SAVATAGE October 18, 1997
Savatage Adventure & Concert Review
Savatage has been a favorite band of mine for a number of years. I was originally turned on to them by an ex-boyfriend that had me listen to the Hall of the Mountain King CD. From there I progressed to the others and found that there music could inspire me to be strong, and at other times make me cry. The feelings that came out in the words and music were like nothing I had ever listened to before. Like any other Savatage fan my biggest dream had always been to attend one of their shows and get the chance to meet them. Savatage hadn't come anywhere close to where I lived in years, so my dreams of ever seeing them were very slim. In September I decided to check out their web page and saw that they were going to be doing 3 warm-up shows before their European tour! I just had to go, no matter what!!
So, how does a simple fan go on to describe the most incredible night of her life, the kind that dreams are made of? From the beginning I suppose!
My cousin Michelle and I drove from Rochester, NY to attend the last warm-up show at Jaxx's in Springfield, VA . We arrived in Springfield at 8:30am Saturday morning. The trip itself was a stressful one overshadowed by one calamity after another and after eight and half hours of driving, no sleep, and the inability to check into our hotel room until 3pm, a final incident almost sent us back to NY. We had finally been allowed into our hotel room and no sooner had I stepped out of the shower when the fire alarm went off in the building! We had to evacuate! After standing outside in the cold with wet hair, we were told by the hotel manager that it was a false alarm and that we could go back to our rooms. I couldn't believe it, I was exhausted, exasperated, and now, extremely pissed off!! As I stomped back into the hotel the only thing that I could think was; This show had better be worth it!!! Now looking back, I'm so glad we didn't leave!
We arrived at Jaxx's at 6:45pm. I had the essentials in hand; cigarettes, a camera, a pen, and along with those, 2 copies of a poem I had written and posted on the Criss Oliva Memorial Wall. My aspirations were to give a framed copy to Jon Oliva and have him sign the other one for me. It would take nothing short of a miracle to accomplish this, or so I thought.
Upon entering Jaxx's I saw the guys from the band sitting at the tables at the front of the room. It was then that I realized that my "miracle" was at hand. Realizing that this might be the only opportunity I would get to approach Jon, I walked up to him. I told him my name and then explained about the poem I had written. I then asked him if he would please autograph my copy. He read my poem and then asked me to sit down. He thanked me and told me that he really appreciated the gift and then went on to sign my copy.
I have to tell you that I've never met a nicer guy. Ok, so he's a bit crazy too, but that's part of the personality that we fans love. What I had expected was maybe a bit of arrogance, I mean, he is Jon Oliva! Instead I found a guy that was more than happy to go out of his way to accommodate a fan. (Generally, an unusual trait for someone in the music business.) Not only was Jon accommodating, but so were the other guys as well. All of them signed my poem and let me take their pictures too. Bottom line: I had always been impressed by the band and their musical ability, but now I was impressed with them as individuals as well. No pretense, no flash, no arrogance, just a bunch of really great guys!
So, on to the show......
Anyone that went to any of the Savatage warm-up shows knows that band was incredible! The Wake of Magellan was highlighted, and why not, this was a warm-up show for that tour. The new songs are great, filled with the typical Savatage sound that we've all come to know and love. Other songs they played came from Handful of Rain, Edge of Thorns, Gutter Ballet and Dead Winter Dead. Zak's voice was incredible and his rendition of Chance was terrific! I happen to think he has one of the best voices in the business. But no one can contest the fact that the true pinnacle of the evening was when the band dedicated Believe to Criss Oliva. Jon's voice was awesome; steady, clear and full of emotion. It brought tears to my eyes, and I'm positive I wasn't the only one. The crowd went crazy and I don't think there was person present that didn't sing along. There's no doubt that Criss still inspires the band.
The evening ended with both Zak and Jon singing Hall of the Mountain King. This song, without a doubt, threw the crowd into a frenzy. It was quite apparent, when all was said and done, that everyone enjoyed every minute of the show and like any good band should, Savatage left us all anxiously waiting for their return to the States.
Once the show was over the band took time to change and then made themselves available for autographs and pictures. Alot of bands do that do that right? NOT! These guys were great. I can't tell you how many smiles I saw on the faces of people as they had their favorite CD sleeves signed, or even one of the 8x10 pictures that could be bought there that night, and had their pictures taken with one or all the guys. There were alot of really happy fans there. I was even lucky enough to spend some time talking with Jon, who I found out is an avid Dallas Cowboys fan, and I was even graced with that maniacal laugh of his on a couple of occasions.
The fun went on for over an hour and in the midst of everyone getting autographs and talking with the band I started talking to the band's sound guy, Gary Muchmore. In conversation Gary asked me if I knew of anywhere to eat. I told him that I was not familiar with the area because I had come in from NY. He asked if Michelle and I would be interested in hanging out until everyone left and then going out with all the guys to try and find something to eat. We really had to think this one through for maybe one or two.......seconds, before telling him yes. ( I can't think of anyone in their right minds that would have turned down this opportunity.)
So, at 4am we left Jaxx's and followed the van back to the hotel that the guys were staying in. They all piled out of the van and went into the hotel. I looked at Gary a little confused because I thought that we were all going out to eat. Gary told us to hop in and as I started to I heard this smooth southern drawl from the back: "I don't know 'bout y'all, but I'm hungry, let's go." I turned around to see Zak Stevens sitting in the back seat! (I was a little shocked at first because I had completely forgotten that Zak had grown up in Columbia, SC)
If there's one thing that Springfield, VA is not noted for it's their restaurants! So, after a 20 minute drive around the city we'd all come to the conclusion that we were not going to find anywhere to eat at 4:30 in the morning! With nowhere to go, we decided to grab a few beers and head back to our hotel to just relax and unwind. The plan was on!
We drove back to the Hampton Inn and parked the van near the back door. I had remembered seeing a plaque at the front entrance of the hotel that stated "No unregistered guests allowed in rooms after 11pm". Personally, I didn't care what it said, I wasn't going to miss the opportunity to hang out with Zak Stevens! So I told everyone to go wait by the back entrance and that I would come around and open the door. I walked through the front door, smile at the gentleman at the registration desk and then proceeded towards the back entrance. I could see Zak, who had at least 2 beers stuffed into every available pocket in his coat, Gary and Michelle waiting. I pushed the button to the elevator and then opened the door, telling them to be quiet. Just as they started to come in, the elevator door opened and we all went rushing in!
It's amazing that we didn't manage to wake every person on the fourth floor because we were all laughing so hard at the fact that we looked like a bunch of idiots running for the elevator! We entered our room and realized that we had in fact woken up our roommate Patrick. (Patrick had driven up from NC to see the show) It only took a couple of minutes for his initial confusion and irritation to turn into disbelief when he realized that Zak Stevens was in OUR room. He didn't believe me at first when I tried to tell him who it was, but once he put his glasses on his jaw hit the floor!
For the next hour and a half we all talked and drank a few beers. Zak talked about himself, the band, their music , and his family. There were many occasions when he had us all laughing while telling stories about his family and accompanying them with some of the most animated facial expressions ever seen. He really is quite a funny guy, and I know that Zak is married, and it's easy to see that he's very happy, but girls let me tell you that he is a strikingly handsome guy with the most hypnotic eyes I have ever seen!! And to top it all off, he's extremely sweet! Am I bias? You betcha!!
It's really amazing how fast the time flew by and in less than four hours Michelle and I would be leaving to go back to NY. I didn't want the evening to end, but unfortunately, we all needed to get some sleep. Before Zak left he signed some stuff for Patrick, and even allowed him to take pictures of him. Michelle was exhausted and had fallen asleep on the bed. Gary suggested that Zak sign her forehead in permanent marker before he left so that she would have a little momento of the evening. (God only knows what kinds of little pranks these guys play on each other!) At the last minute he decided not to do it because he didn't want her to be mad at him. I would have loved to have seen her expression in the morning when she looked in the mirror.
Gary and Zak drove me back to their hotel so that I could pick up my truck. It was hard to believe that the night was coming to an end and it would probably be awhile, if ever, that I would get to experience this again. (If only this could be like the movie Groundhog Day!) I gave Gary a kiss on the cheek and thanked him for everything that he'd done for us. There is no doubt that without him this dream would never have come true. (And if by chance Gary you happen to be reading this; YOU ARE THE MAN!!)I then turned to Zak, who was sitting in the seat behind me, and thanked him for hanging out with us and for being so cool. He leaned forward, gave me a kiss and a big hug. The dream was now complete!
Michelle and I jammed nothing but Savatage on the whole trip back to NY. We laughed and recounted all the things that had happened to us, and it didn't matter that we had only 3 hours of sleep, it was well worth being tired! I have to tell you that even as I write this I can't believe what a lucky person I am. I'm still pinching myself!