Seattle Gets Progressive With The Progressive Nation Tour 2008
Band Photo: Opeth (?)
The Progessive Nation Tour’s headlining acts are a match made in heaven for prog fans. Combining Opeth and Dream Theater on the same bill is something that should have happened a long time ago, and sweetening the pot with prog newcomers Three and the more experimental Between the Buried and Me created a perfect storm of progressive metal. To further set this tour apart from similar acts the bands chose to use almost entirely fully seated venues instead of the typical standing setup.
Because of the wide range of appeal these bands provide the crowd was incredibly diverse. Emo kids with black hoodies and safety pins on every conceivable piece of clothing stood in line next to tattoo covered biker guys and long haired metal heads. The most surprising portion of the crowd were the older parents who brought their teenage kids to catch a Dream Theater show, and there was plenty of entertainment to be had just by watching their shocked reactions when the screams and growls started with Between the Buried and Me and Opeth, which they definitely were not expecting.
Three took the stage first, priming the crowd for the bigger name bands. Their guitar player Billy Riker continued his trend of wearing his long grey “Jedi” robe and placing a fan beneath him so his hair flew all over the place like he was in a music video. The fan couldn’t be seen from the majority of the theater, so anyone not in the front few rows would have been under the impression that Riker’s hair just spontaneously goes into sexy commercial mode of its own accord. Bassist Daniel Grimsland left the stage antics to the rest of the band, staying firmly rooted in the same place for the whole performance and looking inconspicuous. The vocalist and guitar player Joey Eppard has a stage presence all his own, using an interesting “slap” style of guitar playing that draws all eyes firmly towards him.
Three played almost entirely songs from their newest album “The End Is Begun”, and in the same order they appear on the CD. While Three’s sound is much more mellow and laid back than the other bands on the bill, they ramped up the heaviness for their live shows and made everything much louder and more brutal than normal. Towards the end of their set, the two drummers had a prolonged percussion battle as each tried to match and outperform the other, which was a real crowd pleaser. They ended their act with a long winded, incomprehensible tribal style vocal work out, another trademark that Eppard is well known for. During the ending song Eppard also broke a string, which he turned from an “oops” moment into an opportunity to show his ability to play well when things go wrong by wrapping the broken string around his arm and holding his guitar up by it when taking his final bows.
Between the Buried and Me came up next, and they received a much more lukewarm reaction from the audience. The crowd didn’t seem very familiar with the music, and the punk vibe vocalist Tommy Rogers gave off (he’s a skinny straight edge vegan who runs all over the stage and throws his arms around when he screams) wasn’t jiving with the majority of the people in attendance. Rogers spent almost the entire last song trying to get the crowd to stand up and jump around, repeatedly waving his arm up and down and clapping, but very few people took the bait. They did manage to get a big round of applause at a truly odd moment though, when they played a strongly cowboy themed passage that seemed inspired by the old Wild West. The speakers were set up just a bit too loud, so some of the more fancy keyboard work got lost in the wall of sound, but overall they provided a very solid show that demonstrated why they deserve to be on the same ticket as prog masters like Dream Theater.
If crowd response was somewhat lacking with Between the Buried and Me, that all changed the moment a huge poster dropped down from the ceiling with the Opeth logo. Before the band even took to the stage people were screaming and shouting out the names of songs they wanted to hear. The melodic death metal giants wasted no time moving straight into one of their most highly regarded songs, “Demon the Fall”. Unfortunately Opeth suffered from the same problem as Between the Buried and Me as the speakers were far too loud, so the growling vocals came across as one long drone that made it impossible to discern the lyrics and really mangled the nuances of vocalist Mikael Akerfeldt’s voice. Whoever was in charge of the sound must have realized what was going on, because by the end of the next song the acoustics became much cleaner.
Akerfeldt cracked jokes throughout the set about how Opeth “used to be a death metal band” and before playing a mellow track from their “Damnation” album he referred to the song as a ballad meant to drive the girls wild, so he wanted to see lighters raised high and people making out like it was a Scorpions concert from the eighties. They played a new song from the upcoming album “Watershed” titled “Heir Apparent”, and anyone worried that Opeth might drastically change their sound or lose their edge with the loss of long time guitar payer Peter Lindgren can put their fears to rest. “Heir Apparent” is pure Opeth. It’s long, heavy, and moves in and out of the mellow keyboard driven pieces in a way that is even more haunting and powerful than in any of their previous songs.
After Opeth left the stage the strong smell of pot began drifting throughout the auditorium as some of the veteran Dream Theater fans prepared themselves for the psychedelic show they knew was about to begin. True to form, Dream Theater put on a stellar show with off the wall stage antics and bizarre videos. A huge screen behind them showed crazy pulsating tie dye colors that turned into images of floating tea light candles during the softer parts, all of which had a strong Pink Floyd feel, and at one point they even showed a still image of nothing but a white brick wall. Later they showed an animated music video of the band members being held on puppet strings by a giant evil weasel creature (bet the stoned people were flipping out!) Before playing their closing song the band briefly left the stage and showed a video of the original Mario Brothers from the NES accompanying a song inspired by the iconic Mario Brothers music. That particular night was also vocalist James LaBrie’s birthday, so mid way through the set drummer Mike Portnoy brought out a cake, which he promptly shoved into Jame’s face.
All of the members of Dream Theater are ridiculously talented musicians, but it was keyboard player Jordan Rudess who really stole the show. He had several solos with guitarist John Petrucci that were so blistering fast and amazingly played that it became nearly impossible to tell which sounds were the keyboard and which were the guitar (Children of Bodom eat your heart out!). Everything that Dream Theater did absolutely drove the crowd wild, and it was clear that the majority of the people were there specifically to see them play. Even though they suffered from “Return of the King” syndrome, in which they had too many moments that appeared to be the end of the show and then they unexpectedly started playing again, the crowd ate up every second of it and screamed for more.
Progressive Nation 2008 has an all star cast and something to offer pretty much anyone. Fans of prog or death metal should definitely make it if they can!
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