BLOODGOOD: Interview and Concert Review
This review was written before hearing the devastating news of Michael Bloodgood’s medical emergency. Please lift this brother up in prayer as we fervently want a complete healing.
Ask any fan of heavy metal what their first metal concert was, and it will become evident the influence these shows hold. Metalheads will regale with tales of wonder as their eyes are opened to the ear-splitting volume, the sometimes-garish costumes, the over-the-top light show, the mind melting musicianship, and of course, the comradery of a crowd of likeminded folks, grooving to the pure power of the heavy-metal show. My generation (high school class of ‘86) will often answer with massively popular bands of the time like Kiss, Def Leppard, or Bon Jovi. Being a preachers-kid, I was not permitted to attend such “worldliness”, so my first metal show was on April 20th, 1987, at the legendary Cincinnati venue, Bogart’s. The evening was a double bill featuring Bride, on their first tour, opening for Seattle’s metal-missionaries, Bloodgood. I had Bloodgood’s freshman and sophomore release on constant rotation, banging my head to classic songs like Killing the Beast, Blacksnake, Crucify, and The Messiah. And unlike many of the bands from the 80s, I never stopped listening to them, enjoying every release, appreciating every line-up change, growing as a music fan as Bloodgood evolved in style through the years.
Bloodgood’s latest release was the spectacular 2013’s Dangerously Close. Coming twenty years after their previous studio release, Dangerously Close proved there was plenty of fire left in the band; yet, that release, while critically acclaimed, did not lead to a large headlining tour we Bloodgood fans were eagerly awaiting.
In the small farming community of Versailles (the “L’s” are not silent), Ohio there stands a non-descript, large, steel building. It doesn’t look out of place to the area as grain silos stand behind it. Pulling into the parking lot, one would never know there was a state-of-the-art concert venue that could hold over 1,200 people. Known as the BMI Indoor Racetrack and Event Center, this part time go-cart track and part-time concert venue has seen acts such as Stryper, Zebra, Winger, Molly Hatchet, April Wine, Phil Keaggy, Queensryche, and Steelheart. I follow their lineup as they bring in great acts at an affordable price. So, when I saw that Bloodgood and Whitecross were going to be coming to this wonderful place, I squealed (quite literally squealed, just ask my wife) with delight and bought my tickets. 35 years after my first metal show, I finally would get to see Bloodgood again. I immediately fired off an interview request to Michael Bloodgood and he graciously said yes. February 19 could not get here fast enough!
I arrived at the BMI Event Center a couple of hours before the start of the show and checked at the ticket counter to see if my name was on the list to get backstage. It was and there is not a better feeling in the world to see your name on the “LIST” at a favorite band’s concert. I walked into the venue, managed to get backstage and see what the schedule was. I was to interview them after the meet and greet so I enjoyed walking around the entire venue soaking in the ambience of the place. I walked back to the merch table where Michael Bloodgood’s youngest son, Mark David, was selling the wonderful Bloodgood documentary, The Trenches of Rock. It is because of this movie, I am not recapping their career in this review. I can’t do it near the justice this peek behind the curtains of the Bloodgood ministry does.
I spent some time talking with some old friends I hadn’t seen in a few years and discussed all things metal with other concert goers. The metal community is a tight knit one. No matter your background, you always have metal in common, so conversations at a concert come easily. Then I noticed the meet and greet was coming to an end and it was my time to make my way back and sit down with one of the biggest pioneers in this wonderful thing we call Christian Heavy Metal.
I walked into the interview room to be met by Michael Bloodgood, Les Carlsen, and Paul Jackson. After shaking hands, we sat down to chat. After tossing around pleasantries and being interrupted by Rex Carroll (yes, that Rex Carroll!) we discussed what is going on in the world of Bloodgood.
We first touched base and discussed the Versailles concert and how it came to be. Steve Barhorst, the venue’s owner, and an avid Christian metal fan, wanted to hire Whitecross and Bloodgood. He reached out and Les discussed it with the rest of the band. It grew from just a concert to an entire weekend of Bloodgoodness including a screening of the Trenches of Rock documentary and a presentation of the band’s ministry at a local church. When asked about more concerts, Les said they are planning on playing Germany later in the year and maybe returning to Versailles for a possible Christian rock festival later in the summer.
Since the history of the band is covered in the Trenches documentary, we touched on what is currently going on with the band. Michael Bloodgood is the senior pastor at Calvary Chapel in Redmond, Washington located east of Seattle. He has been pastor there since 1998 and has been involved in the Calvary Chapel movement since the late 70s.
Les Carlsen lives with his bride of over 40 years in Tulare, California as a full-time grandpa. He has finally taken up playing guitar and, gasp, found out it’s fun to play! Les is also writing for the next Bloodgood record and is learning digital recording.
Paul Jackson freelances on different music projects and just recently started a full-time job selling tractors. That is some serious heavy metal. We are blessed that Paul’s boss is a huge Bloodgood fan and will give him time off for any Bloodgood show.
We finally got to what I am sure every Bloodgood fan is eager to hear. Bloodgood is working on new music! They are very deep into production of the next Bloodgood record. David Zaffiro, Bloodgood’s original guitarist and producer extraordinaire, is actively involved as co-producer and will be lending his voice singing as well. There is no date set for release, but I was assured it would be soon.
It was a short interview. I could’ve talked with the band for hours as they are extremely nice and willing to give us a little peek behind the curtain of their life. We closed by having a picture taken and shaking hands. They left to go to their dressing room, and I enjoyed my backstage pass while watching the rest of Whitecross’ set.
The Concert: Whitecross
Chris Jericho, lead singer of the band Fozzie and professional wrestler, was the MC for the evening. Chris has a long-standing love of Christian metal and brought his insane charisma to the proceedings. He introduced the opening act, Whitecross, and they took the stage with reckless abandon.
Whitecross is the best of everything 80s metal. The high-pitched vocals, the thunderous drums, the thumping bass, and the guitar… WOW, THE GUITAR! A Christian metal neophyte may not know who Rex Carroll is, but to those of us who grew up on this stuff, Rex is George Lynch, Randy Rhoads, and Eddie Van Halen rolled into one. Whenever a doubter would question if Christian metal could stand up to the rest of the world, one listen to Rex’s Nagasake would answer the question.
Playing eleven songs, a drum solo, and a guitar showcase, Whitecross was more of a co-headliner than an opener. The new vocalist, Dave Roberts, brings the old Whitecross vibe but without the Stephen Pearcy nasal tones. Benny Ramos plays a solid, groovy bottom end and the tireless Michael Feighan nails down the whole affair behind the kit. Whitecross was tight, aggressive, and relaxed. The admittedly mostly middle-aged crowd was giddy seeing these musicians playing the music we had been listening to for so many years.
Among the songs Whitecross played were two new tracks and if they are any indication of what is coming, we are in for a treat when they release more material. It is that classic Whitecross sound we never knew we needed but upon hearing it, realizing it fills the void for good old fashioned, fun, rock-and-roll.
Closing with In the Kingdom, Whitecross left the stage, and left a very enthusiastic audience behind.
The Concert: Bloodgood
After a short stage reset, the lights in the venue dropped and Chris Jericho again took the stage. He amused us with his first Bloodgood concert experience and then introduced the band. They took the stage and started with the refrain from the bands 1987 ballad, The Messiah, but quickly downshifted into Run Away from their latest release. From there it was a non-stop, slam-bang tour through their long and storied career. Every release was represented with the classic Detonation having four songs present.
Everything that makes Bloodgood so entertaining was abundant. Paul Jackson’s fretboard fireworks never let up. He is a musical chameleon, able to play many styles and bring them into the Bloodgood formula. He is flashy but never at the expense of the song.
Les Carlsen is a wonder. At 72 years of age, he acts like a singer less than half his age. He was all over the stage, bringing his theatrical background into full view as he passionately belted out his vocals.
And then there is the king of cool, the founder of the band bearing his name, Michael Bloodgood. He is a stalwart foundation of gritty bottom end and vocal harmonies. He towers over the diminutive Les and anchors stage right with his black leather coat and gleaming white Fender bass.
Craig Church, took an unobtrusive stance behind Michael crushing through the rhythm parts of the Bloodgood catalog. The added guitar allows for a wall of sound even during Paul’s solos.
And Michael Feighan picked up where he left off during the Whitecross set. Bloodgood’s drum parts are a little less 80s polish and more akin to power or thrash metal. I am thankful Feighan is in good shape physically as playing a full set of Bloodgood songs after the opening set must be exhausting.
The last third of the show started with the Detonation track, Holy Fire and from there it went into Bloodgood’s passion play, Crucify. And Les donned his Pontius Pilate costume and played out the song in full theatrics. After the rapid-fire rhythm of Crucify, the band slowed down into the emotional track, The Messiah. Les Carlsen has sang this song thousands of times, but he still brings such emotion to its delivery as to not leave a dry eye in the venue. The song Seven, off their third album, finished out the final third of the show.
Of course, there would be an encore, and not a cheap “let’s go through the motions and pretend the crowd loves us”, but an honest-to-goodness answer to hundreds of screaming Bloodgood fans wanting more. The band gave us what we wanted and returned for two more songs, ending with the speed-metal closer, Blacksnake. Chris Jericho took the stage and sang with the band, having a blast clowning around with Les and Michael as the song ended.
The Final Word
The evening was a blast. The venue is an amazing event center, and the owner is dedicated to bringing some great Christian rock to the mid-west. Both bands played at the top of their game. The dedication to their craft is amazing. The crowd was remarkable, enthusiastic, and friendly. The bond of heavy metal is a strong one. But most importantly is that the gospel of Christ was presented in a clear, concise, and obvious way. Both bands are bold about their faith. Not satisfied to let the music do the talking, they both stopped to talk about what Jesus can and wants to do in each of our lives. It was a blessed evening.