Armored Saint Delivers in Atlanta

By on September 19, 2015
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Armored Saint (Photo-Travis Failey)

Armored Saint at the Center Stage Theatre in Atlanta.

An unforgettable night was provided by Armored Saint as they kicked off their tour in support of their new release, Win Hands Down, and opened for Saxon.   But this wasn’t just a regular stop on their tour: it was the pre-show to the 2015 Progpower Festival in Atlanta. There were plenty of highlights during Armored Saint’s set, but my favorite part of the evening was having the opportunity to talk to the guys in the band for a couple minutes prior to the show. I’ve been a Armored Saint fan since a co-worker played “Reign of Fire” for me when I moved to LA in 1992.

Jeff Duncan & Phil Sandoval

Jeff Duncan & Phil Sandoval (Photo-Travis Failey)

Upon hearing the opening song on Symbol of Salvation, I raced to Tower Records on Sunset Strip to buy it and it is still in my regular rotation to this day. To me, Symbol of Salvation is a 13-song roller coaster of energy, melody and emotion and is considered a “must have” for any self-respecting heavy metal fan. Even though Armored Saint achieved critical success with Symbol of Salvation, the band disbanded and reunited numerous times, all the while recording albums and touring. I moved back to Florida during those years, and never had the opportunity to see Armored Saint live, but that would change some 23 years later.

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Gonzo Sandoval (Photo-Travis Failey)

I have never experienced a show at the Center Stage Theatre in downtown Atlanta. Center Stage Theatre was packed as Almah (from Brazil) and Dragonland (from Sweden) brought a bunch of their faithful fans with them. The sound in the venue was amazing. Center Stage Theatre is setup with an open floor and theatre seating that rises through the back up dome-shaped walls. I’ve been in a lot of musical venues across the country, and the Center Stage Theatre is truly special facility from an audio standpoint. There were a couple technical hiccups early in the set but they didn’t affect the attitude of the band and the crew changed some gear out quickly.

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Armored Saint (Photo-Travis Failey)

With Dragonland playing for the first time in the United States, they treated their fans to a 14-song set, which gave me the opportunity to take a few pictures and chat with the guys in Armored Saint for a couple minutes before their set. Guitarist Phil Sandoval and I talked about La Raza, their 2010 release, which has a variety of styles and songs and I believe, is very underrated and unappreciated. As Phil and I talked, vocalist John Bush came in and warmed up by singing the title track from Win Hands Down. The guys were very gracious and even took some band pictures with me before they took the stage.

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John Bush & Phil Sandoval (Photo-Travis Failey)

Armored Saint got their fans fired up with the Judas Priest classic, “Delivering the Goods” blaring though the house speakers, then opened the curtain with the aforementioned “Win Hands Down”. Their most recent single set the tone as the onslaught of power and energy was non-stop throughout their 11-song set that spanned their whole career.  The title track from their first full length album, March of the Saint was next and the crowd sang the chorus with John Bush, who got the crowd involved early and often. Guitarists Phil Sandoval and Jeff Duncan are the epitome of a heavy metal guitar tandem with songwriting skills reminiscent of Maiden and Priest. Phil Sandoval is amazing to watch live and he is always performing visual guitar gymnastics with Jeff Duncan engaging the crowd throughout his performance.

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Phil Sandoval (Photo-Travis Failey)

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Jeff Duncan (Photo-Travis Failey)

Another one of the highlights of their set was “Left Hook From Right Field” off of La Raza, which showcases John Bush’s vocal range. I didn’t hear any missteps or vocal mistakes from Bush all night. He also doesn’t have to use ridiculous dance moves or dog videos to make up for lost ability due to aging or vocal destruction.

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John Bush (Photo-Travis Failey)

Tonight he brought frenetic energy and combined it with booming melodic vocals. He also left the stage and went deep into the crowd and made some fans’ night by letting them assist him in singing their biggest hit to date in Symbol of Salvation’s “Reign of Fire”.

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John Bush & Fans (Photo-Travis Failey)

On a side note, I’ve heard John Bush live many times as the vocalist of Anthrax and he is amazing. I don’t think that he gets the credit he deserves as a singer, and too many conversations revolve around the comparisons between Bush and Anthrax’s original and current singer, Joey Belladonna. Everyone has their favorite Anthrax singer for various reasons and they love to tell you why they are right. It’s a non-winnable argument. It’s comparable to the Van Halen Dave vs. Sammy debate.

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Joey Vera (Photo-Travis Failey)

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Jeff Duncan & Phil Sandoval (Photo-Travis Failey)

Armored Saint also played a couple other songs from their new release, “An Exercise in Debauchery” and “Mess” , which is a personal favorite from “Win Hands Down”. This song really showcased the vocal harmonies of Gonzo Sandoval, Jeff Duncan and bassist, Joey Vera. Vera provided driving bass lines all night while all the while being in perfect sync with Sandoval’s thundering drum beats behind the kit. I know by now that you get it. It was an awesome show put on by Armored Saint and they closed out their set with their first single ever, “Can You Deliver “and then, “ Madhouse” from their debut album, March of the Saint.

Gonzo Sandoval

Gonzo Sandoval (Photo-Travis Failey)

Joey & Phil

Joey Vera & Phil Sandoval (Photo-Travis Failey)

The Armored Saint show at the Center Stage Theatre in Atlanta gave this fan everything he wanted, except for maybe one thing: a longer setlist. Hopefully they will continue to tour and make a stop in Florida and give their fans what they want……. and that is……. more Armored Saint.

For tour dates and other information on Armored Saint http://www.armoredsaint.com/

Setlist:

Win Hands Down

March of the Saint

Nervous Man

An Exercise in Debauchery

Raising Fear

Last Train Home

Mess

Left Hook From Right Field

Reign of Fire

Can U Deliver

Mad House

More Photos From Travis Failey

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John Bush (Photo-Travis Failey)

Joey Vera 02

Joey Vera (Photo-Travis Failey)

Jeff Duncan03.

Jeff Duncan (Photo-Travis Failey)

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Gonzo Sandoval (Photo-Travis Failey)

Me & AS

(Photo-Travis Failey)

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Phil Sandoval (Photo-Travis Failey)

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