Overkill & Symphony X
September 29, 2015
Review by JP Wood
Photos by Monika Deviat
The last time Overkill was in Calgary was about a decade ago in a small bar. It was the first time the New Jersey thrashers had ever been to Calgary. I had the pleasure of having dinner with a couple of the guys in the band and while happy to be in town they said, realistically they would not come back. The Western Canadian leg is too small and too far to play to small crowds. They wanted to play cities they had never been to before, at least once, but they doubted they would ever come back. Well, as the Overkill songs says, ‘Never Say Never’, as they returned as part of a co-headlining gig with Nuclear Blast label-mates and fellow New Jersey-ites, Symphony X. The last time Symphony X played in Calgary they played in a bigger venue as support to Iced Earth. So it is very likely that Symphony X was perhaps disappointed they played a smaller hall (Capacity: 1000), half the size as last time, and it is possible that Overkill were much happier playing a much bigger venue – four times as big! It’s all about perception.
It was an all-ages gig with an early start on a school/work night and things ran smoothly and on time at the University of Calgary MacEwan Hall Ballroom. I divided my time between the beer garden and the open area seeing lots of familiar friends and faces at a venue I had been too dozens, maybe even hundreds of times over the years. Alternating nights to headline, Overkill hit the stage at 8:00pm sharp.
Overkill hit the stage with their usual green light effects and lots of energy. Moshers swirled around and the energy level was high. Bobby Blitz cracked jokes and chatted with the crowd with some good stage banter. The set-list was decent a mix of old and new but their careers along and they have so many albums (17) that they really can’t help but miss huge chunks. Instead of worrying about what they didn’t play, it was great to hear anything the band had to offer, from old to new. As expected the classics from the bigger albums in the 80’s got the best response. It was a slightly different, not bad just different, than a sweaty bar show with older fans as many younger curiosity fans came to appreciate one of the titans of thrash. A speaker got blown and there was sound problems for a bit but everyone forged on ahead full speed. It was great to see them again as they roll along with some of the finest albums of their career.
There was quite a long time between bands to reset the stage as both co-headliners had brought a bit more production with them. Singer Russell Allen has changed his look since last time as now he looks like some smooth European disco guy with slicked back, short hair and sunglasses while the rest of the band looked suitably Metal. The confident and charismatic Allen brought out a few masks as props which were a nice touch. He was also much less interactive with the crowd than Bobby Blitz was, not unfriendly, just less joking and chatting. The band played most of the new album with a high degree of technical proficiency. I was a bit disappointed that they skipped a good part of their entire career, not a single song from five albums. Fortunately, they had none of the sound problems that marred part of the Overkill set. A highlight for me was the older track, ‘Of Sins And Shadows’ the lead-off cut from the their third album THE DIVINE WINGS OF TRAGEDY (1998) which featured those lush Queen-like, multi-part vocal harmonies reminiscent of their older era when they sounded more like Queensrcyhe.
Initially, it was an odd pairing and during the night, people chatted about whose crowd it was, but I’d say it was pretty evenly split between the Power Metallers and the thrashers and everybody won!