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ProgPower USA XV: Day 2 (Saturday) with Seventh Wonder, Withem, Divided Multitude, Voodoo Circle, MasterPlan, Pain of Salvation, & Jon Oliva's Pain

The fact that Friday’s ProgPower events went off without a hitch despite numerous technical issues that the audience generally wasn’t aware of and bands weren’t very delayed from their assigned time slots was a real credit to the ProgPower crew. Unfortunately, Saturday would bring its share of more obvious challenges. Waking up on Saturday had Friday’s attendees feeling as if they’d just collectively experienced the same dream for the entire day before. For some, that dream had lasted until dawn clawed its way overhead. As difficult as it was to believe, the festival was already half over. A full writeup on day one’s shows can be read here.

Saturday’s shows were to kick off with two of Norway’s more progressive bands - the young upstarts in Withem and the veterans of Divided Multitude. Divided Multitude’s drummer wasn’t available to come to America due to postal delays in getting him his visa, which forced the band to cut down their set and bring in the talents of two experts playing off the cuff: Withem’s Frank Røe and Pagan’s Mind’s Stian Kristoffersen. Following them would be Germany’s Voodoo Circle, whose vocalist would cause instant pregnancy among several of the female -- and male -- fans in the audience. Germany’s MasterPlan would round out the last of the power metal for the festival in huge fashion afterward, followed by a passionate full album performance by Sweden’s Pain of Salvation. Jon Oliva’s Pain would close out the festival with rare fire and what will surely be noted as one of the strongest performances of Oliva’s second half of his musical career - Savatage’s “Streets” performed in its entirety.

First, however, as is the tradition at ProgPower each year, gold badge holders were treated to a special additional set of music -- this time, by Seventh Wonder, performing non-Mercy Falls songs exclusively bright and early.

Unlike the night before, Seventh Wonder was finally given a true soundcheck and was able to be truly confident of their sound, which everyone easily noticed before the the end of the first song, “Taint The Sky.” Free of nerves, the band glided into “Banish” before getting everyone to move during the single, “Alley Cat.” “Walking Tall” and “The Edge of My Blade” followed, highlights of lead vocalist Tommy Karevik’s first record with them, ‘Waiting in the Wings.’ “King of Whitewater” brought the show full-circle back to the latest release, making it clear that Seventh Wonder had stayed true to their form since Tommy had joined the band. The band went acoustic for an “unplugged medley” of sorts, featuring big moments of previous songs strung together and sung beautifully, recalling the exclusive Seventh Wonder acoustic set from a previous festival year.

After the show, which was also being recorded for the band’s live DVD, it was announced that next year’s special gold badge set was going to feature the ethereally sublime Anathema, which will be a big incentive for fans to go with the gold badge option for next year. Returning in the early afternoon for the actual start to the ProgPower shows of the day saw the stateside debut of Withem.

Withem’s lead vocalist Ole Wagenius has a penchant for high-range falsetto vocals, which he occasionally will transform into a fiercer scream, which brought with it a lot of cheers. The band riled up the crowd with chants of “Hey! Hey! Hey!” when they could and made a fine show of a Saturday morning set, which is notoriously difficult due to the heavy celebrations of the night before. Starting with “Driven By A Blessing,” “Point of View,” and “Miracle,” the band continued through their debut album, bursting with talent at the ending of the set, “Phrenesis.” Divided Multitude was to strike while the iron was hot next.

Coming out with impressive Withem drummer extraordinaire Frank Røe, who was straight-up reading the sheet music to the songs WHILE HE PLAYED THEM FOR WHAT MAY HAVE BEEN THE FIRST TIME, the band opened strongly with “Esperanto” and “Feed On Your Misery.” Immediate headbanging was mandatory, as bassist Rayner Harøy’s upper half became a golden blur of hair in mid-headbang. When vocalist Sindre Antonsen came in, it became clear that he was no ordinary grit-filled belt-it-out power metal vocalist. He was as as a lion in man-form as he roared “WHEN YOU JUST CAN’T TAKE ANYMORE, I’LL FEED ON YOUR MISERY!” The band ripped through songs from their latest album as well as “Streets of Bucharest” and “Dreamin,” from older albums, but saved a few surprises.

Frank Røe and Stian Kristoffersen both performed drum solos during the sets, with Kristoffersen actually using blue-light drum sticks after turning off the lights on stage for a cool effect. The ace in their deck, however, was the addition of Michael Eriksen (for the second time this year!) on vocals for a cover of Deep Purple’s “Perfect Strangers,” rearranging the classic nicely to suit themselves. Finishing with “What I See,” the band ended with high energy to a ton of applause, getting more people to rush to buy their raglan-style baseball-type band shirts. The band members would later become some of the most visible and light-hearted members of the after-party at the Artmore Hotel, instantly approachable.

Voodoo Circle took the stage after a set changeover, with the day’s delays already becoming apparent. Nevertheless, guitarist Alex Beyrodt and his guys transported everyone in the venue to the year 1987 when they took the stage. Vocalist David Readman summoned the primal animal voice of David Coverdale, leading some of the women of the audience to have a “Preg-Power” experience upon hearing the first lines of “Heart of Babylon.” Somewhere between Jorn Lande and David Coverdale, Readman lasted the entire set with ferocity. The band climaxed at “King of Your Dreams” and “Cry For Love,” but Beyrodt was whipping his guitar around during solos the entire set, sometimes on his knees. Natural performers, you could see the fun they were having on their faces.

MasterPlan is exactly the band that should’ve followed -- and was. Capitalizing on the Jorn Lande-era MasterPlan catalog, the band made their highly anticipated debut after many years of hoping and praying from the fans. Practically doing Jorn’s old parts better than Jorn himself, vocalist Rick Altzi had a ferocity to him this night that could only have been the direct result of practicing on Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” at the Artmore with fans just a couple of days earlier… RIGHT. YES. That did actually happen. Really, Altzi was in rare form, as was guitarist Roland Grapow and the rest of the band.

“Black Night of Magic,” “Kind Hearted Light,” and “Lost and Gone” had many singing along as loud as Altzi, but it was “Spirit Never Die,” “Back For My Life,” and “Crawling From Hell” that saw the biggest crowd response. Soaking in every moment, the band used their full time allotment, although the show was already running about 45-50 minutes late, which absolutely nobody minded during the show -- hell, MasterPlan deserved to be on stage as long as they wanted. Oddly enough, there was some controversy on that very topic with the next band - Pain of Salvation.

Set to perform “Remedy Lane” in its entirety, not only a technical challenge and a test of endurance for the band, but a hugely emotional endeavor for main writer Daniel Gildenlöw, Pain of Salvation had two beginnings to their show due to what promoter Glenn Harveston described as a “miscommunication between TWO crews” onstage. The band were professional in their insistence on restarting to clear up technical issues and resolve the miscommunication, wanting to give the crowd the best show they possibly could. Although a few crowd members were irked, Harveston noted after the festival that he did not “fault the band in the slightest for the do-over.” The band carried on triumphantly upon resolving the issues.

In what was to be one of the most heart-wrenching performances in ProgPower history, the band bared their souls to the audience, naked in raw emotion. “Reconciliation,” “Chain Sling,” and “This Heart of Mine” evoked all sorts of responses from the audience. Upon talking to Gildenlöw after the show, it was learned that he had seen “a very manly man” in the audience just “weeping” during the set. To the left of Daniel on stage, Ragnar Zolberg was a white-hot key ingredient in the burning fire that was Pain of Salvation that night, providing soaring vocals and some of the key guitar solos of the record. The additional vocal harmonies and instrumental work of Gustaf Hielm, Daniel Karlsson, and Leo Margarit sent shivers down the spine of many, especially those in the front row around this writer.

After such a moving performance, Jon Oliva’s Pain was the natural choice to wrap-up ProgPower and close the night -- but, really, when is Jon Oliva NOT a good choice? After having practiced for an entire month to get the set just right, the guys of Jon Oliva’s Pain unleashed a hellstorm of classic after classic despite Oliva having newly-bruised ribs and problems hearing himself in the monitors on stage. Playing the entire Savatage classic “Streets” was a fine decision, but Jon Oliva was going to do what he wanted to do, ultimately, and so he had decided not to start immediately with the album. Rather, he bookended the album with more Savatage essentials, making for a set of legend.

Firstly, before the set, it was revealed via video that next year’s Thursday Kick-Off show will feature Brazil’s Almah, a power metal force fronted by former Angra frontman Edu Falaschi, as well as Sweden’s famed Dragonland, featuring former ProgPower veteran guitarist Olof Mörck, and an as-yet-unnamed project of DC Cooper. Swordlord Productions won’t have a hard time selling this show.

On to Jon Oliva’s Pain...

Starting with songs from “Gutter Ballet” and “Hall of the Mountain King,” the band performed “Surrender,” “Of Rage And War,” “The Price You Pay,” a tease of “Mentally Yours” and “Gutter Ballet,” perfectly prepping us for the full story of DT Jesus. A noteworthy temporary addition to the Jon Oliva’s Pain team that night was Jon V of Need on backing and lead vocals during certain songs. His enthusiasm for the music was overwhelming, which I would later find was from a deep love of Savatage (he ran the Greek Savatage fanclub for a number of years!). Oliva gave a deep approval at the end of the night when he invited him out again for “In The Hall of The Mountain King,” trading lead lines with him. Yet, perhaps the best part of the set was seeing Oliva up and energetically moving about the stage, inflamed with a passion for the songs.

During “If I Go Away,” if you weren’t teary-eyed and singing along with Oliva, you clearly weren’t in the auditorium. It was a huge performance for his backing band, as well, with Bill Hudson delivering Criss Oliva solos as if he were channeling the man himself, Joe Diaz killing guitar lead after lead, drummer Chris Kinder driving the momentum, and the rest bringing their best. It would’ve been a great year for promoter Glenn Harveston to go out on, like he revealed that he had planned, but it’s a fine thing that the attendees “went and fucked it all up” for him by selling out this year’s show in just 30 days.

Years from now, when this year’s festival is but a memory in the gleam of the eyes of we lucky attendees, it’ll be remembered as one of the years of legend by most, with attendees reporting in on the festival’s official Facebook, calling it the “best year ever.” The crowds may have gone, and Oliva may have ended with "When The Crowds Are Gone," but the ProgPower story is far from over. Tickets go on sale for next year on October 4th, and if the increasing quality of the shows is any sign as to how fast those tickets will sell out, it’s in every ProgPower hopeful’s best interest to jump on those tickets as soon as they are offered.

Keep up-to-date with the ticket sales on the festival’s website at ProgPowerUSA.com and at the Facebook page at Facebook.com/ProgPowerUSA.

Complete coverage of ProgPower USA XV by MetalUnderground.com:

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Frank Serafine is an avid writer, music producer, and musician, with five albums to his name. While completely enamored with metal, he appreciates a wide range of music. He also works full-time at the American-based performing rights organization, SESAC.

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