P3, Purmerend, DE PUL, Uden, WORPSWEDE, (Dld), support-act IT BITES

SAGA 2009
SAGA, 2009-02-16 (NL+E)
maandag, februari 16, 2009

De dvd van het afscheidsconcert van Saga met Michael Sadler is nog niet uit of er ligt alweer een nieuw album van de band met de nieuwe frontman Rob Moratti in de schappen. Het is de eerste Europese tournee van Moratti in Europa en een primeur voor deze bezetting in het Duitse Worpswede. Diezelfde primeur voor Nederland was voorbehouden aan concertzaal De Pul te Uden. Het voorprogramma werd verzorgd door de Britse band It BItes.

It Bites met de originele leden toetsenist John Beck en drummer Bob Dalton bestaat vandaag de dag verder uit John Mitchell (Arena, sologitaar, zang) en bassist Nathan King - jawel, de broer van Mark (Level 42). Hij speelt bas tijdens deze tour omdat Lee Pomeroy verplichtingen had bij Take That. Dit kwartet speelde een puike set met een redelijk evenwichtige verdeling van oud en nieuw werk. Van Once Around The World werden maar liefst drie nummers gespeeld: Kiss Like Judas, Yellow Christian en Midnight. Van het laatste album The Tall Ships werden gespeeld: Oh My God, Ghosts en The Wind That Shakes The Barley. Het laatste nummer was de meezinger Calling All The Heroes van het debuutalbum The Big Lad In The Windmill uit 1986. Mitchell is een prima gitarist, maar hij kan het karakteristieke stemgeluid van Francis Dunnery helaas niet benaderen.

Dan Saga! De Canadezen speelden routineus, maar het spel was in Duitsland nog niet vlekkeloos, in Uden was de band beter op dreef en in Purmerend stond het instrumentale gedeelte als een huis. P3 is een prachtige zaal met goed licht en een prima geluid. Het was alleen jammer dat de belichting - mogelijk op verzoek van de band - wat eenzijdig qua kleur was. Rob Moratti oogde in Duitsland wat nerveus maar de nieuwe nummers zong hij uitstekend zingend. In Uden had nog geen probleem maar in Purmerend wel: daar kon hij amper overtuigen vanwege door stress en verkoudheid aangetaste stembanden. Het meezingende publiek vergaf hem dit echter welwillend, mede vanwege zijn jongensachtige charme. Ik heb in Worpswede gehoord wat hij kan en dat is zeker ruim voldoende om deze bezetting verder te brengen. Jammer dat dat er op die tweede avond in Nederland niet uitkwam.

De setlist in Purmerend was helaas ook iets ingekort ten opzichte van die bij de eerdere concerten. De band speelde een stukje Human Condition, gevolgd door 'gouwe ouwen' Careful Where You Step en Humble Stance. Van recentere datum achtereenvolgens You Were Right, On The Air en Book Of Lies. Moratti werd daarna nog even extra ontlast met een drumsolo van Chris Sutherland. Vervolgens Scratching The Surface, gezongen door Jim Gilmour en dit keer weer eens gespeeld met de hele band.
Van het nieuwe album The Human Condition kwamen voorbij Step Inside en You Look Good To Me. Daarna was het tijd voor de echte knallers: Don’t Be Late en You’re Not Alone en de toegift van dit wat te korte optreden bestond uit It Never Ends en On The Loose. In Uden had het publiek meer geluk: daar werden ook The Flyer, Wind Him Up en van de laatste cd ook nog Crown Of Thorns en Now Is Now gespeeld, maar It Never Ends bleef in Uden achterwege.

Wellicht doet Saga er goed aan om de oudere nummers van een nieuw arrangement te voorzien, zodat ze behalve de zang ook qua instrumentatie anders klinken. In elk geval hebben collega Bert Treep en ik genoeg gezien om te weten dat Saga enthousiast bezig is en vast en zeker door zal gaan met het maken van kwalitatief hoogwaardige en mooie muziek!


I’ve been to many Saga-shows in the past thirty years but now it was extra special because, as you probably all know, long time singer Michael Sadler retired. So Saga has a new vocalist, Toronto based Rob Moratti and a new album out called The Human Condition. Whereas many songs from previous albums were written by Michael Sadler and Jim Chrichton, for the new album most of the songs were written by Ian Crichton and Jim Gilmour. It sounds remarkably fresh and although it will never be the Saga from the early days, it seems like a very positive, vibrant collaboration between Moratti and the remaining members of Saga. All who came out to see these shows must have been very curious what Saga would sound like live in 2009.

In the quite damp and sold-out venue in Worpswede (Germany, near Bremen), the stage was initially set for the reformed band It BitesJohn Mitchell taking over the duties that used to be performed by Francis Dunnery. Bassist Lee Pomeroy was absent because of duties with Take That, so Nathan King, the brother of Mark King (Level 42), filled in. Of course original members John Beck (keyboards) and Bob Dalton (drums) were present. The band kicked off with one of the three tracks they played from the album Once Around The World: Kiss Of Judas, followed by Oh My God from their last offering The Tall Ships, the new album by the current line-up. Although Mitchell is an outstanding guitarist, still his guitar sound differs from Dunnery’s and his voice is definitely different: less powerful and characteristic. Still the band played a good set and continued with the other tracks from Once Around The World: Yellow Christian, still a pretty emotional song and then Midnight. Promotion of the latest album again with the varied song The Wind That Shakes The Barley and the encore or rather last song, was the most catchy one from the 1986 debut album The Big Lad In The Windmill, received with much enthusiasm: Calling All The Heroes. In Purmerend Mitchell had some problems with his voice, and the harmonies were slightly less in tune but overall this support-act did a great job indeed. And most people really loved to hear those wonderful tunes from the eighties again.

As could be expected, Saga opened with a part of the instrumental first track of the new album, displaying dazzling guitar and keyboard melodies and some ultrafast simultaneous playing by Ian Crichton and Jim Gilmour. Then it was time for the introduction of the new singer. It was the first time for Rob Moratti to set foot on European soil and understandably he was a little nervous. Surprisingly, the first song he sang in Germany was The Flyer. The audience responded instantly and the party was on, never to stop that evening! Instead of focusing immediately on the new album, it turned out to be a feast of recognition first: Wind Him Up, You Were Right, On The Air and Book Of Lies followed. From the new album they played two great songs: Now Is Now and Step Inside, my personal favourite. Moratti was a bit shy and obviously he had to concentrate on his vocals and all the lyrics, still not automatically ‘his’ but with his smile he stole the hearts of presumably anyone in the venue.

From the first album there was Humble Stance and Gilmour starred in his best known creation: Scratching The Surface, for a change played by the whole band again. Two more songs from the new album followed: the up-tempo Crown Of Thorns and the catchy You Look Good To Me, a perfect tune to sing along with. From Silent Knight the best song - in my opinion - would be Don’t Be Late and so this was the next treat. The audience could show the ability to sing along again with the all time favourite You’re Not Alone.

After a short break the band returned with It Never Ends and the final encore was Careful Where You Step. The show in Worpswede the next day was said to be even better and also rumours from Uden in the Netherlands were quite positive. P3 in Purmerend is a fairly new and beautiful venue, with a good stage and lighting facilities. Unfortunately Moratti’s voice failed him almost completely so the setlist had to be shortened and in spite of the cheerful audience his performance suffered badly from his throat problem. However, the band played brilliantly. In time Rob will learn how to control his voice and he will start to find his own way of communicating with the audience. I have no doubts about Saga’s future: it looks really bright and with their new album, there might be opportunities in the USA too. I have a hunch that the next European tour will be even more convincing that the continuation of Saga is a very good choice indeed. I spotted Edwin Ammerlaan, who wrote and recently published a full biography on Saga. He was busy promoting his book. Since the old songs sound quite different because of the new vocalist, it might be an idea to arrange them in a different way too, giving them something special, a new life even maybe. Saga is still going strong and with a very solid new album and their extensive back-catalogue, things can hardly go wrong.

Setlist It Bites (beide concerten/both shows): Kiss Like Judas, Oh My God, Yellow Christian, Midnight, The Wind That Shakes The Barley, Calling All The Heroes.

Line-up It Bites: John Mitchell (leadvocal, guitar), John Beck (keyboards, vocal), Bob Dalton (drums, vocal), Nathan King (bass)

Setlist Saga Worpswede
The Human Condition (partly), The Flyer, Wind Him Up, You Were Right, On The Air,
Book Of Lies, Now Is Now, Step Inside, Humble Stance, Scratching The Surface,
Crown Of Thorns, You Look Good To Me, Don’t Be Late, You’re Not Alone.

First Encore: It Never Ends, Careful Where You Step

Second EncoreOn The Loose

Setlist Saga Purmerend: 

The Human Condition (partly), Careful Where You Step,
Humble Stance, You Were Right, On The Air, Book Of Lies, drumsolo, Scratching The Surface, Step Inside, You Look Good To Me, Don’t Be Late, You’re Not Alone.

FIrst EncoreIt Never Ends

Second encore: On The Loose

Line-up Saga: Jim Crichton (bass, pedals,moog), Ian Crichton (guitar)
Jim Gilmour (keyboards, vocals), Rob Moratti (lead vocals)
Chris Sutherland (drums, vocals)