Fates Warning,
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 him.

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..." was audible.

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 be higher.

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!

Groundhog day!

...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...


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