Sonata Arctica/ Myopia/ Northern Cross
The Webster Theatre - Hartford, CT, 1/2/08
By Jack Deming
Scheduling conflicts were in abundance during the weeks leading to this show, as power metallers Visions of Atlantis
had to bow out due to problems with a booking agent, and their replacement Sanctity
did the same for who knows what reason. So, the legions of power metal nerds and I were left with three local bands from the Hartford area as openers. This usually isn't a fantastic situation, but I made an effort to keep an open mind as I crossed my arms and stared up at the first band, Northern Cross
, who as I found out halfway through their keyboard intro, had an unfortunate case of the trying-too-hards. I'm making an effort to be nice about this, but really, it's difficult. Their music has some potential to be decent (three parts Death
, one part insert finnish folk metal band
here), but it would be helpful to actually learn how to play their songs first, crazy as that sounds. I was puzzled to see the guitar/vocals guy rattle of a couple of fairly fast lead lines, when not less than a minute before he had made horrible mess of the main melody of the song. Priorities anyone? He also had quite a time trying to figure out the volume knob on his guitar. Never a good thing. All bands must start somewhere however, and I give these guys credit for having the stones to play to a crowd as judgemental (clearly) as this.
Next up were another local band whose name I cannot remember for the life of me (something with 'Shadows'?), sorry guys. They played a fairly decent mash up of melodic death and metalcore, and did it better than most of the myriad local bands around the New England that play this style. However, this got boring after a short while, so I tuned out and wandered for a bit, and therefore don't have much memory of this set. After they left the stage and I caught on to the fact that there would be yet another local band taking the stage, I quickly became quite annoyed and braced myself for another slow half hour.
Not so. North Haven's Myopia
promptly strode onto the stage and launched into a set of driving power metal that kept the crowd completely absorbed on them until the last free t-shirt was thrown into the frenzied crowd. It was great to see a local band that truly knows how to bring a crowd to its knees with not only a fantastic stage show, but with their music. They played a steel mix of Stratovarius
influenced power metal with slightly folk tinged feel provided by their keyboardist, who periodically switched between the Jens Johansson approach and a more layered, epic sound. There were a few minor mishaps, including a nearly inaudible guitar sound for a song or two, as well as a broken e bass string (which had me wondering how on earth that could possibly happen), all handled with pure class. The singer got a big laugh out of the crowd by patiently explaining that the broken bass string not only makes it hard to play the notes on the string in question, but also puts it out of tune as well. It is incredibly rare to witness a young local band with as much presence and maturity as Myopia
, and rarer still to see one get a crowd reaction only slightly less strong than the headliners. Now I just need someone to explain to me the relevance of nearsightedness to power metal and I'll be all set.
Having found Sonata Arctica's
latest release Unia
to be simply passable with no real direction or growth from their previous release, Reckoning Day, Reckoning Night
, I came to the Webster hoping that Sonata
might still have something to offer through their live show. Sonata Arctica
took to the stage at a little after 10 pm to pumping fists, horns, and thumbs, and launched in with a few songs from Unia
, which I found quite enjoyable due to a much larger musical presence that came with the added energy of a live band. After those and a slow number or two, the show really kicked into gear with 'Victoria's Secret'
, followed by classics including My Land
, Wolf and Raven
, The Cage
, and Gravenimage
, all played with style and flawless musicianship. Sonata Arctica
is one of those bands that you can immediately tell is gigantic in Japan. Soaring 4 part vocal harmonies, cute hand signals, animated facial expressions;the kinds of things that make teenage Japanese schoolgirls gather in packs and emit unintelligible high pitched noises. Bah, why lie. I love it too.
A bit of a disturbing moment came just before the encore when Tony Kakko spread his arms and pretended to hug the audience, prompting nearly everyone around me to air hug him back. Yes. One of those chilling situations when you just want to crawl into a hole armed with a flaming torch whilst keeping a firm hold on your genitals. Homo erotic air hugging nonwithstanding, Tony Kakko gave an inspiring performance on vocals and worked the crowd like the pro he is. Newcomer Elias Viljanen did an flawless job of filling Jani Liimatainen's large shoes on guitar, nailing every lick and every solo with precision and style. He was really impressive, even though he was a bit lacking in the hair department in comparison to Jani (christ, see what power metal does to me? It was the air hugs!). Every member was really getting into the crowd and were visibly pleased to see such a good reaction, which makes for a great vibe.
I'm not sure why, but the whole performance just seemed somewhat short to me, even though they played for about an hour and a half. Perhaps this is an indicator of how enjoyable the show was, but instead of being desperate for them to continue, I found myself puzzled that it was over already. Still, the classics were covered, and a real sense of energy was injected into their latest, less remarkable material. Sonata Arctica
have very nearly succeeded in winning me back. Lets hope the next album won't need to be spruced up in a live setting.
Official Sonata Arctica Website
Official Myopia Website
Northern Cross Myspace
Official Nuclear Blast Records Website
Official Webster Theatre Website