When someone asks me “How was Thor on Saturday night?” it’s kind of like asking “How was meeting the Pope?” or “What was it like to witness the parting of the Red Sea?” or “What did Santa Claus say when you met him at the North Pole?” The phrase “bigger than life” just doesn’t cut it. Nor do words like “miraculous” or “biblical” or “Godlike.” This wasn’t just a concert, it was a life-changing event, like watching the birth of your first child or waking up from a 10-year coma (neither of which, admittedly, I have ever done).
I knew I was in for the heights of rock theater when one of the band’s roadies opened up a large plastic container next to the stage filled with skull masks and plenty of plastic battle weapons (axes, swords, etc.). Oh yes, there would be blood.
But first, there was “Rock and Roll Nightmare,” a film narrated by the man/god himself. I walked into the Saddle Creek Bar about halfway through what appeared to be a soft-porn horror flick complete with rubber monsters, fake blood and boobs. On screen was a younger, more muscular version of Thor with a huge head of blond hair and pecs the size of your thigh (a version of Thor, incidentally, that’s long gone). Nothing feels quite as uncomfortable as watching a movie of a women taking a shower and then getting humped by Thor while surrounded by a 100 or so folks who you will likely see at The Brothers on any given night.
After someone tripped over the projector chord — bringing the film to a close before we could find out who was responsible for all that fine cinematography — Zolar X, a science-fiction punk band from the ’90s that I’m told are friends with Jello Biafra, took the stage. Dressed in blond wigs and skin-tight Lycra space suits, these scrawny guys weren’t “brothers from another planet” as much as “geezers from another era.” Their music was punk merged with ’60s garage rock played by a trio that looked like they’ve lived through every bad moment of the last four decades (and have the wrinkles to prove it). It was like watching My Favorite Martian’s Ray Walston fronting an effeminate version of The Buzzcocks dressed in Star Trek costumes. Things got off to a hairy start when the band was assaulted with ear-splitting feedback from the monitors (I couldn’t hear it from the floor). After the first song, the drummer threw his sticks down and yelled, “The fucking feedback is killing us. FIX IT!” before storming off the stage. Someone apparently did, and he came back a few minutes later, looking a lot more relaxed. Their set was fun, if not too long. Or maybe it just seemed too long because we were all waiting to see the Thunder God.
We got our wish moments later, when Thor and his band of merry warriors took the stage, tearing into a set of heavy metal that would make Spinal Tap proud. Donning a huge black (plastic) chest plate and a series of gruesome rubber masks, Thor had the crowd in the palm of his mighty fist, proudly belting out one heavy metal ditty after another. Whether standing tall with shining crossed swords or looking for evil amidst the audience holding forth an electric Coleman lantern, Thor filled the crowd with a sense of awe and wonder. As the crowd pressed the stage, shaking their devil-horns high above their heads, I felt for a brief moment like I was back at Fat Jacks circa 1985, an era when touring heavy metal bands ruled the club circuit (Ah, those were fun times indeed. Where have they gone?).
Without his hood/masks, Thor’s graying locks betrayed the aging God, and he sort of looked like a buff version of Kenny Rogers (albeit, with a broadsword). Whether he was singing about Thunderhawks or about to behead a goblin or just making friends with a monstrous ogre, everything about Thor’s stage show was pure entertainment, right down to the band, which featured Omahans Dave Goldberg, Steve Jacobs and Jeff Decker, all of whom definitely are earning their money on this tour. As I mentioned before, I’ve seen some of the best touring heavy metal bands from the ’80s era, and these guys definitely could hold their own with any of them, showing an incredible respect for a genre that I have to believe peaked well before their time.
Saturday night was another success for the Saddle Creek Bar, bringing in a crowd that was even larger than that On No! Oh My! show the weekend before. Yeah, there were a few technical difficulties again (the Zolar X feedback episode, Thor’s microphone cut out on the first few songs), but overall the sound was first class. Unfortunately, I’m not aware of any other shows slated for the venue worth mentioning. The folks at One Percent Productions tell me they don’t have anything planned at the SCB in the future. And though I’ve talked to three or four local bands who want to play there, nothing has been scheduled that I’m aware of. It would be a shame if this stage didn’t get utilized to the extent that it could/should — it’s a perfect venue for shows too big for O’Leaver’s and not big enough for Sokol Underground. And damn, it’s so close to home.
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