Live albums are always hard for me to review. It’s one thing to be at the show and another to listen to one on an album. It’s all about the energy. Plus I rarely find live versions of songs to be better than the original studio versions. Sometimes it’s about the special nature of the show. With the latest live album from Fates Warning, the songs aren’t really better than the original versions but there’s an energy to this album that really brings the listener in.
Fates Warning have had other live releases including one by the “Awaken the Guardian” lineup last year. So basically, this means there are essentially two official lineups that fans can choose from. This lineup is the current one led by mastermind Jim Matheos (who is the only member in both lineups) and long time vocalist Ray Alder. Joining them is bassist Joey Vera (also in Armored Saint) who has been in Fates since 1996! It’s mindboggling to think that. The vastly underrated Bobby Jarzombek is on drums with Michael Abdow as the touring second guitarist.
On “Live Over Europe,” the band focus solely on the Alder era material of which there’s a ton anyway. Since there’s a lineup that has played the John Arch material, it’s not needed here. The song selection is quite good with the band playing multiple songs from EVERY Alder album, except for my personal favorite “A Pleasant Shade of Gray” which only gets one track played: the amazing “Part IX.” It’s great that the band play as much from their latest album “Theories of Flight” too because too many bands that have been around as long as Fates will stick to more well known songs rather than focus on the new stuff.
The band sounds awesome live and unlike some “live” albums, this one sounds really live. The backing vocals aren’t from tapes and nothing is cleaned up. Alder still sings as great as ever BUT his upper range doesn’t exist anymore. Instead, he alters the melodies to fit where his voice is today. While this does make the songs lack some of what the original recordings have, I love that he doesn’t try to strain and miss those insanely high notes. It’s sad when older singers do that (no names but you know who they are).
This is more apparent of course in the older material like “Silent Cries,” “Point of View,” “Through Different Eyes” and others. One newer track does seem to be a challenge for Alder when it comes to the pace of the vocal, “The Light and Shade of Things.” But I can’t sing at all so who am I to talk shit about him? The band nail all the older material and sound great. One issue is the lack of keyboards however. “Still Remains” really needs them and while the performance is really good, the song sounds a little bare without Kevin Moore’s keys.
The sequencing is great as well. They plow through a string of shorter songs before getting into longer tracks. Again, the inclusion of all Alder albums in the set is great. Back to back songs from the underrated “FWX” was a nice surprise. Playing the “Acquiescence” section of “The Ivory Gate of Dreams” was also very cool too. While I was a little surprised that they didn’t do “Ghosts of Home” or a few other songs, it’s hard to fault a diverse setlist like this one.
With “Live Over Europe,” Fates Warning fans now have 2 current live albums from each singer in the band’s long history. This album actually makes an excellent introduction for anyone who may not have gotten into the band yet. The performance is dynamic and superb. It’s clear that Fates Warning still have a lot of life left in them and I can’t wait for more new music.
1. From the Rooftops
2. Life in Still Water
4. Pale Fire
5. Seven Stars
7. Pieces of Me
9. The Light and Shade of Things
11. Another Perfect Day
12. Silent Cries
13. And Yet it Moves
1. Still Remains
2. Nothing Left to Say
4. The Eleventh Hour
5. Point of View
7. A Pleasant Shade of Gray, Pt. IX
8. Through Different Eyes
10. Eye to Eye