Almost everything has been said about Forgotten Suns' debut album Fiction Edge I, released July 15 2000. In the last months, the band collected a wide set of good reviews in prog and non-prog websites and publications, although some times, a little criticism also, mainly focused on the album's bare production.
That's why we so eagerly waited for it to come alive. Musically the album stands strong for itself, and after all this time, we can say it has really some very good gems. But Portugal isn't still a prog-friendly territory, and the band didn't have the chance to play it live before. So, we waited. And, well... it was not in vain.
Me and a dozen of friends travelled far to see this concert... about 300 kilometres, from North to South Portugal. At the time we arrived at the cozy and friendly venue, we still had the chance to witness the band's final efforts during the soundcheck. We needed no more to feel some kind of strange and wonderful ambience rising in the air. Although they were making it by themselves, the sound was simply perfect. Bassist Johnny tested it with Pink Floyd's Meddle riff, and guitarist Ricardo Falcão did just the same, with the starting notes of Marillion's Sugar Mice... Crystal clear.
And then, for about a dozen of lucky ones, the whole band played their wonderful (a classic, I say so) Routine. Everything just alright. The night was set to be perfect.
And so it was. Fiction Edge I is, as you may know, a concept album, that deals with the parallel growth and evolution of the Universe and Mankind. As a live concert, it is what you can call a really progressive and "evolutive" musical trip. It starts with the sampler of a vinyl record beginning to play, and after a while, a beautiful female French spoken voice says "un point... d'un point tout commence...". It's Forgotten Suns' version of the Big Bang, a majestic keyboard piece, one of the most melodic although powerful ones the Universe has seen. Keyboardist Miguel Valadares is playing alone on stage.
The venue, a bar, is suddenly quiet. About 300 people are watching and listening. Many never heard of the band. All five show up a little bit later, for the powerful Creation Point. A suite made from metal strength to classical sweetness. But, well, as the world evolving from its beginnings, the concert is just starting to heat up.
One of the biggest questions concerning this first Forgotten Suns concert was not only the band as a whole but also the new drummer. Nelson Caetano replaced Nuno Senica after the album's recording. And, well, one doesn't need much to see Nelson is a formed jazzman and a refined percussionist. He passed "the test" with an easy high note on Creation Point but the best was yet to come.
So, from the beginning, the band was already playing tight, like they have done this for a long time now, and every note sounded just perfect. Also the beautiful sounding Linx's voice, a frontman with charisma and theatrical power in his white glove-covered hands, and... in his throat.
But, experience oblige, Linx had also his own funny problems. He is not only a skillful singer but also a wonderful piano player and composer, as one can hear in Child, a simple and beautiful small instrumental piece in the end of the Creation Point suite. So, Linx went on for the piano wearing... his gloves. No one noticed at the time, all the notes were in tune, but the piece started with a totally new set of notes(!). Later on, after the concert, he told us, smiling, that his fingers just slipped, and with his gloves on he simply couldn't feel the keys!
Well, the real question is... who cared?
And the concert went on, heat climbing higher and higher. Wartime with its metal uptempo-downtempo constant changes set the course for the first magical moment of the night. At the time, people in the audience were already singing along some verses of the song, so everyone had already a great night... Until A Journey started...
In Fiction Edge I, this one results in a strange track. Some liked it very much, but mainly because of its drumming fragile moments, many others thought the band was maybe aiming too high. Its more than 20 minutes span is really a journey through time and space, that intends to take the listener throughout Earth's and Mankind's millions of years of history, with its sometimes chaotic, sometimes peaceful moments. But after some listens, in the album, A Journey seems to me more a succession of musical ideas than a unified progressive track. Err... Well, from a live point of view, its definitely the latter, to be truly honest!
After some days I still feel my body trembling when I think about all of us looking at the band, simply knocked out by their musical prowess and infinite talent. Now, I just listen to A Journey in a whole new different way. What a track! When you think of the way it's played live, it blows you up.
While Linx "sleeps" on the floor the longest night of time, the band displays its widest array of technical and melodic solutions. The audience waves the white flag. We surrender, guys! Now, let's come to terms.
"House on the top of the mountain...", everybody in the front row starts suddenly singing. Linx is smiling. From now on, magic is in the air, and the band just have to play. Routine is really a wonderful song, and it will become for sure one of their first classics, as I said before. As a live track which follows the small Arrival from A Journey it sounds perfect.
While the latter is a pure musical exercise, this one is a highly melodic and simple (to-listen) track, albeit its mood and tempo changes. Now Routine sounds even better than during the soundcheck. Well, would you expect anything different at a point such as this? To end this memorable night, the band endured on the magic, with the Marillionesque Betrayed, a bonus track in Fiction Edge I, played in an extended version at Freira Bar. A very good one indeed, again with the audience singing along, not only all the lyrics but also the guitar chord parts (can you believe it?).
By the way, it must be stated the incredible talent of guitarist Ricardo Falcão and keyboardist Miguel Valadares, both capable of filling the night with harmony and melody. And, of course, the fantastic skills of musical sensitivity of Tony Levin's devoted follower, bassist Johnny.
A great band, indeed, you know that already. But, there's more. Close to the end, arrived a new track, the fabulous Lost (back home), a song Forgotten Suns will feature in their forthcoming album (supposedly part two of the Fiction Edge project). Some already know this one in a rough version in the band's 1998 demo, But now, it sounds even better.
In the end, everyone just urged the band to stay on stage. Having no more songs to play, Forgotten Suns asked he audience for a s suggestion. Bad idea, guys! Everyone started pleading their own preferences, so the band just decided to play again the strong Wartime, now in its single version.
In the end, we all felt happy, knowing for sure we just had witnessed one of the finest progressive moments of our lives. Forgotten Suns are, undoubtebly, a world top-class band, and this simple concert set already the mood for the starting of a true progressive movement in our country.
Everyone is e-mailing all the time, still talking about how wonderful this night was. If you don't believe it, just catch them live when you can. We'll have the chance to do that in Portugal in a short time. As far as I know, there are some great news showing up. Stay tuned!