The walls were set to rumble at the announcement that Jon Oliva, the mighty "Mountain King" would be returning to Brooklyn on September 16th with his band Pain. This "Metal Insurgence Tour" would be partnering him with Chris Caffery and Tim "Ripper" Owens. As everyone knows, Chris Caffery performed with Jon as a member of Savatage and Owens is currently the front man of Iced Earth. Combined this would prove to be a great night of Heavy Metal power.
Sea of Tranquility's Ken Pierce and Pete Pardo were on hand at the Brooklyn Music Terminal, and give their full take on the show!
Local talent Operatika and Brooklyn's own Gothic Knights would set off the night for this particular show. Operatika, who have recently set their demo recording Dream World on the world performed a very short set of only three songs. I am not sure what transpired but it could not have been fun for the band. Gothic Knights were up next and this would be the first time on stage for them in over a year. After the release of the Up From The Ashes CD, the group had split with LMP and also had some lineup changes. Even after so long an absence they sounded very good and it's nice to see Power Metal is not reserved as a European export. I look forward to seeing more from them in the near future.
Tim "Ripper" Owens
Ripper Owens was definitely taking a risky step with his new band Beyond Fear. As soon as they announced his appearance I was certain he would not perform any Judas Priest or Iced Earth so I was curious as to how he would come across. When he hit the stage with his very kick ass and heavy band my answers were handed to me very simply and very easily. Tim is a very impressive and imposing front man and whether this came to him in his early years as a tribute band singer or was natural ability that had been honed to perfection by Priest and Iced Earth is anyone's guess. The bottom line is that Ripper seems to rock no matter what group he is fronting and I watched in awe as he delivered tune after unknown tune and had the audience glued to his every word and gesture. It was not a usual occurrence in this day and age where audience members often stand unfazed glaring at the artist and daring them to impress them. It is my prediction that Beyond Fear will be one of the breakout bands of 2006 when we are treated to their debut CD on SPV Records. The only song the audience really knew when Ripper played was his medley of Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" and "Neon Knights". He did this really well and mixed them together just right. I also have to commend his players Dennis and John who walked around the bar after their exhausting set to chill with fans and people who wanted to talk about the band. Watch out for this group in 2006.
Chris Caffery would be up next and on his return from a short European tour was presenting not only some new material but also a new guitar player. Ira Black had come on board replacing Brandon Cook who worked the "It's All Good" appearances early in 2005. Ira joins Nick, Jeff, Paul and Chris to complete an already solid line up. When we last saw Chris he was promoting Faces his debut solo effort. Tonight Chris would perform a good amount of material from this CD as well as his newest release W.A.R.P.E.D.. For those that are unaware; a version of this CD was included with the Faces CD's and entitled God Damn War. I enjoy Chris's music very much for when he plays live his personality and sense of humor show very much during the set. He even joked that he had not played this club in 16 years and found out much of the place to be the same after all this time. He actually remembers the other club behind this one which was the original L'Amour's but it was funny just the same. Chris and his band are very energetic during the show and his material seemed to go over very well to the audience that was present. I would have liked to see Chris feature some later Savatage material in his numbers but that would not be the case tonight. Perhaps next time. Both of Chris' albums are available on Black Lotus Records.
Jon Oliva's Pain
SPV Recording Artist and Headliner Jon Oliva's Pain was now ready and the closer for the night. Originally I had heard reports from the various news feeds and even the venues that a mutual jam of Savatage classics would be performed after the Pain set had finished. When the shows began the case proved to be instead that Pain would perform almost 90% classic Savatage material. Since Jon Oliva is the leader of the group and the "voice" of all the Savatage classics, this essentially made Pain become the ultimate Savatage tribute band. I was not disappointed at all since those songs are special to me and so many other Metal heads. However I would have liked to hear more than two tracks from their killer release Tage Mahal. This is an excellent album for those that want the closest thing to that Savatage sound nowadays. The members of Pain are a tight unit and actually were the members of the band Circle II Circle before they all joined up with Oliva. C2C is fronted by Zack Stevens who replaced Jon in Savatage for the Edge Of Thorns to Wake Of Magellan recordings. Jon is definitely a unique front man who spent the evening either standing behind his microphone or sitting behind the piano. He joked about the heat and lights which was difficult to avoid that evening, and I think as a result he decided to not slow the set down for tracks like "Believe" and instead kept the music rocking straight through. Since that is one of my favorite 'Tage tunes I admit a little disappointment. Yet there was enough of the other classics for everyone to get into. I had seen Savatage a few times The audience who was smart enough to catch this show was treated well musically. This tour was not all that long and only hit select clubs and given the chance to hear all that Savatage music again, plus Ripper and Caffery's music was indeed a bonus. I think there were about 150 people in attendance for this evening's fun and I expected a lot more for these killer performers. The music fan in me can only say that a lot of people missed out and that did not need to be the case.
I did have some issues on the venue side this time around. Sadly the air conditioning blew that night and being an already sweltering day it made covering a long show arduous. Besides the uncomfortable heat it was also affecting the sound and lighting gear as that was showing signs of issue. These are all growing pains that can be overcome over the course of time in this new clubs life.
Let me reiterate what Ken touched on-there were many problems present on this night at the BMT. First off, the second you walked into the club you could tell there was a problem with the air conditioning, or lack of I should say. Band members were grumbling, the crowd was sparse, and tensions were high. Not what you would expect from a NYC area show featuring Jon Oliva, Chris Caffery, and Tim "Ripper" Owens. However, despite all the negative stuff that went on, the three bands were superb. Openers Operatika and The Gothic Knights played brief but solid sets of European styled power metal, both bands showing promise and hints of better things to come.
Tim "Ripper" Owens
Beyond Fear were the surprise hit of the day, and while most would not think that anything Ripper is involved in would be sub-par, I don't think most expected the virtual indestructible tsunami that was the music of Beyond Fear. This was heavy, evil sounding classic metal, with Ripper's powerful stage presence taking center stage amidst thundering guitar work and pounding rhythms. Not only was his band tight and impressive, but the songs themselves were just great metal songs, and how many times can you say that after hearing tunes for the first time? The crowd was in the palm of Ripper's hand throughout their set, and even after leaving them breathless with their original tunes, the band ripped into a killer Black Sabbath medley of "War Pigs" and "Neon Knights" that had the fans literally going beserk. You could tell the band were struggling with the heat and the lousy PA, but they handled it like professionals and finished their stellar set to a rousing applause. I expect big things from this band in 2006, and Owens should have a great year between that and the upcoming Iced Earth record.
Chris Caffery's Faces
By the time Chris Caffery and his band made it to the stage, a good portion of the crowd had already left the BMT. It could have been part to the late start time of the entire show, the heat, and the fact that Beyond Fear left the crowd exhausted and overheated. Regardless, those who left missed a solid set from the Savatage/TSO guitarist, who is really finding his niche as a solo artist. Playing songs from both his Faces and W.A.R.P.E.D. albums, Chris sounded strong behind the microphone and his guitar work as always was top notch. As with Beyond Fear, you could tell that Caffery and his band were having problems with the sound and the heat, but Chris' sense of humor downplayed the whole scenario, again showing his professionalism in turning a negative situation into a positive. Perhaps his closing "Pisses Me Off" was his way of ending his set with a bang, in more ways than one.
After a lengthy break, Jon Oliva's Pain took to the stage to a tiny crowd, but the band played nearly 90 minutes of classic Savatage and a few tunes off the 'Tage Mahal album. Despite the late hour and the sweltering heat, those who stuck around were treated to "Hounds", "Hall of the Mountain King", "Gutter Ballet", "Sirens", and many more Savatage staples. While it would have been great to see this legend playing these songs in front of a packed house, the performances of the band was killer.
In summary, the BMT needs to do some work to make it an accomodating venue for the performers and fans alike. Growing pains are part of any new venture, and I'm sure with a little re-tooling the BMT can be a popular venue for many kinds of metal shows in the future. As for the bands, I say kudos for working through a rough situation and making the best of it.
Chris Caffery Set List:
Edge of Darkness
State of the Head
Pisses Me Off
Jon Oliva's Pain Set List:
New York City
All the Time
Ghost In The Ruins
Believe – not played
City Beneath The Surface
Power Of The Night
Hall Of The Mountain King
Official Web site: www.JonOliva.net
Official Web site: www.ChrisCaffery.com
Official Web site: www.TimRipperOwens.com