@ Newcastle O2 Academy, September 28 2012

Deep in the bowels of Newcastle’s Academy, Herman Li had been tuning up for the latest Dragonforce show more than four hours before the power metallers were due on stage.

But then you don’t get to become one of the genre’s premier players without serious practice and due preparation.

And at the outset of a huge run of UK and European shows Li and his buddies are taking their job more seriously than ever – that job being to entertain fans of fret-melting madness and to prove there’s plenty of life left in Dragonforce post-ZP. 

That early start paid immediate dividends as Li and fellow guitar hero Sam Totman swiftly settled into the groove – their technical metal proving the perfect antidote to Alestorm’s boozy pirate metal.

A stunning set and even better production demonstrated just how far this band has come since finally grabbing its share of the limelight due, in no small part, to the gaming phenomenon that was Guitar Hero.

Bouncing off the silver drum kit and following every finger movement of dextrous duo Li and Totman the array of lights made for a memorable spectacle.

If Marc Hudson is still on charm offensive in his role as ZP Theart’s successor an accomplished performance oozing confidence surely strengthened his case. Far better in the flesh than myriad YouTube clips would have us believe the made-for-metal singer sparkled.

Given the fantastic set and the dazzling lights it was a surprise that the on-stage histrionics had been toned down somewhat. Maybe Dragonforce are keen to let their music do the talking in 2012 – those expecting guitars to be hurled and keyboards to be battered were, instead, met with a flawless display of considered musicianship.

With the crowd told of the plan to film the Newcastle show energy was not a problem on the floor – that passion finally filtering through to the headline act.

But this was a show that was over almost as soon as it began and poorer for it. Barely an hour had passed when Li and co. took their leave – albeit having sprinkled power metal gold dust on a loyal and wide-eyed audience.

Given the size and strength of the Drgaonforce back catalogue another 15 minutes would have been nice but Saturday shows in Newcastle are typically truncated due to the demands of disco-loving youths. Thankfully the quality and focus of the main event ensured there was no bitter taste of déjà-vu.