It is an oddity that Armored Saint are tonight making their first appearance at the home of metal. A band that for well over 30 years has been steeped in the music that this city gave to the world, might never have physically been here, but spiritually they almost never left.
Eager to make up for lost time, perhaps, the five deliver a charged-up display with the energy of people of, shall we say, a much younger vintage.
This riotous element might culminate in john Bush atop the speaker stack in the glorious “Reign Of Fire” but in truth it had been there since the thumping start of “Win Hands Down”. That this – and a good smattering of others, including the superb “An Exercise In Debauchery” – are from their latest studio album, are all the evidence you need to know why this isn’t a trip down memory lane.
Put simply Armored Saint have too much to offer to go back to the future. There are some nods to nostalgia, of course, “March Of The Saint”, “Chemical Euphoria” and “Last Train Home” (from the record in 1991 made just before their hiatus) all show the different sides to a band, who – in some parallel universe – would be playing the arena up the road.
Onstage for 90 minutes, their set is one that shines a light on their whole career as well as the full gamut of their considerable abilities. “In An Instant” and “Can U Deliver” are from their more epic, grandiose area and sound brilliantly mighty. The latter is played where most would have disappeared for an encore. Not here. A band that is so grounded that they dedicate “Mess” to a fan who has been to their four UK headline shows was never going to display such an ego.
Instead, this is all about celebrating the music of this wonderful, underrated bunch. Music like “After Me, The Flood” from their comeback record in 2000, and the thrashy “Stricken By Fate.”
And, as the show closes with “Mad House”, the talent here is clear. But there is a sense of fun too. Joey Vera grins his way through with his bass, the Sandoval brothers, Phil on guitar, Gonzo on the kit and Jeff Duncan, who forms the other half of a formidable twin axe duo, all look to be thoroughly enjoying themselves and in Bush they have that rarest of things. An effervescent frontman, who can still do it on top form even after 35 years and who still possesses a fine voice. Many of their peers, might have one or two original members, that is if they are still going at all. It helps that this line-up is so stable, there is a lot to be said for simple chemistry, and AS have it, in spades.
Whether it is fate, the Metal Gods, whatever, might have stopped Armored Saint getting here for all that time, but at least they finally made it. Everyone here – onstage and off – seemed to agree that it was worth the wait.