When Masterplan toured in early 2003 as support of Hammerfall they could convince many metal fans. Now they have the 2nd album out and it's time to tour again. Due to the release schedule of their label AFM it made sense to do a double headliner tour with Circle II Circle the band of former Savatage singer Zak Stevens. The billing was completed by label mates Rob Rock and Pure Inc. This was almost the last show of the tour and so the tour machinary run smoothly.
The Swiss rockers of Pure Inc. who played already with bands like Gotthard and MSG. A 4-band billing always means that the first act on stage have just about 30 minutes stage time. No time to waste. Singer Gianni Pontillo remind me a bit of Bad English singer John Waite, but others hear more Fernando Garcia (Victory) and Ted Bullet (Thunderhead) in his voice... Anyway, with Genius they presented an early highlight of their debut album. And like on the album Piece Of Mind, On The Verge and Next To You followed. Guitarist Sandro Pelligrini was responsible for the heavy riffing which also make them heavier then the usual hard rock act. Also some modern elements and sounds they wove into their songs. The song Next To You the band dedicated to the tragically passed label boss Andy who lost his life in a car crash. They were almost done and for the last song - the album opener - Fear My Eyes they got some assistance by Masterplan bassist Jan S. Eckert who played the rhythm guitar. Shows who well the bands get along on this tour.
Next in line Rob Rock with his band. Holy Hell is the latest release of the American, but it just got into the stores and so they played mainly tracks from Rage Of Creation. When Mr. Rock toured with Axel Rudi Pell he had Rick Renström on guitar. A pity that Renström is no longer playing with Rob Rock, but with the Swedish Narnia he hired a good backing band. It's no secret that Rob Rock as well as Narnia are close to the white metal community. With Judgment Day and Streets Of Creation they presented 2 songs from the debut while Slayers Of Soul came from Holy Hell. Last, but not least he played the Impellitteri song Warrior which he also put onto their latest work. Some might feel like being back in the 80's, coz Rob Rock has some 80's feeling in his melodic metal. An outstanding singer. And it seems that he made some new fans during this tour...
Then it was time for Circle II Circle. Many metal fans with Savatage shirts were in the audience, waiting to see Zak Stevens with his band. Again CIIC have a new line-up, even if drummer Tom Drennan and bassist Mitch Steward are still in the band there are 2 new guitarist... Fans didn't know what to expect... After the intro the band started with a new track called Open Season which is a heavy, riff-oriented song and perfect to start with, even if most fans didn't know it yet. The album's just out for a few days... Guitarists Evan Christopher and Andy Lee fit better into the band then last years Tom McDyne and Rob Wolf. They were out to promote The Middle Of Nowhere and so they played only Sea Of White from their debut - like Open Season co-written by Chris Caffery. After 3 more songs - including the single All That Remains - from The Middle Of Nowhere it was time for some Savatage! Something the fans waited for and with Taunting Cobras and Follow Me they got their first dose of Savatage. Especially Follow Me - with Labyrinths as intro - was for many fans a highlight, coz this track haven't been on the Savatage set list for a few years. After the title track it was time for the last song - Cynical Ride. Another song which got very good response by the fans, seems that the Caffery co-written ones work better... In general it can be said that live the CIIC songs sound better then on disc. the band sounded very tight. For songs like the encore Edge Of Thorns bassist Mitch Steward changed to keyboards and guitarist Evan Christopher took over and played bass. That worked very well and a tour keyboarder wasn't necessary. Beside that Oli Palotai (Doro) was touring with Kamelot at the same time. Zak Stevens still has it. Great voice and intense stage presents. Beside the man in black - okay, guitarist Andy Lee was also in black - it was time for some sport jerseys... It looked like some people just incidentally got together on stage. As a photographer I don't want a band all dressed in black, but a bit more homogenous... But the stage outfit isn't that important. Another great show from the Floridians.
At 10:30 PM the stage got flooded with light and smoke... Red lights flashed and a siren announced that it was time for Masterplan. Opening with Crimson Rider - opening track at Aeronautics - the Hanseatic kicked off their set. Even if Aeronautics was out for awhile the band of former Helloween members Roland Grapow and Uli Kusch decided to play just 4 tracks from the new album - Crimson Rider, Wounds, I'm Not Afraid and as an encore Back For My Life. The band was in an excellent mood, even if some were fighting a cold... Singer Jorn Lande proofed again that he's an outstanding singer. His powerful voice already was the topping on albums of Ark and Beyond Twilight. Hightlights from the debut were - in my opinion - Enlighten Me and Kind Hearted Light. A susrprise was the ballad When Love Comes Close which parted the set in 2 halfs and gave the fans and the band a little break. With Heroes they returned to full power. I would have preferred another song from Aeronautics instead of Roland Grapow's guitar solo, especially because there is no need to demonstrate his talent and after the final track Soulburn the band left. Only 60 minutes lasted the Masterplan, but they came back for 3 songs incl. Back For My Life. During Crawling From Hell the band members were introduced which wasn't necessary, but well... A few notes of Deep Purple's Smoke On The Water were jammed and a few notes from Black In The Burn and they were gone. It was late, but still for a headliner the set was a little short. Perhaps a 3-band package would have be the better option, so that the headliners could have played a little longer. Anyway, a great package. Lots of good music. Thanks to the organizers of the tour and also to the local organization. We will come back!