The tour God is a benevolent, and sometimes cruel one. Tours with awful openers, amazing tours that don’t stop in your city, tours plagued with problems, greats tours that leave you yapping about it for days… the tour God works in mysterious ways. Sometimes, he outdoes himself and puts two veterans of the American metal scene on a varied and enticing double-headliner. When that happens, the planets align, and people of all walks of life come together for one fantastic evening. That’s what Vancouver was treated to on the 2nd of October when The Vogue filled up with prog and thrash fans ready to rock out to the music New Jersey metal royalty Symphony X and Overkill.
The bill delivered exactly what was advertised. There was no lesser opening bands, no one to try to warm up the crowd in 30 minutes or less. When the house lights went down in the old theatre at 8:00 pm, the lights around the keyboard was all that was visible on before “Overture” started and the progressive force that is Symphony X walked out to thunderous applause and rowdy cheering. The band launched into “Nevermore” under the lead of charismatic frontman, Russell Allen, who fascinated the crowd with his outstanding vocals and his undeniable magnetism.
With the exception of Allen, Symphony X is a fairly static act on stage, but what talented musicians they all are! The quality of the music they produce live more than makes up for the lack of moving around. The band started off by playing the first seven songs off their latest album Underworld, from “Nevermore” to “To Hell and Back.” They capped off the night with songs from previous albums like “Of Sins and Shadows” from Symphony X’s 1998 release Prelude to the Millennium, “The Serpent’s Kiss,” “Eve of Seduction,” and “Set the World on Fire (The Lie of Lies)” from Paradise Lost. With the help of with the wonderfully executed guitar performance of the six-string master, Michael Romeo, the erratic drumming of Jason Rullo, the divine mastery of the keyboard of Michael Pinnella, the deep supportive melodies of bassman, Mike LePond, and the 80s rock voice and theatrically salacious moves of Russell Allen, who perfectly channels the essence of a rock God, Symphony X’s entire performance was bewitching from start to finish.
The band left the crowd chanting “We want more!” so all came back for one more shot of Symphony X with the title track of their 2011 album Iconoclast, before taking their bow to the sound of the Star Wars’ iconic “Imperial March.”
A half hour after Symphony X left the stage, the large and efficient crew changed up the set for the next band, and Overkill entered to puke green lights and strobes to the tune of “XDM” before going straight into “Armorist,” the second song from the band’s 2014 album White Devil Armory. Overkill has been rocking for a decade more than I have been alive, and while singer, Bobby Ellsworth, likes to remind the band’s adoring crowd that he is 56 years old, his years of giving his everything up on stage night after night have not yet affected the liveliness of his performance. I was exhausted just watching him!
After Symphony X, I was expecting the same delightfully technical, but still performance from Overkill, but I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised to see how much energy the entire band put in their show. Though the crowd was a bit limp at first, the high-powered nature of the performance got everyone on their feet within a few songs. With a set that included “Electric Rattlesnake,” “Rotten to the Core,” “Bitter Pill,” the band’s anthem, “Overkill,” and “Ironbound,” sitting in a seat simply was not an option.
There is nothing sweeter than seeing a band that has a true love and passion for what they do, and that is exactly what you get with Overkill. All five members of the quintet have such a thirst for being in front of their fans. It is hard to find someone who seems to find more enjoyment in playing for a crowd than rhythm guitarist, Derek Tailer. I went to the show expecting to be in awe of Dave Linsk and D.D. Verni, and I was, especially during “Powersurge” for the latter, but it was the smile and satisfaction all over Tailer’s face that really made me the happiest.
After the crowd begged, Overkill played an encore of three songs, finishing with the puerile anthem “Fuck You” to finish the night on a high note.
The tour God is a generous one, and he bestowed an incredible gift upon us when he put the two New Jersey acts together. What a treat!
Written and Photographed by Kai Robidas
*edited by Danielle Kenedy