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Fates Warning's San Antonio duo welcomed home by Backstage Live faithful

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Fates Warning @Backstage Live

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Fates Warning's concert Wednesday night may have appeared, on the surface, to be an ordinary Backstage Live show. But that was hardly the case for vocalist Ray Alder and drummer Bobby Jarzombek.

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The San Antonio natives returned home at long last for a gig, as the progressive metal band that debuted in 1984 (yes, kids, that means prior to Dream Theater) played the Alamo City for the first time since July 10, 2010. For Jarzombek -- who also drums for Rob Halford's solo band and Sebastian Bach's solo band, it signaled his first hometown concert since June 2, 2009, as a member of Riot.

While a mere 300 tickets had been sold, according to a venue staffer, the adoration from the intimate gathering intensified the specialness of the evening. Among those in attendance were Jarzombek's guitarist brother Ron Jarzombek and Riot bassist Don Van Stavern, along with Alder's mother, brother and other family members who partied like rock stars backstage afterwards.

For Alder, who has lived in Los Angeles for two decades but calls San Antonio home, his declaration that "This is probably the best show of the tour so far" upon introducing new tune "Firefly" didn't come across as the standard rock-star line spewed in every city. It came across as the most heart-felt.

After Artizan and San Antonio's Baad Newz and Wicked Angel set the table as support acts, Fates Warning opened its 90-minute set with the first track from Darkness In A Different Light -- the group's first CD in nine years that came out Oct. 1 -- called "One Thousand Fires." It marked the only deviation from the setlist. Alder even shared the fun fact of the night: Baad Newz was the first band he sang in.

From there, the hometown duo and bassist Joey Vera, fill-in guitarist Mike Abdow and guitarist Jim Matheos -- the only member of Fates Warning since Day 1 -- pleased the prog metal and pure rock fans in attendance with a few of the "parts" from 1997's A Pleasant Shade of Gray, plus a touch of albums such as 1988's No Exit ("Quietus"), 1989's Perfect Symmetry ("Through Different Eyes") and 1991's Parallels ("The 11th Hour" and "Point of View").

The SAMME's introduction to Fates Warning came circa 1988 when Alder debuted with the band on MTV hits "Silent Cries" and "Anarchy Divine." So it was a slight bummer not to hear those tunes live. But it's also understandable. Those songs highlighted Alder's amazing high-pitched range as a 21-year-old, and as he explained in our recent interview (read here), vocalists have to adjust to their capabilities and listen to their bodies when they're 46. Judge for yourself by clicking on the setlist (above left) for the SAMME's footage of "Wish" and "Monument."

Following the solid and wide-ranging performance, the laughter and good times kicked into another gear for Alder, Jarzombek and Vera as they met with family and friends. Vera, who also plays in Armored Saint and spent 2004 as the touring bassist in Anthrax, was so laid-back that he insisted on being called "Dude" by those meeting him for the first time.

Shortly thereafter, the San Antonio duo met with fans patiently waiting behind the barrier by the band's bus. Jarzombek, who still lives here, signed vinyl copies of Riot's 1988 Thundersteel album. Everyone went home happy -- and hoping it won't take another 3 1/2 years for Fates Warning to display its brand of technical metal in South Texas.

For related SAMME coverage, click on the "Suggested" links in blue below.

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