Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Progressive Nation Tour with Dream Theater, Opeth, Between the Buried and Me and Three, May 6, Orpheum Theatre
The unstoppable caravan of overachieving musos known as the Progressive Nation Tour rolled into my increasingly prog-friendly city a couple weeks ago. Being a proud citizen of that great nation (my dual passport is up for renewal, but I didn’t find any application forms at the merch tables) I ambled into the palatial confines of the Orpheum to pay tribute to the prog godz old and new.

Three started the night with a well-received half-hour set. Their sound was a little too polite and smooth for my tastes, but they didn’t lack for showmanship. Their two drummers—a chrome-domed standup dude with timbales and assorted percussion, as well as keyboards, and a rocker kid behind the drum kit—contributed much to the action, and the guitarist/frontman got himself a standing O with his acoustic interlude at the end of their set.

After that, I was a bit concerned about how Between the Buried and Me would go over with this crowd— an “all ages” gathering to be sure. Kids from 6 to 60, as Milton-Bradley might say. While I’m sure their epic death/prog metal + Queen approach was a bitter pill for some, the band did their best to whip the crowd up, and I think it worked. The audience certainly gave them a fair listen and responded well to BTBAM’s abrupt shifts and diversions. The band sounded great on the two (2!) songs from Colors they had time for; it’s a shame they couldn’t add a song or two from Alaska or The Silent Circus.

Swedish titans Opeth sounded almost minimalist by contrast, providing a refreshingly grounded performance compared to what came before and after them. With only 45 minutes at their disposal, this was an efficient set—a new song (“Heir Apparent”), a few heavy epics (“The Baying of the Hounds,” “Wreath,” “Master’s Apprentices”), a ballad (“In My Time of Need”) and a “hit” (“The Drapery Falls”). Not a comprehensive stroll through their catalogue, but enjoyable nevertheless. Their merch woman said they’d be back in September to headline, so once I’m through counting the days till Watershed comes out, I’ll start the countdown to September.

Dream Theater had the lot—projections, elaborate lighting, cameras to catch every fleet-fingered flurry of notes and ace display of stickmanship (James Labrie thankfully lacked a vocal-cord cam) and a nifty street-scene stage set. What they didn’t have was enough good songs to sustain my interest. I enjoyed them a little more than I thought I would. I expected half the set to be solo spots, which was not the case. We ducked out prior to the encore to hang out at the BTBAM merch table, only to have their bassist Dan persuade us to go back in for the closing medley, which to my pal Smash’s disgust, lacked anything from When Dream and Day Unite.

Despite the airing of a few complaints on the ride home, it was a fun evening of music, and I hope the Progressive Nation can unite again with a few more adventurous bands in tow. How’s about Behold… the Arctopus, Guapo, Kayo Dot, Upsilon Acrux, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Thinking Plague, Titan, Present, Time of Orchids, Ahleuchatistas… ? Like I said, I’m a citizen—I’m entitled to my vote.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

I love our OM poster. I'm afraid my picture does it scant justice. David V. D'Andrea has done some stunning work, including album covers for Witchcraft, Ulver (the LP version of Shadows of the Sun) and Asunder.

I finally hung it properly today, in a spot where it presides over the record collection. In the fine print it lists the final date of the tour in Seattle, and once again I'm kicking myself for not going down for the show, especially because drummer Chris Hakius left the band shortly after this tour. It would have been great to see OM in their original lineup. Still, I'm looking forward to hearing how the new duo of Al Cisneros and Emil Amos sounds.