After Forever, Pendragon, Porcupine Tree,
Savatage, Threshold, Vengeance
July 14th 2001, Bospop, Weert, The Netherlands
By Jan-Jaap de Haan
The following is not exactly a review of Bospop, but more a collection of impressions of this festival, which featured -among many other acts- prog-acts like Pendragon, Porcupine Tree and Threshold, as well as a couple of (prog)metal acts like Savatage aand After Forever. The latter featured Arjen "Ayreon" Lucassen for a guest spot on one song.
The main theme of the day was "rain" which isn't adding to the atmosphere of an outdoor festival like Bospop, but fortunately most of the bands I wanted to see were playing in the "Rock-tent", starting with Porcupine Tree at 15:00. Steve Wilson and his mates managed to perform an impressive one-hour set, except for one track (Up the Downstair) focusing on their last two albums, Stupid Dream and Lightbulb Sun. From their opening track Even Less until Hatesong (a parody on Girl and Boybands) the band played tight and the sound was good. Although their stage-performance could have been a bit more exiting, I'm certainly going to see them again.
After some eating, shopping around (without buying anything - interesting bootlegs are really rare these days) and meeting progfans from all over Europe, I visited the last part of Vengeance's show. This Dutch hard-rock group, -featuring Leon Goewie (of Ayreon) on vocals- once was the band of Arjen Lucassen, but I couldn't imagine him playing in this group. Although they delivered a tight and convincing act, they are much too straightforward (and loud) for my taste: typical '80's hardrock. Their rendition of (a part of) Saturday Night (by Dutch Rock 'n Roll Junky Herman Brood, who died the week before) was a received very well.
At 17:45 I had to go out in the rain again, since Pendragon were to play on the main stage. As Nick Barrett admitted himself, in between Paradise Lost, Living Colour, Savatage and Megadeth, they were the light-weights of the day in more than one way. For me they were one of the highlights. Playing together for the first time in a long time, they weren't as tight as they could have been, but Nick Barrett and his gang brought us an interesting mixture of very old (Black Knight) and very new (Man of Nomadic Trails) songs. Unfortunately rain, thunder and lightning didn't help creating an uplifting atmosphere (I think they had the impression they played for an assembled crowd of umbrellas). Towards the end the faster parts of Master of Illusion and Nostradamus (Stargazing) got people jumping and singing along, which created a fine atmosphere and a warm feeling in my body.
I had to run back to the rock-tent to see the final 3-quarters of an hour by Threshold, who started already when Pendragon played (personally I think this was a mistake from the organization, who should have known that many prog-fans like both bands. Threshold's sound was good -with a fine balance between guitars and keyboards, as was their set. They presented a set, compiled from the majority of their albums, with the exception of Extinct Instinct. Paradox from their first album, Wounded Land, was a great finale to their set.
I'm still a bit puzzled about the performance of singer Mac. I couldn't help but finding this man's performance annoying. I don't think he's a bad singer (although he can't reach the heights of Damian Wilson) but his behavior on stage distracted from the music. He was lying on the floor, giggling himself trough the lyrics (while forgetting other parts of them), and climbing into the lighttowers ("what am I doing here, this is high!"). I was told this is more or less his "normal" behavior, but it to me it seemed like he was drunk and showing no respect to the audience or his band-mates. A pity, since I think the rest of the band and their music deserve a better treatment. Apparently, this man must have 'lovers' and 'haters' of his extraordinary performance in the audience.
>The evening program featured Apocalyptica, Savatage, After Forever and Megadeth. Apocalyptica is a Finnish quartet of 4 guys playing hard-core metal on cello. Although I really like this original approach, I though one hour of instrumental metal was a bit too much. Their sound wasn't always great and their compositions weren't always very structured. Their annoying behavior in between the tracks "this is a mother f*cking, f*ck,f*ck, etc" didn't help taking them serious. Highlights were very interesting covers of Enter Sandman and Nothing Else Matters from Metallica. Whether this was the result of the fact that I knew these songs, or just that these are better songs, I don't know.
Savatage underwent another line-up change with their last album Poets and Madman. With a new singer on board, they delivered a good, fast and tight set. Founder, ex-singer and keyboardist Jon Oliva still is the leader of the band, but the new singer, Damond Jiniya convinced most of the Savatage-fans I met. Looking at the T-shirts, most people came to see this band. I'm not familiar with their music, but I know this band is regarded as a prog-metal band by some prog-fans. Personally I don't agree. Savatage is just a metal band. Maybe they do play an intelligent type of metal, but it still is metal to me. The occasional slower piano-introduction to the songs, doesn't make their music progressive. But this is not the place to discuss that topic. All I can say about them, is that their performance was hard (some said harder than on their records) and tight, which I think is right for a metal-band.
The final band (for me, at least) was After Forever. This is another Dutch metal band combining heavy guitars, grunt-vocals with high female vocals resulting an something which can best be described as symphonic goth-metal. The Gathering started this 'genre' about 10 years ago and since then Within Temptation, Nightwish and After Forever followed. The band -currently in studio- played most of their debut-album as well as some promising new material. I have to say that Floor Jansen has an excellent voice and is a very impressive stage-personality. To be honest, I think her looks help as well to get a crowd enthusiastic ;-). I also liked the role of the keyboards in the band's compositions, which is more prominent than with e.g. The Gathering. The grunts on the other hand, I didn't like at all. Also, I think the presentation of the rest of the band did not reach the level of their front-woman's. I don't criticize their musical achievements here, but more the somewhat depressed and introspective performance. This changed when Arjen Lucassen joined the band for one track. His presence was uplifting and received with enthusiasm. He ran around, playing brilliant solos, making contact with the audience. This is someone you can't get your eyes off. The other guest was Arjen's Ambeon partner Astrid van der Veen, who also joined for one track. Regrettably there were major troubles with the sound-system, which makes it difficult to judge her performance. Her stage presence still has to grow, but what could you expect from a 15-year old?? Itís clear that both After Forever and Van der Veen have lot of potential.
After one unexpected encore, I caught a bit of Megadeth and went to my tent, where I fell asleep hearing the last notes of Peace Sells, But Who's Buying. Despite the rain, I had a great day with two great prog-acts (Porcupine Tree and Pendragon) and Threshold and After Forever as 'runner up'.
Slave Called Shiver
Up the Downstair
Last Chance to Evacuate Planet Eart Before it is Recycled
The Walls Of Babylon
A Man Of Nomadic Traits
The Black Knight
Masters Of Illusion
The Ravages of Time
The Latent Gene
Light and Space
Mea Culpa (intro)
Semblance of Confusion
Plegde of Alliance 1# (new)
Monolith of Doubt (new)
Silence from Afar
Yield to Temptation
Black Tomb (encore)