September 6, 2019, 10 months ago

Mark Gromen

gallery heavy metal progpower usa evergrey galneryus mayan

Their ninth performance, in the 20 events held under the ProgPower USA banner, Evergrey are at home in Atlanta's Center Stage. Frontman/guitarist Tom Englund was loose, cracking jokes, even pointing out countrymen/former bandmates in the crowd. Henrik Danhage (guitar, stage left) was in a leather jacket, while behind him, keyboardist Rikard Zander, on a small riser, opted for a sleeveless tee. Wiser choice. The stage was dark, as were the lyrical themes, the show beginning with the pinging of sonar to start "A Silent Arc". Plenty of headbanging for "Distance", while "Passing Through" gets things pumping again. Danhage takes over, going front & center, as the rest congregate near Jonas Ekdahl's drum riser. At one point, Englund announced, "This is weird. It's like playing in my living room. It's the ninth time we've played ProgPower. We should get more money!" 

Much of "The Fire" is lit in deep blue, everyone headbanging, including Ekdahl, as he drums. The pre-recorded intro to "Leave It All Behind" fittingly allows the guitarist to ditch his leather jacket, as the otherwise dark stage is punctuated by bright strobes. It's dueling guitars, between Tom and Henrik, for a few seconds, before Danhage makes a rare foray, stage right. As Englund does a spoken voiceover, it ends with keyboards seguing into dimly (if at all) lit stage, for gritty "Black Undertow". When Englund points at members of Sorcerer, in the crowd, he adds, "You look old. OK, buy them drinks or something. OK, focus on me!" When trying to recall where "My Allied Ocean" was from, the singer absent-mindedly joked, "Can't remember which album, because I have Alzheimer's." The green bathed bludgeoning has heads down, and with nothing to do, Rikard bangs his head, alongside Jonas' riser. Red/yellow lit melancholy of "All I Have", has audience sing along, before ending the proper set with "The Grand Collapse", complete with pre-recorded "oh, oh oh.”

The empty, blackened stage is greeted by shouts of "Evergrey!” Much like the start of the night, Zander is the first person onstage. This time he's alone, hammering out rhythms as he's joined by Englund (minus guitar) to start "Words Mean Nothing". Eventually, the hulking singer leaves, giving the keys the spotlight, but when he returns, it's with full band in (black under) tow, for "Recreation Day", a fan favorite. It ends with keyboards again alone, soloing into "A Touch Of Blessing". While the keys play, Jonas (in a crouch, behind his kit) grabs a quick drink. Maybe he caught a chill, waiting around in the air conditioning, but Danhage reappears wearing a denim jacket. Fans clap along, as they begin, Englund offering, "We leave for Kentucky at 5 AM." It's twin leads, delivered side-by-side. The evening ends (although there are a sea of well wishers, friends and those that donated money to help defray the expenses of getting Evergrey to ProgPower, waiting backstage) with "King Of Errors", a phrase Englund used (in the dressing room) to laughingly characterize himself and his bandmates. Far from it mates, as anyone who saw this performance would attest.

Apart from the name, and knowing they were Japanese, had precious little intel on Galneryus (just the clean slate I desire). Some claimed they were power metal. Others called them the Japanese power metal and while there were occasional elements of both descriptions throughout their 90 minutes onstage, I'm old enough to know/remember pre-Thunder In The East era Loudness, when they issued albums in their native tongue. Sort of the technical meets early speed metal (pun intended), with sporadic English phrases intermixed with Japanese. Such would be my comparison. Wiry one-named guitarist Syu, he of the blonde shag haircut, wore Chuck Taylor sneakers, all black insteps, with white outsides. He was once a member of Animetal (guitarist Chris Impellitteri formed a US branch of the anime/video game music outfit). It truly is his band and while he shreds, the others are often left standing around. Keyboardist Yuhki, situated so he's 90 degrees from the crowd, was flamboyant, with frenetic, Jon Lord (Deep Purple) inspired runs, trying at attract some attention from the guitar histrionics. Singer Masatoshi Ono (aka Sho) conveyed his appreciation and attempted to joke through pigeon English and charades. The adoring audience understood and appreciated his efforts.

Second song in, "Point Of No Return" (not a Kansas cover) saw Yuhki offstage, as Syu laid down a lot of widdling guitar and sweeps. Maybe it's something in the Eastern hemisphere, but the setlist at their feet was all black, printed in white, where it's usually the exact opposite color scheme in North America and Europe. The Japanese language ballad ends with Syu alone onstage, more histrionics, squelches and squeals, plus a bit of the "Star Spangled Banner". Listen to that sustain! Performed a new song, "Glory", which begins like a house afire, then slows to a clap-along, before picking up steam again. "Bash Out" sees Sho attempt to have the crowd sing "We want to bash out, all night long." Blue/purple lit "Destiny" finale has yellow spots sweep the stage. 

After flying in, having my Artmore reservation sold out from under me (despite being pre-paid for four nights!), being "walked" (as they call it, in the industry) to another facility (more than a mile away), which was under construction/conversion to a new brand and had no hot running water (!) caught only the latter half of Mark Jansen's (Epica) alter-ego, MaYaN. The mainman was without guitar, one of the five vocalists employed (three male, two female). At times there were ten people onstage. Something of a three-ring circus, bodies shuffled in and out, often within the same song. While waiting in the wings, members checked their cell phones and texted, as the performance continued, without them! The voices were a combination of operatic, trilling, grunts and growls. One of the guitarists is Merel Bechtold, best known for her work with Delain. Highlight of what was witnessed was "Dhyana", an acoustic (Bechtold) duet between the pair of female singers. Recorded violins were piped in, as a yellow spider web lighting pattern revolved around the stage.

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