November 23rd, 2013 – Webster Hall, New York, NY
“I know it’s getting late…but here we are, here we are…” – “A Pleasant Shade of Gray, Part 6”
It was teeth-chattering windy and below freezing on East 11th St, and yet there I was, outside Webster Hall, standing only a few yards from Ray Alder, who was enjoying a cigarette and finishing a call on his cell phone. Politeness dictated that I not interrupt, even if it was just to shake his hand and tell him to have a great show.
Neither he nor the rest of his band needed my encouragement. Fates Warning put on an impressive show of progressive metal on the strength of its first album of new material in nearly a decade.
For once, I wasn’t attending a show solo: a friend was joining me for his first proper metal concert, and he was blown away by the evening’s celebration of prog metal greatness.
“I was in the zone from about…uh…30 seconds into the first song!” he exclaimed later. Success achieved.
1. One Thousand Fires
2. Life In Still Water
4. A Pleasant Shade of Gray, Part III
5. Another Perfect Day
6. A Pleasant Shade of Gray, Part VI
7. Pieces of Me
8. I Am
9. The Eleventh Hour
10. Point of View
12. Through Different Eyes
13. A Pleasant Shade of Gray, Part XI
15. Still Remains
Fates Warning sampled five different albums in the first five songs of the night, a tribute to the depth and quality of their catalog. It was a fine, hot start, and it gave me the opportunity to appreciate one of the best things about Webster Hall: the quality of its sound engineering, systems and mixing. Granted, if you know the songs well enough it shouldn’t matter, but the audio crew here did its job with aplomb. Every band member had the perfect amount of presence.
I quickly pointed out those band members for my buddy: the pensive, shaggy-haired Jim Matheos on stage right, who wrote most of the songs; Frank Aresti on stage left, who contributed so many of the searing guitar leads; bassist Joey Vera, who stood slightly behind and to the right of centerstage singer Ray Alder; Bobby Jarzombek manning the drums with deadly-serious focus.
It blew my mind that the club-goers in the main stage area a couple of floors above us were likely unaware of the wondrous sounds on this cramped stage right below them. Fates Warning left us no doubt at all why they had played together for 30 years–the bands live execution was flawless. From the thrash influences that popped up throughout their career, to the more atmospheric and ambient sections from A Pleasant Shade of Gray and Disconnected, to the trio of hits that formed the shows final moments, the audience was fully engaged and into it.
My friend could not contain his enthusiasm: “That bass player looks like he’s on another planet! This is great!”
It would have been even more phenomenal to hear the final song, “Still Remains,” in its full 16-minute glory rather than the shortened version. And it would have been cool to hear this active crowd of 200 sing “Eye to Eye.” But they couldn’t, and it was due to my one complaint of the night: venue policy for the Studio is that acts have to be offstage by 11pm. It was a thrilling hour and a half of music, don’t get me wrong–but that is NOT enough time for a band of Fates Warning’s caliber to be onstage. Another eight songs could have been added to the setlist and everyone would have stuck around!
But the band made the most of it. “I gotta be honest, I was NOT expecting this at all!” said a visibly surprised Ray Alder, who was impressed with the crowds energy.
Ah, but WE certainly did, Ray.
On the way out of the venue, I allowed myself a moment of elitism and shouted to the line of freezing club-goers outside waiting to get in: “You’re too late guys; the good music already left!”
Written by Matt P