Freedom Call w/ support – Porto, PT

Freedom Call, DragonhammeR, Head:Stoned
Hard Club, Porto
Thursday, 3rd April 2014

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With the release of their 8th studio album, “Beyond”, Freedom Call embarked on a mandatory European tour (read here). The only Portuguese date took place at Hard Club, Porto, courtesy of SWR Inc., to whom I’d also like to thank for the press/photo pass.

As Head:Stoned are halfway between heavy metal and prog, I was a bit surprise to see them supporting two power metal acts, but it worked out pretty well after all – the “happy metal partyers” surrendered to the band’s juicy heaviness and lively performance, headbanging enthusiastically and greeting and asking for guitar picks in the end of the gig.
Their most recent release is already from January 2013 (the six-track EP “Present Inexistence”), so there was no need to promote it anymore – especially being a local band that plays in the area quite often – and therefore the setlist was balanced between all their discography (another EP – “Within The Dark” – and a full-length – “I Am All”). “This Void” is clearly their biggest hit so it was the obvious choice to close their half-an-hour gig. (4,5 / 5)

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Italian DragonhammeR came next and, unlike me, many knew them well enough. “The X Experiment” was released last December (after a studio break that lasted almost ten years), so they focused a little bit more on that one. But being their first time in Portugal, and having just a 45-minute slot, give or take, they still played three songs from the previous “Time For Expiation” and one – “Dragon Hammer” – from the debut “The Blood Of The Dragon”. They were somewhat somber, only drummer Andrea Gianangeli – the most recent member in the band – matching the vibrant rhythm of their power prog (more power than prog, I must add). But they were smiling in the end – and they had reasons to, given the warm welcome bidden by the crowd – so the serious look on stage was probably just concentration.
The drums in “Seek In The Ice”, the guitar chords of “Believe”, the chorus (sung-along by the audience) of “The X Experiment” and singer/guitarist Max Aguzzi introducing the band before the last song (“Last Solution”) are some of the moments I best recall of the gig. (3,5 / 5)

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I was sick in 2001, when Freedom Call first and last played in Portugal, as a support act for Hammerfall. Back then I was really pissed for missing it, as I liked power metal a lot more than I do now – or actually, “as I liked power metal”. Period. Having enjoyed this gig so much in the present day was really a surprise. I guess it means that Freedom Call are THAT good.
Another surprise was seeing so many people. And the high number of Freedom Call t-shirts, especially on young bodies – I had no idea they were so popular around here, let alone among youngsters. It’s nice to know that not every teen follows “what’s in”, as power metal isn’t exactly the latest metal-fashion.
It wasn’t just the excellency of the performance in technical terms or the setlist – a 90-minute headlining show of a band that’s been around for more than 15 years and has 8 studio albums in its baggage is always a treat – but the good spirits of frontman Chris Bay as well. He tried to say some words in Portuguese but apart from “obrigado” (thank you) he failed totally. So he just smiled and said they had to come back more often, so he could learn. Later he said he was happy to see us there on a soccer night (the major local team had a match which was being broadcasted on TV), that we were looking good. And after asking us to raise our fists in the air, he added that we didn’t only look good, we smelled good too. Also, he asked for our help in “Beyond”, asked us to give them the rhythm by clapping our hands, as he had a tendency to go fast – and addressing the women he would then say that he wasn’t talking about sex.
I appreciated that Chris sat behind the keyboards for “The Quest” instead of using recorded samples. And that he asked for an applause not only for the support bands but also for their sound tech and even Hard Club’s own light tech, who he was sorry for not remembering the name but was thankful for the great job he did (yeah, I just wish he did the same at every gig…).
Chris told us that when they began writing the new album, they wanted to keep the word “warrior” out of it, shrugging his shoulders and almost rolling his eyes, because they were the “Warriors Of Light” after all so that word was a must-have. The setlist itself had three songs with it – that same “Warriors Of Light”, “Heart Of A Warrior” and “Warriors” (the latter already in the 3-song encore, along with “Paladin” and “Land Of Light”). And when introducing the band, he asked who had been at the 2001 gig, “on the other side of the river” (the original location of Hard Club), as bass player Ilker Ersin had played that show, then left in 2005 and was now back in what Chris claims to be “the best Freedom Call line-up”.
In the final thanks he mentioned again the soccer night, and the fact that was Thursday and so late. I was one of the many who had to go to work the morning after so leaving Hard Club at 1:45 am wasn’t ideal at all. But hell, was it worth it! (5 / 5)

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Text & photos by Renata “Pieni” Lino

3 Responses to “Freedom Call w/ support – Porto, PT”

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