Monsters of Rock Argentina 2015 Review

The Monsters of Rock Argentina festival was held on Saturday, 2-May. Headlining the festival were ex-Black Sabbath front man Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest and Motorhead. Having recorded over forty albums between them over the last forty years, the festival attracted over 30,000 Argentines, young and old.

Having never seen Ozzy, Judas Priest or Motorhead perform before, I was extremely excited to see three acts that have made an ever-lasting impact on rock history. Growing up in rural Wales, I have fond memories of discovering and listening to “Ace of Spades”, “Breaking the Law” and “Bark at the Moon”. One of my many claims to fame is that Lemmy Kilmister, Motorhead’s front man, attended the same secondary school as I did, albeit a few decades before.

Mindful that all three front men are now in their sixties, Lemmy being the oldest at the ripe old age of 69, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from their live performances. In the past I had seen Metallica and Iron Maiden perform way past their peaks but still giving their best and really hoped Ozzy, Judas Priest and Motorhead would do the same. A week before the show Lemmy had been admitted to a hospital in Brazil due to dehydration and had to pull out of a show there.

The venue was an ideal location for such an event. Built during the last military dictatorship, Parque de la Ciudad was once home to an amusement park which many Buenos Aires’ residents have fond memories of. Its Torre Espacial, the Space Needle, is a 200 meter tall observation tower that can be seen from high raised apartment buildings for miles around.

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After a thirty minute bus ride packed with Argentine metalheads guzzling down bottles of red wine and converted Coca Cola bottles filled with Fernet and Cola, I arrived outside the former amusement park in the Villa Soldati neighbourhood of Buenos Aires at around 4 pm. Lined up outside the venue I was greeted by a horde of faithful metal fans who had each paid at least $650 Argentine pesos ($70 US) to see their rock heroes perform for perhaps the last time in Argentina.

Passing through security I could hear the far off sounds of Argentina’s very own heavy metal band, Malon, warming up the crowd. Once through the somewhat relaxed security I feasted my eyes upon the open air venue and the thousands of Argentines who had gathered for the proceedings. Young and old were all proudly sporting black band shirts; almost every band in metal history was represented. Some were straight from the 80’s rocking denim jackets with band badges while others had hair to die for. It was a genuine mix and everyone seemed to be happy and getting along. Sure there were exceptions, a minority had obviously been drinking since early morning and were knocking into anyone nearby who couldn’t dodge their drunken swaying.

At around 5.30 pm Motorhead came on stage and the crowd rushed forward to the sounds of “Shoot You in the Back” from their fourth album, Ace of Spades (1980). As the first headliner kicked off so did the crowd’s intensity and passion. Between songs many members of the crowd began chanting “Lemmy, Lemmy” like we were at a football match. I was reminded where I was and that football is as important as beef in Argentina.

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Throughout the set, which was fifteen songs long, Lemmy didn’t exactly look very comfortable. In fact, he looked at times a little like a marionette, his fingers along his bass guitar seemingly the only part of his body which moved. His vocals were, sadly, incredibly weak and could not compete with Phil Campbell’s guitar or Mikkey Dee’s drumming. Midway through the set he asked the engineers for more vocals aware, I think, that no one could hear him which was sadly the case from where I was standing. His vocals must have been an issue beforehand because the set included two great long guitar and drum solos. Even though his vocals were weak no one could deny that the band sounded awesome and the set was a success despite not playing some of their more popular songs such as “Orgasmatron”, “Killed by Death” or “Born to Raise Hell”.

One highlight for me was Phil Campbell’s beautiful Welsh dragon guitar, one of four or five he played during the set. Hailing from Pontypridd, South Wales, Campbell’s Welsh flag guitar brought a smile to my face; I’m certain Phil and I were the only Welshmen present at the festival. Unfortunately at about the same time I was thinking of home and enjoying the music, nearby a group of idiot hooligans ruined the mood. Four idiots each holding up a corner of a giant black flag were trying to push and shove their way through the crowd towards the stage. A common occurrence at a rock concert, sure, but one in particular had such rage and pure hatred in his eyes it was scary. I made eye contact more than once as he pushed by a few meters away from me. I thought to myself that a few hard core football hooligans must also be present at the festival looking for trouble. I hope that man found more than he bargained for.

After a thirty minute break the band I’d been waiting for arrived on stage; Judas Priest. Rob Halford, now 63 years old, is the Metal God. His insanely high screams on such songs as “Painkiller”, “Victim of Changes” and “Dream Deceiver” are legendary. As well as his incredibly high pitched vocals his on stage presence and outfits challenge David Bowie or Elton John for glamour and individuality. The Priest did not disappoint.

Opening with “Dragonaut” from their seventeenth 2014 album “Redeemer of Souls”, Rob Halford, pretending to be frail by hobbling on stage with a walking stick, and company drove the crowd into a frenzy as a full moon could be seen in the early evening sky.

Hit after hit followed such as “Devil’s Child”, “Victim of Changes” and “Turbo Lover”. Between almost every song Halford walked off stage to re-appear in a slightly different flamboyant outfit. Midway through the set he even rode onto the stage on the back of a Harley Davidson cruiser clad from head to foot in leather. The band’s chemistry was clear to see as Halford ran across the stage to play air guitar beside Glenn Tipton and occasionally got intimate with newcomer Richie Faulkner’s guitar as he was playing.

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Halford’s vocals remain impressive as he managed to hit those extremely high notes and scream like a banshee despite having to drop to his knees on stage once or twice and almost ended up on all fours at the end of the final song, “Living after Midnight”. The band gave their all and the crowd was clearly in metal heaven.

As the cold set in around us and the wind began to bite, Ozzy arrived on stage to warm up the crowd with “Bark at the Moon” and “Mr. Crowley”. Throwing in several Black Sabbath numbers such as “Fairies Wear Boots” and “War Pigs”, Ozzy was entertaining yet lacked the stage presence and charisma Halford had provided. Upon hearing that he wouldn’t be playing my favourite two songs, “Hellraiser” and “No More Tears”, my friends and I decided to leave early, hungry and a little exhausted, to avoid the horde that would be fighting over the buses back to the city once the show was over.

Despite missing out on “Iron Man” and “Paranoid” I was happy to have avoided the rush at the bus terminal and managed to find an open Chinese restaurant to satisfy my hunger and reflect on the awesomeness of the day. Although I’m not a major Ozzy fan, it was still great to have finally seen him perform. The highlight of his set, for me, was when a fan managed to break through security and jump onto the stage to stand next to Ozzy before being dragged away. Ozzy responded with alarm and grabbed a hose to spray foam all over the line of security officials who had failed to protect him. The hose was apparently supposed to be used during his finale as he closed the show with “Paranoid”.

Are you ever too old to rock? Should bands like Judas Priest, Motorhead and Ozzy move over and give newer bands the limelight? Simply put, no. Heavy Metal will live forever and everyone should take the opportunity to enjoy these bands and others like them while they still tour and provide thrilling shows for their fans.

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