Remember When Opening Acts Were Worth Going To See?

Chicago bringers of thy old-school metal, Bible of The Devil

Maybe you've got to be "of a certain age" to remember when opening acts were cool.  Back then, you could go to see your favorite headliner and, the next day, rush out to buy the latest album by the opening act that blew you away.  I remember going to see REO Speedwagon (please don't judge) and seeing a new band by the name of Loverboy give REO a serious run for their money.  granted, Loverboy is not the hippest band to cite as an example, but around the time of their first album, they had a lot of us fooled into thinking they were cool, at least as far as arena rock bands were concerned.

Mind you, arena rock bands were all "us kids" had until we were old enough to get into the hipper rock clubs.  Things did get better, though, as we got introduced to opening act The Police via new wave headliners The Cars.  Now that was a cool concert.  Heck, I'd have gone just to people watch, as this was a crowd of some of the most outrageous fashion statements I'd ever seen.  It was like "Valley Girl" come to life, or as close as we could get this far from Hollywood.

We knew The Cars, having seen them on TV shows like Don Kirschner's Rock Concert, so we knew their live shows could be "mannequin-esque".  We presumed any such opening acts would be, I dunno, actual mannequins.  Thus, when Sting and the boys hit the stage, 17,000 of the hippest kids in the tri-state area did a simultaneous double-take.  Granted, it would take a few songs to tear some of the stragglers away from their conversations and such, but when the lights went up some forty minutes later, the entire arena sat in slack-jawed wonder.  The Police were impressive, to say the least, but in rocking us off our collective asses, they had just ruined The Cars for us.

Having witnessed the angst, charisma and the energy of The Police, suddenly the detached coolness of Ric Ocasek and the swoon-worthy pipes of Benjamin Orr were no longer enough.  That same year, we'd also seen a completely unknown band called Iron Maiden open for Judas Priest.  Needless to say, a day or so later, I bought both of their albums.  By next summer, the number of Maiden concert tees one could see on a single trip to Great America amusement park would be simply staggering.

And then slowly, ever so slowly, an odd thing happened.  We noticed that less and less thought was being put into opening acts.  More and more, we were showing up at shows to see bands that had gotten the gig simply because they were on the same label, or shared the same management.  That might have been okay if said label was I.R.S. Records (great new wave label) or Epic Records (renowned for giving the world Cheap Trick, Ted Nugent, Boston, The Clash, and Oasis, among many others).  As it was, we were left feeling that the only reason we had been subjected to a totally mismatched opening act was because a favor had been called in.

There is an infamous story about Third Eye Blind singer Stephan Jenkins that goes a little something like this:  The band were in heavy negotiations with a few labels and Jenkins wasn't above maximizing the interest.  He told Epic Records A&R guy David Massey that if the label was truly serious about signing the band, he would pick up the phone right now and arrange for the band to open for Oasis...that night!  So, armed with the full weight of his position at one of the leading major labels of the time, Massey picked up the phone and made it happen.

Jenkins and the band played the show and then turned right around and signed with Elektra Records.  Turns out the band had already decided to sign with Elektra, but Jenkins played Massey like a fiddle for the sole purpose of opening for Oasis.  Whether Third Eye Blind rocked all those Oasis fans on their backsides or not isn't important.  The issue is that there was ZERO thought put into it.

As a result, we stopped showing up early enough to see the opening acts, which we used to do without exception.  The thrill of being turned on to some cool new bands completely went out the window and we came to look upon opening acts with complete disdain.  That's a huge change from we could respect a new band based on the fact that they'd opened for certain bands that we already liked.

Iron Maiden with original singer Paul Di'Anno (center)

Anyone else who fondly reminisces about those days need only cancel whatever plans they might have for the night of December 27 and buy tickets to see original Iron Maiden singer Paul Di'Anno at the Double Door.  Get their early, though, because you will not want to miss the opening acts, the least of which being local riff-masters Bible of The Devil.  This is a band that embodies the same no frills, nose-to-the-grindstone ethic that helped make Iron Maiden a household name.

Truth is, when Bruce Dickinson joined the band, so ended our love affair with Maiden.  Sorry, but Dickinson's slovenly swashbuckler look and operatic wailing just ain't our thing.  We always thought Di'Anno's was - and will always be - the true voice of Iron Maiden because he, like them, was a working class ne'er-do-well going up fighting the system, for lack of a better term, against unspeakable odds.  To me, Di'Anno brought an almost punk element to the band and his "life fast, die young" approach virtually ensured a quick exit from both the band and the limelight.

But those who saw the band with Di'Anno, and will surely be seeing him perform a set of Iron Maiden classics at Double Door, agree that Iron Maiden was never the same without him.  Sure, they went on to greater success, much like Pat Boone had a bigger hit with "Tutti Frutti" than the original artist, Little Richard.   By switching singers, Maiden went from underground rebellion to "Robin Hood: Men In Tights" almost overnight.

Bible of The Devil are a lot lot like Di'Anno-era Maiden in that the only frills on display will be the anthemic twin-guitars and thunderous drumming that have made them bonafied hard rock headliners in Europe.  Never heard of them?  Holy shit, dude, buy a ticket now and thank me later because, trust me, you will.  You will come to view that night as the first moment you laid eyes on your latest rock & roll heroes and, as a bonus, you also got to see the original singer from Iron Maiden.  It'll be one of the few times the opening act does actual justice to their fleeting association with an esteemed headliner and steamrolls an otherwise unsuspecting audience.  I just hope that Bible of The Devil bring enough t-shirts to clothe the huddled mass of new converts!

Paul D'Anno, with Bible of The Devil, LoNero, and Hessler
Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago IL
Showtime: 8PM
Tickets: SOLD-OUT!

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