By Christopher Reid, Journalist and Mafiia McCool, Photographer-Perth, AU
Venue: Amplifier, Perth, Australia
Voyager are finishing up their second nationwide headline tour in less than 12 months. This time around the Australian Prog heavy weights are celebrating of their latest music video for the track “Seasons of Age.” As popular as Voyager are becoming all over the world, surely there is no city in the world more passionate about the big V than their home town, Perth. Therefore, in the intimate setting of Amplifier Bar supported by some great acts, there is arguably no better time or place to catch a Voyager show than on this tour.
This is my first time catching Watercolour Ghosts and I’m exited. The band is full of familiar faces, it’s a local supergroup of sorts – the guys have ties to much loved but now retired Perth acts such as Vespers Decent, Notctis, One Too Many Camel and a host of others. The old adage “a team of Champions or a champion Team” runs through my head as they take the stage. From the first drum fill and subsequent chord it’s clear that Watercolour Ghosts are both a team of champions and a champion team. Complex yet subtle, their brand of dark alternative/progressive rock is astoundingly polished for a group formed so recently. Watercolour Ghost’s time on stage
seemed to pass in a blink of an eye, a reflection of how enjoyable their set was . Every one of their songs was well received by the building crowd, many of whom had probably hoped to catch the start of the set but were delayed due to the venue’s doors opening later than advertised.
Next up is This Other Eden. I’ve seen these guys a fair few times and I’m always impressed. Their brand of heavy alt rock has flavours of punk and hardcore has some real power behind it, especially in a live setting. The entire band have a stage presence and charisma that really sets them apart from many local bands. John Kelly is a extremely talented vocalist and he was well complimented by Andy Lofthouse, who’s backing harmonies were pitch perfect throughout the high energy set. Things got heavy when the band were briefly joined by Andrew Norman from Perth band Havoc: one of the highlights of their set no doubt. The crowd had really filed in by this time and based on the amount of crowd participation many of the punters were obviously there to see This Other Eden.
Klone. I’ll put my hand up and admit that until this tour was announced I had never heard of them. However, in the time since the announcement I’ve done my best to become quite familiar with their work to date. I’m kicking myself that I hadn’t gotten into them earlier. These French maestros of a heavy hitting prog have been around for 20+ years, and have released a number of high quality albums over the journey. The band kicked off with “Immersion,” the opening track from their latest album Here Comes the Sun. Klone immediately commanded the full attention of the crowd. Yann Ligner’s vocals were nothing short of sublime and the rest of the band wove a gloomy and mesmerising tapestry of sound which was heavy at times and atmospheric at others. I’m not sure whether it was my imagination but the sound and lighting production seemed to really raise up to another level during Klones set? Maybe it was just an illusion – their music transcended in a way which I have rarely seen. They closed their set with a goosebump inducing rendition of the track “Nebulous” before playing a jawdropping cover of Björk’s track “Army of Me.” Klone impressed me immensely. I cannot speak more highly of this band – this set was one of the best sets I’ve ever seen, period.
I first saw Voyager in 2004 when they supported Steve Vai at Metro City shortly after the release of their first album Element V. Front man Daniel Estrin is the only remaining member from that line up. I believe it would be fair to say that Voyager’s current incarnation is their most formidable, yet on that first occasion and every occasion since I’ve always been blown away by the immense talent that Estrin possesses and the musical prowess of the rest of band. This latest set was no exception. There are a lot of amazing guitarists in Perth but no band possesses a more impressive pairing than Voyager. Watching Scott Kay shred reminds me of watching Paul Gilbert. Maybe it’s the White Ibanez and his overall look, but I’m pretty sure it’s more to do with the way he makes everything look so easy. Simone Dow’s solos are the perfect combination of feel, melody and subtly – her lead work is mind blowingly good to the point at times it reminds me of some John Petrucci’s finest work – I’d like to think it is therefore no coincidence that she’s recently started sporting a Music Man guitar! Alex Canion is a rare talent. His vocals rival his astounding ability on the bass. His unique approach to instrument really adds to Voyagers sound –virtuosic, yet always tastefully executed. Ashley Doodkorte’s drumming hard-hitting and highly impressive, yet you couldn’t ever accuse him over overplaying. He seems to be one of the rare drummers out there that will serve the needs of the song first. Daniel Estrin’s vocals are always flawless and as we’ve come to expect his work on the Keytar was top shelf. Watching him work a crowd is like getting an crash course in frontmanship 101.
The entire Voyager set was incredibly entertaining, but nothing typified the good fun better than their mash-up / medley of well known tunes which the band generally treats their fans to when playing a longer set. You couldn’t wipe the smiles of the faces on and off the stage when they played through the theme to TV’s Game of Thrones, the “Theme to Ghostbusters,” “Du Hast” (Rammstein), “Beds are Burning” (Midnight Oil) and Tina Turner’s cringe worthy classic “Simply the Best.” It was like a mass admission of guilty pleasures from the entire crowd! As fun as the medley was, the true highlights of the set we’re still the classic Voyager tracks. As usual these included “Lost,” “The meaning of I,” “White Shadow” along with “Hyperventilating” and “Seasons of Age* from their latest album V.
Whoever was the mastermind behind this tour needs to take a bow. The pairing of Voyager and Klone is a masterstroke. I think the choice to have Klone tour Australia for the first time as a co headliner/special guest to an established Australian act, rather than coming out on their own headline tour is a win/win– I’m sure that over the course of the tour they have built a decent following of fans who might have otherwise continued to be shamefully oblivious to their existence. We can only hope a headline tour is in their future planning. Similarly, Voyager have managed to successfully tour the country for the 2nd time in the space of 12 months. In doing so they continue to solidify their place at the very top of the Australian progressive tree. Voyager were exceptional, Klone were as good as anyone could have hoped for, and the local supports in This Other Eden and Watercolour Ghosts were fantastic in their own right. What a night of high calibre music.
Voyager Members: Daniel Estrin, Simone Dow, Alex Canion, Scott Kay, Ashley Doodkorte, Genre: Progressive Metal, Hometown: Perth, Western Australia
Klone Members: Yann Ligner : Chant Guillaume Bernard : Guitare Aldrick Guadagnino : Guitare Florent Marcadet : Batterie Jean Etienne Maillard : Basse Matthieu Metzger : Sax / Samples, Genre: Metal / Rock / Psyché, Hometown: Poitiers
Members: Ben Mazzarol – Drums, Dan Mazzarol – Guitars, Shannon Over – Guitars, David Gee – Bass, Drew James Griffiths – Vocals, Grant Burns – Guitars, (Watercolour Ghosts: 2014), Hometown: Perth, Western Australia