Not too far away from my home town Almelo it was a pleasant surprise to see Saga again 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 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 and 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; Martin Platenkamp on the keyboards, Liejondo Nijhuis on the bass and second guitarist Leon Westenberg joined later. Due to the fairly small stage only Erik and Ronald were able to move around a bit, most drummers and keyboard players can't wander off anyway but Liejondo and Leon had to stand in the back and very close to each other because all of Saga's gear was on stage already too. Several ENorm tracks like Ozone Layer and Marathon oldie Beyond The Veil brought the crowd to get quite enthusiastic and one would almost think at least half of the people 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 ENorm/Marathon didn't expect such a warm welcome and such an 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 4 years ago; fact is 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 Hedon was excellent and like the many fans I had a terrific time. Ian Crichton was well into into, 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' : 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 fabulious instrumental song played by Brian, Jim C., Ian and Jim G., 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 'baby' 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: 1) they didn't play a new song with the whole band and 2) They didn't play a second encore as programmed (It Never Ends)..... 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 prog-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