Bayfest: Alice Cooper and British heavy metal gods Iron Maiden Collide at music festival

Photography provided courtesy of Kerry Belliveau Oh, what a night it was. The metal gods were definitely in the house this weekend flanked by a sea of 17,000 black t-shirt wearing, long-haired raging metal-heads. Rogers Bayfest continued to prove why it's the nation's preeminent summer music festival Saturday night when two of hard rock's most legendary acts collided on stage for a double header that will be remembered for years to come. To be sure, it was another evening of wanton community spirit, cold alcohol flowing, world-class live music and warm – no, make that hot, balmy weather. It all made for perfect elements of another entertaining night in Sarnia's bayside venue at Centennial Park. It was a truly diverse crowd, with a heartening blend of young, old, and everywhere in between. The demographic was well represented, and united under a banner of drinking alcohol and genuine love for some good ol’ fashion shock rock and heavy metal. Kicking off the sold-out evening was Orillia rockers, Bleeker Ridge. These guys rocked in the most classic sense and whoever didn't know their music heading into the day knew who they were by the end of it. The energetic crowd was given a mix of hard driving arena rock anthems and catchy lyrics with a style and vocals reminiscent of the early days of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. Bleeker Ridge was tight and polished, and their years of practice were obvious in their provocative, interactive delivery. This young band played at a level far beyond their years and it’s the kind of performance that earned them the honour of signing with Roadrunner Records two years ago. The only downside to their show was that this band was only slated long enough to play four songs before they had to make way for shock god Alice Cooper. Alisha Maynard, 16, who was in attendance from Hamilton said, "I loved these guys, their music's f'n awesome," then added, "I hope I can see them again soon back home." Next out, Alice Cooper. After not too much of a wait, the stage was set, the crowd was primed, and the lights were dimmed. The main event double header of the night was set into motion with Alice Cooper appearing atop a stage lift opening up the show with his 1975 hit Black Widow. Alice Cooper delivered a solid performance that included many of his classics like I’m Eighteen, Billion Dollar Babies, Under My Wheels and Elected. His band featured several notables not the least of which was female lead guitarist Orianthi Panagaris, the prolific Australian musician who quit school at age 15 to pursue her passion before quickly being discovered by Michael Jackson's music director four years ago. Most will remember her from performing alongside the King of Pop in his final This Is It performances released after his death, but over the past two years she's played with Eric Clapton and Carlos Santana and earlier this year released her own U.S. Billboard Top 20 song According To You. High notes of his performance were when he unleashed a giant Frankenstein on to stage and, in the spirit of David Copperfield, used a guillotine to chop his own head off which another band member picked up by the hair and showed to the crowd. Alice Cooper and his entourage of talent's performance will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the many highlights of this year's Rogers Bayfest. Blake Loxton, 20, who came out for Iron Maiden thought Alice Cooper was phenomenal saying, "I've always been a fan of both these bands but I was really impressed with Alice Cooper tonight and thought he put on a great show." The evening's headliner Iron Maiden stormed the stage without much of a delay and gave an unqualified epic performance from the very first note of Moonchild. The band’s timing was flawless, as each member flaunted their instruments like gods, and the ebb of the show never hit a definitive high point as the band kept the singular energy of their show on one gear – overdrive. Like Alice Cooper, Iron Maiden knew what their fans wanted to hear and kept delivering anthem after anthem including classic metal numbers such as Madness, The Prisoner, Trooper, NOTB, Run To The Hills, Aces High and Evil That Men Do. Dickinson also displayed a much more real side to him while talking to the crowd during the show, often interacting and talking, and wondering aloud why they never previously visited Sarnia. "Tonight we are in Sarnia and this is really the only place to be tonight," Dickinson proclaimed. He also chided those who didn't buy tickets to the festival to see them "play their hearts out" but instead opt to sit outside the venue and listen for free. That's right, the third day of Rogers Bayfest was another notch for a the award-winning festival, now in it's 13th outstanding year, and is a fitting prelude to Sunday, the final day that includes both afternoon and evening shows. July 15 (afternoon): USS: 1:00 p.m. Big Wreck: 1:45 p.m. Hedley: 3:00 p.m. July 15 (evening): Papa Roach: 6:45 p.m. Simple Plan: 8:15 p.m. The Offspring: 10:00 p.m.

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