Friday, March 9, 2012

Symphony X: Holy Relics and a Quest Fulfilled

 It has now been two weeks since Symphony X and Iced Earth hit Salt Lake City on this leg of their 2012 tour. Thanks to an early tip from my friend Halley, I had been anxiously awaiting this particular show, Symphony X’s first ever in Utah, for three long months. Seeing them live in concert, however, was the culmination of a dream that started seven years prior, when I first heard their album The Odyssey. Hearing songs like “Inferno”, “Wicked”, and the epic title track proved to me that you could make progressive metal without it coming out sounding pretentious, and that you could make a 24 minute epic track coherent and interesting. Symphony X seemed to me to strike a perfect balance between accessibility, virtuosity and heaviness. I was a fan from the beginning.

Fast-forward to February 24, 2012. Brother Scott (a longtime SX fan himself) and I finally got the chance to see our heroes live on stage at the Complex in SLC. We arrived a little late, missing the opening band, who, from the Youtube videos I had seen, sounded like a young version of Slayer. No big loss there. Iced Earth started just as we walked into the venue. Their set was good, they played like a well-oiled but loud machine and rocked hard, but they weren’t the reason we came. So we stood off to the side and enjoyed the show, throwing up the occasional devil horns and waiting for the main attraction.

We had a good position for Symphony X, about 30 feet back from the stage, in the middle of the room. It’s worth noting that Symphony X fans, despite their intense enthusiasm for the band, are fans of personal space. No one elbowed, cramped or jostled me, despite rampant headbanging, which is more than I can say for other shows I’ve attended. (Yeah, I’m looking at YOU, Aquabats fans...)

Once, after the long wait, Symphony X took the stage, they did not disappoint. The current tour is in support of the new album, Iconoclast, and the set list skewed predictably in favor of new material. Fortunately the new material is on par with anything else they have done, and I found myself singing along for all I was worth. They opened strong with the epic Iconoclast, and tore through the strongest of the new album, the theme of which centers around the concept of man vs. machine and the worship of technology. All is Lost, End of Innocence, Dehumanized, Bastards of the Machine, Children of a Faceless God, and Electric Messiah represented the new album, with Serpent’s Kiss, Set the World on Fire, Inferno and Of Sins and Shadows representing the older albums. The sound balance was good, and the band played perfectly. I love a band that really seems to be enjoying the show, and these guys did. Russell Allen was in great form in his banter with the crowd.

The set ended sooner than I would have thought. Symphony X really has so much good material that they could have played two sets, and even after a full set and three song encore, I could have handled more. But the best was yet to come. After the band took a deep bow, Jason Rullo tossed his drumsticks, one at a time, to the ground. The second of these arced down several yards in front of me, but bounced high out of the ensuing melee toward Scott and I. We both jumped. My efforts resulted in nothing more than me holding hands with a similarly surprised dude, but Scott boxed out a burly fan with a mustache to claim the airborne prize. (Must have used that +5 ring of jumping. In any case, I think Scotty leveled up... ) This was the cherry on top of an already great night- to see our favorite band on Earth, and win a relic to be displayed in a place of honor in Scott’s studio. I walked out of the Complex that night having lost my voice and some of my hearing, having sung every word and loved every minute. Symphony X, come back to Salt Lake soon. We’ll be waiting.

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