Power Metal Invades the Heartland with Dragonforce and Friends

Herman Li and Sam Totman at the Granada Theater in Lawrence, Kansas. Photo by Josh Chaikin

If I am being honest here, I would have to admit that I have not been to a concert in a very long time.  Between the cyclical days of work life, home life, and COVID, I have felt relegated to live within my own shell, and comfort of my home and let what seems like the world just pass me by.  However, all of that changed when I heard that DRAGONFORCE, the band I have loved for so many years, was going to be headlining less than an hour away from my house!  So, I decided to tuck away my fears of social anxiety, break out of my shell, and set myself off to the Granada Theater in Lawrence, Kansas for this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear there were 3 opening bands prior to the big show.  First up was a band by the name of SEVEN SPIRESSEVEN SPIRES is a self-proclaimed American metal quartet based out of the Boston Massachusetts area.  A group of 4 best friends, brought together in 2013 through their time at Berklee College of Music.  This band had the daunting task of warming the Lawrence crowd up, and preparing them for the remainder of the night.  And to say they did just that would be an absolute understatement. 

To start off, SEVEN SPIRES is led by Adrienne Cowan, one of the most talented female vocals I think I have ever heard, and reminiscent of Brittney Slayes of UNLEASH THE ARCHERS.  The soft tones, and heavy melody from Adrienne and SEVEN SPIRES was right on point and pronounced throughout their entire set.  One song of note, Succumb, had the entire crowd nodding their head in unison of approval as they headed closer to the stage to see what this band was all about.  Perfect guitar riffs, amazing bass solos, and vocal melodies unlike you have ever heard before really sets this band apart for me. 

In the end, SEVEN SPIRES overachieved their goal of kicking the night off just right and got me pumped to hear more from them.  They earned a new fan in me for sure, and I plan on checking out their new album Gods of Debauchery as soon as humanly possible (and you should too).    

Next up was a band by the name of VISIONS OF ATLANTIS.  There is a separate writeup of the VISIONS OF ATLANTIS performance posted here, and you definitely want to hear what these symphonic pirates are about: https://photosfromthepit.com/visions-of-atlantis-commands-lawrence-audience/

FIREWIND was next on the docket, and I was very interested to hear what they could bring to the table as they had some pretty big shoes to fill from the prior two performances.  I was exceptionally excited hear this band, as I was able to get a glimpse of their lead singer Herbie Langhans earlier in the night, as he made an appearance during the SEVEN SPIRES performance, singing a solo with the band that kind of blew my mind.  And I was right to be excited, as the second that FIREWIND started their set it was very apparent that a new tone was set in the Granada Theater, and it was time to rock!  Besides the exceptional melodical beats, the heart-thumping drum double-kicks, and the absolutely incredible guitar solos (so hard the guitar literally started smoking), it was apparent that this band knew what they were doing, and their plan was to bring it to Kansas, and bring it they did. 

Immediately when FIREWIND started to play their set, you could visually see the crowd double in size and strength, and the Lawrence fanbase reacted accordingly by setting off a fury of fist pumps, and a mosh pit the likes of which may never have been seen before in Kansas.  In the end this power metal band of 18 years knew exactly what it would take to get the crowd ready for what they were about to witness with the upcoming headliner that night. And who else, besides FIREWIND, could get away with capping off a killer set with a cover of 80’s favorite Maniac? They can play, they can sing, and they got the moves to go with it!

On to the big show.  Most people (much like myself) were introduced to DRAGONFORCE by grinding through, note by note, on those 5 little buttons that laid upon that plastic guitar attached to our XBOX or PlayStation when we were kids.  Most of us never have (and never will) achieve a passing score on the song Through the Fire and Flames because of the difficulty and skill it takes to accomplish that song using just 5 buttons.  Now just imagine multiplying that complexity 10-fold. On a real guitar. In front of a live audience. Flawlessly playing it right, note-for-note, without breaking a sweat. That is the power of Herman Li, and Sam Totman. That is DRAGONFORCE, and just the smallest level of enjoyment and experience I got out of watching DRAGONFORCE that night in the Granada Theater.

With an ominous dragon in the background, a drum set unlike any you have ever seen before, and an old school retro vibe that will whip you right back into the 80’s, DRAGONFORCE, the self-proclaimed “fastest band in the world” surpassed all of my expectations, and made me realize the right decision I made to come out that night.  The Grammy nominated power metal group came out swinging with a level of energy, and stamina that would make an Olympic athlete blush. They started their set with one of their most popular songs, Highway to Oblivion (my personal favorite, by the way). 

Donned with neon glasses that lit up, the wind blowing in their hair, smoke cannons, neon lights, sparkers, and two retro gaming cabinets, which doubled as guitar solo platforms, set the stage for was going to be a night to remember (and one I will never forget).  The mix of classic songs we all love and remember, and even some newer songs I had forgotten about, brought me a real appreciation to what this band has done through their illustrious career.  One thing I did note while watching the show was that unlike most other bands, there is not one single person who really defines this band.

Sometimes you will know a band by their lead singer, or maybe the guitarist, but with DRAGONFORCE, everyone plays a role and not one person stands out… they all stand out.  From the most amazing guitar solo battles we all know and love to the most amazing drumming I have ever seen in my life, all wrapped up with the vocals of a Greek God, there is not much here not to love (and I for one loved every minute of it). 

In the end, I knew I made the right decision, and I feel am a better person for it.  All of us should be so lucky to have an excuse to come out of our shells and experience this thing we take for granted every day.  And no, I am not talking about life. I am talking about: Power Metal!!! 

Words by Chad Bixby
Photos by Josh Chaikin

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