UK powerhouse DragonForce finished touring this year with two sold out shows last weekend at Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn, New York. While perhaps best known for their single “Through the Fire and Flames,” the six-piece act has led quite a distinguished career with nine albums and countless tours traversing the globe.
This July marked the release of Killer Elite, the band’s first compilation album bridging old and new songs to longtime fans and newcomers alike. More than that, the 22 songs spread across Killer Elite’s two discs are an impressive study of the technical ability and overall tenacity DragonForce has brought to the power and melodic metal scenes over the past 17 years.
Monday night’s show was no different. Taking the stage to “Holding On,” the guys were an energetic from the start. Their enthusiasm was infectious as it poured over show goers—most of whom burst into frenzied headbanging with a select few attempting to keep up with Herman Li and Sam Totman (guitarists/co-founders) on air guitar.
Li and Totman themselves were quite an interesting sight to behold—with Li making exaggerated faces, ripping solos with his guitar held high, and even licking its strings from time to time. Meanwhile, Totman threw skeptical expressions at Li and shrugged at the end of his own solos as if it all was just child’s play.
This joking was carried on by Frédéric Leclercq who—when not growling during “The Game” or playing his bass with the same force as Li and Totman—provided brief interludes throughout the set. Breaks included several attempts to coaxing the bar into sending up a Jack and Coke refill (ultimately successful) and launching into snippets of cover songs such as Hall and Oates’ “Your Kiss Is On My List” and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin.’”
Drummer, Gee Anzalone helped sing during the latter track and took the bar by surprise with his vocal abilities. During the rest of the set, he could also be found standing as he played the drums with a look of sheer joy spread across his face. Vadim Pruzhanov also contributed to the “lounge” atmosphere of this mid-set break as his deft fingers played soothing melodies on the keyboard. This mood was a sharp contrast compared to his ability for speed and comfort shredding the keytar to the crowd’s cheers.
And no review would be complete without mentioning vocalist, Marc Hudson. While unable to play a couple of shows in August due to health issues, Hudson practically oozed charisma as he prowled the stage, hit his notes (especially the high ones) perfectly, and broke into lighthearted banter. At one point, this talk included asking how many “ladies” were in the crowd — approximately six including yours truly — and noting that he should have known from the smell. Hudson also has a knack for engaging the crowd as he whipped several circle pits into motion, had everyone jumping off their feet, and even stage dived into their outstretched arms at the end of the encore (“Through the Fire and Flames”).
If there is one thing to know before going to see DragonForce live, it’s to prepare to be entertained. Whether it’s the almost effortless way this talented group rocks their instruments of choice or the way they jump center stage throughout the set (there is no one true “star” here), it’s fairly clear that the guys are musicians because they want to be musicians. They’re good because they want to be good. And they’re playing shows, because they want you to have a good time.
If Killer Elite and the band’s last show of 2016 is any indication, DragonForce is here to stay. For any readers given the opportunity to catch them live, this reviewer highly recommends doing so.