|Saviour Machine had decided to play the first show on their acoustic tour in The Netherlands, the country where everyone sounds like Pim de Keysergracht. I have never seen Saviour Machine live before and back in 2011, I had missed the band's first concert in 9 years. Fortunately, this time I was able to make it. Trine and I got on the night train on Wednesday evening and arrived safely in Zwolle 14 hours later. A small town with a nice atmosphere and no street lights. The traffic was really polite in this town.
If you’re ever in Zwolle and feel peckish, I most sincerely and heartily recommend that you visit the "Public Grand Café and Terras" located right next to the Odeon Theater and order their Surf 'n' Turf meal (Sliced steak with gambas in the most amazing chili cream sauce). This was an amazing dish and served as a perfect warm-up for the show.
When we got out of the restaurant, the theater was open, and inside several stalls were set up, one selling CD’s and another selling SM merchandise. A guy with a video camera asked us some questions before we managed to find the bar and order some drinks. The concert was organized by the guys behind the Brainstorm Festival and they did a splendid job.
Inside the theater, a thick, red velvet curtain was hanging in front of the stage. We had seats in the fourth row on the right side, which was a good place to enjoy the concert. The theater was slowly filling with people, both on the ground floor and in the two balconies on the second and third floor. There was a great ambience in the room and this theater seemed to be the perfect surrounding for what I expected this concert to be.
Shortly after 8pm the curtain began to roll back and people began to make a lot of noise as the band members entered the stage. Jeff Clayton was placed on the right side of the stage with an acoustic guitar, behind him Sam West sat behind a drum kit, obscured from my view through the whole concert. At the back, in the center of the stage, Charles Cooper handled the bass and on the right, also obscured from my view was Nathan van Hala on piano. Taking the center stage was frontman Eric Clayton. Next to him was a small table with various tools and instruments, which he used throughout the show.
Candles were burning all over the stage and the lighting was minimal throughout the concert. This brought a very intimate ambience to the show.
The show had been announced as an unmasked and unplugged performance. Eric Clayton did not wear any make-up but had grown a rather large beard. The songs had been stripped down and changed slightly to fit into the acoustic setting. This worked wonderfully and several songs blossomed in these surroundings.
As the show opened with a cover of The Rolling Stones' Sympathy For The Devil, I got the feeling that we were in for something very special. Eric’s distinguished voice was strong and confident. Throughout the evening, I was constantly overwhelmed by its intensity and the way he portrayed a wide spectrum of emotions. The sound was balanced and every instrument was audible, the theater setting amplified everything and the atmosphere just flowed from the stage. The band felt extremely tight and hit a certain groove that worked during this opening song. The song was well adapted and brought a sense of grandeur to the show.
I was trying to get as many pictures as possible during the first two songs of the show so I’m sure I missed some details here. The lightning was perfect but not exactly perfect for taking pictures.
After the impressive opening song, the band played Ludicrous Smiles and Wicked Window from their debut. It became clear that Eric Clayton was a fantastic performer. He had an amazing stage presence and an amazing voice to go with it. This kept the focus on him for the whole show. This was fortunate since the rest of the band was very passive in regards to audience interaction. For the whole concert they sat still with their eyes on the notes in front of them, completely focused on the music.
After Wicked Window, in a very interesting acoustic adaption, Eric gave a short speech where he mentioned that they had not played this next song in 19 years, so if it sucked we should give them a break. I was intrigued by then and when the band continued to play Son of The Rain, I was one big smile. It was wonderful to hear an acoustic version of this song and this version built perfectly to its chorus. The whole song was a very emotional experience and if this had not been a seated concert, I would have been hanging over the rail, arms held high, singing along. Instead I had a totally controlled emotional outburst as I held my fist high in the air for a few seconds during the amazing climax.
After this, Enter The Idol was played in a brilliant acoustic version and Trine and I tried to start an audience wide clapping session, which failed miserably as everyone in the audience were just too intensely focused on the stage to notice us.
Christians and Lunatics, which followed, was a good example of how the songs had been adapted to an acoustic setting. The song had been slowed down and simplified musically, but the result was a live version that had been intensified multiple times compared to the album version. This was what made this concert experience so special. Well known songs, which I had heard hundreds of times before suddenly got a whole new life and felt fresh anew.
Eric Clayton had an engaging stage presence and bore the entire show. He was singing and doing poses, acting out the songs and keeping the show alive. As mentioned earlier the rest of the band was static and kept all their focus on their performances. Given the perfection of their musical delivery, I was able to look past their lack of interaction with the audience.
Guitarist Jeff Clayton was a standout performer for me. He played in a way that seemed effortless but the result was deeply emotional and felt natural. He was absolutely brilliant and had a perfect guitar sound throughout the show.
Nathan van Hala was another focus point as his piano notes sounded absolutely heavenly. He never missed a note and played the melodies to perfection.
The first part of the show was based on the band’s first two albums and the selection of songs was quite satisfying.
A personal favorite from the second SM album came next with Ceremony. The first verse was lacking the guitar but the wonderful piano playing made up for it tenfold. The guitar joined in the second verse and the song built to a tremendous climax where Eric was on his knees during the "to die in the line of duty" passage. It was a very solemn moment. Nearing the end of the song, the guitar had taken the forefront of the sound and was now backed by the piano. Ceremony was a definite highlight.
Legion from the debut was played as well and during this song Eric walked down form the stage and through the front row of people, shaking hands with everyone in a most sincere way. When he got back on the stage he held up his fan from the table that was next to him and asked if he was the only one sweating and if anyone would come up and hold this fan for him. He announced a ten minute intermission before the band began the opening notes of Love never dies. Eric introduced Jeff, who played an impressive solo part before the end of the song.
This was an amazing first part of the show and we celebrated in the bar with several drinks and a beer.
When we got back in the theater ten minutes later, The Eyes of The Storm signaled the "Legendary" part of the show. During the second part of the show, Eric was supporting himself by a cane, making me wonder if he would topple over at any moment. If he was physically frail, it did not show in his voice, which was still confident and filled with emotion and power.
During The Birth Pangs, Eric joined the percussion with claves and a tambourine. There was a fantastic ambience during this song. Potent and ominous.
Eric made a short speech which was ended by "I think you’ll like this" were after he was relieved by a well known piano melody, introducing a personal favorite from Legend Part I, The Woman. I tried to respond to Eric’s proclamation by making a loud "Wooohooo!" sound, but it came out as a pitiful girly wail, as I lost my voice halfway through. The song was brilliantly played and especially the union of guitar and piano worked extremely well.
Eric introduced the next song as one that was fun for the band to play and they’d decided to stick to it, "because we’re selfish". There was a strong middle eastern ambience, as they ventured into The Sword of Islam. As I sat back in my seat and enjoyed the music, I had the feeling that I could listen to Eric Clayton sing all night.
After this, a funny situation arose as each band member began playing a different song next. Eric quickly stopped them and announced that this was what happened when three different people started playing three different songs. He then gave the imaginary song a very funny name, which deludes me right now, and this was the one time during the concert, where I noticed Jeff smiling. The band got it right and started on The Whore of Babylon, which had a great buildup and a great energy. As I had already guessed, Behold a Pale Horse was next and the song was started with only keyboard playing the melody.
Next was the long, complex and brilliant, The Promise. Jeff played the complex guitar arrangement without breaking a sweat. Nearing the end of the song, Eric urged the audience to participate with the "Fortify until I come line", chanted over and over and it was another memorable moment.
Eric continued with a short speech, where he mentioned two guys who had come up to him and Jeff the day before in a bar in Amsterdam the day before, and said hello. They were two guys from Indiana who had travelled to Europe and were watching all three shows. Eric asked where they were and had the lightning guy shine a light on them.
A special moment came next, as Charles Cooper and Sam West left their seats and stepped up to two microphones placed at the back of the stage. They proceeded to sing background choir vocals as Eric sang The Final Holocaust. There was a very solemn atmosphere during this song. The two guys did a good job on the choir section and the song worked, which is a pretty big compliment. Eric mentioned that Jeff and Nathan has great voices as well but they didn’t want to do it.
End of the age ended the "Legend" part of the show and it did that with a really splendid feeling of fulfillment.
Eric announced that "This band is gonna be the death of me" and then announced that they were running late, so instead of leaving the stage for five minutes, they would just stay and play their encores right away. Nobody minded as the band went into Ascension of Heroes! This song was played with an amazing amount of presence.
Next up was a personal favorite from the debut. A world alone seemed to be made for an acoustic setting. The first verse and chorus section was performed with just voice and guitar. It made for a very moving moment, as Eric walked over to his brother to sing the first verse and held his arm around him. This will resonate with anyone who has read his journal. The whole song was very emotional and peaked near the end, where Eric was singing on his knees in front of the band. The song segued directly into Saviour Machine II, which is my all-time favorite song of theirs. They managed to do it justice in this acoustic setting and I was deeply satisfied with this version and the overall experience.
A cover of Gethsemane from "Jesus Christ Superstar" was another surprise moment that worked really well.
Eric asked if anyone knew the time and someone shouted out "Eleven" and then another "A quarter to eleven", which made Eric laugh. Fortunately he announced that they had time to do one more song, even if they had nine more they wanted to play. We got the dual pack of Legend I:I and The Lamb, which was a positively powerful way to end the show. During the last part of The Lamb, Eric came down from the stage again and this time he walked a round of the whole theater and shook hands with everyone in the outer rows, while singing an extended ending section of the song. Both Trine and I reached out and shook his hand.
After the show, we hung out for a bit at the bar. The band came out and we congratulated them on a fantastic concert, before heading back to the hotel and on the way home there was total agreement that this show was indeed very special.
Experiencing Saviour Machine unmasked and unplugged was a unique and deeply satisfying experience, one that I will treasure and never forget.
If you want a small glimpse of the concert then check out this Youtube clip. An official DVD will be released in the future so keep an eye on the official website.
Sympathy For The Devil
Son of The Rain
Enter The Idol
Christians and Lunatics
Love never dies
The Eyes of The Storm
The Birth Pangs
The Sword of Islam
The Whore of Babylon
Behold a Pale Horse
The Final Holocaust
End of the age
Ascension of Heroes
A world alone
Saviour Machine II
||Click pictures for a bigger view
All pictures taken by Steen
Written By Steen
Online: Friday, September 14, 2012
Saturday, September 15, 2012 - josh
Sounds awesome! Glad to see it was filmed for a dvd,hope it will come out in the USA. I have the first two albums and love them. Need to start picking up the rest.
Friday, September 20, 2013 - progpower87
Steen, Great summary. I've been a big Saviour Machine fan since their debut release. No other vocalist has a voice like Eric Clayton's. Would have loved for them to have a few dates for this acoustic show in the U.S. I haven't seen anything in the way of a DVD release. Still hoping for it.
Friday, September 27, 2013 - Steen
Thanks! It's been very quiet on the Saviour Machine front since the show. I am wondering what is going on too. Hoping for the best. (And Legend III:II naturally)
Wednesday, March 4, 2015 - mea