I had SANCTUARY’s first two releases (Refuge Denied and Into the Mirror Black) in my collection for many years and really liked NEVERMORE before they broke up, but never had the chance to see Warrel Dane live. Luckily, I finally got my chance recently at Trees Dallas, and it was definitely an experience to remember.
Opening the show was local progressive/power outfit INFIDEL RISING. Having recently released their debut CD, The Torn Wings of Illusion, they were added to the bill less than 24 hours before the show, and they used their 45 minutes to win over the crowd. They’re really talented musicians and a refreshing alternative to some of the death and metalcore bands that seem to automatically get booked on these types of shows.
ALLOY was the second band of the night, and while they were interesting, they didn’t really strike a chord with me. They’re kind of a sludgy, blues based hard rock outfit, and they had some good things going for them – their lead guitarist/vocalist had some amazing solos prepared. They seemed to have a good number of fans and some people were really into their set, but they sounded a little too reliant on their effects and gear to me.
Around 10 pm, the lights went down one last time and the curtain opened to the strains of “Ad Vitam Aeternam”, while the members of SANCTUARY sauntered onto the stage and took their places before launching into the anthemic “Arise And Purify”. Warrel doesn’t really have an imposing presence on stage like a lot of lead singers – he stalks about in his signature hat and dark coat, but he tends to disappear into the background when he isn’t singing only to suddenly pop up at the front to start growling once again.
Over the next 90 minutes, the band worked over classics from the first two albums as well as playing a large chunk of the third disc, The Year the Sun Died. Some of the old songs that I was looking forward to most (“White Rabbit”, “Sanctuary”, “Eden Lies Obscured”, “Taste Revenge”) sounded absolutely amazing live, despite the fact that they’re using a lower tuning and Warrel isn’t hitting the high notes he did on the original releases.
In between songs, Warrel kept the show flowing with his own personal brand of rebellion against political correctness – Miley Cyrus, the recent floods in Texas, and the likelihood of rainbows shooting out of Grace Slick’s vagina after taking a bunch of LSD were all thrown out by Mr. Dane, and most of the crowd thought it was hilarious. He even joked that they were going to record a cover of “Wrecking Ball”, sang a few lines, and then devolved into a joke about his sledgehammer.
SANCTUARY has adapted to thirty years of change and they definitely put on a great show. I waited that long to see them live, and I definitely won’t miss them on their next trip through town. This was a great show with a great lineup in what remains one of my favorite venues in Dallas.
LIVE WORDS AND PHOTOS: FRANK ZABER/IMAGES FROM THE DARK