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LIVE: ProgPower USA – September 10-13, 2014 (Atlanta, GA)

| 4 October 2014 | Reply

Progpower XV poster

Venue: Center Stage

City: Atlanta, GA

Date: September 10-13, 2014

Review by: Robert Kitay

Photos by: Esa Ahola, Allen Ross Thomas, and Stephen Schmidt

This year’s ProgPower USA had one of the best lineups in their 15 year history, and I must not have been the only one who felt this way as the festival sold out within one month, and a full 10 months ahead of the concert.  After waiting years to attend one, this was my second consecutive ProgPower USA, and I must say that the entire experience is quite addicting.  There simply is no other experience quite like it.  Not only are the concert performances tremendous, but the entire atmosphere is like no other.  Not only do most of the performers spend time hanging out with fans, but so do other musicians who aren’t even performing.  Tom Englund of Evergrey, Michael Eriksen of Circus Maximus, Thomas Youngblood and Sean Sibbetts of Kamelot, Nick Van Dyk of Redemption, and Shawn Drover of Megadeth were all among the non-performing musicians who attended the concert as fans themselves and hung out with fans.  What might be better than listening to Jon Oliva sing?  How about chatting with him at the bar between sets?  Really, I saw no egos in any of the musicians hanging out with fans, and I for one love the atmosphere where the band members would rather chat with fans over a beer than hiding backstage.

WEDNESDAY – MIDWEEK MAYHEM:

This was the first year that I attended the Wednesday show.  Unlike the other nights, the Wednesday show is held upstairs in The Loft, which is a much smaller venue than Centerstage downstairs.  Unfortunately, I don’t care for this venue nearly as much.  It was crowded up front with a low stage that was on the far left side of the room.  It was also very hot and the merchandise tables are tucked into a tight corner that is somewhat difficult to access.

Vangough

The band to kick off the entire festival was Vangough.  I was really looking forward to this band.   They kicked things off with their set of dark, heavy prog. playing songs from all three of their albums.  Their singer-guitarist Clay Withrow was very entertaining to watch, often sticking out his tongue.  Although I enjoyed their set, for some reason it seemed that the mix might have been off, or maybe it just my position next to a speaker that made the sound appear off.  They were recording this show for a live CD, so it will be interesting to hear that when it comes out.

Theocracy

The second set of the festival was by Atlanta’s own Christian power metal band Theocracy.  I thought the mix was much better for Theocracy and I was impressed by their performance, especially that of singer Matt Smith. There were a lot of Theocracy fans at the show and they got a great response.

POS Wed

Rounding out Wednesday night was Pain of Salvation, who was playing the first of two sets at the festival.  In all honesty, I’m not a Pain of Salvation fan, so I really can’t tell you what they played, other than an unexpected cover of Kiss’s ‘Love Gun.”  Honestly, I was not planning on sticking around for their entire set, but I did.  Certainly not my favorite set of the weekend, but it didn’t drive me to the exit, so I guess you could say that I enjoyed them more than I expected.

THURSDAY – KICKOFF:

This was the day I was most excited for.  I am a huge Pagan’s Mind fan and a big fan of DGM as well, and both bands were recording their sets for release on DVD.

Draekon

The first band of the evening was Draekon, who was also the only band of the entire festival that I knew nothing about.  I have to admit that I really enjoyed their set of quality symphonic power metal, and I’ll be picking up their CD.

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The first big highlight of the festival came from DGM.  From the moment they took the stage launching into ‘Void’ and continuing with ‘Reason,’ I knew this would be a set to remember.  The sound was clean and perfectly mixed and band was simply on fire.  Mark Basile’s vocals were spot on and powerful, Simone Mularoni’s guitar playing was incredible (and I was right in front of him) and Fabio Costantino was probably the most amazing drummer of the festival.   Their 90 minute set seemed to fly by.  If there was any disappointment with the set, it might have been that Jorn Viggo Lofstad didn’t join the band for “Chaos” since he played on that song on the CD, but with Pagan’s Mind playing a 3 hour set, I suppose he can be excused.

Pagans Mind 2

Oh yeah, Pagan’s Mind playing a 3 hour set, this was the highlight of the festival for me.  I have been a huge Pagan’s Mind fan for years and have never had a chance to see them live.  I have even considered flying to Europe to see them, so when they announced that they were playing a 2.5 hour long set including all of “Celestial Entrance,” I was very excited and I knew I would be in for a very long year of waiting.  As the concert came closer we learned that they would be recording their set for a live DVD/BluRay and that the concert would be closer to 3 hours long.  Finally, they kicked off their set, performing “Celestial Entrance” in its entirety.  Within a minute of the beginning of “Through Osiris Eyes” I knew the wait was worth it.  The band sounded great and Nils K. Rue’s vocals were powerful and spot on.  Jorn Viggo Lofstad was right in front of me and his guitar playing was simply amazing.  He is truly one of the best guitarists on the planet, or any other planet for that matter.  The mix in concert included slightly more prominent keyboards from Ronny Tegner than are present on the studio recordings, which was actually an improvement over the original recordings.  The crowd simply ate up the performance as well.  Pagan’s Mind’s bass player Steinar Krokmo was a huge crowd favorite, and ate one point the crowd chanted “Steinar, Steinar, Steiner.”  After they completed Celestial Entrance,” the band took as short break and then returned with a “best of” set.  This set included “New World Order,” “Intermission,” “Enigmatic Mission,” “Live Your Life Like a Dream,” and a smoking cover of David Bowie’s “Hallo Spaceboy,” which they made their own.  The regular set closed out with Circus Maximus’ singer Michael Eriksen joining the band to sing on “Walk Away in Silence” and “Eyes of Fire.”  Finishing out the night they played “God’s Equation” and “United Alliance” for an encore.  It was a perfect night of music and I can’t wait to relive it again when the BluRay is released.

FRIDAY:

Need

The first band on Friday, which was the first day of the “main” festival, was Need from the Greece.  The venue was already packed by the 2 pm show time, and Need certainly didn’t disappoint everyone that came out early. Most of the set consisted of their latest album, was extremely tight, and sounded great.  They also announced before the show that they were recording the set for a DVD, and I for one will be picking up a copy.  The entire band showed a lot of energy and we couldn’t have asked for a better way to start oft the fest.  As a sidenote, Jon Oliva was wearing a Need shirt while hanging out with the fans, so it appears that I wasn’t the only one impressed with their set.

Orden Ogan 2

The second band on Friday was Germany’s Orden Ogan.  This was another one of the bands I was most looking forward to as I have been wearing out their last two releases over the last 3 years.  They are definitely a different band in the studio than they are in a live setting.  In the studio they are slick and polished.  On stage they are raw and dirty, and that’s not a bad thing.  This was one fun live band.  Dressed as warriors they took the stage and pounded there way through their setlist.  At one point they stated that they were used to a more brutal audience in Europe and to make them at home when they said “Hello my friends” we should answer back with “Fuck you pussies!” which we happily obliged, multiple times.

Leprous

The third band on Friday was Leprous. Until recently, I really didn’t know too much about this band.  I’d seen a few Youtube clips and was unimpressed, so I was originally planning on using this time for a dinner break. However, after having several friends stated their love for this band, I ended up picking up “Coal” and really enjoyed it.  So, with that I ended up catching their entire set and I enjoyed it.  Of particular interest was the singer/keyboardist who, while dressed in a suit and tie, did some full body headbanging.  It was quite the sight.  The band did a good portion of “Coal” as well as some older songs.  I have to admit that I enjoyed their set despite initially writing them off.

Overkill

Next up was Overkill.  Just a few years ago Overkill was a bucketlist band of mine as they rarely played the west coast, and they few times they did play either the date didn’t work out or the show would be cancelled.  That was a few years ago and things have changed.  I’ve now seen Overkill 4 times in the last couple years and they are always consistently great, but this show was the best I’ve seen them.  They played as if they had something to prove.  They were fast, aggressive, and had crystal clear sound with a perfect mix.  In my opinion, they were the set of the day.  Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth voice has changed over the years, but I find it better than it used to be.  It has developed a bit of character and fits the music perfectly.  And a character is what best describes Blitz.  At one point in the show he stated “This is the progressive version of Overkill, all refined and shit.”  At another part of the show he asked the crowd “Are we progressive enough for you?”  They were obviously having a great time, as was the crowd.  Even a small mash pit formed for their set. Even the prog snobs in the crowd seemed to have been won over.

Seventh Wonder

Next on the bill was Seventh Wonder, who were performing “Mercy Falls” in its entirety.  This set was also recorded for a live DVD.  The band appeared on stage all in matching white shirts and black pants and played through the entire album.  Although I did enjoy the set, there were a few things I didn’t like about it.  First of all, the mix was a bit off, which was kind of unusual for this festival where most of the mixes were near perfect.  Second, the “Mercy Falls” album has a number of dramatic connectors that piece the story together.  Parts such as the sounds of a car crash, sounds of the radio, conversations between “cast” members, etc.  These were all missing, and quit frankly the story doesn’t piece together well without them.  Only two parts of the story were “acted out.”  One at the beginning when a lady brought a candle on stage and the second at the end when the lady was sitting on stage pulling pedals off a flower.  If you weren’t familiar with the story already, there is no way you would have an understanding of this album from this set.  It will be interesting how the band handles this on the DVD.  I’m assuming they will add non-concert pieces in to connect the story between songs.  I do have to say that during this set there were a couple moments, most notably on “Tears for a Father,” where the band went silent and the entire crowd sang back the lyrics loud and clear.  Truly one of the greatest goosebump moments for any concert I’ve ever been to.  Seventh Wonder also played a second “greatest hits” set for VIPs and gold badge members on Saturday morning, which I unfortunately did not get to attend, although I heard from several attendees that it was even better than the “Mercy Falls” set.

Stratovarius 1

To finish off Friday night were Stratovarius.  By the time they took the stage it was near midnight, and it seems that many people decided to skip Stratovarius.  Well, they missed a great set.  I’ve seen Stratovarius several times and this was the best I’ve seen them; certainly the best and cleanest sound I’ve heard from them.  The played their “Visions” album in it’s entirety, which meant opening with the one-two punch of “Kiss of Judas” and “Black Diamond.”  The band didn’t move around as much as I’ve seen them do in the past, but given how perfect the sound was I’ll give them a pass on that.  After they completed playing the “Visions” album, they played “Under Flaming Skies,” “Dragons,” “Deep Unknown,” and “Eagleheart.”  For an encore they played “Unbreakable” and “Hunting High and Low.”  It was simply a superb set.  The show finally finished at 1:30 am, and it had been a long, fantastic 11.5 hour day of music.

SATURDAY:

Withem

The first band on Saturday was Norway’s Withem.  They were a few minutes late starting, but were still able to play 8 of the 9 songs on their debut CD.  They were really solid, with great vocals and one of the better drummers of the weekend.  Their singer doesn’t exactly look like a metal singer, but he certainly has the pipes.  At times it seems like he had picked up some of the mannerisms from fellow Norwegian singer Nils K. Rue, such as putting his hand on his chest to hit a high note.  It was a very solid enjoyable set.

Divided Multitude

The next band up was fellow Norwegian band Divided Multitude.  For some reason, their drummer had some kind of passport issue (not a visa issue) and was not able to board the plane to America.  To help them out were Frank Nordeng Røe of Withem, who played drums during the first half of their set, and Stian Kristoffersen of Pagan’s Mind, who played drums during the second half of their set.  To make things even more unusual, both drummers did a short drum solo.  Their set, even with the substitute drummers, still sounded great.  The setlist consisted mostly of songs from their “Feed on Your Misery” album such as “Esperanto,” “Scars” and “What I See,” as well as a completely smoking cover of Deep Purple’s “Perfect Strangers,” which included Michael Eriksen of Circus Maximus coming out to help on vocals.  Considering the circumstances, they put on a great set.  In fact, even without the drummer issue, it was still a great set.

Voodoo

Next up was Voodoo Circle.  If you aren’t familiar with Voodoo Circle, they are fronted by Pink Cream 69’s singer David Readman and features guitarist Alex Beyrodt (Primal Fear, Sinner, and Silent Force) and bassist Mat Sinner (Primal Fear and Sinner).  Together they play a bluesy style of hard rock that at times sound remarkably like Whitesnake.  I’d even go as far as to say that their most recent album, “More Than One Way Home,” sounds more like vintage Whitesnake than today’s Whitesnake itself.  David Readman’s vocals were fantastic, very much like David Coverdale in his prime.  Alex Beyrodt’s playing was fantastic as well.  After seeing Alex Beyrodt play in Primal Fear multiple times, his style in Voodoo Circle was very different, both musically and performance wise.  At times, he simply attacked his guitar playing it on his knees in an animated fashion.  The set went over very well with the crowd, although as with the two bands before them, a fair portion of the crowd had not yet arrived for some reason.

Masterplan

Next up was Masterplan.  Unfortunately, I missed a good portion of the Masterplan’s set as I was in the very slow moving meet and greet line for Seventh Wonder.  Although most of the meet and greet lines at the festival moved at a fairly reasonable pace, this line didn’t.  In fact, in total this line was over two hours.  While in line I could hear Masterplan’s set, and even where I was it sounded great.  Fortunately, the person I was chatting with in line offered to hold my place in line while I was able to catch some of Masterplan’s set.  I was also able to catch the last 1/3rd of the show uninterrupted after I finally got through the Seventh Wonder meet and greet line.  If I had to do this over again I should have blown off the meet and greet line all together, as Masterplan put on one of the better shows of the festival.  Rick Altzi was in fine voice, and quite honestly sounded just as good as if Jorn Lande was still singing in the band.  Their setlist leaned very heavily on Masterplan’s self-titled debut album, and only two songs were played off their latest album, Novum Initium.  Their set was filmed, so hopefully this show will be released in some form so I can see the parts that I missed.

POS Sat

After a very long break (with the festival running about an hour late at this point), Pain of Salvation finally took the stage.  As I previously mentioned, I’m not a big Pain of Salvation fan; however, this set was to consist of their performing “Remedy Lane” in its entirety, and I do in fact enjoy the “Remedy Lane” album.  When Pain of Salvation finally took the stage and started to play, a couple minutes into their set singer/guitarist Daniel Gildenlow stopped playing and said “This is crap!”  He then stated that there was something wrong with a monitor, there wasn’t enough smoke on stage and the curtain should have been closed.  They then left the stage and the crowd was then forced to wait even longer until they finally started the set again.  When they restarted their set there were no further issues, and they went on to perform a beautiful set.  About midway through their set, between songs, Daniel joked with the crowd by saying “Now we’re going to play something from a different album.”  Along with something like, “I guess we all know the setlist.”

JOP 2

The festival wrapped up with Jon Oliva’s Pain performing the entire Savatage “Streets” album in its entirety.  Although I’ve seen Savatage live, I’d never seen Jon Oliva’s Pain before and I have to admit that the set was quite different than I was expecting.  Since “Streets” is a pretty heavy emotional album, I was expecting it to be performed in a somewhat serious manner.  I was absolutely wrong about this.  Jon Oliva was playing this show in a tremendous amount of pain from broken ribs he got by tripping over his wife’s cat two days prior to the festival.  He explained that he was “wrapped up like a mummy” and was constantly calling for a delivery of vodka.  His set was filled with constant jokes and was quite funny.  He also may have been a bit drunk, although his singing and playing were spot on.  Later in the set he said the bandages were all bunched up like a rubber band and that it was making his boobs look bigger.  As far as the setlist, he opened with “Surrender,” “Of Rage and War,” “The Price You Pay,” and “Gutter Ballet,” prior to playing the “Streets” album all the way through.  At one point he complained that the setlist was hard to see, and he can’t be expected to remember the order of songs from the “Streets” album.  After all, he continued, “I’ve done a LOT of drugs since 1991.”  And he was correct; he couldn’t remember the order as he initially forgot “A Little Too Far,” although he played it at the end jokingly blaming his band for the mistake.  Even with all the joking, he was still able to evoke an emotional response, particularly when he played a beautiful, emotional version of “Believe.”  At one point he told the story of how he agreed to play “Streets.”  Apparently his drummer got him really drunk one evening and then told him that ProgPower USA’s producer Glenn Harveston called and wanted him to play streets in its entirety, and at that point he was so drunk he would have agreed to anything.  After the “Streets” album he played a scorching version of “Hall of the Mountain King” along with Need’s singer, “Temptation Revelation,” and finally “When the Crowds are Gone.”  It was another simply fantastic, albeit long 12+ hours of music that finished up after 2 am.

I can’t say enough about how much I enjoyed ProgPower USA.  It is far more than just a concert; instead, it is more like a group of friends with the same musical taste as you holding a party with bands that rarely play the USA.

The lineup for next year has already been announced and is as follows:

ProgPower USA XVI Roster:

September 9-12, 2015

WEDNESDAY roster: TBA

THURSDAY roster: D.C. Cooper – Dragonland – Almah

FRIDAY roster: Anathema – Falconer (Last Live Performance Ever) – Voyager – Morgana Lefay – Anubis Gate – Hibria

SATURDAY roster: Angra (performing “Holy Land”) – Royal Hunt (performing “Paradox”) – Riverside – Dynazty – Persefone – Helker

For further information:

http://progpowerusa.com

http://www.facebook.com/ProgPowerUSA

Category: Live Reviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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