Anyway curiosity got the better eventually and, whoa there! This lot can ROCK! For those that don’t know, Sister Sin are a female fronted “classic metal’ band, who for me draw on the energy of some of the early 80’s bands, particularly Mötley Crüe from the “Too Fast For Love” and “Shout At The Devil” era. The band is due to headline The Recher Theater on March 7th (Towson, Maryland), so I will save a full review until then, however, the fact I am going to that show probably gives the game away. I will say that the two CDs purchased from the Sister Sin merch stand have been on constant play since this night. In the meantime I might just have to sneak in a review of the latest release, “Now And Forever” – it’s really excellent.

Despite all the general metal greatness that opened the evening, as soon as Sister Sin cleared the stage, a growing sense of expectation took over the crowd, with the impending arrival of The Metal Queen herself. Doro has a pretty deep catalog to dig from as far as material to pull from with 16 album releases, but I think it fair to say most folks would be expecting a set that would lean heavily on tracks from the Warlock days and they would not have been disappointed with 10 of the 18 songs being from those first 4 albums.  I snagged a setlist at the end (see pic!), but Doro switched things around a little and the correct list can be found here > http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/doro/2013/empire-nightclub-west-springfield-va-23dbe06b.html

Doro is an exceptional performer and sounded just like I have heard her previously, be it on album, video or live, but I think her strongest facet live is her very direct connection and interaction with the audience. Taken at face value, she seems genuinely grateful for the fans and determined to give 110% no matter what. At one point early during her set she mentioned that she had been feeling a little sick before the show, but I can honestly say there was no hint I could tell. However, a few days later into the tour a couple of dates had to be cancelled, so even more credit to the lady. Touring through the US in the middle of winter, it is probably impossible to avoid contact with one or two people that are sick, especially given Doro met with each and every one of the fans that stayed after the show.

Highlights of the set for me were “Burning The Witches”, “True As Steel”, “Fur Immer”, “All We Are” and “Hero”. The latter track is from the latest album and is dedicated to the memory of Ronnie James Dio and worked great in the live setting – may be better than the recorded version. Doro has a history with Dio that stretches back at least to the Triumph And Agony album from 1987, touring with Dio in Europe.

While we at it, the band Doro has surrounded herself with are no slouch, with Nick Douglas on bass having been with her for some 22 years, Johnny Dee on drums for 20 years (great drum solo incidentally during Earthshaker), Luca Princiotta on guitar and Bas Maas on lead guitar (both more recent hires). Each of them fits in well, and play the role of support to the main focus, which of course is Doro herself.

At the close of the show, following what I think was a four song encore (excellent!), a long line of hopeful fans formed for an impromptu meet’n’greet, and full credit to Doro if she didn’t make sure each and every fan got their picture taken with her and whatever memorabilia they had brought with them or purchased signed. My “True As Steel” Warlock LP cover will be framed and up on the wall before the weekend is out, along with the signed set-list. All in all an excellent night of female fronted metal, proving that women in rock can thrash it up with the best of the fellas. As if you need a score for Doro, but for completeness this was a 10/10 night – if you like her music, then it is hard to see how she could deliver a better show! Definitely recommended.

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The “Metal Queen”

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The audience was always Doro’s focus, high-fives all round

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Headed straight for the “walls of fame”

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