Live Stuff


Jaxx, Springfield, VA. 4/21/01

Now here’s a night any true power or prog metal fan would not want to miss, being the opening night to the Savatage’s ‘Poets & Madmen” world tour and they invited prog-masters Fates Warning along to complete the prize. A dream concert for all … A trip down I-95 from Maryland to Virginia made this dream come true for me and I want to personally thank the groups for their A-1 entertainment. This opening night to their World Tour was hand-selected by the members of Savatage to go down at the (many decades-long) legendary concert club Jaxx (Springfield, VA), due to their liking fondness for the room. It is a great place for a great show and this night proved the truth in these facts without question. The show got underway with two regional warning-up acts added to the bill for the evening and the first up was local Power Metaller’s BRAVE, who offered a beautifully blended combination of electric and acoustic guitars, complete with a great female vocalist by the name of Michelle Loose… Her voice combined with Braves sound created a very interesting favor. Due to a fact that the group recently lost a guitarist, Division’s Mike Blevins filled the shoes to fore fill their booking. They performed songs from their recent self-released EP, among other materials. A fine start to a festive evening. Next up was DIVISION, another local Virginia well known that offers a style in the traditional Power metal range. Played a set that compiled cuts from their past two CD releases, along with introducing a few new pieces. This gig marked some major group history with the return of former drummer AJ Ripple, who had left sometime back and was briefly replaced by Jeff Moore (ex. Mercury Rising). Longtime vox Scott Steward announced on stage that this show was his final performance as a musician, he has decided to pursue other adventures in his life. Of course, the group will continue on and they are in search of a suitable replacement at this time. Division overshadowed all current internal issues with a strong performance and their guitar-driven metal warmed-up the crowd for what was about to come. On the negative side of things, some asshole decided to walk off with Guitarist/Matt Crooks brand new custom Jackson Guitar following their performance, it was his first time ever using it on stage as he had just purchased the axe. One of the main attractions was soon set to take the stage, this being Metal Blade’s longtime progressive prodigies FATES WARNING… Being the first night of the tour and for that matter the first time on stage as a group in a few years these guys performed an outstanding show. It was the same line-up that’s been around since “A Pleasant Shade of Gray ” release with Jim Mathoes, Ray Alder, Mark Zonders, and Joey Verea (now sporting a cool mohawk that fits him well), plus to complete the live sound Guitarist/ Shaun Michaud (Event) was hired for the tour. Kicking off with the opener title track to the group’s latest release “Disconnected part I” and it sounded awesome … Following into the second track “One”, it set the mood for a fantastic live set. Next, we were treated to “Life in Still Water” & the great “Eleventh Hour”. By now things were getting very fired up with another great Fate’s classic “Through Different Eyes” performed in shining sounds and Ray really held his prime abilities. The band was in its typical tight-sounding form, presenting their ultimate progressive sound of musical perfection. Fate’s live stage presents seem to lack real energy as a total outfit these days, however, their talent completely overshadows this issue to make for a rather relaxed concert. I was disappointed to see that they had to set up on the floor of the stage in front of Tages equipment like a local band, but that’s how things go sometimes with multi-group tour packages as such (time factors). No drum riser for Zonder made it near impossible to really get to see how he pulls off all those phenomenal drum fills. Mark Zonders is a master behind the skins and he really keeps things in place on the matter with his rythematic skills. He reduced his drum kit down to a four-piece set for this tour and one could not hear a difference. The atmospheric “APSOG VII 7+8” was set in place minus the acoustic parts at the end of song 8 and it shined of insightful prog beauty. Ray Alder’s voice was in fine form and he displayed a strong vocal performance that keep him in the mid-range and out of the hard-working high-end danger zones for the most part. I’ve seen Fate’s Warning live countless times in the past and can say this was one of his better nights (not taking anything away from his talents), he seemed very confident with himself on this evening. Fates Warning steps back to their new “Disconnected” release with the last half of “Something From Nothing”, beginning from where the drums kick in and it sounded great. Yet another fine song from the latest Cd “Still Remains”, continued their musical path flowing and I must say the new material sounds much heavier presented in the raw… live! To end their appearance the group hit home with one of the many FW progressive metal anthems by the name of “Monumental” and left the stage leaving us fans ever so hungry for more… We need more earlier Fate’s damn-it… What’s up, guys??? At least “Silent Cries”? Well prior to Tage taking over the stage club owner Jay (one of the coolest club owners out there today) made a very thoughtful appreciation greeting on stage to all the groups of the night. He went on to introduce Savatage as ‘one of the best metal groups’…(Cool)! Thanking Tage for selecting Jaxx nightclub in Springfield, VA. to kick-off the tour. At last, the lights went down and SAVATAGE hit the stage with intense raging fury, and the full sense of the word ‘Production’ kicked up two levels. Their heavy symphonic powers instantly took over the minds of all who stood before this stage and the amazing wall of sound confirmed that we were all in for an incredible metal experience unleashed before us… Jon Oliva and his latest ‘Tage line-up, or as he referred to on this night ‘The latest victims” consisted of longtime Bassist/Johnny Lee Middleton, Guitarist/ Chris Caffery who has been in and out of the group in past years, Drummer/ Jeff Plate who replaced Steve ‘Kildrums’ Wacholz after his departure prior to the “Edge of Thorns” tour in ’96. And of course the “Mountain King’ himself Ms. Oliva behind the Keys/Vox and all-around ringmaster to the Savatage road circus… Two new faces in the touring line-up included Floridian Damond Jiniya who recently replaced former vocalist/ Zach Stevens leaving due to family reasons and this new guy did a super job. When I heard that Zachary left I was really worried how the next guy would change the Savatage presences (the Oliva to Stevens transaction did not win all old Tage fans over), but I must say the change could not have been any smoother other than Zackery staying. This guy’s voice was a bit rougher than that of former vox Stevens, however, he pulled the songs off well with a range that actually fell in between Stevens and Oliva. Damond and Jon’s voices meshed into a haunting ‘wicked rock opera’ with the metal crunch. Completing the live SAVATAGE 2001 touring team is Guitarist/ Jack Frost known for this work with Seven Witches, Speeed, Bronx Casket Co., and also actually replaced Chris Chaffery in Metalium in the past, due to Chaffery’s demanding schedule with SAVATAGE. The latest Savatage instance classic “The Morpin Child” was performed, a song that shines in progressive power metal movements and amazing epic arrangements surrounding their now trademark centerpoint vocal placements. Jon introduced this song as “the longest Tage tune ever written”, long yes! But not a minute to less with its endless changing moments of excitement. Now came time for “Miles Away” and “He Curves His Stone” from the “Edge of Thorns” record, with Damond handling the singing in style. Ripping through them in crushing Sava-style. The crowds went crazy when the first note to their absolute magical metal anthem “Chance” hit the air and it sounded outstanding up until the middle centerpoint vocal break where someone was a bit out of place. But since it was in fact the first night tour, it’s to be expected that a few things need working out and the little amount demonstrated throughout the entire gig just how talented of a group these boys are. “Believe” and “Temptation Revelation” kept the show moving with true metal excitement. Into the piano intro to the yet another title track anthem “A Gutter Ballet” and the fans turned up the cheering to 10+ and in return, it increase the electrifying energy in this group’s stage abilities. Following their prime performance of “Gutter Ballet”, it was time for Jon to say ‘Thank you, everyone, good night” and take their bows to the crowds. They exit stage left! Everyone in the house was starving for more Savatage and the chants began… “Savatage… Savatage, etc., etc., etc…”. Until the approval was granted for the group to conform to our call and re-charge the stage in raging glory with the desire to please the fans in need of more of their music. Knowing a Savatage concert would never be complete without a live version of their forever loved metal anthem “Hall Of The Mountain King” and they completed the deed in pure Savatage style. By now it was nearly 2:30 in the morning, in a state where bars are to close at 2:00… Well, I guess when Savatage is in the house, they make the rules? Man I wish they could have played all night and I know I was not the only one possessing the desire, they sure have enough great material to perform… But the show I had just witnessed was indeed a winner and I take my hat off to Mr. Oliva (& Company) for the never-ending drive to keep Savatage alive. With several past released records in their growing discography and many member changes throughout the years, the true sound has been able to perverse. Fates Warning also kicked royal ass with a stellar performance, precision to excellence. Out of all the many metal groups that walk the face of our planet, these two metal pioneers metal groups deserve all the success they have been working towards with their music. If this show comes to your town, I suggest you go as it’s a great time in the honor of metal!! People support metal… buy these groups records and attend their concert.

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