Jon Oliva’s Pain
15 July 2012
The Garage, London
With over a year having passed since the tragic death of Jon Oliva’s Pain guitarist Matt LaPorte, Jon Oliva decided it was time to get back out on the road. The 25th Anniversary of Savatage’s Hall Of The Mountain King presented an opportunity to air the album in full and a new line up was assembled for the tour.
London was the last show on the European tour and the word was that the band had arrived only 20 minutes before showtime and were playing on borrowed equipment. Opening with Sirens, with Oliva roaming the stage, initially aside from some obvious monitor issues, things didn’t seem to start too badly, but when Oliva took his seat at his keyboard things went downhill.
“We have a slight keyboard malfunction”, explained Oliva, as it transpired a sustain pedal was missing, leading to a very “plink-plonk” sound. With an eventual shrug of the shoulders the band ploughed on into Gutter Ballet and whilst the crowd were bouncing up and down, Oliva was struggling with the onstage sound, visibly wincing and continually having to put a finger in one ear to try and get his pitch.
Edge Of Thorns suffered a similar fate, with Oliva exclaiming, “This f**king piano is haunted”. However, the crowd were very forgiving and sang along every word. Oliva noted The Hall of the Mountain King material would be coming up later, “When hopefully the demons possessing the stage will be dead.”
This tour was also billed to include Dr Butcher material, with hints Chris Caffery may have come along for the ride. However with Caffery not participating, the set list contained only one inclusion from that album, Don’t Talk To Me. Here it finally appeared that the sound was picking up, until a loud screech of feedback had Oliva raising his arms to the sky. Interestingly while other dates had included a few Jon Oliva’s Pain originals, in London everything aside from this one Dr Butcher song was Savatage material.
Tonight He Grins Again was scratched from the setlist, Oliva telling his band “We can’t do this without the pedal.” The following Ghost In The Ruins, dedicated to Matt LaPorte and Jon’s brother and former Savatage guitarist Criss Oliva saw an extended jam section with guitarists Jerry Outlaw and Joe Diaz given ample opportunity to show off their skills. This seemed to give the sound a chance to be sorted and it was notably better from this point onwards.
Kicking off The Hall Of The Mountain King material with 24 Hours Ago, Oliva seemed far more relaxed, alarmingly aided by drinking neat vodka from a bottle. Reverting to his more usual persona of part storyteller, he explained Beyond The Doors Of The Dark was one of his favourite Savatage songs and how he and Criss used to mess around with Legions at their Grandma’s House.
Strange Wings was dedicated to another departed rocker in Ray Gillen. Apparently Gillen asked to contribute backing vocals to the song and knocked it out in one take leaving a memory Oliva said he’d never forget. The Price You Pay was possibly a song that wouldn’t have been included outside a full album playback but White Witch brought things back to life, Oliva telling us it was one of Paul O’Neill’s least favourite Savatage songs, due to its cocaine subject matter.
Oliva explained how he at first thought Paul O’Neill was nuts when he brought the idea of using Grieg’s In The Hall Of The Mountain King, which the band re-imagined as Prelude To Madness. The band’s own Hall Of The Mountain King song followed with the crowd punching the air and singing throughout.
Explaining they’d usually go off now, but weren’t going to, a surprising cover of Deep Purple’s Child In Time followed, particularly poignant in retrospect with Jon Lord passing away the very next day.
An emotional Believe closed a set which whilst disappointing from a technical issue perspective, was rescued by the band and was certainly worthy of attendance.
Jon Oliva’s setlist:
Sirens / Gutter Ballet / Edge Of Thorns / Power Of The Night / Don't Talk To Me / Ghost In The Ruins / 24 Hrs. Ago / Beyond The Doors Of The Dark / Legions / Strange Wings / The Price You Pay / White Witch / Devastation / Prelude To Madness / Hall Of The Mountain King / Child In Time / Believe