AHHHH, the rock and roll glory days of the 80′s. A time when long-forgotten bands like Triumph ruled the stage. A time when men could wear polka-dotted spandex and mascara and still be cool. Man, I miss those days. The early 80′s was when I saw the lions-share of my concerts, when bands like Triumph, Judas Priest, and the Scorpions, were the big boys on the tour circuit, and grunge was still just a synonym for grime. I missed my only chance to see Triumph, when one of my high school hockey games got scheduled on the night they came to town. My friend, who went to the show without me, zealously reported the next day that Triumph was the most mind-blowing show he had ever seen – and we saw some pretty mind-blowing shows that year. If you are new to this genre, and are looking for the ultimate example of what an overblown, rock concert was all about back then, then A Night Of Triumph is the one to watch. Not a single shred of 80′s, arena-rock bombast and excess is missing from this here baby.
The concert was recorded on January 6, 1987, at the Metro Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia during Triumph‘s Sport of Kings tour. When the house lights dimmed, a giant laser-generated face introduces the band, and ends with "…this is your night of Triumph!" A few giant explosions later and we are into the first verse of "Tears In The Rain". It doesn’t take long to realize that Triumph had arguably the biggest and baddest, arena-rock stage show in the business back then. You may never see this much wattage, lasers, and pyrotechnics used ever again, unless this same trio of Canadians finally decide to reunite.
As for the music…oh who cares about the music with a show like that! But seriously, Triumph actually had some pretty great songs back in the day, and many of them still hold up nicely if you should be so lucky as to cross one on your FM dial. The setlist is rather short, only twelve songs, so many of their best songs get skipped to make room for the newer stuff. The band only had eight studio albums up to this point and they completely ignore three of them during this show. Skipping the debut album was understandable, but Progressions Of Power and Never Surrender should have rated at least one song each. I would have tossed out the dreadful "Somebody’s Out There" and "Take A Stand" from Sport of Kings for Progressions Of Power’s "I Live For The Weekend" and Never Surrender‘s title track. I guess you’ve got to promote the new album though.
All of the great 80′s rock concert clichés are brought out in full force at this show – the overlong guitar solos, the uncalled-for drum solo, the silly between-song banter, and those long, drawn-out, power-endings to each song. Mike Levine does most of the talking during the show, and throws out all of the clichéd lines: "how are y’all doin’ out there tonight?"…"does anybody wanna rock?"…"I wanna hear some noise out there tonight!" – you get the picture. If Spinal Tap‘s Derek Smalls was not based on this guy, then I don’t know who was. I fully expected to see him get stuck in a giant malfunctioning pod, or something. He’s got the huge mane of hair and matching giant mustache, which he compliments nicely with these bright neck and wrist scarves that make him look like a big, gay Frenchman. Maybe he is French-Canadian.
"Lay It On The Line", from 1979′s Just A Game, was the first real classic the band played. This song showcased Rick Emmett’s strong falsetto vocals, which are in the same league as early Geddy Lee, or Randy Jackson of Zebra. I was impressed by how he had no problem hitting the highest notes, even while strumming away on his guitar. After this song, Emmett was left alone on stage to perform his classical acoustic gem "Midsummer’s Daydream". Although this tune is a blatant rip-off of Steve Howe‘s "Mood For A Day", it is still a great song, and was wonderfully performed. If you can cut through all of the smoke and dry-ice of this monstrous stage show, you will witness one exceptional guitarist at the top of his game. Rik Emmett is a highly underrated guitarist who wrote and sang most of Triumph‘s best songs, such as "Hold On", "Magic Power", "Never Surrender", and "Fight The Good Fight". Drummer Gil Moore shared the songwriting and singing duties with Emmett pretty equally, but his arena-rock anthems do not hold a candle to Emmett’s more melodic and slightly progressive compositions.
As exciting as this show was at times, I often felt that it was too choreographed and that there was a definite lack of spontaneity. It was like they all had specific steps to follow on the stage in order to avoid getting blown up. Most of the band’s actions and facial expressions seemed rehearsed and fake – sort of like a Kiss concert. The concert ended on a very strong note, however, as they led off the encore with Joe Walsh‘s "Rocky Mountain Way". I never realized, until recently, that Triumph originally covered this song on their Rock And Roll Machine album of 1977. Moore’s vocals fit the song perfectly, and Emmett really shined on guitar. They closed the show with a rousing performance of their very best song "Fight The Good Fight", which left all ten thousand Nova Scotians begging for more.
Overall, the production of this DVD was very good considering it was taken from 1987 source material. Gil Moore did a commendable job remixing the audio for both DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. I started listening to this at a medium volume level and it tended to sound a little muddy at first, and I felt that Emmett’s guitar was a little low in the mix, but when you crank things up a bit, it gets significantly better. The video was somewhat soft and grainy looking – what you would expect from a 1980′s recording. The camera production captured the live concert experience well using many wide shots showing the entire stage show, but there were too many crowd shots, and the angle changes came fast and furious.
The bonus features included backstage footage from a Triumph concert at The Spectrum, in Philadelphia. The narrator they used, must have been some kind of joke, because he sounded like he was narrating a 1950′s government documentary. Also included is the cheesy video for "Just One Night" and and a live performance of "When the Lights Go Down" from the band’s appearance at the1983 US Festival.
Tears In The Rain
Somebody’s Out There
Lay It On The Line
Follow Your Heart
Take A Stand
Rock And Roll Machine
Rocky Mountain Way
Fight The Good Fight
Read all of my DVD concert reviews at Roy’s Reviews