By Justin Richarson
Even though the annual ProgPower USA festivities started the night before with Evergrey‘s absolutely amazing acoustic performance, a performance in which I was very skeptical about initially, Thursday was the true beginning of the festival. Thursday night held the promise of a returning Vanden Plas, a band that has tried to make it over several times but was unsuccessful each time due to different circumstances. On top of that, Evergrey was set to play the entire In Search Of Truth album, an album considered by many to be their magnum opus. I made my way down to the front as the doors opened and picked my spot on the rail.
Opening the festivities was Powerglove, a band whose music is based on video games and themes from movies and television shows mostly from the 80’s and 90’s. I know many are turned off by the band due to the lack of “original” music, but I would like to point out that they improvise over the original songs. It’s understandable that if you didn’t grow up with the themes that you might not really enjoy the music or performance that Powerglove puts forth, but I encourage looking past their “shtick” and just taking it in for what it is. Starting their set with the theme from the X-men cartoon and hitting other classic themes such as Tetris, and for the slightly younger, Pokemon. It’s best to remember that this is all about having fun, and if you’ve got a stick in your ass about it not being the most original music, then this won’t be for you at all.
While I admit that I’m not the biggest Vanden Plas fan, I knew that their performance was important for a lot of people. Some even came to ProgPower this year for the chance to see Vanden Plas alone. I always enjoy the stuff I listen to from these guys, but it doesn’t have the best staying power with me. This isn’t a knock on the band by any means, as the songwriting and musicianship is always strong. Andy Kuntz, their charismatic frontman, leapt back and forth on the stage engaging others with songs from most of their albums. Their performance was one of the stronger ones of the weekend and I heard others echo a similar sentiment after all was said and done. If anything, I know they made their fans extremely happy.
Having seen all but the very first Evergrey performance at ProgPower, I wasn’t sure how to feel about their announcement for ProgPower this year. The last show that they did at ProgPower was a second take at their ‘A Night to Remember’ show. While I felt it was a good performance, it didn’t hold as well for me as when they played at ProgPower II many years earlier. The latest albums didn’t hold as well for me either. I know people enjoy the albums after The Inner Circle, but they don’t excite me. But when the band asked the ProgPower forums what they should do, the fans resounded with the demand to play In Search of Truth in its entirety. Personally, I would have preferred Solitude Dominance Tragedy, but I do understand that ISoT is considered by most to be their best. Either way, I hoped the band could pull it off. But the band wasn’t even remotely the same band anymore. The only member remaining that was there for recording In Search of Truth was Tom Englund, the vocalist/guitarist and founding member. So that still left one wondering how it would all go down.
The acoustic set the night before solidified in my mind that the band was eager to play again. The band was in high spirits and their performance was probably the best acoustic set I’ve seen thus far. Tom sounded better than I’ve heard him in years, so I was really hoping this would carry over into the Thursday show. Thankfully it did.
The band came out and ripped right into “The Masterplan”. Without a single word said between any song, they handled the whole album like pro’s. I knew that deep down I was really looking forward to this and hoping it would meet my expectations. Honestly, I would say it surpassed them. They finished up the album and it took me a moment to realize that they had just played the whole thing. It went by so fast that I needed more. After a few minutes, the guys came out and played songs from the last few albums, but didn’t play anything from the first two albums. I was mildly disappointed by that, but it’s to be expected considering how far along in albums they are these days. All in all I would say that this was just about as good as their performance at ProgPower II. As worried as I was about the new guys in the band holding up on the material, those worries were put to rest very quickly. Evergrey is stronger than it has been in a long time, and ProgPower XII was off to a great beginning.