GIG REVIEW: An Evening With FATES WARNING Live at Buffalo Iron Works, NY
During a brief span of clear weather, a collection of progressive metal fans gathered at Buffalo Iron Works in Buffalo NY to see the long awaited return of prog metal icons, Fates Warning. A special occasion for this audience member because 16 years ago, my metal concert journey began by seeing Fates Warning open for my favorite band at the time Savatage in the spring of 2001 at a dive bar in Niagara Falls. I was not impressed by them in the slightest. Truth be told, I told everyone I knew that I thought someone must have been standing backstage holding them at gunpoint to make them play, they seemed so disinterested. But many years, and even more shows have passed since then, I was looking forward to see them once again; with more mature ears, and an appreciation for the newest album ‘Theories of Flight’. I was not disappointed.
There were only two bands on the bill for this tour and the first band was Infinite Spectrum from NYC. They play a dramatic form of prog metal, not dissimilar to Symphony X, or even a less flashy Dream Theater. They focused on their new concept album ‘Haunter of the Dark’ based on the short story of horror maestro H.P. Lovecraft. Now Lovecraft happens to be one of my all time favorite authors, so upon learning the concept I was looking forward to seeing them live. After doing so I strongly suggest that any Fates Warning fan who is thinking about skipping the opening act to not do so. They were easily the most enjoyable opening band I’ve seen in quite a while. The music is heavy, in the classic prog metal sense, and certainly technical, but they’re not trying to run you over with it. The focus of everything they do is clearly on the story they’re telling, and while they don’t capture the darkness and terror of Lovecraft as well as some extreme bands, they are very respectful of the story and the music and vocals fit together very well. Sadly they were marred by some technical difficulties, and they keyboards were inaudible often. Thankfully everything was working perfectly on what was the highlight of the set, when they played the title track of the album. The playing, and music of the lengthy instrumental section was absolutely stunning, and the crowd very appreciative at the end of their brisk 45 minute set. I hope this fairly young band sticks around, because they have a bright future.
At 9:15 Fates Warning hit the stage to great applause and launched into “From the Rooftops”, the opening track from their new album. From the beginning I could sense the feelings of my younger self had been very far off, and too critical. The band has an energy, and power that is palatable, and while they’re still not very animated in their presence on stage, particularly that of guitarist Jim Matheos, and vocalist Ray Alder cannot be denied. I was especially pleased with Alder’s vocals that I have in the past thought to be a bit over the top. In a live setting they are much better rounded, and the higher edges that annoyed me in the past were a bit rougher, and so more enjoyable.
The show progressed through the evening and the band covered the full gauntlet of their catalogue, playing much older material alongside the new. Like the opening they were plagued by technical issues throughout the first few songs, bit things were eventually ironed out. I was extremely excited to hear them play a section of their album/song ‘A Pleasant Shade of Grey’ which happens to be my favorite thing the band has done, so hearing part of it was a real treat. It was shortly after that, that they took the time to chat with the crowd, and they mentioned that they were trying to remember the last time they had played in Buffalo. The crowd was very enthusiastic at telling them just how long it had been. And as things turned out, the last time they were in town was the very show I saw them at. Funny how things work. They moved directly into “Seven Stars” another rocker from their new album. And as I noticed from the start the band is considerably heavier, and louder live than they are in the studio. Now this is very often the case, but since their albums are recorded in a rather subdued manner (even the heaviest parts) it was much more noticeable at tonight’s show.
They show lasted the better part of an hour and a half before a brief pause leading to the two song encore. They delved back to their past in choosing “Through Different Eyes” and finally “Monument” both of which showed themselves to be long time fan favorites. And I have to say it was rather refreshing to attend a metal show with a wide range of fans, from newer, younger fans, to people who had clearly been listening to them since the 80’s. And some of the clothing looked nearly that old as well. There was also a total absence of mosh pits, which while not surprising given the music was nevertheless fantastic not to have to deal with.
At the end of the evening the crowd had been treated to two and half hours of excellent, and brilliantly performed progressive metal. The tour has a long way to go before being completed, so fans would be wise to do whatever they can to make it to one of the shows. Actually any fan of progressive metal, or even classic metal in general will be in for a real treat if they attend. Fates Warning and Infinite Spectrum are putting on a show that shouldn’t be missed.