The line around the House of Blues in downtown Chicago loops around the venue and through the chilly city streets for the sold out show on the Warp Speed Warriors Tour. The three levels of the venue are packed to the brim, clamoring for a night of speed metal, power metal, and lots and lots of guitar solos.
Opening act Edge of Paradise comes out under the light of black lights, illuminating the flowing green cloak of singer Margarita Monet. Their cyberpunk visual themes not only fit well with their tracks, especially “Holograms” and “Digital Future,” but also along with the other bands on the tour. They’re a solid choice to kick off the show, and are given a decent set length to set the standard for the night.
Italian comedy metal group Nanowar of Steel immediately surprises the audience that isn’t familiar with their music or antics. Not only are all of the members costumed in some manner, but there are changes between songs. “The Call of Cthulhu” sees Cthulhu take the stage, and take a phone call, and “Il cacciatore della notte” features the story of an owl (and yes, a giant owl appears to hype up the crowd). This one definitely got the crowd involved, and anyone who wasn’t into the set before was now participating and seeing where this madness would take them.
Amaranthe took the third slot of the night, with a hefty set featuring tracks from across all of their albums. Luckily as the stage has cleared a bit, the three lead singers have room to move across the low stage, as they swap between female, male and screaming vocals. The cyberpunk themes return with their tracks “Digital World” and “The Nexus.” This tour also marked the first time they performed the track “PvP,” written for Sweden’s e-sport world cup. Singer Elize Ryd transforms through the set from a black leather coat and cape to a glittering bodysuit that would fit at a pop show, very fitting for the duality of Amaranthe, who infuse pop choruses into their power metal tracks. The crowd is very excited for them, and they even have a two-song encore to round out their set.
The curtains close between sets to get everything prepped for Dragonforce, giving everyone the impression that they’re going to have quite the stage show. It doesn’t disappoint, as they open to reveal extra large LED-laden gaming cabinets flanking the stage, and as “Revolution Deathsquad” begins, twin shredders Herman Li and Sam Totman appear on top of said cabinets. The show is certainly a spectacle, and the video game inspiration they’ve taken in recent years especially is at the forefront. They perform game-inspired tracks “The Last Dragonborn,” a Skyrim-based song, and “The Power of the Triforce,” inspired by The Legend of Zelda. The crowd is loving the mix of older tracks as well as their newest offerings, and the group throws large Chicken plushies into the crowd to toss, a popular in-game Zelda activity.
Mid-set, Sam Totman and Mohammed Abdul from Nanowar of Steel take to the vocal duties to perform “We Love the War,” a Sabaton parody song written by Li and Totman. They also invite legendary guitarist Michael Angelo Batio to the stage to help them shred, and shred he does. It’s seemingly effortless when he takes to the platform and just begins his ferocious soloing. The crowd has no limit to the energy and the constant jumping to tracks makes the entire venue floor shake in a manner I’ve never felt before. It’s almost concerning, and makes me question the structural integrity of the venue, but it’s also a testament to how packed this place is and how enthralled and energized the crowd is by this performance. Resetting for an encore, the group returns, now also flanked by giant inflatable dragon heads, as they perform covers of “Wildest Dreams” by Taylor Swift, “My Heart Will Go On,” and the iconic “Through the Fire and Flames.” It’s a long show, with no shortage of guitar playing to be found, but the sellout crowd came prepared to party with Dragonforce until the very end of the eleventh hour.