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ConcertsProgressive Nation Tour Rolls into Asbury Park, NJ 8/7/2009

Posted on Sunday, August 30 2009 @ 09:06:39 CDT by Pete Pardo
Progressive Metal

Dream Theater assembled the second year of the Progressive Nation Tour here in the US, originally set with Zappa Plays Zappa, Beardfish, and Pain of Salvation, but due to the recent troubles of record label SPV/InsideOut, the latter two bands were not able to get the tour funding to join this years trek. Taking their place at the eleventh hour were Bigelf (fresh off their spot on the European leg of the tour) and the young instrumental outfit Scale the Summit. Sea of Tranquility Publisher Pete Pardo made his way down to the Asbury Park Convention Center in Asbury Park, New Jersey for the August 7th gig of the tour, and brings this full show review.

This was my first trip to Asbury Park, and though the Convention Center is basically an oversized auditorium, it's so fan friendly that it made for a great experience. Set at the end of the boarwalk right on the beach, the venue is in the middle of a stunning backdrop with lots to do. Whether you wanted to lay out on the beach and go swimming prior to the show, or lounge at one of the many eateries and bars, there was no shortage of activities.

Scale the Summit-if you haven't heard the Prosthetic Records debut from these West Coast youngsters, Carving Desert Canyons, then you are missing out on something really special. Listening to this band, you'd be hard pressed to realize that they are all barely out of their teens, their commanding blend of metal, jazz, and prog coming across like a batch of road tested veterans. With a venue half filled when they took the stage in Asbury Park, they had the full attention of those in attendance, their intoxicating instrumental attack catching the eyes and ears of the sparse crowd and drawing plenty of applause and cheers. Somewhat like a mix of King Crimson, Liquid Tension Experiment, Planet X, and Cynic, Scale the Summit's music weaved, pounded, and slithered through a near 40 minute set that showed a band with plenty of promise for greatness in the years to come. Chatting with the band after their set, they were extremely happy to be on this tour, as not only are they playing with their heroes Dream Theater but also getting a chance to display their music to fans who otherwise might not have had the chance to check out their debut CD. Keep an eye on this band.

Bigelf-hard to believe it's been over a decade since I first started enjoying the music of this unique band, and basically that same amount of time since lead singer/keyboard player Damon Fox and I first spoke, back when this website was a print magazine. For those unfamiliar, Bigelf hail from California, yet make most of their money playing in Scandinavia in front of crowds who fully 'get' and appreciate their music. The music...well, it's a odd mix of The Beatles, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Atomic Rooster, Queen, The Move, Uriah Heep, and Pink Floyd. Sound eclectic? You bet. Live, the band's blending of heavy guitars, catchy hooks, vintage keyboards (Mellotron, Moog, Hammond), and psychedelic themes really works, and despite the muddy mix at the Convention Center, the crowd really took to them after not really knowing what to expect when these rather 'trippy' fellows with bellbottoms, top hat, and sunglasses came to the stage. Playing selections from most of their past and recent releases, it was hard for them to really dig in deep into their back catalog given the short set time, but tunes like "Money, It's Pure Evil" and "Disappear" really showed the heart and soul of this band, and an old piece such as "Neuropsychopathic Eye" displayed their ability to channel the 70's elements quite nicely. Throw in some huge Hammond & Mellotron passages from Fox, and lots of Dave Gilmour styled guitar work, and you have a winner of a set from a band that hopefully we will see more of here in the US in years to come. According to Fox, the band is hoping that this tour will give them the exposure here so they can get in more live dates in the future. Let's hope so.

Zappa Plays Zappa-let's get right down to it...this was a great set. For someone who has been a big Frank Zappa fan for a long time, but never got to see the legend before he passed away, this was like the next best thing. Frank's son Dweezil is a hell of a guitar player, and he's assembled a hot band here to recreate his father's music. "Inca Roads", "Carolina Hard Core Ecstasy", "Willie the Pimp", "Echidna's Arf (In You)"...yep, it was all here and then some. By this time, the Convention Center was starting to get filled (though it would never reach more than 3/4 capacity the entire evening) and everyone was dancing, singing, and just grooving to the Zappa classics on display. Guitars, horns, keyboards, bass, drums, percussion, male & female vocals, all the necessary components needed to bring Frank Zappa's music to life. Even the humor, courtesy of the conductor Dweezil, was ever present. If you've not had the chance to see Zappa Plays Zappa yet, make sure the next time they roll into town you do so. You won't regret it.

Dream Theater-I've now seen Dream Theater live more than any other band, and there's a reason I don't hesitate to go each and every tour, sometimes multiple times per tour. These guys play a different set list just about every night, so you never quite know what to expect. Not content to just hammer out the same old same old, Dream Theater consistently digs out treasures from the catalog, and mix them with the new material, so each show is fresh and exciting for the fans. This night would be no different, and though they only played a 90 minute set, old tunes not heard in a while like "Voices", "Erotomania", and "Solitary Shell" combined with newer numbers such as "The Count of Tuscany", "A Nightmare to Remember", "A Rite of Passage" and "In the Name of God" to create a stunning as always night with Dream Theater. Great to hear just how loud and into the set the fans where, despite the smallish crowd. Though there were probably less than 2000 people in the house, you would have sworn that there were 5000 or more judging by the noise everyone was making. The sound mix by this time was much better than earlier in the evening, James LaBrie at center stage really sounding strong alongside comrades Petrucci, Myung, Rudess, and Portnoy. As the closing notes of the epic encore "The Count of Tuscany" came to an end, the fans were once again treated to a great night of music on this second Progressive Nation jaunt. Next year? I'll be there!

Pete Pardo

Bigelf Setlist
The Evils of Rock & Roll
Neuropsychopathic Eye
Pain Killers
Money, It's Pure Evil

Zappa Plays Zappa Setlist
Carolina Hard Core Ecstasy
The Purple Lagoon
Village Of The Sun
Echidna's Arf (Of You)
Magic Fingers
Inca Roads
Bamboozled By Love
Pound For A Brown
Willie The Pimp

Dream Theater Setlist
A Nightmare To Remember
A Rite Of Passage
Beyond This Life
Solitary Shell-extended improv
In The Name Of God
The Count Of Tuscany

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