It’s no secret I’ve been waiting for this band for a while. In 2010, it was announced that the band would undertake a European tour focused on their first non-Christmas effort, Beethoven’s Last Night. The story goes that the night Beethoven dies, he’s visited by Mephistopheles, along with the muses Twist and Fate. Satan tries to con him out of his soul, before trying to steal his music and emotionally blackmailing him. It all turns out good, as Fate does the old switcheroo on the devil, before revealing he’s a compulsive liar with time on his hands. I digress.
The devilish Jeff Scott Soto
As the show begins, it’s clear that TSO have brought everything they can with them to Europe. While there’s not the full stadium show, the scaled down stage is still nothing short of breathtaking, and as the intro begins as the band takes it’s place, a monstrous rendition of The Fifth Symphony explodes as lasers and fire light up the venue all at once. The band’s producer, Paul O’Neill has his mind firmly entrenched in the grandiosity of the 1980s in regards to the show, and everything that can be taken over the top is. The core band, made up of most of Savatage, look perfectly at home with the pandemonium behind them as they sail through bombastic orchestral pieces, Chris Caffery taking centre stage with an excerpt of Flight of the Bumblebee and getting the audience on it’s feet for the first time that night.
Andrew Ross & Rob Evan
The rest of the cast are the cream of the crop from both TSO East and West; Bryan Hicks as the marvellously camp narrator, taking on the characters of the story in his monologues. The names of many of the singers are lost to me, but Jeff Scott Soto cameos as Mephistopheles, as well as the stunning Chloe Lowery who takes on Patti Russo’s role as Terese with horrifying ease, her voice laced with sadness in Dreams of Candlelight.
It’s evident how much work as gone into creating this kind of show. The classical section is led by virtuoso violist Roddy Chong who matches Al Pitrelli and Chris Caffery on instrumentals as notes fly through the air. It seems that everyone gets a turn at lead vocals, as yet another gorgeous blond steps forward to take Zach Steven’s place in a soulful and captivating rendition of The Dark.
The ‘tage boys kick it up a notch.
As the final notes of A Final Dream fade into a raucous standing ovation, Al Pitrelli steps forward and announces “It’s time to have some fun”. Having already loosened his fingers on Mozart & Memories, the focus shifts to a much heavier, guitar driven sound. The Savatage fans lap it up, as The Mountain begins, before Paul O’Neill makes himself known and previews a song from the upcoming Gutter Ballet musical, with the eighteen year old Kayla Reeves who’s timid, haunting voice roars into life with a cover of The Beatles’ Help! before storming into The Child Unseen, which lends heavily to NYC Don’t Mean Nothing from Savatage’s Streets album. Reeves takes the front of the stage like a veteran of hard rock, standing on the brink of the stage, staring down those in the front row and sounding like she’s been gargling whiskey and gravel for the last five years.
The young, but extremely talented Kayla Reeves destroys The Child Unseen
It was with some sadness that the long awaited Savatage reunion wasn’t going ahead that night, but as Pitrelli once again takes the microphone and informs us that the absent Jon Oliva asked them to play a song. A young man called Andrew Ross steps forward, and Chance begins. By the time the howling guitars kick in, everyone is on their feet and Ross delivers like he was recording it back in 1994. As the final pyro explodes at the end of the night, it’s clear that TSO have played the gig of a lifetime to many there, as the standing ovation thunders through the venue.
Caffery, alone in The Dark
Safe to say, you’re an idiot if you missed this gig, a very special night for all playing and all attending.