HEDON, Zwolle, support-act ENORM / MARATHON

SAGA, 2011-06-22 (E)
woensdag, juni 22, 2011

It was a pleasant surprise to see Saga again in the venue Hedon in Zwolle, not too far away from my hometown Almelo in the Netherlands. The performed with their former vocalist and unsurpassed front man Michael Sadler. Back after an hiatus of nearly four years, quite a number of fans came out to see the Canadians in their nearly original line-up. The venue had filled up nicely when the Enschede based band Marathon (or ENorm) took the stage. Founder members Ronald ten Bos on guitar, his brother Erik on vocals and Ferry Bult on drums were already playing in the band Marathon in the early nineties, before the band changed their name and musical direction in 2003 and went on as ENorm. Keyboardist Martin Platenkamp, bassist Liejondo Nijhuis and second guitarist Leon Westenberg joined later.

Due to the fairly small stage only Erik ten Bos and Ronald ten Bos were able to move around a bit. Drummers and keyboard players can't wander off anyway, but Liejondo  Nijhuis and Leon Westenberg had to stand in the back of the stage and very close to each other because all of Saga's gear was on stage already too. Several ENorm tracks like Ozone Layer and the Marathon oldie Beyond The Veil brought the audience to get quite enthusiastic and one would almost think at least half of the audience came to see Marathon! Indeed they put on a good show and both ENorm music as well as the older, more progressive Marathon music went down very well. Evidently, the band didn't expect such a warm welcome and enthusiastic response. They deserved it and as far I'm concerned. They could have gone on playing for at least another half an hour! Well done lads, come back any time!

Then Saga. We'll probably never find out why Michael Sadler and the band chose to get separate ways nearly four years ago, but fact is that Michael is back with the band and thank heaven for that. Not that Rob Moratti is a bad vocalist, but Sadler's voice is The trademark for Saga's sound more than anything else. Questions before this event would be like: how will they get along? How will Sadler's voice sound after some 35 years? Will it be dull routine or will they show that they're still having fun too? Well, dear readers, after nearly two hours of Saga's 'best of' one can only say 'awesome, amazing!'. In my opinion Sadler sounded even better than in the late seventies (if possible!) and the band played as if they will still trying to get their breakthrough.

Finally, I got to see them with Brian Doerner behind the drum kit playing both 'ordinary' drums as well as syn drums from a padded panel resembling Michael's 'briefcase' on his left side. He did a fine job too. The sound in the venue was excellent and like the many fans I had a terrific time. Guitarist Ian Crichton did a great job, Jim Glmour focused on his keyboards and the neat thing: no acoustic intermezzo's, no solo spots, just Saga's best music. Of course there were moments with a 'déjà vu' like You're Not Alone, Humble Stance, the way Michael communicated with individuals in the audience etcetera. I think most of the fans will have heard these tracks performed live many times. Nevertheless, if the enthusiasm of the band during this show would be a premonition for the quality of the forthcoming album, I will surely start to get excited, because the band is back to front although progressive rock remains a musical direction or style that seems to be for the happy few. Fortunately Saga's popularity is a bit bigger than just prog fans. There's one song you probably never heard of: Corkentellis: a fabulous instrumental song played by the band minus Sadler, and named after two of their most loyal crew members Cork and Ellis, at least that's what I've been told...

Jim's performance of his song Scratching The Surface was also awesome, with Michael playing keys and doing background vocals in the second part of the song. The renditions of the tracks from the Worlds Apart album, with Doerner's syn drums sounded absolutely amazing too. Only minor bits of criticism would be that they didn't play a new song with the whole band and they didn't play a second encore as programmed, so the show ended just a bit too early. Fortunately Saga is still going strong and if you ask me, I'd say they are good for at least another five years of making and performing high quality progressive rock. Look out for their new album!

Setlist ENorm/Marathon: Horizon, High Above the Ground, Widow, Teacher, Ozone Layer, Casanovas, Zoe, Beyond the Veil.

Setlist Saga: Book Of Lies, On The Loose, You're Not Alone, The Runaway, That's As Far As I'll Go, Conversation, Time's Up, Careful Where You Step, Don't Be Late, Corkentellis, Scratching The Surface, The Perfectionist, On The Air, Humble Stance, The Flyer, Pitchman.

Encore: Wind Him Up