Waremme, Belgium - Quite excited to be heading out to this gig. Over the years, I heard all about how enthusiastic Belgium audiences are, so this was something I had to witness first hand. Woke up at 6am. Traveled over land, then sea, then land again which included getting lost for 2 hours in Brussels. For some strange reason, the name of the city we were looking for (Liege) all of a sudden was called Luik on all the road signs.
Finally arrived at the Waremme Capitale Rock festival at 6pm where I was immediately greeted at the entry by the warm and friendly festival organizers. They were extremely happy to have Cranes as their headlining band, and couldn't get over the fact that so many people traveled from all over the world to attend their festival. The festival was held in the town square, which (just for comparison) is probably about the size of Rockefeller Center in NYC. The concert area itself was housed under a big white tent covering about half of the sqaure's area. Perfect outdoor weather too, with the temperature in the low to mid 70s (F).
By time I walked into the festival area, a Belgian band called Electro:lux had just finished their set. I couldn't tell you what they were like, but if it's any consolation, Alison thought they were really good. Next up was a local Cure cover band, Curiosity. I've never seen a Cure cover band before, and I was a little skeptical about what they would be like, but I have to say I thought they were pretty tight. They sounded exactly like the Cure. If you didn't actually look at them, but just listened to their set, you would think Robert Smith and co were in town. The crowd really seemed to dig them too. Standing in the back of the tent, I could see lots of heads bouncing up and down up front to all the Cure classics.
I didn't catch the next band, Sweet Jane, but I caught the second half of Perry Rose's set. It was kind of weird to see an Irish folk singer from Belgium play right before Cranes, but nonetheless, it made for an interesting change of pace. They finished their set around 10:00 pm, which by that time, the festival area began to fill up quite quickly. I don't have an exact attendance number for the festival, but let's just say that it was PACKED. All 1000 tickets to the festival had already been sold out that evening. But then just before Cranes hit the stage, a few more hundred people showed up, and the organizers had to let them in for free as a nice gesture. So overall there were roughly between 1200 - 1500 people in attendance. Definitely the largest crowd at any Cranes gig I've ever attended, and on top of that, one of the most enthusiastic crowds I've ever been in too. Alison Shaw fanatics all out in full force for this one!
Around 10:45 pm, the lights dimmed down, and one of the festival promoters came out to introduce the band. Everyone went nuts, and out strolled Jim, Ali, John, and Paul. Very strong setlist. All Cranes classics right from the start. "Cloudless" (a crowd favorite which I was happy to hear since it was never played on the last US tour), then into another Forever favorite "Everywhere", followed by "Reverie" (definitely one of the band's favorites to play live) and then "Adoration" (quite arguably the best Cranes song ever, which I was surprised to see played so early in the set).
The middle core of the set was definitely the highlight of the show, which included 3 brand new songs from the forthcoming album, tentatively titled "It's a Beautiful World". The first new song was called "Here Comes the Day". A moderate paced song that starts off hopeful, takes you slightly astray for a second, and then closes out triumphantly. The next 2 new songs of the evening didn't even have real titles yet. As of that night, their working titles were "Slide Song" and "Future Song". Note, that "Slide Song" is not to be confused with the song "Slide", which was a Forever b-side from 1993. It's called "Slide Song" for now, simply because Jim plays guitar on it with a slide. The slide guitar bits come out very effective for this song, set to the more up beat tempo with Ali on bass and Paul on rhythm guitar. Great song to watch Jim play live, and also my personal favorite of the new songs.
After the short preview of new material, Jim picked up his Fender Jag and strummed into the Population 4 classic "To Be", which was always my favorite song to see them perform on the last tour. John Calender showed that he fits right into the new lineup by demonstrating his fine drumming skills, playing the chaotic 'rattler' part to perfection. You know you're good when the crowd the breaks out into applause while the song is still playing.
Next on the set was the final new song of the evening, and also Ali's personal favorite of the new batch, "Future Song". Explanation for the title? As Ali put it, "because it's about the future." Don't ask me what the lyrics are, but I do hear her mention the future in there somewhere. More of a slower song with a heavy prodding bass line, and to me was kind of reminiscent to something from the Loved era.
The main set was closed with a very powerful "On Top of the World" (I think they sped up the tempo of the song since the last tour), and then the classics from Loved, "Lilies" and "Paris and Rome". Paul Smith did an excellent job on "Lilies" playing both bass and keyboard (at the same time). And for me, it was great to finally get see "Paris and Rome", another crowd favorite that was never played on the US tour in 97.
The crowd was extremely into it by the end of the set, and thus 2 encores were imminent. The "Far Away" and "Adrift" combo in the first encore was as powerful as ever. Paul once again getting lots of praise from the fans down up front for his Rock God guitar solo. The set was closed with 2 more songs , which are complete polar opposites of each other. The Population 4 acoustic ballad "Tangled Up" and the classic gut wrenching anthem "Starblood" . From just watching the second encore alone, you really realize just how diverse of a band Cranes can be.
After it was all over, nobody wanted to go home. The crowd stuck around cheering for quite awhile after the set was over. Afterwards, band members mingled with all the fans who waited patiently outside the festival gates to meet them. Still to this day, I've never seen any other band as friendly to their fan base as the Cranes. The fact that they're so down to earth in person, yet their music is so unique are probably the main reasons they've been able to hold such a devoted following for so long. Even after 2.5 years since their last release, it was pretty amazing to see that Cranes mania is still alive and kicking. And judging by the crowd's warm reception to all the new songs, it's safe to say that it'll be kicking for awhile.
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