A Night on the 'Streets'
The ProgPower show was running very late by the time headlining band, Jon Oliva's Pain, adorned the stage. The band had their work cut out to try and convince the crowd not only to stay and miss their train/bus/lift home but also follow the awesome performance by the worshipped Kamelot. The crowd were tired, weary and irritable and it seemed an age before the band flopped into the average 'Warriors'. Plucked from Savatage's 'Power of the Night' album, 'Warriors' isn't the strongest of Savatage songs and was a weak opener but as a 'get the sound levels right' track it worked perfectly as the atmosphere completely changed the second the band blasted into the timeless 'Sirens'.
It was clear that Jon Oliva and his new pals were going to plunder the gems in Savatage's impressive back catalogue as well as pilfer the cream from their new album 'Manical Renderings.' After Sirens and the title track from the new album Jon admitted to the crowd that he'd fallen off the tour bus and seriously damaged his knee. This was evident as he spent most of the gig sat behind his electric piano grimacing in pain as well as delivering the passionate and subtle vocals lines that only he can. The man is a colossus in every sense of the word, and even sat behind an electric piano he graced the ProgPower audience with his charm, charisma and sincerity.
I was a huge Savatage fan in my youth even to the point of spending a fair chunk of my grant money to go to London's Marquee Club to see them and Vicious Rumors on the 'Streets' tour (as well as spending a cold November's night on Paddington Station). That night holds dear memories for me as well as the 'Streets' album itself which got me through some difficult times and to hear Jon announce that the band were going to play an abridged version of the album was a heart warming surprise. 'Jesus Saves' rocked the crowd, 'Tonight he grins again' showed us Jon's mettle and 'Believe', perhaps one of music's greatest ever ballads, made us cry.
Jon was in good voice managing to use his falsetto scream whilst sat down playing his keyboard. The wonderfully un-charismatic guitarist Matt LaPorte backed him up superbly. Although it looked like he wasn't enjoying himself, in fact his technical problems perhaps niggled him a little, Matt gave one hell of a performance. His hand movement is messy but his picking is clean, precise and a joy to watch. His ability to mimic/respect Criss Oliva's style and guitar lines is frightening and a fitting tribute to the guitar virtuoso.
The overly long 'End Times' from the new album killed the pace somewhat when 'No Escape' or '24 Hours ago' would've created a little more fervour in the audience, however it only took 'Edge of Thorns' and the anthemic 'Gutter Ballet' to satisfy the crowd. 'Hall of the Mountain' served as the only encore but on the night it was just enough. The band finished 75 minutes after their scheduled finishing time but most of us didn't care, it's not often the UK is blessed by Jon's presence and the crowd would've stayed until the early hours if they had to. A great show, a great set and a frank reminder of how much of a class act Savatage were and still is within the hearts of Jon Oliva's Pain. I hope Jon comes back to the UK soon.