NEW YORK, NY—It’s 8:30 p.m. and traffic is stopped on the George Washington for no visible reason. Doro Pesch—25-plus year reigning queen of metal and all that is good and right in the world—is scheduled to hit the Blender stage in a half hour and I’m stressing about our ETA. Potential Harlem River Drive shenanigans and the impending doom of not finding parking could surely foil our time sensitive journey. A black Mercedes weaves from lane to lane, his time obviously more valuable than everyone else’s. My husband at the wheel, oh he of little traffic patience, and I, text messaging furiously in hopes that some small mishap would delay showtime, bark an exotic array of expletives simultaneously. Horns are honked, hand gestures are thrown, feelings are hurt. No one likes a cutter.
We eventually make it to the venue, where a line for the following night’s Jay Z show had already begun forming (?). I’m told the band is just two songs in and charge to the front of the stage, shouting “Liiiiiii ruuuuuuuuUUUUUUllle the ruins,” my giddy fan girl excitement likely taking over my every sense of melody. I’m surrounded by equally obsessed Warlock/Doro heads who give me the approving nod and a ceremonial throw of the horns, a signal that I belong. I offer a reciprocating nod, we spout some lyrics together and for the next hour and 45 minutes or so, a temporary family is forged. Though attendance at the German metal maven’s stateside gigs hardly compare to her massive, arena-sized shows overseas—the mid-sized venue was hardly as packed as it could have/should have been—there exists a near-religious camaraderie among Doro crowds, whatever their size. Rare is the mere casual Doro fan.
When the band surges into “Burning The Witches,” a sea of fists pump in unison. A mammoth logoed Doro backdrop hangs in the background as Doro and Co.— longtime bassist/collaborator Nick Douglas, drummer Johnny Dee (Britney Fox), new guitarist Bas Maas (formerly After Forever) and touring keyboardist Harrison Young (who joined the band at the 11th hour when regular keysman Luca Princiotta struggled last minute visa issues)—bang heads with ceremonial urgency. A longtime animal activist, Doro patrols the stage in a fierce black pleather ensemble and studded belts, her long blonde tresses seemingly electric under the pink and blue stage lights. Battle-warrior beautiful with a smile to warm a nation, the vocalist is confident without conceit, emotionally attached to her crowds in an almost maternal way.
The Warlock theme continues with “True As Steel,” “Fight For Rock” and “Hellbound,” with the nostalgically-titled, rallying cry of “The Night Of The Warlock,” off recently issued full-length, Fear No Evil, thrown in for good measure. While the overall sound would have benefited from a heftier guitar tone, Doro’s thunderous voice and constant crowd and band interaction more than compensates for the thin mix. Much like Lemmy or Dio (or the other metal icons who no longer need both a first and last name to prove they rule), Doro alone commands attention.
A drunk reveler keeps slurring something to me about Johnny Dee’s “big sticks,” during a short but effective drum solo that includes the intro to Kiss’ “I Love It Loud” and leads seamlessly into the triumphant opening riffs of “We Are The Metalheads.” A virtual “We Are The World” of the metal community, the tune was released as the official “anthem” of the prestigious Wacken Open Air Festival in Germany which celebrated its 20th anniversary this year. The band’s rendition of Judas Priest’s “Breaking The Law,” earns significant praise from the Halford faithful while Warlock staple (and historic Doro closer) “All We Are” brings with it the chant of what sounds like a thousand voices, Pesch visibly moved by the proceedings before her.
Two encores included the fan-inspired “You’re My Family,” unexpected (and underrated) power ballad “Love Me In Black” (possibly taking the place of Warlock favorite “Für Immer” which was sadly MIA this night) and back-to-back victory songs: “Fight” and “Celebrate.” The band takes several bows to echoing howls of “Doro! Doro! Doro!” and though the band would have played another hour’s worth of tunes, curfews dictate otherwise. Thank you, Doro for managing to make an otherwise dull Tuesday evening spectacular. On behalf of all the Tri-State area Doro devotees, I salute you.
Photo Credit: Ken Pierce