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Progressive Nation Tour Review

by Mark Hensch

The best and brightest of heavy metal's glorious future converged in Detroit's Fillmore Theater May 14, showing just how far the genre can still be taken in new directions. In a testament to the genre's staying power and potential for innovation, four bands from all arenas of the scene delivered a remarkable, fresh, and exciting concert experience for all involved.

Opening act 3 were first, mesmerizing audiences with their blend of Latin rhythms, trance-inducing tribal percussion, and mind-blowing psychedelic arena rock. Still supporting 2007's The End is Begun, the band delivered a major league performance and wowed many with their forward-thinking sound. Frontman/guitarist Joey Eppard remains one of rock's most undervalued stringers, his superb slap technique and fiery picking impressing the masses. Besides this, multi-instrumentalist Joe Stote remains the most entertaining live musician I know---the man clearly loves every thing he does with the entirety of his being and it shows. The band's set, though brief, ended in a manic flurry of busted guitars and insane displays of technicality. Having seen 3 five times, I can also add that this was clearly their best performance.

I had mixed expectations for following act Between the Buried and Me but thankfully such worries were unnecessary. I had heard from a friend that the band's ferocious technicality got in the way of their live performance, but their set here was anything but tame. Choosing to support the revolutionary work of their new album Colors, the band draped themselves in a tapestry of fuzzy haze. Frontman Thomas Giles Rogers Jr. also lit a fire underneath the crowd, making his confrontational howls personal and literally sprinting from stage end to stage end. It was truly a sight to see---a harried vocalist rushing from pit balcony to keyboards and back while a crew of virtuosos mauled the air with complex sounds around him.

As entertaining as these earlier bands were, Opeth took the evening with ease. No other band is as kingly, elegant, or grand in scope as the Stockholm, Sweden quintet, and a night like this proves why. Over the course of a little over an hour, the band played six songs spanning the full scope of music's raw beauty and furious passion.

Opeth appropriately kicked things off with the crushing "Master's Apprentice" before leading moshers down avenues of keyboard warfare on "The Baying of the Hounds." Following this, band slowly unveiled the tranquil piece "In My Hour of Need" before dropping a new tune.

Said track, "Heir Apparent," will appear on the upcoming Watershed album and deftly weaves Gothic pianos into a wall of slamming 1970's prog-influenced death metal. Fresh and furious, it shows that Opeth still has a bright future of invention ahead. After this, things closed with the haymaker combo of classics "Wreath" and "The Drapery Falls," making sure that every fan in the building got plenty of thrills for their money.

Last up were the legendary prog masters themselves, Dream Theater. Though their style of technical, long-winded compositions has now often been imitated, the band still continued tinkering with convention via the entertainment aspects of their set. This progression was accomplished by a large movie screen the band erected, the likes of which danced with all manner of surreal, vivid images. An elaborate conceptual stage set also provided a backdrop for the group, with cameras smartly placed to capture various solos up close. Dream Theater's approach was in hindsight pretty interesting, but my vote still goes for Opeth as act of the night.

All-in-all, here's hoping the Progressive Nation Tour will turn into a fully-fledged annual package for the summer concert-goer. The concept of a yearly tour showcasing progressive or unusual metal acts sounds like a blast, and if this year's version is any indication, it would continue to be.

Check 3 out at www.myspace.com/3

Check Between the Buried and Me out at www.myspace.com/betweentheburiedandmeband

Check Opeth out at www.myspace.com/opeth

Check Dream Theater out at www.myspace.com/dreamtheater

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