April 17th, 18th and 19th, 1998
By by Erik Gorissen
WOW! The chance that weekends like this one will happen more than
once in a lifetime are supposed to be a million to one I guess.
THREE Fates Warning gigs in a row, WOW!
No Video, no John Arch, but tons of awesome music instead
First, on Friday 17th, it was Tilburg. No less than about 800 people
found their way to the Noorderligt. Particularly in the run-up to that
special gig the question on everybody's mind was whether or not John
Arch, the legendary former singer of Fates Warning, would return to the
mike to sing one legendary song. That would be, of course, something every
confirmed Fates fanatic longs for -- in case he had a last wish before
escaping into the depths of nirvana. A thesis, words like "I would've
had enough if John would only step on stage long enough to fart into the
mike and then disappear again" bear witness in a highly impressive way.
However, it was a wish that didn't come true. Until the very last moment
John hesitated, but in the end, after years of total vocal abstinence, he
obviously didn't consider himself to be capable of what was expected from
Without him as well, the concert went down in the annals of progressive metal
the very moment the guys left the stage. First of all, A Pleasant Shade Of
Grey was performed in its entirety. What had been a feast for eyes and ears
way back on the last tour in 1997, this time confronted the audience with an
even more incredible level of fun and omnipresence. Normally bands like Fates
used to be a little more introverted... Ray Alder's voice was in top condition
and wasn't out of action for a second, bass player Joey Vera was in great form
as usual, and even Jim Matheos looked up from his guitar every now and then,
aware of the audience and radiating great vitality. In addition there was a
new (guest) face on the keyboard: Jason Keazer from DEVINE REGALE who already
took part in the last US Fates tour, and who carried out his part sovereign.
At the latest, during APSoG Part XIII, it turned out that the audience was not
exactly innocent of the outstanding spirits. The Dutch had obviously been given
German lessons, so that, at the appropriate spot, a polyphonic "Zugabe, Zugabe..."
After APSoG there was a short break. Then Ray re-entered stage to announce that
a speedy disappearance was not planned as yet, encouraged by the critics, during
the last shows would have been played much too short. Besides, among others, this
gig was recorded and meant to go straight to the overdue live CD!
In order to describe what was up next, I have to breathe deeply first: A second
guitarist called Bernie Versailles (Ex-AGENT STEELE) set foot on stage, the
keyboardist was temporarily taking a break... How about this...?? Exactly: The
dinosaur which - with all its elegance, ingenuity and how-should-I-know-what-else --
befell the crowd was no less than THE IVORY GATE OF DREAMS in its entirety. The
rest is history: Ray tortured his mike as if he would have to live only a few more
minutes, crying at the top of his voice, highly inspired and more than ingenious.
One could really turn pale in view of that performance and I personally can
thoroughly understand that John Arch, having been the top candidate for the job
years ago, now maybe (?) felt out of practice a little. Anyway, the level can't
After that mammoth song the show still wasn't finished! Because then 11th Hour,
Point Of View and Monument were due to be delivered in extremely powerful shape.
Not to forget, here again with two guitars, just the way we like it... The encore
consisted of At Fates Hand which melted into Prelude To Ruin. What more can I say??
I really don't know... On a side note, Jim absolved most of the high speed solos
himself, and he made it look so easy! And then there was even one more encore -
We Only Say Goodbye -- before this principle was put into action. All in all an
improvement by 200% compared to the last tour. YEAH!
The only drop of bitterness: At the merchandising stand there was no live video in
sight, either it was transparent or it was simply not present...
Still no video, but this SOUND once again...
Surprisingly, one day later, there still was no video to be bought. This time, we
found ourselves in a small village called Baarlo (near Venlo). The name of the
venue was "Sjiwa" and it was much smaller then the Noorderligt in Tilburg had been.
Only about 250 people were in there, and two of them we met were René "Mr DPRP News"
Janssen and his wife. Tonight there was a different special guest (SeventhSign).
On Friday in Tilburg it had been Harrow, but I can't make up my mind on that as we
were late, thanks to the biochemistry examination of my girl friend... And this time
we were late again, though we were really close to the point. Too bad... The set list
was exactly the same as the day before, and it was not one inch less inspired; the
audiences mood was not as overwhelming (due to the lack of people I guess), though
still overwhelming enough! As far as I am concerned I began to slightly get obsessed
with the setlist... And for ever there is that voice in my head, singing and screaming:
"Ivory towers bow down - In reverence to daylight - As dreamers awaken - In sleepers
somber shade...." I just couldn't get enough of Ray's highly inspired vocal performance,
of the guitar lines.... just everything!
...on Sunday I began to form an idea how Phil Conner alias Bill Murray must have felt
like in the movie Groundhog Day, but, compared to his situation, in a positive aspect
here! Vosselaar in Belgium is a sleepy village which is signposted only 3 meters before
climbing over the city wall. When we arrived at the Biebob, Fates Warning had already
started to play (one hour earlier than usual!) At least there was no opener to miss...
But we learned that we obviously had missed the highlight of the evening though, a
short episode entitled "Ray and the laughing fit that won't go away". There's always
something to miss! The whole thing had happened like this: A heckler shouted something
weird that couldn't be understood during APSoG part I, something that Ray actually did
understand very well, and that caused him to literally roll on the floor for minutes,
so that the intro tape had to be started from the beginning again, once he had finished...
You now tend to believe that I'll come up with the obligatory statement to what was
offered here (awesome, awesome, aw-aw-aw...!!!), but you'll have to have your own
thoughts about it for once... On a side note, the "Part-XIII-Zugabe-cries" were missing
for the first time at this glorious weekend, and all in all the audience was, compared
to the other ones, quite sluggish. The bon vivant type! It was not the first time that
I wondered whether it would've been better to play a gig e.g. in Bochum (Zeche) or
Cologne (Kantine) or Oberhausen (Star Club) instead of playing such a small village
miles away from civilization! ;-)...
And then, much later, the weekend was gone -- and I was in a state of stunned amazement,
guess I will be for a few more weeks...