Andrew O'Neill

Bremen Teater, Copenhagen - 2015

Text: Tobias Nilsson Photo: Lunah Lauridsen

Although being professionally active as a comedian for more than 10 years now, the name Andrew O’Neill was completely new to us here at Metalmoments.
Still, currently touring with a show called The History Of Heavy Metal, he couldn’t escape our radar this time, and so we set out on an early autumn night to see what he had in store for us, on the cellar stage of the famed Bremen Teater.

“It’s black on black again…”
- Andrew O’Neill (artist/guitar)

The setup on the iconic stage, which has laid room to many great comedians over the years, was sparse, even sparser than O’Neill would have liked it to be. You see, except for the stool with a beer on it, and his black Flying-V Epiphone with accompanying effect board, there should also have been a laptop containing some background music, and a proper slide show for his coming show.
This, however, had unfortunately been left at home, and although this slightly complicated parts of the show, it also gave rise to some new jokes, starting off with how he’d tried to get hold of a new laptop at the airport, but not really getting what he was expecting…

I’m getting ahead of myself though.
The show was called The History Of Heavy Metal, and it very well sums it up. With the aid of great jokes, slides working most of the time, and classic riffs laid down, sometimes without vocals, sometime with newly invented ones, Andrew O’Neill took us on a journey that many of us know more or less by heart by now. Sure, the show was open to people of every musical inclination, but let’s face it – from a quick glance around the room, it was clear that at least 95 percent of the Copenhagen audience was to one degree or another a metalhead.
It wasn’t so much the history itself though, that made O’Neill’s show engaging, but rather the way he did it.

After making a very unpretentious walk onto the stage to the sound of a live recording of The Ecstasy Of Gold (surely from some Metallica record), complete with microphone chord getting stuck, O’Neill proceeded to warm up the crowd in the most metal of ways – the sing along. Yes, he shouted something, and we shouted in response. Completely by the book, and so very effective. You see, the next point on the agenda was, instead of looking at metal, to establish what metal wasn’t, which was among other things, goth. Here the earlier warm up paid off, because O’Neill challenged us to shout out common houseware products, and he would in turn tell us whether they were metal or goth. Lots of laughter ensued, and in the end, O’Neill had to tell us that he was ready to move on, because suggestions kept on coming.

From here on out, the history lesson was in session, beginning all the way back in the bluesy roots, moving through rock/hard rock, arriving at the beginning of the metal era brought on by Black Sabbath, and up through the ages to the arrival of Venom, after which there was a 25-30 minute intermission. After seeing those wonderful pictures in the slide of Judas Priest and the aforementioned British band, I think we all needed a break anyway.
After restocking on beer, and returning to the hall, we now began a slightly different journey, one of genres more than years, and while some were touched only lightly or skipped altogether, we got introduced to most of the main staples, them being thrash, death, black, which I suspect are the ones that have had the largest influence on tonight’s speaker. Nu metal was also mentioned, mostly as a reference to what happens when you journey too far to seek the limits of your trade.

“The only difference with Australia, is that their circle pits go the other way"
- O’Neill (artist/guitar)

As I mentioned earlier, there was nothing revolutionary in the stories we were told. As most of us had been metalheads for some time now, we know all these stories by heart.
What we didn’t know was the way they were being told, and how extremely entertaining the history of heavy metal can look, given the right spectacles to observe it though. O’Neill provided just those spectacles, and the entire two-hour show (intermission included) sailed by, and was a blast the likes of which I have never seen before on this subject!
In fairness, I do believe there was more fun to be had in the first act, whereas the second was a little bit more fact oriented, although still filled with lots of good humour. The fact that a major player of the show, the laptop, was missing was something we only rarely noticed, and O’Neill was very good at rescuing any mistakes on the fly.
The show ended in a similar way to how it had begun. O’Neill played one of his own compositions, nailing in his view that now is the best time to be into metal, and the audience in turn got to answer in a very Maiden-esque manner during the chorus.

The way O’Neill later joined the audience in the bar outside, and spoke freely to anyone and everyone, just went on to show that he, at heart, is a very decent bloke in addition to being a great comedian. This is definitely one guy we’ll be sure to check out again if our paths cross, and so should you!

Andrew O'Neill

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