The Saturday is always an exciting day involving The Monsters of Rock Cruise, it’s boarding day, the start of the whole thing for another year! Ignoring the slight (OK that’s an understatement) pounding in my head from the previous couple of days intake, my roommate and I caught a shuttle bus from the hotel to the port of Miami. The line was long entering the port terminal but moved fairly quickly as cruisers were processed at the check in counters. I noticed Ron Keel in the VIP/Artist line and quite a stir was caused when Jeff Keith of Tesla walked by, hamming it up. No one likes waiting in lines but it all seems somehow bearable and even quite fun knowing what the wait is for. I even noticed many of the “EH” Team wearing their shirts from across the hall spread out in other check in lines. Finally we boarded the ship and I immediately entered the “drink tickets” line. A couple of friends did the same although they perhaps shouldn’t have. You see during the boarding process the carry-on luggage that they were bringing on ship was deemed too large and had to be checked at the last minute. Checked luggage is delivered to your stateroom later in the evening, trouble was that in the rush they erroneously wrote the wrong cabin number on the tag realizing the error sometime later. Instead of seeing the desk about their luggage that was now set to be delivered to a stranger’s cabin they lined up to collect their drink package….that’s some priorities right there! Getting to the cabin I deposited my earthly possessions, raided the mini-bar and immediately left to scout out this new vessel, the MSC Divina. While a new ship, the layout is rather similar to last year and I found no problems getting lost as I had succeeded in so well on my very first voyage and to a lesser degree last year. The ship being so big I didn’t cover everything, but just hit the highlights that I would need for tonight at least. Even with the increase in size of vessel, I found the top pool deck to contain less space and seemed way more congested with one whole side blocked off.
My “EH” Team shirt drew a ton of attention from “EH” Teamers that I’d only spoken to over Facebook and by many more who wanted to be included in next year’s event. I take this moment to apologize to all those Canadians that we had not been able to discover throughout the course of time leading up to the voyage, please join the “EH” Team and we’ll be sure to get you involved next year. The minutes were rolling by fast as I met new friends and greeted old and before I knew it time had arisen to catch John Corabi in the Pantheon Theatre, the very first show of the boat. Corabi has been an absolute staple for the Monsters of Rock Cruise expanding on his sole appearance the first year, an acoustical presentation, to this year’s full band electrical set as well as an acoustic show. A little late in arriving I was forced to surrender my beverage (no drinks in the theater) and entered on “Everything’s Alright”. Corabi’s son, Ian, was on drums for the performance, their second ever gig together (co-
|John Corabi-photo by Brian Ronald|
incidentally Chris & Aaron at Decibel Geek had seen the first in Nashville) and John deemed that this was how Ian was to work off his college tuition. Crabby also treated the audience to a selection of songs from throughout his career and some covers with “Uncle Jack” and “Power to the Music” (Motley Crue), “Never In My Life” (Mountain), “Hooligan’s Holiday” (Motley Crue), “Outlaw” (The Scream), “Chip Away the Stone” (Aerosmith) and “Who Do You Think We Are?” (Union), the latter being dedicated to the customs officer that held him up for so many hours earlier in the day. “Man in the Moon” (The Scream) closed down the set and also mostly drowned out the “life jacket drill announcement” that was being broadcast over the ship’s P.A. systems.
After meeting at my assigned muster station for the life jacket drill it was time for Dangerous Toys in the Black & White Lounge, which I surmised would be akin to the Zebra Lounge found on last year’s
|Jason McMaster-photo by Brian Ronald|
vessel, the MSC Poesia. The stage for this venue was a little weird, rounded and not very spacious or deep. I secured a decent vantage point at the front of the stage on the right side. When the Toys hit the stage it became instantly apparent just how up close and personal with guitarist Scott Dallover I really was! He was no more than an arms length away from me, wow this is a small stage! “Outlaw” led the charge as vocalist Jason McMaster quipped about “Gargoyle” their cabin steward. D’Toys ripped through “Sugar, Leather & The Nail”, “Take Me Drunk”, “Gimme No Lip” and “Bones in The Gutter” as I followed along on the setlist that I could see at Dallover’s feet. Looking forward to my absolute favorite Dangerous Toys track, “Pissed” that I saw approaching on the list they delivered “Ten Boots (Stompin’)” and “Angel N U”. The stage lights were on in full force, just cooking the band and Scotty Dallover was sweating so much that I was sure his guitar would short out. He grabbed the sunglasses that were perched on the top of my head and wore them for a song or two to give himself a break and be and be able to see what he was doing! “Queen of the Nile” was next after which they burst into “Sport’n A Woody” and I realized that “Pissed” had been skipped (along with “Pain Train”), prob due to time or maybe heat exhaustion! “Line ‘Em Up”, “That Dog” and “Teas’n, Pleas’n” closed out the set with the last entry on the setlist, “Scared”, also being looked over.
After the Texans of Dangerous Toys I rushed up to the po
ol deck for the “Blackout at Sea Shot” (a photo looking out from the pool stage at the crowd all wearing black t-shirts to be followed by Tesla’s sail away from port concert. Here’s 2013’s blackout shot……just like a “Where’s Waldo” game can you spot the idiot who had a few drinks early in the day and failed to go back to his cabin for a black shirt in time for the photo? Good Decibel Geek promo I guess!
|Scanned from the front of the 2013 Cruise Book|
The deck was absolutely packed, again making the space seem smaller as last year everyone could get a decent vantage point for the sail away concert, either on the floor or along the upper railing. I circled the upper railing searching for friends and a vantage point to catch Tesla (being of short stature I didn’t even try the lower floor level). Running into Darrell Millar, drummer for The KiLLeR DWaRfS, we chatted quickly and I could already see that he was having a good time. Tesla had been playing during my wandering and I am always marveled at just how good they sound live, almost just like listening to the record! They opened with the fitting “Comin’ Atcha Live” and then treated the crowd to a new track, “Ricochet”, from their forthcoming release. “I Wanna Live” was next and not being able to see anything and knowing that I would be seeing Tesla at M3 and also Sweden Rock this year I took my leave to head down to the Black & White Lounge to get a good spot for Tyketto.
|Danny Vaughn-photo by Brian Ronald|
Tyketto were not super high on my list to see aboard ship, but I had planned to catch at least some of them as I had never seen them before. Prior to cruising I had purchased some Tyketto music, as I did with all bands aboard and mixed a playlist with songs from all acts on this year’s voyage. I have been listening to this playlist for a few months on random mix, so hearing the songs but not knowing specifically who they were by as I rode the bus to work etc. None of the songs that I had consciously heard from Tyketto had particularly grabbed me, but as I’d never seen them and couldn’t get good sight lines on Tesla I thought I’d check it out. I’m so very thankful that I did! I arrived early enough to secure a spot right at the front of the stage in the Black & White Lounge. The stage really was tiny, “right in the crowd” almost (I could easily have plinked Ged Ryland’s keyboards from where I stood). Tyketto opened up with a triple shot, “Burning Down Inside”, “Rescue Me” and “Faithless”, one from each of the full length Danny Vaughn fronted albums in succession (Steve Augeri of Journey led the band for one album, 1995’s Shine). Then started around the horn again with “Seasons” from the debut and “End of Summer Days” from the sophomore, Strength In Numbers, before returning to the debut for the excellently appropriate “Sail Away”. I was absolutely blown away by their incredible tightness on stage as they were sounding so good musically, not to mention the vocal harmonies as well. I didn’t think that I knew much of their catalog (or really liked it for that matter), but I sang along with every word to every song at the top of my lungs (and turns out I love it!)! If you listen to the audio podcast of my MORC experiences (Episode #132-MORC Memories II) that came out earlier this week and hear how scratchy and
|Photo by Brian Ronald|
rough my voice sounds, well I blame Tyketto and this show for that as they started it all for me this year! “Meet Me In The Night” was followed by “Dig In Deep” and “Lay Your Body Down” and Danny said something about a 25th Anniversary DVD being sold up at the merchandise booth. Right then and there I knew that one copy of that would be making the trek back to Toronto, hopefully alongside a Tyketto shirt! “Standing Alone” was next on the roster and as I review the quick notes I took during the performance, this was written under the song title “sometimes want to cry at the emotion in their live music”….wow…I think that says it all right there! It appeared that I wasn’t the only one moved by Tyketto as after the band played “Wings” they had to stop for a moment to take in the resounding cheers and you could easily see the emotion and appreciation on their faces as they did. “Forever Young” closed out the set and I put them up as best show on the boat (yes I’m aware that I’ve only seen a few shows so far, but I’m that confident!) and certainly one of the best I’ve ever seen! I was not the only one saying these things after the show….definitely not missing the next one!
After hanging out, taking a few photos with friends and a few beverages it was up to the pool stage for Vixen. When I got up there I found it had been raining heavily and with the lightening the show had been cancelled. A perfect time to grab a bite and drinks with some more friends filled the time easily and took me to Red Dragon Cartel’s performance in the Pantheon Theatre, but not before I paused at the Autograph Q&A session. The session was held in the Atrium (reception area) and I was the next level up looking down over the railing just in time to see my Canadian friends that had gotten engaged yesterday at the KIX/Firehouse pre-party with the assistance of Randy Rand. He saw them approach, recognized them and called them up to recount the engagement story.
|Red Dragon Cartel-photo by Brian Ronald|
Red Dragon was a little late in getting going but when they did, opening with “Ultimate Sin”, singer Darren James Smith sounded friggin’ awesome! “Deceived” and “War Machine” followed, both from the new Red Dragon Cartel CD, Jake E. Lee’s return to the music world after a self imposed exile for many years. The bass was fairly heavy in the mix from where I was standing and it was hard to hear Jake play but “High Wire” was the next selection followed by “Shine On”. Satisfied that Darren was indeed an excellent front man and Jake E. Lee was back once again, I took my leave at this point of the show. I would have loved to have stayed, but there was a schedule conflict and knowing that I would be seeing Red Dragon Cartel in Toronto on my birthday a few days after I return from the cruise, I chose to head up to see if the pool stage would be ready to go for Winger and get myself a good spot.
|Waiting for Winger-photo by Dawn Williams|
I had broken out my circa 1990 Winger tour shirt for the occasion of seeing them aboard ship and surprisingly enough it still even fit, I guess I didn’t get quite as fat as I had feared in the last 25 years! The show was indeed set to go ahead with the rain and lightening having moved on, but unfortunately there was the daunting task of putting everything back together. That’s a helluva lot of cords and wires, so Winger was about a half hour to 45 minutes late getting underway. This was the 25th anniversary of the debut album, a revered part of my musical collection for sure, and Paul Taylor would be joining them on stage to perform the entire album for the last time. They started out with “Pull Me Under” from the Karma release and then “Can’t Get Enough” from the sophomore effort In The Heart Of The Young. After that it was right into the debut release in order of track appearance on the album with “Madalaine”, “Hungry” and “Seventeen”. During “Seventeen” the mike and stand in front of Paul Taylor’s keyboard fell over, hitting an audience member in the head. “Without the Night” was next and during “Purple Haze” I decided to move on, basically hearing the part of the album that was so treasured in days of my youth and because their late start had caused more overlapping.
|The Iron Maidens-photo by The Meister|
The Iron Maidens were the final act of my first day plan of rock n roll debauchery. The show was well under way by the time I got down to the Black & White Lounge due to Winger’s late starting which is disastrous for a short guy like me as the stage is raised no more than a foot off of the floor! I was able to weasel my way around to side stage next to Courtney Cox (Adrianna Smith), but still couldn’t see too much of the band aside from her. I came in on “The Trooper” and what a great song to enter on! The ladies sounded great as they ripped through into “The Duellists”, now that’s something you’ll never hear at an actual Iron Maiden concert! The classic “The Number of The Beast” came next after which vocalist Kirsten Rosenberg (Bruce Chickinson) quipped about the venue and it’s rather low ceiling height, “This stage would be perfect for the Killer Dwarfs” she chided……uuuhhhhh, excuse me, have you actually seen drummer Darrell “DWaRf” Millar? “Phantom of the Opera”, “22 Acacia Avenue” and “Fear of the Dark” (during which Rosenberg yelled out her version of the Bruce Dickinson staple line “Scream for me Monsters of Rock!”). “Hallowed Be Thy Name” and “Run to The Hills” shut down the night, but not before an “Eddie” stormed the stage to help the ladies finish out the song!
Time for sleeping……will bring you Sunday’s events soon.
*****Many thanks to my friend Brian Ronald for the use of his awesome photographs*****