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SYMPHONY X/Shadowkeep -
Mean Fiddler, London 18 October 2003
Earlier in the year, while supporting Stratovarius at the Camden
Electric Ballroom, Symphony X seemed rather surprised at the warmth
of the crowd's reaction to their set and I remember singer Russell
Allen declaring "We'll be back". Its something that you hear band's
say quite a lot, but one is never quite sure whether it will happen or not. Anyway 6 months or so
later they were back and as headliners too.
Support came from Shadowkeep, big fans of the headliners and they got
the gig off to a very early start. It was 6:20PM no less when they
hit the stage and the venue was still filling up. While I have their first EP and
1st Album, I do not own a copy of Chaos Genesis, their second album
on the German label LMP, from which most of their material was
culled, so I have to admit that the only song I recognized was the set closer 'Dark Tower'.
The line-up featured new vocalist Ronnie Stixx and bassist Frederick
Englund for only the 4th time in the UK and while musically they
seemed quite proficient, they didn't quite 'click' with me. Their sound seems too
centred in the 80s, (think early 80s Queensryche and Judas Priest)
and the solos never raise the songs above the merely ordinary. However the growing
crowd seemed to enjoy them and even brought them back for an encore.
After a 30 minute break, during which the Mean Fiddler staff played
the same song over the PA 4 times in a row, Symphony X hit the stage
to loud cheers - particularly from the contingent of largely foreign visitors who
crowded around the stage. They began with the two opening songs from
their awesome 'The Odyssey' disk; both heavy and aggressive they really kick-start
the show, with larger than life frontman Russell Allen giving a
stunning demonstration of his lung power during 'Wicked'.
"Good Evening Everybody" bellowed Allen, "I hope that you are all in
a good mood tonight". Of course we were, and I for one felt even
better as the band moved through 'Evolution' and 'Communion' from their previous studio
effort 'V'. Though I love the fluid yet crunchy guitar of virtuoso Michael
Romeo, I also adore the keyboards of Michael Pinella and they had
been cruelly hidden in the mix during the opening songs. Here at last their full beauty
was released, with perhaps the two finest movements from the long
concept piece,which the crowd sang lustily along to. 'Communion' in particular is
one of those songs which can be guaranteed to produce goosebumps. By
this stage some of the young females on the balcony had caught the roving eye of
Mr Allan and when he wasn't belting out the vocals stage front, he was
serenading his female admirers :)
The crowd also loved 'King of Terrors', but seemed unfamiliar with
the older 'Out of the Ashes' from 'The Divine Wings of Tragedy'.
However there were no problems in recognizing 'The Accolade' from the same album as Russ
introduced "two songs linked - about a crusade". This was followed by
the even more enchanting 'The Accolade II' from 'The Odyssey' album
featuring delightful solos from both Pinella and Romeo - really
The crowd's energy level seemed to dip a little during 'Smoke and
Mirrors' and 'Sea of Lies' and the audience were rather taken aback as Russ
then announced that 'Of Sins and Shadows' was going to be the final
number. "Yeah right", I thought as the time was barely 8:45PM. Nevertheless the
band filed off stage when the number came to an end.
The audience certainly weren't in the mood to let things end there and
called very enthusiastically for the band's return. First Russ
appeared and gave us a quick resume of his time in London as a tourist before he
welcomed the other guys back on stage, one by one, each introduced to
"Let's go back to Ancient Greece", he declared, introducing the
inevitable 'Odyssey' which made an awesome 25 minute long encore. It
wasn't flawless, since they seemed to screw up the end, but what the
hell, it was great to hear it again - as I had thought that its
performance in Atlanta was going to be a one-off.
So, all in all a very good start to the European tour, not sold-out
by any means, but a good healthy 500+ audience I think - even if a
good number of that seemed to have come across the channel on the
Eurostar. T-shirt sales were very good too.
Setlist: Inferno / Wicked / Evolution / Communion and the Oracle /
King Of Terrors / Out of Ashes / The Accolade / Accolade II / Smoke and
Mirrors /Sea of Lies / Of Sins and Shadows
Encore: The Odyssey
Review: Charlie Farrell