It’s not so often when bands that have such a substantial international following make time to play the intimate shows of the early days, but Dragonforce always seem to make time at least once every album. With a new album peering over the horizon, the power metallers organised a wee show for the die-hards at Camden’s The Black Heart.
The pub itself is known for it’s rambunctious Saturdays and noisy showcases of local talent – it’s quite the venue if you’ve never had the pleasure of being there. On a busy night one would find themselves wedged between a couple of fellow music lovers trying to enthusiastically headbang while lapping up what you can reach of your pint. It’s the perfect atmosphere for Dragonforce, now arguably one of the most recognisable names in power metal, to relive the hay days of the band playing sell-out nights at the tiny Camden Barfly.
There’s always a real charm to these kind of shows – you automatically know that it’s the real die-hard fans who would have snapped up the tickets and sold out the venue as soon as they went on sale, so you can be sure of a real positive energy. It’s also heart-warming to know that the band are still interested in playing these kind of shows – we all know Dragonforce aren’t the biggest band, but it’s quite feasible that the band could sell out a medium-sized venue nearly anywhere in the world, or at very least draw a sizable audience. It’s a kind of show you go in to knowing what to expect, and there’s nothing to do but join the party.
As the band crash on the tiny stage it’s pretty evident that they are only here to party with their longtime fans, and give appreciation for sticking with the band through the hard times and the good. Classics like ‘Operation Ground and Pound‘ and ‘Heroes of Our Time‘ are a couple of the first to speed through the PA, before the evening is eptimoised with the stage manager loading up a tray of Jager shots and sharing them amongst the fans, who attacked the beverages like a pack of starving wolves.
Contributing to the atmosphere of a true heavy metal party, the performance was probably Dragonforce’s rawest to date. The band had to do without keyboard player Vadim Pruzhanov who was absent for reasons unknown – but instead of using a backing track the band just played with the traditional set up of guitars, bass, drums and vocals…and it sounded great. Of course the band’s setlist mainly consisted of tracks where keys where at a minimum such as ‘Seasons‘ and ‘Cry Thunder‘, but again this evening was more about the party than anything.
The first time I saw Dragonforce was in 2002 as they played one of their first headline shows in the Camden Underworld, and I’ve seen them quite a few times since then in venues large and small. I’ve seen and read all the praise and criticism, but for me, Dragonforce capture what is fun about heavy metal – the ability to be a great musician by both technical and creative standards, and never having to take yourself too seriously. It’s always fun at a Dragonforce show, which is why we all keep coming back, and at the intimate venue of The Black Heart, it was especially fun.