When Axel Rudi Pell released the two-CD set Knights Live in 2002, a document of his band's May 5, 2002, gig at The Zeche Bochum in Germany, I wasn't overly impressed with the set list. I mean, here's a lead guitarist whose core body of work contains only minor solos with an extra emphasis on melodies, vocals, mystical lyrics, power chords and a relentless rhythm section — and he chooses to include mindless ditties like "Tear Down the Walls," "Call Her Princess" and "Warrior."
But watching the DVD version of the same set on Knight Treasures (Live and More), it's easy to understand why Pell opted for the songs he did: This band simply loves playing them. And it shows, particularly on "Carousel," "The Clown is Dead," "Fool Fool" and a medley featuring "Masquerade Ball" and "Casbah."
While the set includes songs originally sung by four different vocalists, Pell seems to have finally settled on American singer Johnny Gioeli, who arguably possesses one of the strongest metal throats in the business. His charisma, enthusiasm and stamina complement Pell's relatively laid-back stage persona. Gioeli and Pell (who plays a beat-up white guitar throughout most of the set) are backed by a long-mane mohawked Mike Terrana (the third-best drummer in metal behind Mike Portnoy and Neil Peart), stout bass player Volker Krawczak (who wields his instrument like a phallic symbol), keyboard player Ferdy Doernberg (who likes to pick up his synth and carry it around the stage) and two blonde and female backing singers (known as the Pell Princesses) who are noticeably older than typical blonde and female backing singers. In fact, Pell's entire band is a motley-looking bunch that enhances the live spectacle. Plus, multiple camera angles provide intriguing close-ups of Pell's solos, Gioeli's antics and Terrana's hair.
In addition to the 110-minute concert mastered in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, a second disc includes about another 90 minutes of band interviews; fan interviews (in German!); an at-times humorous video-camera diary of the making of Pell's last album, 2002's Shadow Zone; and two long-lost music videos: Pell's "Cry of the Gypsy" from 1994 featuring Jeff Scott Soto on vocals and 1987's "The Deeper the Night" from Pell's previous band Steeler. As with most bonus DVD material, one viewing of these is enough. The concert, however, will remain in regular rotation on my player for awhile — especially now that I really dig that set list.