Planet X, June 4th 2000
013, Tilburg, The Netherlands
By Derk van Mourik
The last Dutch date on the tour brought Planet X to 013 in Tilburg. Since it was first opened a couple of years back (replacing the old Noorderligt theatre), this venue has quickly become one of the finest in the country. Especially the large hall is very good. However, Planet X's popularity is not yet big enough to make playing in the big hall feasible, so they had to make do with the smaller hall. This hall can hold up to about two hundred people, and I'd say it was filled to three fourths of its capacity this night.
There was no support act this night (as there was on the other dates on this tour), because Planet X decided that there simply wasn't enough room on stage to fit in two bands' equipment. I could understand this decision, because the five meter wide by three meter deep stage was very crowded, with Virgil Donati's drumkit and Derek Sherinian's keyboard setup, leaving only just enough room for Tony MacAlpine and Dave LaRue to maneuver around in.
When the band entered the stage around nine o'clock and set in with a track from the second album Universe (or first, depending on your perspective), it became immediately clear that this was going to be heavy and loud. I had expected as much, because I had heard Universe a few times before the gig, and that album is a lot heavier than its predecessor is. I don't know if it was to make up for the fact that they had a lot less space on stage than the others, but MacAlpine's guitar and LaRue's bass were very high in the mix, and at times, as sadly happens so often, they completely drowned out Derek Sherinians keyboards. Luckily, this didn't happen too often, but still, when the guitar took the lead, the keyboards could hardly be heard, but when it was the other way around, and the keys took the lead, the sound balance was much better. If I can hear that, why can't the guy at the mixing desk? But maybe I'm over simplifying things.
Anyway, MacAlpine was anxious to show who was the new guitar player in the band, and he did a good job of it. He can play fast and furious, like during his guitar solo halfway in the set. But when Sherinian rejoined him to support on keys, he also delivered a very soulful piece, demonstrating that his repertoire is varied. Sherinian on the other hand, with the characteristic sunglasses perched on his forehead, did not set himself up as the leader of the band, which is in spirit with the fact that he turned his solo outfit into a full band. His style of playing is as characteristic as the sunglasses, using lots of pitch and bend, and at times making his keys sound just like a guitar, which resulted into some great duets with MacAlpine.
Dave LaRue proved his worth by being a sober but solid bass player. It takes something to be able to play Planet X's complex material but he seemed not to have any trouble with it at all. Indeed, there was room for some bass solos, during which he produced the most difficult licks, while staying completely unperturbed through it all. Great stuff! His companion on the rhythm section, Virgil Donati, remained more on the background, staunchly delivering his fills, while not trying to overdeliver. He got the chance to do more outrageous things during the inevitable drum solo. While I'm not a fan of drum solos in general, I must say that I was very impressed with Donati's performance. Incredibly fast and accurate, and he also played some rhythms solely with the drumsticks, which I at least had never seen anyone do before. At the end he threw his drumsticks into the audience, nearly hitting Sherinian, who had come back on stage to praise him!
The main set ended rather abruptly after about an hour and twenty minutes. The band just stopped playing, said their goodbyes and left the stage! The band came back for a lengthy encore, consisting of improvisations, with bits of music from both CDs thrown in. LaRue gave another bass solo, very jazzy, with some great tapping. MacAlpine and Sherinian brought the gig to its end with an astounding duel between guitar and keys. Very impressive!
All in all this was a good gig by a bunch of very talented musicians, who formed a tight unit. Too bad the gig lasted only just ninety minutes, but I guess they just were out of material at the end of it. Planet X's stage presence is alright, although I had expected Sherinian to be a bit more active, him being called the Caligula of the keyboards and all. Still, Planet X is clearly a force to be reckoned with.
Derek Sherinian - Keys
Virgil Donati - Drums
Tony MacAlpine - Guitars
Dave LaRue - Bass