PROGPOWER 3.0 – Earthlink Live

in Atlanta, GA., USA, November 15-16, 2002

PROGPOWER 3.0 – Earthlink Live

Executive producer and general in command, Glenn Harveston, arranged in mid-November the third ProgPower festival in USA. I Am sure most of the American attenders already cover the man in gold, as most bands that performed at Earthlink Live never played the States before, meaning there was a German invasion, in a positive way actually. Earthlink is not the biggest place to hold 10 bands for 2 days, but it is indeed a place for music fans – and note that progressive music fans are always more than a bit picky – to be entertained with great sound and a well built stage and light system. Now the picky ones; they came from all over the North American continent, as well as Japan – and a few of us from the European outskirts known as Norway.

It all starts a little unofficially on Thursday at a pre-party where a few young bands full of hope and progressive power inspiration show off. I’ll admit it, I don’t pay too much attention to these bands after something like 15 hours of travel from Amsterdam, so I am not going to slay anyone here. At least I remember the party, while I am sure the Evergrey guys, who had taken the long trip from Sweden just to… PARTY, never did.

At least we all have fun, and lots of fans get the chance to mingle with long time heroes as Angra, Edguy, Jon Schaffer from Iced Earth, DC Cooper, Rob Rock, hell; even Kai Hansen himself is there.

Zero Hour

The next day, Friday, is day 1 at ProgPower – and it’s time to get serious. Zero Hour, the most technical band this year, opens the event, and though the band still have a monitor check when doors open, things run pretty smoothly throughout the whole festival. The foursome from San Francisco entertains the most prog hungry part of the audience, but lots of people gather around the retailer’s stands outside the concert hall. Of course due to the fact that doors just opened, but I would have to say that the band also lacks experience in playing live. Maybe I am wrong and these guys gig every weekend, but it sure doesn’t look like it. Then again, this is a skilful bunch of instrumentalists, their music is just not what you get in the pit for.

Silent Force

Silent Force is on next, and now it starts to get crowded. DC Cooper hang out at last year’s festival, I was told, so it was pretty obvious that this band of his and Alex Beyrodt would play this year. The German band with an American singer sounds very tight, and though the music is more power than prog, the metal with a foot still in the eighties goes down well with the crowd. Alex impresses the audience with his talented guitar playing, as always but for the first time in the US with Silent Force, and even though I think this music is best done with two guitar players, there’s no need for another when the curly one from Krefeld takes the stage.

The third song comes as a surprise for many of us; DC asks the crowd if they want to hear something from his past, and Royal Hunt’s “River Of Pain” fills the hall. (I have no idea how much Andre Andersen will sue DC for, but keep checking back at our news section for info). Silent Force has enough good material to fill their slot time, still they choose to finish off with a cover of Judas Priest’s “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming”. Another surprise actually – most people expect “All Guns Blazing”, another Judas Priest cover, from Silent Force’s last album “Infatuator”. Just like the band and its show, “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” is a winner among the crowd.


Now back to what I call a German invasion, it’s time for Edguy, a highly anticipated act in USA. Tobias & Co. get a massive welcome, and the venue is so full I don’t even think that the incredibly beautiful lady at the bar outside has any guests. (Hottest girl I have ever seen…) I admit it; when it comes to Edguy, I am against the wind. I like Mr. Sammet as a songwriter, but the band is not very tight, and although he is the strongest part himself, I can not stand his voice. If his voice was as good as his stage act and songwriter skills… I saw a Disney cartoon on the overseas flight, and his voice is not so far from the world’s most famous duck, at least that’s what the mix makes it sound like in Atlanta. Why this band has gone this far, I have no idea (but I expect angry Edguy fanatics to tell me), but if this band’s popularity can help the whole scene, it’s just fine by me. One of the last songs the Germans play is one of my favourite Sammet songs, “Avantasia”, but when it is sung “Avantasia-a-a-a-a-a” with a very pretentious vibrato, I decide to see that before-mentioned barkeeper instead.

Blind Guardian

Blind Guardian is indeed this year’s headline act, though the band requested an early slot due to a gig the next day in Canada. Now I called Edguy anticipated; that would only be the surname of Blind Guardian. This turns into one of the better gigs I have seen with the band, but when I think about it, I was never really satisfied with the Krefeld crew live. I adore what they come up with on CD, except for that very last and overproduced one, but live they always bore me. The guitar players are tight, just as tight as Hansi is a sleepy character on stage. And ironically, though the guitarists are great and Thomen on drums is fabulous, the hired bass player, the brother of Oliver Hartmann from At Vance by the way, is the best musician. No kick to the others, the bass player is just very, very good! The first 45 minutes of the set works fine. The crowd sings along like this was in any major city in Germany, and the Guardians are in fact the only band that has a really good light show (they have their own people with them).

Then tragedy strikes, and Hansi Kursch completely loses his voice. No, not completely in terms of not being able to sing, but all his majestic power goes, and left is a singer struggling to hit the high notes. Hansi has a unique voice, I like it, but live I never saw it work. Either he’s holding back, or he’s just not cutting it. Only “Bard’s Song” works during the last half, where the singing is mostly done by the crowd, and “Bright Eyes” doesn’t sound right. I don’t want to be too hard on Hansi, maybe there was a reasonable explanation for it all, but considering the fact that this show was the first in a few weeks for the band, everything should have run smoothly. Blind Guardian is a great band, Hansi is a gentleman, and I will always give them another chance.

Pain Of Salvation

Last the first day is Sweden’s Pain Of Salvation, a band that also played Progpower 1.0. The crowd is only 65 percent or so compared to when the Germans created “speedpower”, and to all of you out there who went to bed early, you truly missed a great show (unless you saw my favourite bartender…) The Swedes have indeed the most fanatic fans. People had travelled from all over the US to see them, and two times Gildenlow and the others didn’t let the fans down. A couple musicians in the crowd seem to enjoy their set as well, consisting of material from all four albums. Honestly, their albums never grabbed me very much, but live the five piece is stunning and highly enjoyable, both during songs and in between songs when Daniel cracks jokes.

Reading Zero

Saturday, second day, and we are back just in time for Reading Zero, who warms up the crowd with a little Queensryche-inspired music. Not bad, not bad at all, and far better than the ‘ryches of today. I need to check out this band…


I have seen Threshold a couple of times, or have I? For some reason, I have only been present, but I have never really paid much attention. Too bad, I like the Englishmen on record, and I really dig what I see. Threshold is perhaps the band that fits the description progpower best out of the whole lot, it’s progressive, but it still has so much power that a headbanger can do his task without looking like Joe Cocker, like he would if he tried to swing his head to say… Spiral Architect. Karl Groom is a really cool guitar player, and with a solid rhythm section and a vocalist who sings through his nose and not mouth (he could land the job for Scorpions any day), the band has found their own expression. “Phenomenon” opens the show, and with that number and for instance “The Ravages Of Time”, the English bring honour and pride to their home country, which I would say has a special place in the hearts of prog fans. Next time Threshold shows up, I will be there for sure, and not drink with the Evergrey guys or eat chicken with ARK.

Devin Townsend

The festival’s biggest forehead is a fact when Devin Townsend enters the stage. Just like Pain Of Salvation the first day, it’s easy to tell that the man has his diehard fans who firmly believe that this guy is the best thing since sliced bread. I don’t know Devin’s carrier very much, I only have vague memories of him singing his ass off for Steve Vai almost 10 years ago at a stage in Oslo, but from what I hear in Atlanta, this is indeed Progpower’s rawest spot musically speaking. I have my doubts if he belongs with all the German speed bands, but as a break, it works just fine.

Gamma Ray

Kai Hansen has, apart from his constant vacations to Hawaii, not been in the US since the glory days of Helloween, at least not along with his pink guitar. Lots of American fans finally get to see their God, because that’s what the little German midget is if you grew up spinning the “Keeper…”-albums more than anything else. Gamma Ray has just ended a tour where they brought out lots of skeletons from their closet, and their set sees traces of that, but thank God (I am an atheist by the way), it is “Rebellion In Dreamland” that is first out. I fear the worst upon the first scream, as Kai, like Mr. Sammet, is also better known for his songwriter skills than vocal duties – but Hansen nails it, and he does just great throughout the whole set. Although one of my favourites is on after Gamma Ray, a band that I simply like more, I must admit that the Hamburgers did the best gig in Atlanta. They are so bloody professional, and with a drummer called Dan Zimmermann, it has to be tight. People freak out during “Ride The Sky”, and to be honest, I haven’t seen Gamma Ray this good since 1997. Congrats!


Guess who has the festival’s best guitar players, as a duo and as individuals? Guess who can play speed metal, but still make it more exciting than the German art of it, by incorporating more prog and Latin influences, and guess who has a singer that can make charter pilot Dickinson make an emergency landing? Yes, Brazilian Angra of course, a band that personally speaking, is the most enjoyable at this year’s ProgPower. Unlike Pain Of Salvation the first night, most of the attenders remain in their spot to see Angra, and I am sure they are glad they did when they witness the band run through their entire carrier, though with most of the material coming from the latest release, “Rebirth”.

The sound is not quite how it should be with Angra, there is not enough of Rafael Bittencourt on guitar and too much Fabio Laguna on keys, that’s what happens when you work with a new soundman, and that is what makes Gamma Ray remain on the throne (speaking from a critical journalist’s point of view, who indeed enjoyed Angra’s set more than Gamma Ray). Now Eduardo Falaschi; what a voice! I have a small remark though; he should try to be himself throughout the old numbers like “Carry On” and “Nothing To Say”, I am sure he would be better off being Edu than trying to be Andre Matos. It sounds a bit too pretentious trying to be his predecessor.

Anyway, the crowd accepts him, and so do I, by all means! After a cover of “The Number Of The Beast”, where the crowd proves that metal sure ain’t dead in the US (it just smells funny still), Angra puts ProgPower 3.0 to rest.

A spoiled European like myself has of course seen all this before, but for my US brothers, Christmas came early as more than half of all the bands never visited the States until now. Glenn, you did a fantastic job, and we all look forward to the 4.0 edition!


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