With a more diverse line-up for the second night of the festival, it was no
surprise to find that the audience was also more partisan, with sections of the
crowd clearly in attendance primarily to see Devin Townsend, Gamma Ray or Angra,
but rarely all three.
The evening kicked off with a set from Virginia based Reading Zero,
a band that I was not particularly familiar with. Their brand of prog/power metal
took some time to register with the audience, but the crowd gradually became more
and more animated as the set progressed.
Things really got going when singer/bassist Chris Roy introduced his fellow band
members before kicking into Strategy, though the new number To Hold An
Angel was more to my liking with the bandís sound making a nod in the
direction of Fates Warning at several points.
New Worlds was certainly appreciated by the crowd, but they went
crazy for the set closer Next Stage as Chris left his bass behind to
concentrate on singing, while Mikael Hakansson of Swedish band Evergrey
put in a very energetic performance in his place, though sadly one which was
largely inaudible, due to equipment problems.
Next up was British prog-metallers Threshold, making their
first appearance outside of Europe. Rather as had happened for Silent Force
and Edguy the night before, it proved to be a suitable point at which to
inject some energy into the proceedings and their set really woke up the crowd.
Beginning with the punchy Phenomenon from their latest disk
Critical Mass, they soon had the crowd at the front of the stage singing along.
All sounded fine as far as the audience were concerned, but the band clearly saw it
differently as vocalist Mac explained " Everything went wrong that could
go wrong" , he lamented. "This is Light and Space" he then
announced with the band wasting no time in moving on to the next number and
from there into the heavier, yet more straight-ahead Latent Gene from
Clone disk. Mac then tried to tell us that he had a cold but
from his performance during the stunning Falling Away, one would never
The set progressed with Fragmentation with its huge
riffing sections gleefully played by the bandís twin guitarists Nick Midson
and Karl Groom, which really enlivened the crowd. Then, much to my delight,
2 further tracks from the Hypothetical disk; the lengthy Ravages
of Time and Long Way Home. The first of these was glorious and
featured great interplay between the vocals of Mac and those of bassist
Jon Jeary while the second was no less superb.
Though the crowd had seemed largely familiar with the material
up to this point, the closing number Paradox from the bandís first
album Wounded Land appeared to be unfamiliar to the majority of
those present and after the triumph of the set up until that point, it seemed
a shame for them to close with a tune that the crowd didnít know.
Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that the band made a big impression on
the audience as was evidenced by the long queue at their signing session
later in the evening.
Besides the performance of the ever charismatic Mac,
the guitar playing of Karl Groom and the brilliant drumming of Johanne
James also made a significant impact on those who watched.
The wildcard in the eveningís entertainment was Devin Townsend, a unique
character and certainly a controversial choice with many of the festival attendees.
Whatever, he was not in a mood to mellow his act to win over the audience.
The opening of his set was evidence of this as the band played about 16 bars
of the huge Bryan Adams hit Summer of 69 before halting for
Devin to suddenly proclaim "Weíre Canadian, so stick that up your ass".
Culling material from his various bands and projects other than his
Strapping Young Lad project, the set began with his more extreme
material and mellowed towards the end, where Devinís vocals were
certainly less harsh and the music less brutal. The highpoint for myself
was the brilliant Earth Day from his
Terria album, perhaps because it was an instrumental, but also because
it was the most progressive of the tunes that he played. Uncompromising to
the very end, the band signed off with Bad Devil and a final message
of "Weíre the Devin Townsend Band and we rock!". It was only the
second live performance by this particular line-up and they can feel
satisfied with their performance, which pleased a good proportion of
Rather like their compatriots from the night before, German Power
Metal giants Gamma Ray were playing their debut show in the USA. Rather
surprisingly I suppose, after a career of more than 12 years, but the
audience were clearly as pleased as the band were themselves to be
finally appearing on an American stage. They had brought their full
stage-set with them, including the huge backdrop featuring the cover
of the No World Order disk.
They began with Land of the Free from the album of the same
name before vocalist/guitarist and main man Kai Hansen thanked the crowd
for giving them the opportunity to play in the USA. His announcement was
met by a huge roar of appreciation from the crowd and it was clear that
the band had the audience in the palm of their hands right from the start.
The crowd adored and happily sang along with tunes such as New World
Order, Fire Below and Heavy Metal Universe before we
were treated to an extended and surprisingly disappointing drum solo by
the normally excellent Dan Zimmerman. However the set ended rapturously
with the storming Valley of the Kings and the lengthy
Somewhere out in Space which is as 'progressive' as anything
the band has done.
When the band returned for the inevitable encores, the audience and
in particular the bandís older fans, exploded with joy as they played
two tunes from Kaiís original group Helloween. The choices of
Ride The Sky and I want Out could have been predicted
but they made an excellent and very positive end to a triumphant
debut performance in the USA.
Final band of the Festival was the popular Brazilian outfit Angra,
yet another band making its debut in Atlanta, as a precursor to a short
USA tour. Though some of their material has them edging into the
Progressive Metal genre, the majority of their material could be more
accurately described as Euro Power Metal with a symphonic edge. Since
I last saw them perform live in 1999 there has been a split in the band,
with the current line-up featuring only guitarists Kiko Loureiro and
Rafael Bittencourt out of the original members. They only returned
to the European stage in spring 2002, but having missed that tour, I
was glad of a second chance to catch them live.
As the stage curtain was pulled back and the overture In Excelsis
boomed over the PA, the audience could see that the stage had been
vastly re-arranged so that all of the speaker stacks faced inwards
to the stage rather than towards the audience, while the back of
the stage was decorated with a huge backdrop of the gorgeous cover
of their Rebirth album. The crowd then let out a huge roar
as the musicians appeared and launched into Nova Era, also
from Rebirth. From there they moved into Acid Rain
with its spoken Latin samples at the beginning before singer Edu
Falaschi spoke to the crowd and, like almost all the bands,
expressed the bandís heartfelt thanks at being given the chance
to finally play in front of an American audience.
The band then mixed up things a bit, a little something from
Angels cry, the title track, something from Rebirth,
Heroes of the Sand and then the marvellous Metal Icarus
from Fireworks with the two guitarists showing just why they
are such a highly rated pairing. The sound quality appeared to
improve noticeably during the course of these 3 songs to the point
where it became probably the best that any of the bands received
all weekend. Meanwhile the set just got better and better.
The short solo spot by Kiko which followed was one
of the highlights of the set. As adept with an acoustic guitar as
with an electric, Kiko gave us a brief, fluid and technically
excellent solo which left all of the wannabe guitarists in the
audience desperate to hear more.
However the tribal drum samples
indicated the beginning of Tribal War and the return of
the band, during which oneís attention was drawn to the equally
impressive drumming of Aquiles Priester and the monster bass
playing of his partner Felipe Andreoli, far more than mere
Ďadequate replacementsí for the bandís departed rhythm section.
New recruits they may be, but as Edu performed the band member
introductions, it was evident that I was not alone in taking note
of the quality of their playing.
One of the highlights of the old line-upís performances
used to be a live rendition of Carolina IV, from the bandís most
Ďprogressiveí album Holy Land. This used to begin with the former
singer and the two guitarists playing a solo drum, as they pounded out
the intro to the song. I was therefore delighted to see drums appear
before four of the band member and though the rhythm, begun by Kiko,
hinted at this popular tune, it developed into the track Hunters
and Prey from the bandís recent EP. Rather surprisingly this was
followed by another track from the same EP and the band seemed both
pleased and surprised as it became clear that the audience was also
familiar with that disk.
The final part of the set consisted of older stage favourite
Nothing To Say, preceded by its short instrumental overture
Crossing and an encore of Carry On. The evening closed
triumphantly with an excellent rendition of Iron Maidenís
Number of the Beast along with which the audience sang its heart
out. It was perfect ending to two excellent days of Progressive and
The event itself was a huge success, both in terms of the attendance
and the performance delivered by the bands. Organisation was very good,
a fantastic selection of CD stalls were available and the eventís
sampler disks were packed with lots of great music too. Iíll be back