17 July 2011
The Underworld, London
I’d been waiting 22 years and 2 months for this gig. That’s how long it was since I’d last seen Crimson Glory on their Transcendence tour in Leeds and indeed their last visit to these shores. When the tour cycle for that album ended, guitarist Ben Jackson and drummer Dana Burnell left the band and Crimson Glory headed in a more commercial hard rock direction with Strange & Beautiful. Midnight was next to leave prior to the tour for that album and soon the band were on hiatus.
At the end of the 1990’s the band reconvened without Midnight and Dana Burnell.Wade Black handled the vocals for the Astronomica album which whilst more satisfying than Strange & Beautiful missed the soaring style of vocal employed by Midnight. The UK was omitted from the tour for that album which ended with a further hiatus.
A brief attempt to reunite the original line-up led to Wade Black’s reappointment but then yet another hiatus. Sadly, two years ago, Midnight died from a stomach aneurysm and as a tribute the rest of the original line-up reconvened to headline ProgPower USA with guest vocalists. One of those vocalists was the unknown Todd La Torre at the suggestion of Jon Oliva’s Pain guitarist Matt LaPorte. Impressing the band and fans alike, in April last year Crimson Glory officially announced La Torre as their new singer.
This year the band chose to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of their self titled debut album with European dates, of which this show in London was the final date.
Elation turned to horror when I saw the date announced, when I realised I was due to be in Scotland. Fortunately, I was able to arrange a flight back with just enough time to make the gig, though apologies to Intense and Power Quest as I was too late to catch them. Unfortunately, Johan was also away this weekend but could not make it back in time hence all photos are from my compact camera.
A very respectable sized crowd awaited Crimson Glory as they took to the stage and opened with Mayday from their debut album. The metallic silver masks and bouffant hair of those days was long gone with faces visible and a variety of hairstyle.
With Midnight being such a unique vocalist, with an incredibly high range, eyes and ears were drawn to the PVC clad Todd La Torre. Opening with the siren scream requirements of Mayday was certainly not shying away from the task and La Torre immediately demonstrated he was up to the challenge.
Lead guitarist Jon Drenning told us, “We waited a long time to come back and play for you so let’s have a f**king party alright?” The crowd were certainly up for that as Valhalla followed with Drenning’s guitar twinning up with Ben Jackson’s, backed by additional keyboards provided by tour member John Zahner. Still sticking with the debut album, Dragon Lady was here to meet us next. In fact the setlist was solely drawn from the first two albums with only Angels Of War and Transcendence omitted.
Following a warm response from the crowd, Drenning humbly noted that there is “No greater honour than to be remembered”. Certainly this audience remembered, singing along to every song leading to Drenning to chip in his thanks after practically every song.
With the sound balancing out, Queen Of The Masquerade benefitted, with an extended middle section underpinned by Jeff Lords bass, with La Torre leading the crowd in chants of “Hail”.
Slowing things down a little, the majestic Painted Skies was dedicated to Midnight and like all of the songs tonight was sung by La Torre true to the originals. Cheers at its conclusion led Drenning to observe, “This is a magical night”.
“Time to kick this muthaf**ker into high gear” roared La Torre as Masque Of The Red Death sped forth driven by Dana Burnell’s drums.
A technical issue with Lords’ bass led to a short break which Drenning seized upon noting, “It just gives me more time to talk”. A swift quip from La Torre of “Oh f**k, that’s all we need!” led to much laughter. Eventually In Dark Places kicked in with crowd chanting along with “hey”, before its familiar Kashmir like swaggering riff.
For a Sunday night time was pushing on but Drenning declared, “Is there a curfew here cause I’m not stopping”
Burning Bridges was dedicated by La Torre to his friend who helped him secure his place in Crimson Glory, Matt LaPorte who sadly passed away earlier this year. It was a fitting tribute which built to lush twin guitars.Zahner himself played with LaPorte in Jon Oliva’s Pain and his keyboards swathed across the mid section of the song before Drenning’s guitar solo dropped like a bomb.
Picking up the pace again, La Torre asked “When I say Red, what would you say?” Red Sharks of course followed with the crowd singing the guitar melody.
Tonight happened to be guitarist’s Ben Jackson’s Birthday and the crowd were led through a rendition of Happy Birthday in his honour. Following a toast of drinks, Jackson noted, “I would rather spend my Birthday with you guys than with anyone else in the world”.
Zahner’s keyboards then formed an atmospheric backdrop for La Torre to eventually appear wearing a metallic silver mask for a haunting rendition of Lost Reflection with the vocal absolutely spot on. Rightly Drenning commended him, “Todd you did a great job”. Before shouting, “We’ve found our new singer!”
The song the band recorded a video for Lonely was next with the crowd clapping along and singing the chorus before it was time for the final song of the evening Eternal World. As the song wound up, La Torre introduced each of the band members before declaring, “Crimson Glory is back.We’re writing a new record keep your eyes and ears open for that, real soon.”
As an added touch, the whole band assembled at the merch stand after the show and despite security’s best efforts to usher us out the venue we were able to meet each member.
Crimson Glory setlist:
Mayday / Valhalla / Dragon Lady / Azrael / Queen Of The Masquerade / Lady Of Winter / Where Dragons Rule / Painted Skies / Masque Of The Red Death / In Dark Places / Burning Bridges / Red Sharks / Happy Birthday Ben / Lost Reflection / Lonely / Eternal World