A dimly lit room, tables, chairs, candles, fancy wine, and cheese are not necessarily the norm for me when it comes to attending concerts. Trading the smoky, musty, dank clubs with nasty floors and swill beer for just one night wasn’t a bad deal at all and seemed very suiting for the performance we were about to take in. Geoff Tate brought his “The Whole Story” acoustic tour to City Winery in Atlanta and this classy setting couldn’t have been any more perfect for the class act and display of musicianship I was hoping to get.
With no opening act at all, Geoff’s band (featuring Operation: Mindcrime guitarist Scott Moughton, Casey Jones on guitar, Alice Tilton on violin, and Ollie Jordan-Kelly on Cajon) took the stage and immediately the familiar chords of “Walk in the Shadows” filled the room. As Tate made his way to the stage, the crowd cheered loudly as he kicked off what would easily be one of the single greatest concerts I have ever attended. “Another Rainy Night Without You” was next and while I always liked this song, hearing it in this stripped down, organic form made me absolutely love it. Tate’s voice was so powerful, so emotive, and so full of passion that I could feel every note. I know it sounds corny but it’s true. There is just something about hearing these amazing songs stripped down to the core root of their existence that made me realize that these songs are even more beautiful than I ever imagined them to be.
The evening was full of outstanding renditions of songs such as “Jet City Woman”, “Bridge” and “Silent Lucidity” but it was the deep cuts such as “Chasing Blue Sky”, “Until There Was You”, and “Blood” that truly blew me away. These are songs that never really sparked much interest in me but hearing them in this setting made me see just how brilliantly magical the lyrics and music are for these songs. Geoff was definitely in his element and honestly seemed more comfortable and happier than I have ever seen him.
Opening himself up like a book, Geoff told some amazing stories which made me not just understand the songs more but it made me understand him more. There was such a level of transparency to both this performance and storytelling that it just made me love the guy even more than I ever have. Geoff told a great story of how as a kid, he would always bug his stepdad (who adopted him and he called dad) to talk about his time in the wars that he fought in only to be shut down time and time again. Finally, Geoff’s father opened up to him and shared all of his stories and then the band played “American Soldier.” Again, this isn’t a song that I really liked much but after the story and hearing it here, it made me love it.
Another highlight came when the Tate and company were about to perform “Out of Mind” from the Promised Land album. Tate pointed out a lone guitar resting on a guitar stand. “See this guitar right here? This guitar belongs to Chris Degarmo. We set it up on stage every night with hopes that one evening he may join us on stage. Until then, the guitar will remain un-played and ready for him.” The song was absolutely amazing and it gave me chills.
Song after song, Tate and his outstanding band delivered awe-inspiring performances that were fun and inspired with a sense of casual looseness. Tate absolutely loves this band and you can tell as he would step to the back of the stage and look on smiling as lead guitarist Scott Moughton ripped out solos with finesse and even at times a bit of humor which added to the lightened, easy going mood of the night. For me, the real treat was when violinist Alice Tilton would step up and shine proving to be the secret weapon on songs like “Jet City Woman”, “Out of Mind”, and “The Lady Wore Black.” Tilton’s violin added so much depth to these songs and she took these songs into a whole new stratosphere. When they kicked into “Take Hold of the Flame”, I literally couldn’t contain myself from delivering a horribly off-key high note of “Hooooold!” to which Tate and the band just laughed. There’s nothing better than when a song moves you so much you can’t contain it and this particular song did that. It was beyond words how beautiful it sounded.
Geoff Tate and his band really knocked it out of the park on this tour. I’m sure all of the haters are going to start commenting with all of their vest jokes and whatnot but you know what? That’s fine because at the end of the day, I know what I saw, I know what I heard, and I know what I felt. Tate’s voice was the strongest, most passionate I have heard it sound to date and his love and connection to these songs shine through. This performance takes some already great songs and makes them even better. Taking them back to the roots, back to the way they were originally written has created a connection with Tate that is undeniable. As I said earlier, this is Geoff Tate in his element and to see him so passionate, so connected, and so happy served as a reminder of not just why I’m a fan of these great songs but why there is nobody that could do these songs better than Geoff Tate… ever.