Whenever I go more than a few weeks without covering a show I start to get antsy. Such was the case today as I hopped in the car and headed to the Plaza Live in Orlando. A nasty storm had just blown through but surprisingly the traffic was light. Prog metal band Symphony X was in town to celebrate their 25th anniversary although in reality it’s their 28th anniversary. You can thank the pandemic for the delay, but the most important thing was that they were here now and this one was going to be hot. All Music Magazine was fortunate to have covered this lineup a few weeks ago in Denver so I’m going to try my best not to sound like a broken record.
I’m a little OCD when it comes to being early so I was elated to find that the lobby was already open. I lost track of time while talking with a friend and when the main doors opened it was 7:00. Unfortunately 7:00 was also the set time for Hollywood alt-rockers Trope and they were already playing by the time I was able to unpack and assemble my gear, which by the way can be difficult to do in the dark. Trope’s power duo of Diana Studenberg on vocals and Dave “Moonhead” Thompson on guitar were determined to give the crowd a show they wouldn’t forget and they got right to it with “Lambs” from their Eleutheromania album. This song has been in my head for the last week since I 1st streamed it. Studenberg’s haunting vocals take you on a lyrical journey while Moonhead delivers the instrumental punctuation. This song is legit.
“Plateau” is another example of a song where Studenberg’s vocals are on full display and she knocks it out of the park. Moonhead’s guitar work is exemplary and really shines on “Breach” and “Pareidolia.” Studenberg was a fireball as she found time to sprint back and forth while continuously cheering on the crowd. I would really love to check Trope out when they have a longer set because the 7 songs flew by quickly. At the end of the night, I bumped into Moonhead in the lobby and we chatted for about 20 minutes. The guy couldn’t be more down-to-earth and we discussed everything from our trident tattoos, 1st concerts, to life during the pandemic. I expect big things from Trope, and you should definitely follow them online (links at bottom).
Diana Studenberg: Vocals
Dave “Moonhead” Thompson: Guitar
Up next was Haken, a prog metal sextet from across the pond. These guys have amassed quite a following as was evident from the throngs of Haken shirts visible throughout the crowd. The torrid riffs of “Prosthetic” got things going and from that point on the stage was a sea of changing colors and flashing laser lights. Those in attendance were treated to a performance of the band’s newest single, “Nightingale.” Not being overly familiar with Haken, I was amazed at the diversity they showed throughout their set.
Haken’s ensemble took up every inch of the stage. I couldn’t help but notice that bassist Conner Green had a smile on his face throughout the entire performance. It turns out that it was his birthday, and the band and crowd sang a rousing “Happy Birthday.” The band pounded out “Cockroach King” and then vocalist Ross Jenkins said they were going to take things back to the 80s. Hoisting his mic stand above his head and sporting a pair of neon green glasses, Jenkins led the band into “1985” which included a portion of Yes’ mega-hit “Owner Of A Broken Heart.” Haken chose “Carousel” as their closing song. If you are a fan of progressive metal then you really must give Haken a listen. Their creativity and attention to detail is first-class and their music is as pure as it gets.
Ross Jenkins: Vocals
Peter Jones: Keyboards
Richard Henshall: Guitar
Raymond Hearne: Drums
Charles Griffiths: Guitar
Conner Green: Bass
5.Nil by Mouth
6.1985 (Owner Of A Lonely Heart Included)
Somewhere after 9:00 the house lights went out and it was time for Jersey prog metal masters Symphony X. As smoke billowed across the stage, the illuminated backdrop displayed the band’s signature twin masks. Within seconds, flashing red lights engulfed the stage as the band erupted into “Nevermore” from the Underworld album. Vocalist Russell Allen sauntered to the front of the stage wearing a stylish pair of silver sunglasses. It’s obvious that front and center is where Allen is most comfortable and for the next hour and a half or so this would be his home. The fans were beyond fired up and it was standing room only.
Rather than spew out a repetitive description of the setlist, I’d rather take time to focus on the members of this iconic band. Guitarist Michael Romeo is a guitar aficionado, it’s as simple as that. The way he blazes through songs like “Kiss Of Fire” is nothing short of mind-blowing. With influences like KISS, Led Zeppelin, Rush and AC/DC it’s no wonder I like this guy so much. With the stage lighting frequently coloring Michael Pinnella’s hair a bright silver, he resembled a masterful, musical wizard while at the helm of his keyboard. His work is stellar and is showcased during songs like “When All Is Lost“, which is my favorite. Having played the piano since he was just 4 years old this should come as no surprise.
The setup made it a little difficult to capture drummer Jason Rullo while he was hard at work. I have to admit that I felt a little like a sniper lurking in the balcony, but I was determined to get my shots. I sometimes catch myself using the word “beast” to describe drummers and I almost did it again. The truth is that Jason Rullo is more than a beast and that goes beyond when he takes a seat at his kit. Rullo recovered from heart failure less than 10 years ago and to see the way he performs is remarkable. His work on “Run With The Devil” left me shaking my head. Another KISS inspired musician; bassist Michael LePond became hooked after seeing Gene Simmons perform. LePond has had several side projects along the way but remains a defining member of Symphony X. I touched on singer Russell Allen at the beginning, and I could really go on and on. His charisma and pure, clean, powerful vocals are incredible.
When it comes to the setlist, what better place is there for a 24-minute masterpiece than at the end? The “Odyssey” is from the 2002 album bearing the same name and it is an epic rollercoaster of a ride that allows each member to “own” a portion of this great song. It really is a work of genius. With the North American Tour winding down I’m anxious to see what future projects are on the horizon. This was a really great night at one of my favorite venues. Please take time to follow these 3 awesome bands online. I made it easy for you and all their links are below.
Michael Romeo: Guitar, Backing Vocals
Michael Pinnella: Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Jason Rullo: Drums
Russell Allen: Lead Vocals
Michael LePond: Bass, Backing Vocals
4.Sea of Lies
6.When All Is Lost
7.Kiss of Fire
8.Run With the Devil
9.Set the World on Fire (The Lie of Lies)
Follow Trope Online:
Follow Haken Online:
Follow Symphony X Online: