Review by Kunal Singh
Photos: Dhruv Kumar
Two of the hardest working and most prominent names in Progressive Metal have started their tour together and the first stop was Irving Plaza, New York City.
Haken and Symphony X are no strangers to the NYC area, as both have amassed a dedicated fan base and following here. I have seen Haken twice (Highline and Warsaw) and have seen Symphony X many times since way back in the WWE World building hosted them with Blind Guardian in 2002. So it was a safe bet this was going to be a packed house, with fans across several generations.
Haken opened with Prosthetic and Invasion, off of their award-winning latest album, Virus. Though this album is from 2020, the fans around me were cheering and singing along as if it had been lifetime anthems for them. That truly speaks to the dedication of their audience. Following these songs, they performed Nightingale, which is their newest release. It was a spot-on showing of the tune.
Haken then went into their most well-known tune, Cockroach King. There is a well-known section in the tune which is heavily Jazz-influenced, and leader Ross Jennings asked the crowd who’s “ready for some Jazz,” and it made me giggle a bit to hear the crowd jump around a quick bit for a Jazz interlude in a Metal show. It was quite a moment. Nil By Mouth was also another hit they played, with a particularly loud crowd from the crowd of Haken fans I was surrounded by. Following this, the band launched into one of their more iconic songs, 1985. It was in this tune that there is a keytar solo, but with the passing of the torch from Diego to Peter, so too did the solo section change. In a display of tribute, Haken started playing Owner of a Lonely Heart, by Yes. It was more than just a moment of the song, it was nearly the whole song and then launched back into the keyboard solo from 1985. It was a nice head nod and show of respect to the bands who paved the way for the show we saw this evening. They then finished off the evening with Carousel off of Virus again. Haken put on a solid performance and lit the crowd’s fire for prog goodness. They truly are one of the hardest working bands today, as they just disembarked from the Cruise to the Edge gig they did. As they packed their gear up off the stage and were working through the loading area, fans (and myself alike) were thanking them for an excellent show and loving performance. I feel just a bit bad because I knew we were slowing them down a bit, but hey, it’s the guys from Haken!! We gotta say hello and show love!
To close out the night, none other than the long-awaited return of Symphony X! I last saw them at this theater before the renovations, and they promised to perform a special song next time around, and let’s just say they made good on their word.
Symphony X opened the show with a great mix-tape style arrangement of tunes pre-done by Maestro Michael Romeo of tunes from Divine Wings, V, and Paradise Lost. It was like listening to a greatest hits commercial, which was kind of awesome. Then, the band took to the stage with Nevermore, and just tore the roof off of the building. We were treated to their longtime opener Evolution: The Grand Design, as a second song and true to their live album, they performed the song with a few breaks and extras sprinkled in like Jason Rullo’s excellent drum solos. The biggest attraction to me for Symphony X live is that their shows are not just recitals or static performances. They expand on the songs and take time to address the fans, and talk and enjoy each moment. This was exemplified when Russell Allen broke during Serpent’s Kiss and told the audience of his love to see everyone again and gave the shout to their families and loved ones in the balcony area.
Mike Lepond took to the intro for fan favorite and classic tune Sea of Lies, which was just killer. He didn’t miss a single note or beat and the crowd showed their love for the man. The whole time, the crowd which was a VERY dedicated Symphony X crowd was screaming and singing word for word each tune. This was a treat for both fans and the bands.
Allen took to the stage again to talk with us all, show how he feels and tell everyone to enjoy the show, each moment. He was very emotional this night, expressing his love to return, for the band, the band, and how the fans make their lives special. Clearly, over the 2-year hiatus, Allen then welcomed more music onto the stage. They launched into Without You and played it divinely. Allen then said they were done with the softer tunes.
Michael Pinnella gave a beautiful intro for When All is Lost, and the crowd showed so much love to the original member and keyboard great. That song in particular has some excellent use of spaces between notes and tough counting sections, and they of course nailed it. Kiss of Fire and Run with the Devil were both excellent, and hard-hitting. Also, it’s worth noting, that a dedicated fan and artist “Mark (or Marc/Marque)” gave Allen a pencil portrait of Michael Romeo during the show, and it did look absolutely killer just before Run With the Devil… After the mandatory leaving the stage and fake-out ending, the band came back to play one last song. As mentioned before, Allen told the audience they’d play one last tune, but it’s a very very very long song.
The Odyssey. What more do I need to say? They performed the entire song, all 24+ minutes of it. Having parts arranged for the live performance is a talent and labor of professionalism and love that is unmatched. These guys took the whole score, made and rehearsed the reduction of it, and played it with love and excellence for us all.
The whole night was a special treat, a glimpse back into what live music can do for everyone. The night was a gift, for both the performers and the followers. It was a night I hope we enjoy again sometime. After all, this is the 25th-anniversary tour of Symphony X. Let’s cheer them on the whole time.