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Lift Up Your Hands in Praise: The 2023 Metal Hall of Fame Gala

The annual Metal Hall of Fame gala has become the Place To Be for Metal fans and VIPs alike. The 2023 ceremony owned the night, burned brightly on its own with no NAMM or any other event going on at the same time. The Canyon Club in Agoura Hills, CA was filled to capacity, with reports of fans being turned away at the door. Doubters take note: the MHOF is officially a vital and powerful force in the music world. Let this triumphant evening stand as proof. It was truly a night to remember. 

As always, host Eddie Trunk did a stellar job as emcees, adding his unique personality and subject matter expertise to the show. Since year one, back in that little place in Anaheim, he’s brought tremendous class and prestige to the podium. Kudos also to his first-time cohost, Cathy Rankin of Phoenix, who shared the emcee duties with confidence and poise. This was by far the smoothest MHOF gala I’ve attended, with one presentation leading directly into the next. Credit to both of them, as well as the performers, but also to the crew, Ronie Kiss, Scott Dentremont, Todd Headlee, Rob Meives, and everyone else who ran themselves ragged – – before, during, and after, making everything perfect. That absolutely includes the Metal Hall founder: Pat Gesualdo. He was in the trenches, giving his all to make the night a success. None of this is possible without him. 

The first performance of the night was the venerable Held Hostage band, who brought a hard-hitting American Traditional Metal set of originals. They stepped into a difficult spot, but proved that they belonged. 

Chris Impellitteri* was the first Hall of Fame inductee of the evening. It’s incredible that someone with that level of skill is so humble. This guy is one of the best to pick up a guitar – – ever. He and his band squashed any dissent on his Hall-worthiness with his perfect three song set: “Balls to the Wall,” man, “Stand in Line,” and “You Shook Me All Night Long.” Two famed covers and one original at his own induction; that’s humility. Kudos to Giles Lavery for lending his great vocal power to the set. Impellitteri’s “thank you” speech was also gracious. I’m a fan.

Chris Impellitteri (My livestream interview screenshot, hence the poor quality image)


Raven. What can you say about Raven? They’re as wonderfully raucous and insane today as they were in 1983. The Gallagher brothers mugged and raved and pounded their way through their set and then their speeches like madmen, disappointing absolutely no one. Their current drummer, Mike Heller, may not wear the helmet, but he still bangs the shit out of his kit.  

Next up. For all of the online complaints and questions. . . there was not a silent fan in the house when Lou Gramm was inducted. Not a single question. We didn’t get a song out of him, but he was truly gracious and appreciative of his award. And let’s set the record straight: the Hall isn’t calling him a Metal artist. Lou Gramm does not equal Nergal. He’s an influential Hard Rock icon and a jukebox hero, and the Heavy Metal world would not be the same without him. Ignore haters.

Adam and Metal Hawks were not inducted, but their wild two-song set – – an original and Led Zeppelin’s “Rock n’ Roll” – – shook the ceiling. Adam Ezegelian (apparently a former American Idol noteworthy)** recognized the situation and took control. He’s a hell of a performer and singer, with a screamy voice in the tradition of Brian Johnson, Janis Joplin, Dan McCafferty, etc. The future of the genre is in good hands. 

The story of the night, of course, was Twisted Sister. The bad boys of Rock n’ Roll reunited for their final performance(?) to play three songs and accept their Metal Hall of Fame trophies from Mike Portnoy and Steve Vai. We got acceptance speeches from Mark “The Animal” Mendoza, Dee Snider, and Jay Jay French. Eddie Ojeda was not in attendance due to Covid, so his daughter was there to read his statement for him. We lost drummer AJ Pero in 2015; his daughter also accepted on his behalf.

Mike Portnoy has played for Twisted Sister in the past, so he sat in on their set. Only three songs, but they were perfection: “You Can’t Stop Rock n’ Roll,” “Under the Blade,” and (of course), “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” Hey, don’t roll your eyes – – it may be overplayed, but they delivered it with fresh fire and energy, as if the song was their brand new smash hit. TS’s entire set was boisterous and electrifying. Dee Snider performed the fuck out of these songs, rocking the stage and the crowd, and not missing a single note – – he even nailed the scream in “You Can‘t Stop Rock n’ Roll.” 


A sizable chunk of the crowd departed after Twisted Fuckin’ Sister were done, but it was their loss. Doug Aldrich was the final inductee of the night, and he then assembled with Keith St. John, Rudy Sarzo, and drummer Joe Travers to begin the final jam. Yes, Twisted Sister’s reunion performance was historic, monumental, unforgettable, and awe-inspiring, but – – objectively – – the best set of the night belonged to these guys. Aldrich and crew pulled three absolute gems with connections to their careers: “I Don’t Know” (Ozzy Osbourne), “Still of the Night” (Whitesnake), and “Holy Diver” (Dio). Travers is killer. Aldrich’s chops could burn the sky. Rudy Sarzo is ageless. And Keith St. John is the real thing, folks. Empowered by the All-Stars around him, he Ripped. It. Up. He remained on the mic while the players shuffled a bit behind him, continuing on into a Montrose jam with Sean McNabb and Rick Stier, and then an extended take on another Led Zeppelin blaster: “The Immigrant Song.” They played like overlords. 

Rudy Sarzo. (Again, a low-quality Livestream screenshot. Sue me.)


Even offstage, it was a cavalcade of Metal A-Listers. A brief list, with apologies to anyone I’ve left out: Neil Turbin, Todd LaTorre, Jeff Scott Soto, Jason Bieler, Wendy Dio, dUg Pinnick, Marc Lopes, Vinny Appice. . .

So that’s a high-level summary of what happened – – what did it feel like to be there? As many words as I’ve put into this already, I’ve only scratched the surface of what this night meant to everyone in attendance. My personal experience was unforgettable. I didn’t take a lot of photos – – I was busy! But I was glad to be able to make a small contribution to the setup (if you were in Dee Snider’s entourage, then Andrew, his buddy,*** and I put the stickers on your badge. . . . If Dee signed your Rocavaka box, then I may have brought it in from the van. . .).

L to R: Jack Mangan, Adam Ezegelian, and Neil Turbin


I am deeply grateful to Jimmy Kay and The Metal Voice for giving me the opportunity to livestream the pre-event festivities for them, connecting with all of those Metal heroes and legends. Check out their coverage on Facebook**** and Youtube. I’ll also thank Pat Gesualdo personally for working with me and giving me the opportunity to contribute in meaningful ways – – and on behalf of Metal fans worldwide, for bestowing this crazy thing upon us. Last, but tallest of all, I gotta thank Neil Turbin and his photographer, Kumiko Yoshitsugu, for being cool and treating me like I belong there, among the rockstars. 

This thing gets better every year. The entire Metal world is already chomping at the bit for the 2024 Metal Hall of Fame event. 

 

Jack Mangan is best known in the Metal world as lead author/project runner for the “Am I Evil?” graphic novel (set to release in early 2023) as a journalist with MetalAsylum.net and the official Metal Hall of Fame. and also as co-host of the popular (sporadic these days) Metal Hall of Fame and MetalAsylum.net livestreams with Rich Catino. He’s made a few guest appearances as a panelist on The Metal Voice. In an adjacent life, he was a podcast pioneer, with numerous appearances on Technorama, Dragon Page, Escape Pod/Pseudopod, and many others, including his own productions: Jack Mangan’s Deadpan, and the Podcast novel, “Spherical Tomi.” Friend him on Facebook if you can find him, but be warned: he’s not great about checking Facebook Messenger.

*Did I spell that right? It was hilarious hearing the red carpet liaison fail to pronounce “Impellitteri.”

**I mistakenly introduced him as a former contestant on The Voice. Oops. Thankfully, he was cool.

***Apologies, man. You rock! My brain can only retain so much info. Remind me of your name, and I’ll update the article.

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