Glad Manowar was good when you saw them. Similar to SLAYER, their live shows seem to vary in quality a lot from night to night; some concert reports are great, some are terrible.
#2 for me is probably MISFITS. Not metal, but metal fans have a strong affinity for them, and they're one of my most favoriteist bands ever. Seen 'em 4 times in four different states:
1996 in Detroit, MI- see below
1997 in Lubbock, TX- good show in a small bar
1999 in Milwaulkee, WI- part of 'Milwaulkee Metal Fest '99', which was a pretty shitty festival overall, but then again none of Jack Kosnik's festivals had a very good reputation back then. This one had a big punk contingent at it b/c one of the stages was used for some 'Legends of Punk' tour that happened to be going on at the time, so i got to see acts like UK SUBS. The big headliner was CRADLE OF FILTH, making their 1st US appearance. They sucked so bad! I remember there was some dude on the plane in a Cradle shirt; I kept asking him what other bands he wanted to see, and all he could say was, "uh, I'm really just going to see cradle". Poor, deluded wanker! Festival highlight was probably IN FLAMES (1st US appearance I think), who destroyed the stage for their 20-minute set, and MORGION, who were incredible. But way too many cancellations and crappy Relapse bands overall. Funniest thing was watching NILE completely and utterly fail to get the audience interested until they broke down and played a SLAYER cover song.
ca 2001 in Winston Salem, NC. I think this was literally days after Graves and Chud quit the band, so Jerry was singing, which was a disappointment b/c I do not like Jerry as a vocalist. Not a bad show otherwise. Highlight was actually getting to see the opener, MURPHYS LAW, who are terrific live. Jimmy Gestapo did such a great job working the crowd that night. At one point he was asking "who wants a beer?" and some dumbass vegan type in the front row started heckling him about "beer is for meat eating losers". Jimmy just tore him to shreds. "What the fuck's your problem? There's no meat in beer dumbass! Here, let me show you" as he poured the beer on the guy's head.
Now, about that '96 show.... this was the band's first reunion tour. 'American Psycho' wouldn't be released for another 12 months, so the band was playing all the old stuff; only new tunes were early versions of 'Blacklight' and one other. If you don't know, Detroit is MISFITS unofficial home town. Kids and bands from Detroit, like NECROS, are largely credited with spreading the Crimson Ghost gospel and helping elevate the band to the mythical statue they achieved during the years following their breakup.
I got hooked on MISFITS during a road trip in '95 with a friend from Detroit who had been into them since the early 80s; we hit it off in class b/c i was the only person on campus who seemed to know the skull logo on his leather jacket was the Crimson Ghost, and he was the only person on campus who knew 'Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 1' is the best heavy metal album ever made
So when, the following year, we found out MISFITS were gonna play Detroit, we HAD to go. I actually had to move out of my dorm and live in his spare bedroom for a couple of days b/c the concert was a day or two after the end of the Spring semester.
Now I had never been to a Hardcore concert like this, much less one in downtown Detroit. I had seen some hardcore/crossover acts in Toledo. But this was MIFITS. In Detroit Rock City, murder capital of the world. My buddy had warned me it would be rough and I'd better be careful- fights, stabbings, etc were inevitable. He was especially worried b/c I still had a noticeable Southern accent. His advice was "don't talk to anyone; if they hear your accent they'll think you're a country redneck and start beating the shit out of you". Duly warned!
So he, his fiance, me, and a couple of other people get to Saint Andrews Hall, which has one big room and a wrap-around balcony on the second floor, and I immediately get separated from the others while the bouncer pats me down extra thoroughly. The place is jam-packed with hundreds of dopeheads, punks, headbangers, skinheads, and every other form of lowlife you'd imagine showing up to a MISFITS concert. Again, this is Holy Fucking Ground for MISFITS fans, and it's the band's first show here since Glenn left over 10 years prior. The place is PUMPED. I cannot find my mates. So I just hang out in the middle of the main floor and wait.
There were no opening acts; I think everyone knew better than to give this audience a target or to make them wait longer for their heroes to return. The lights drop, four coffins onstage are kicked open, and the opening chords of 'Halloween' are launched into.
The place goes totally fucking insane.
The entire floor IS the pit, and everyone is looking to hit someone. Me and this short guy in a flannel shirt and glasses end up back to back, blocking punches and throwing elbows, just barely able to keep from getting overwhelmed. 30 feet to our right a gang of skinheads are making war on anyone within arms' reach, throwing up 'sieg heil' signs every chance they get. The band tears through 5-6 songs before they pause long enough to speak, and then they launch right back into more. The bouncers are throwing people out as fast as they can, and they cannot keep up. I watch a bouncer approach some spike-wearing asshole on my left. The asshole swings but the bouncer ducks, then shoots up, grabbing the dude's neck, then lifts him and choke slams him to the concrete floor. He kneels on the guy's chest and 2 seconds later there are three other bouncers on top of him. Each bouncer grabs an arm or a leg, and they carry the guy to the doors where they literally heave him into the middle of the street. Meanwhile, kids are climbing the PA and diving out of the second floor balcony into the crowds below.
The band plays for almost 3 hours nonstop.
Eventually my mates find me; they had immediately gone upstairs since they knew what would happen on the main floor....they just forgot to tell me! My buddy's response on finally spotting me about halfway through the show, "Christ man I thought for sure someone had knifed you and thrown you in the river out back, how the fuck are you still standing?" I just grinned and waded back into the chaos.
Best fucking show I've ever seen
"I'm sorry Sam, we had real chemistry. But like a monkey on the sun, our love was too hot to live"