FESTIVAL REVIEW: CHICAGO OPEN AIR 2017 Live at Toyota Park Stadium, IL – Day 3 (Sunday)
Glancing down the menu of bands, I knew this day would be rich in heavy, gothic, on the verge of satanic vibes. Based on over 25,000 paying metalheads in attendance, I’d say this is also the most anticipated day as well.
Opening up was a band of students from Berklee Music in Boston, Mass called Aversed, who were fronted by lead singer Haydee Irizarry. You could sense the nervousness of the young players fronting what was probably their largest gig to date, but the tunes were hard and the vocals strong. If they continue on as a unit, I would expect great things from them down the road.
White eyed and full of metal, DED was the next band up over on the Monster Energy Main Stage. These guys are a master of both the music and PR, as they hung out with just about everyone and anyone throughout the day. Guitarist David Ludlow even explained to me how they have sent their merch to festivals they weren’t even playing in an effort to spread the word. Trust me, it won’t take much more effort as these guys were my favorite new start of the entire weekend. Their debut album ‘Mis-An-Thrope’ just dropped and I highly suggest you add a copy to your collection.
Following DED was a trio of guys named WHORES. Fresh off the streets of Atlanta,Ga led by lead guitarist/vocalist Christian Lembach. Personally, I wasn’t impressed as the audio was muffed and a lot like Aversed they seemed overwhelmed by the big stage and crowd.
Conversely, Demon Hunter commanded the stage and brought a little holiness to the day with their brand of Christian metal. Having been mostly in retirement for the past 3 years, they had something to prove on this demonic day of the festival. “Storm the Gates of Hell”,”Cold Winter Sun”, and “Lifewar” proved to this journalist and more importantly the paying fans that Demon Hunter can hold their own.
Bradley ‘DEZ’ Fafara is probably second to only Marilyn Manson as a concert photographer’s worst nightmare. Known for launching verbal attacks, spitting, and all around treating the media like shit, thus I was less than excited for the next act DevilDriver. My anxiety quickly turned to joy as Dez came out roaring and sounded the best I’ve even heard him including many times fronting Coal Chamber. Opening with “End of the Line”, their 7 song/30 minute set included “Daybreak”, “Ruthless”, and “Clouds Over California” before finishing with “Meet the Wretched”.
Combine Mudvayne’s Chad Gray blooded and full of his usual on stage craziness with Pantera’s Vinnie Paul on the skins and you get Hellyeah. This is one of my favorite bands and they did not disappoint. Opening with “X” off their fifth album ‘Unden!able’. Another highlight off this same cd was a cover of Phil Collin’s “ I Don’t care Anymore”. In between, the metal-heads were treated to “Moth”, “Human”, and “Say When” before they closed out with “Hellyeah“.
Back at the clearly heavier and more demonic Blackcraft Stage, KYNG was the next act up. Seeming a little out of place amongst the heavy hitters on this stage’s line-up, Eddie Veliz and the boys held their own. Even the failure halfway thru their set of Pepe’s snare drum couldn’t stop their groove.
The Vikings sailed in next as Amon Amarth took the stage to the licks of “The Pursuit of Vikings”. The stage was a glow throughout their set as their usual smoke effects were replaced with 20 foot tall flames. I counted at least 9 of the pyro beasts that went off non-stop and blasts the crowd with shock waves of heat. Dueling Vikings, fighting to the death, during The Way of Vikings” was just one of the many props used throughout the gig. Drummer Jocke Wallgren was completely enclosed in a full scale Viking ship complete with a smoking dragon’s head. You can’t walk around Chicago Open Air without noticing the abundance of Viking Horn Beer Mugs…all of which seemed to be raised in praise during “Raise Your Horns”.
The largest crowd of the day gathered around the Blackcraft stage as metal giants Behemoth took over the day’s music reins. I have only had the opportunity to photograph this band in small, dark venues, so I was hyped to see them on stage in bright daylight. Drummer Inferno was absent from the group, having just became a father, but his skills on the skins were well covered by Jon “The Charn” Rice. The black metal rolled as they thundered through “Conquer All”, “Messe Noire”, and “Decade of Therion”. Adam “Nergal” Darski never sounded better as he took to his podium with Orion and Seth flanking him. This was by far the best set of the weekend and left the crowd yearning for more as they closed with one of their biggest hits off the cd ‘Satanica’ “Chant for Eschaton 2000″.
“Laid to Rest” blared through the speakers as Lamb of God with frontman Randy Blythe blew onto the stage. Running, jumping, but most of all screaming his way through a ten song set, Blythe was the powerhouse vocalist of the day. Following up with the heavy riffs of “512”, “Descending”, “Ruin” then finishing up with “Redneck”. Lamb of God is always a show of over the top energy and today’s gig didn’t disappoint.
Showing no signs of his recent neck problems, Corey Taylor and Stone Sour ratcheted up the LOG energy level 2 notches. Throwing water bottle after water bottle into the crowd while cranking his head into a multitude of contortions, Taylor seemed totally free. The crowd responded by showing their support chanting chorus after chorus of “FUCK NICKELBACK!!” in reference to the ongoing Taylor versus Kroeger feud. Feeding off the energy, the band launched into iconic sets of “Bother”, “Tired”, “Song #3” and finishing with a bang on “Fabuless”.
Promising the pyro show of all pyro shows, we returned to the Blackcraft Stage to witness the mighty Slayer. Again, another band I’ve never had the pleasure of shooting in the daylight and my other bucket lister of the weekend. I wasn’t disappointed as the first pyro shots blew out and the opening notes of “Repentless” echoed out of the speakers. Followed by “Disciple” and “Hate Worldwide”, it was a sixty minute 13 song onslaught. For a band that has been thrashing form over 30 years, Tom Araya and company show no signs of aging and a few of the younger bands could use a lesson or two from them. I had the pleasure of meeting Tom at the SEMA show in Las Vegas and there isn’t a nicer guy in rock. A sign he showed as he thanked the crowd for leaving the main stage and joining them on the asphalt and concrete parking lot.
As far as I’m concerned, the festival closed here after witnessing and being totally let down by a very uninspiring set by Ozzy Osborne back on the main stage. I give the man his dues and props, as he is a rock legend, but even legends know when to hang them up. It was fascinating to see the reunion with Zakk Wylde, but Ozzy’s vocals are clearly shot and most of the high notes were left to the crowd to sing. Obvious to everyone was the fact that he was reading lyric after lyric off the monitors to his left and he rarely ventured more than 2 steps from his center stage mic. At one point during band intros, he even forgot the members name. The real star of the set was Zakk and his riffs. He commanded the axe with his usual expertise playing the solo of all solos during “War Pigs”. Unfortunately, Zakk’s prowess wasn’t enough to overcome Ozzy’s short comings.