The 'Hall of the Mountain King'-tour brought a moderate breakthrough for the band. And not only because they played in the real big halls for the first time, but also because the album was selling very well in the USA at the same time. Chris Caffery was his own roadie, during the shows he was standing behind the P.A. boxes ("I was in my own little world"), steady rhythm-guitar and on top of all that he took care of the played a dream-like keyboards keyboardist at all. Jon had written upon the keys for me, which key I had to push "though I wasn't a in which song. But it worked!"
What did not work
however was the chemistry between the road crew and Chris. "One
night, Criss' guitar roadie did something and that was the limit.
I'm not an animal. I couldn't cope with the fact, that the crew
treated me worse than anyone would treat their own crew each
night. So I quit."
But in the meantime it had become evident to Jon and Criss, that the band, like Paul had already predicted, had grown a full dimension with Chris on stage- finally Criss was able to concentrate upon his playing to come to its full right. Besides, Chris and the band had become good friends. And so the Olivas were hanging on the phone during the production of 'Gutter Ballet', offering him to become a permanent bandmember. Although Criss Oliva had recorded the guitars on 'Gutter Ballet' on his own, Chris had his picture printed in the CD- booklet plus credit- "Christopher Caffery: guitars & keys".
Chris:"It is a decision like this one that shows us, what kind of person Criss was. There are bands that have specifically printed on the back cover , which one of the two guitarists played which note at which spot in which song. Criss has created a place in the band for me, that was never there, 'cause he had never played together with another guitarist , and he never even claimed an album credit like "lead guitar" or "all guitars". Anyone could hear who played leads anyway. That alone was enough for him".
Before the 'Gutter
Ballet'-tour Paul O'Neill delivered a masterpiece with the
directing and cutting of the 'When the Crowds are Gone'- video,
that did Jon's song full justice. As if he wanted to say:
"We can also do it differently!" But it was the clip of
the title song, shot in Siberian temperatures of 30 degrees below
zero, that tumbled into the rotation of MTV for 14 weeks in a
Nevertheless Paul sadly concludes, that "The 'Gutter' album came a bit too late to be able to make full use of the shift the band made in the USA with 'Mountain King'.
|Before the European tour the guys rehearsed for ten minutes or so. Chris:"Johnny wanted to go fishing, Criss said he knew the songs well enough, and the rest also had better things to do. We were about to fly over to Germany the next day and wanted to make ourselves a little bit comfortable . Rehearsing was never our thing. We were ready and willing to play anyway".|
In spite of these
intensive preparations Savatage were at the height of their glory
on this tour: this will be confirmed by anybody who witnessed the
first official gig of the five-piece in Hamburg, or any of the
following shows. Not a headliner in the world could have gone on
stage after them and exceed their playing. This band was hungry,
greedy and loaded with power. Savatage played at the same level
as Judas Priest or Iron Maiden at their best times. Testament
changed their setlist on the US-tour with Savatage after two
shows and opened with their wellknown song 'Practise what you
Preach' , to keep the energy inside the hall that had been built
up in the adience half-way.
Chris: "That was the first time Criss Oliva went onstage aware of the fact, that he was being recognized as a guitarist. He simply played his ass off! Jon had never looked better in his entire life, Johnny finally found someone (me) that he could play together with and Steves drumming speaks for itself."
The only thing that
caused trouble this time was Doc Wacholz' drumkit, a special
design for the US shows. A real monster, all ready fixed and
assembeled upon a socle ( Chris: "The ultimate drumkit-
presupposing that you play in a hall the size of Madison Square
Garden each night."). The only disadvantage: a special
truck had to be rented to transport the thing- and then it
wouldn't go through the door of every second hall. In these towns
we tried to get hold of every thing that was available, in order
not to let the shows fail, and so many nights Dr. Killdrums sat
behind a collection of equipment, consisting of blue, yellow and
What could have been a drumroadies dream, became the nightmare of Steve's tech, who was the most severely misused stagehelper of rock 'n roll-history anyway. While Steve is ' deaf in one ear and hard of hearing in the other' it had already become tradition to drag along half a P.A of monitor boxes just for the drummer.
ears will be ringing for the rest of my life when I think back of
the 'Gutter' tour. Criss was infernally loud, and Jon tried to be
even louder all the time, in order to hear himself sing. His
famous screams have torn my head off more than once each night. I
haven spoken with some fans back in Germany thad said they had
never heard a louder band than Savatage in their entire lives; we
would even have blown away Motorhead and Manowar. What?, they
have been the official world record holder for two years? Man,
these guys should've come to our rehearsal room. There they could
have heard the real Loudest Band in the World! Over there we had
a P.A. that would have sufficiently served at an Open Air-
festival. An enormous thing, real towers of boxes, and
nevertheless Criss managed to blow us all away with his sound. We
were tortured by enormous sound waves- and even then we couldn't
hear anything. I remember hearing Criss say: "I can't
fuckin' hear my guitar!"
Jon: "There's one thing I would like to say about my brother: he was the loudest, by far the loudest musician that I have ever heard in my entire life! There are a lot of bands out there that claim to be loud, but not one of them even came close to Criss Oliva. We had a whole battery of 200-Watt-Laneys behind our backs and even in position of rest these things produced a creaky noise that made it impossible to hear your own voice."