American white metal masters BARREN CROSS met with a frenzied throng of moshers when they debuted their new line-up in Ireland recently. Dave Caughey met them.
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A while later a rapturous Jim La Verde came running over beaming from ear to ear saying, "A guy just came up to me and asked me how he could become a Christian". The smiles on the band members faces spoke volumes about their spiritual goals for Barren Cross.
One show down, one to go. A minibus had been hired to take the band on the 100-mile trip to Londonderry, and as we neared the venue the first snowflakes began to fall to expressions of delight from the southern Californians who were evidently unaccustomed to blizzardous conditions, particularly Vince, who marked the occasion with an impromptu photo session using his new camera.
Drummer Dave La Vie, a terrible traveller, looked highly relieved on arrival after having spent the previous two hours saying very little and looking a grey colour.
The irrepressible Vince Van Voltenburg was yet again the centre of attraction during the Barren Cross sound check when he took up the drummer's stool to produce a solo worthy of the best. One guy walked in saying "The new drummer's good". Having been told that it was in fact the singer, the confounded guy walked away, half expecting the real drummer to grab the microphone and scream out a few notes.
The Londonderry crowd proved to be even more lively than the Belfast throng, with a large contingent of stage divers providing ample diversions to all onlookers. At one point our resident David Bailey, Vince tried to take a photograph of the audience; and was promptly pulled off the stage by the same enthusiastic fans.
Overall, the bands' performance was a marked improvement on the first show, largely because of a more confident Van Voltenburg, (whose first question to me afterwards was "Do I really look like one of the guys out of Milli Vanilli?") Taken up by the excitement of the concert no one had looked outside to see the thick blanket of snow covering the ground.
Everyone thought it was a hoot having a snowball fight; that is everyone except our driver who was not relishing the drive home over the infamous Glenshane Pass, the highest road in Northern Ireland - usually impassable following heavy snowfall.
The initial fascination was replaced by an uneasy silence on the journey as the minibus began to slide precariously down the slippery road. Sighs of relief greeted the sight of dry roads. The cheerful banter returned with Jim La Verde asking "Is Margaret Thatcher related to Prince Charles?" A friend of mine who is best described as "politically aware" quipped, "She would like to be".
At the back of the bus Drew Fischer amused himself by blowing out rings of cold air, a feat which immediately captivated Jim La Verde who spent a good half hour trying to emulate the trick.
Having pushed this entertainment to the limits of excitement, it was an Irishman who stole the show during the rest of the journey. Noah's' Arks' amiable lighting engineer; the legendary Michael "Twilight Zone" Murray, surpassed himself by butchering a whole musical culture in one fair swoop. His wholesale destruction of the Irish folk ballad was devastatingly clinical in its execution, and I could swear that the driver was attempting to break all land speed records to get home to a haven of peace. The tiring journey meant an early bed for an early start the next morning. A last Ulster Fry marked farewell to a band who had won the hearts of Irish metal-lovers and, having made many new friends, they were noticeably reluctant to leave. Barren Cross proved that they are both genuine, caring Christians and normal human beings - achieving an equilibrium, which other "Christian figures" would do well to study.The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
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