Monday, 21 April 2014

Fates Warning & Kingcrow - De Bosuil Weert 19 April 2014

"I Know it's getting late, but I feel I need to explain" Fates Warning Rules !!! In Progmetal the talk has been about the Big Three, the Progmetal founders or whatever more. In a way this is defendable and logic, but inexplicable remains that the best of these three: Fates Warning never came close to the success of either Queensryche or Dream Theater. Last year they released after 9 years a new album and "Darkness in a Different Light" is yet again a great collection of songs, which ranges from fast and heavy to a short ballad and ending with an epic. For some reason this album got almost no great reviews, nor did it appear in year lists of specialized sites and magazins. So being a niche player in an already tiny niche market let me once more explain what those who did not show up in de Bosuil missed yet again.

First great news was that there was an opener after all and not the least. One week earlier I was sad that a worktrip made it impossible for me to reach Ittervoort in time for Threshold/Kingcrow and only one day later I saw announced that Threshold would be back at de Boerderij later this year after which one week later Kingcrow was added as surprise opening act to Fates Warning. Kingcrow released there very good In Crescendo album last year and in the 45 minutes they had concentrated mainly on that album. They played Progpower before and already convinced, but with an even better album to support they now turned into a very good band. As they toured with Redemption before it seemd that their vocalist took over some Ray Alder poses and looks, not looking much different from a younger cousin version of same. With voice and playing also at good level I see Kingcrow are now defintely in the leage of ones to follow. This show matching the In Crescendo album it was a pity they did not play for a full hour.

At 22:30 Fates Warning hit the stage in de Bosuil that was nicely packed due to the small build up. Fates Warning has been playing Holland frequently over the past years and they do not attract large crowds anymore. Coming back to my opening comment it still beats me why Dream Theater can sell out HMH (4000) and 013 (1500) within one year and Fates Warning has to do with a half full Bosuil. Anyway this results in the audience being all real music lovers and a large part of the crowd do visit Baarlo as well during each first weekend of October.

Fates Warning live does usually not hold many surprises in the setlist, as they visit several obligatory songs and change a few songs only. This time they had 4 songs of DIADL mixed in, amongst the usual highlights of their career. They also normally play 90 minutes, which was not much different today. Yet still this one stands to me as one of the better shows I saw the last years from them. Ray Alder was with a good voice, the sound was clear and musically we never can complain. Frank Anesti still not joining, but his not-introduced substitute took the honors well. Jim Matheos still remains (!) one of the great guitarists around, Joey Vera stands out in playing and haircuts, while barefoot Jarzombek on drums is a stable factor now in the post Mark Zonder years.

Any remarks on the setlist? Well with so many great songs out, there always remains a long list of favorites not played. I did miss "Nothing Left to Say", "APSOG 12", "Pieces of Me" and so many others. When upon arrival I saw at the tour shirts also having a No Exit T-shirt I did silently hope for a full "The Ivory Gate of Dreams", but that was not going to happen. On the T-shirt I could not pass. While most recent covers are real works of art that would in large format hang well on a wall the "No Exit" album knows their last ugly cover. Still with the old logo and square No Exit on the back this turned into a modern shirt after all.

So Fates Warning came again and blew all away with a set build upon their faster works. The Eleventh Hour played at the Eleventh hour and Another Perfect Day has ended. Fates Warning Rule!!!

Friday, 18 April 2014

Votum & Riverside - Boerderij Zoetermeer 15 April 2014

Some ten years ago Riverside played Progpower for their first show outside Poland. In my many years of Progpower I do not remember any band that was not headlining, which made such an impact to all present. I guess those who were there that day realized we were seeing a band that could and should be much bigger. Now we are 10 years down the road and Riverside are on a small headliner tour through Europe. The fact that they sold out de Boerderij on a Tuesday night within a week where we have among many others Threshold/Kingcrow, Gazpacho, Jaguar, Fates Warning and IQ also playing Holland proved that they have entered the major league of Prog bands. Let's face it, since apart from the real big names noone manages to attract such audiences on a weekday. This was their second tour in support of last year's  "Shrine of New Generation Slaves". Nicely depressive T-shirts and backdrop banner set the tone for a night of bleak atmospheric building up and breaking down prog epics.

But I came for the support band: Votum! The former metal major of Stroud is through DPRP radio and reviews plus blog "something for the weekend" getting me on track of many great bands (Need and Being 2014 highlights so far) His favorite of 2013 was Votum's Harvest Moon and I got that album as well after his raving review. Never giving it the full attention I  need to let an album sink in I considered it a good CD. Now I knew this show was coming up I gave it some headphone listens and indeed it should have made my top 10 of 2013 as well. In Riverside they found the perfect headliner to support, since apart from the obvious Polish link they also like to work with longer building songs and heavy/soft dynamics mostly clear vocals and the occasional grunt for bigger extremes in atmosphere.

Main question was if Votum could reproduce their CD's in a live setting after I believe some line-up changes as well. To make things clear this was the main question to me, since the audience did not seem overly familiar with the band. Well they did deliver and when they came close to the end of their show the majority  of the public was convinced about their strenght. To say they made the same impact on de Boerderij as Riverside on Progpower might be exagerated, but to me they had the same effect.
What a great band and what an easy performers. I do not know what is in the Polish water (wodka that is) but lately the number of bands with outstanding guitarists from Poland is well above average (Riverside, Disperse, Satellite, Osada Vida to name a few) As I only had their 3rd CD Harvest Moon I did recognize most songs, but not all. The new old songs came over very good as well after a first listen and the new (?) vocalist did bring a wide range from soft and clear to grunts nicely. I do hope that this tour served them well and they gained many new fans. I picked up their second CD Metafiction and see the back catalogue is of good quality as well. Typically a band that should go down well at Progpower also and I hope they return many times to Holland.

So I came for the support band, but not due to lack of appreciation of Riverside. I had to get a very early plane the next morning so I decided to stay only fifty minutes Riverside as well (to make it a Polish draw seemed fair to me). What I saw of Riverside was again good, but time-pressure did hinder me somewhat in fully entering into the mood, which is needed when watching moody shows. They looked very convinced of themselves and rightly so though. Fact remains that after the PP impact they never can top that show for me and when picking up a CD of them I usually go back to their debut. Still a band deserving to be where they managed to get already and who knows they can attract similar audiences as Porcupine Tree with not that different music in the end. So Dziekuje to the Poles who presented a pleasant Tuesday night for a luckily appreciative full house.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Progdreams (Day 2) 5 April 2014 - de Boerderij Zoetermeer

Progdreams back in a two day event form. I could not make it on Friday evening so for me still a one-dayer with the slightly long dinner break. First buzz I heard was that on Friday X-Panda was a great success. Good for them to justify the long trip from Estonia. On Saturday we had two support acts both playing an hour before the dinner break and two headliners in the evening. I won't go into much detail on the openers since both Eclipse-Sol-Air (German French theatrical too hard trying) and Harvest (Spanish neo-prog with Dutch female vocalist) were not to my taste and halfway directed me to the bar and a talk in the sun.

First headliner in the evening which attracted the younger and more metal part of the crowd were Haken. I did see them pretty often over the last years and always liked their shows. On CD after more listens I now know for sure that their last album The Mountain is the least one to me (less metal) Last year they played the Boerderij on a Wednesday night when the new album was being released and they played the perfect mix of three albums and for a crowd not much smaller than today. This time the first part was only Mountain climbing and this with a new bass player whose name I forgot, but he was American and doing fine. So did the show around their last CD disappoint? well no. Haken to me are a great live band and they seem to enjoy themselves while playing their breaks and solo's as if nothing could be easier. They did get great response from the hall and I wondered if they could be headliner status already for a next Progpower. Probably they are a bit too off-centre for that (the humpa bits), but quality is definitely not what is lacking. Highlights to me did come in the end when the Shapeshifter passed by followed by Celestial Elixer. When they came back for one more song which took over 20 minutes in Visions again I saw a convincing Haken show.

Talking about convincing, I was convinced that Clepsydra could never top this. My history with Clepsydra is very recent as I missed them in the nineties. Years ago I heard a song, on Prog Archives I believe, which I liked and when they asked Mark Wilkinson to pack the re-release of albums in one LP shaped box I ordered in the spirit of supporting special editions and the artwork of my favorite cover artist. I did receive the box some weeks ago and this means I never got the time to really get into all their music. What I heard on CD was a bit similar as what I saw live. They play very good, the guitar is amongst the better ones and old Marillion is an inspiration. The vocalist is not that fluent in English, but has a good voice. Main problem to me is that (maybe by not knowing the songs) nothing really stands out and the further I got within the five quarters I stayed the more similar the songs started to sound. But this was only my impression. I did see many people though who obviously were very much looking forward to the return of Clepsydra on a live stage after being away for 14 years. So they did make an impact on a big part of their fans. To my surprise also de Boerderij was not a lot emptier from when Haken played. The audience somehow gained some 15 years on average closer to the stage, but I believe this was a succesfull show. If not at the end of a long day I probably would have seen them until the end. Now I caught the Randstadrail in time and have to thank organizers for yet another great day at the farm.