Het Kasteel, Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands.
17th September 2004
Lana Lane is a singer from California who has released a series of metal/hardrock-cds. She is married to Erik Norlander, a keyboard player who plays prog-rock/metal-crossover with his band The Rocket Scientists. Besides that, he also releases solo-cds that consist of complex analog synthesizer music.
Both Lana Lane and Erik Norlander are considered at the front of the progrock/metal-scene and are very popular. Based in California, USA they have toured almost constantly through the States, Japan and Europe for the last 8 years. Fortunately there is still is a progrock-scene - although few people can find it nowadays. Talking to Erik we came to the conclusion that in order to get there you need to find the chamber of 32 doors, go down the stairs, left into the elevator, down 15 floors, straight through the Court of the Crimson King, on through the Topographic Oceans and then ask for directions again...
Right. So I enter Het Kasteel because that night there will be a concert by a progrock/metal-band (or the other way around). This is not unique and, most of the time, it means that the band has a keyboard player who can actually be heard. The emphasis, in these cases, is usually on the bass, the drums and on-the-beat (but very loud) guitars. It is quite unusual to hear a band that actually finds the balance between all the instruments and conveys the musical influences as well.
The concert started as a pretty regular rock-concert without too many frills. The first set consisted of Lana Lane material in which metal/rock had the upperhand. The songs were very well written and played although one could hear echoes of well-known bands like Deep Purple, Whitesnake, Heart and Coverdale. Most of the songs were of typical metal/hardrock-ilk. Having said this, I must add that they sounded well-crafted and were very well performed.
Initially the sound was not quite perfect. The gigantic battery of keyboards, for instance, could hardly be heard over the rest of the band. After inquiring why, the sound-engineer told me that the bass, keyboards and bassdrum all produced frequencies that caused interference. Fortunately this only applied to the Lana Lane set. As said before, said set sounded very professional and Ms Lane had a voice like a circular saw. I would compare her sound to a mixture of Aaron Lee and Ann Wilson during their best days. Lana Lane has said that her favourite singer is Ann Wilson so this is quite logical.
The second part of the concert was for Erik Norlander and his band. This set saw a reversal of musical priorities. The keyboards were played a prominent role while Lana Lane took a break from singing.
Erik Norlander has a podium-setup that makes even the most spoiled keyboard-player drool. Afterwards he told me that he has an endorsement with Alesis and there were at least five Alesis analog synthesizers on the stage. Furthermore Norlander had brought with him the most insanely huge modular MOOG-system I have yet seen on a live stage. It was a shame that this system was not used very much during the concert - apparently this set is used more extensively during his solo-concerts. All of this beautiful stuff was controlled through an Apple Notebook.
In spite of the presence of all this instrumental power and the initial sound quality problems, the music was played with subtlety and there was certainly no keyboard overkill. The guitar sounded especially crisp and clear in the mix.
Although the band's core consists of Lane and Norlander, the rest of the musicians should not be forgotten. The duo has played together for over 10 years now and they are usually accompanied by musicians from the same pool on their live tours. All the musicians were very professional and enthusiastic. It's always great to see how well Dutch band members hold up in internationally acclaimed acts and this night was no exception.
As is required of a keyboard player in a progrock-formation, Erik Norlander took the time to demonstrate his abilities. Fortunately this never ended in useless solos or ego trips. The solos served the music - as they should in progrock. The other musicians also got their moment in the spotlight and they, too, knew that one-hour solos are boring.
The gig concluded with the full band playing a set of songs that featured those written by both Norlander and Lane. It was a musical mix of the composers that worked remarkably well. The power vocals of Lana Lane blended in just fine with the incidentally almost bombastic music of Erik Norlander; it sounded as solid as a brick wall.
The venue was not sold out1 however, as far as I could see, all the people who were there had a great evening and were genuinely impressed by the band.
Also present was the ubiquitous merchandising-stand. This is not really hard when you've already made a couple of dozen cds. On this night the people were presented with a pleasant surprise; the merchandising did not stop at the Lana Lane/Erik Norlander materials, they also included a selection of related music and DVDs. I cannot remember anytime in Het Kasteel that the merchandising was more successful.
All in all it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience for all present.
And guess who now owns three cds, a DVD and a T-shirt?