There are certain moments in our lives that are just simply unforgettable. Your first kiss, your wedding day, and the day your child is born, etc. However for a metal head, you also never forget the first metal album you listened to, the first metal show you went to, or the first time you got to shake the hand of your idol as they took a bow and left the stage. At least from personal experiences, all of those memories are much more exciting than my first kiss.
Sonata Arctica, a power metal giant hailing from Finland, finally decided to tour North America to celebrate the release of their latest album, Stones Grow Her Name. At first, an album that I didn’t care for, it managed to grow on me, including the infamous single “Shitload of Money” that most people don’t understand. Ever since I was exposed to Sonata Arctica in high school I was madly in love. I fell hard for their emotional and powerful hooks, Tony’s amazing tenor vocals, and beautiful lyrics that still to this day bring a tear to my eye. This band has always had an unbelievable ability to keep me grounded. They keep me feeling and thinking on deeper levels, which without that, my life would be meaningless. That being said, a date that I will never be able to forget is December 17, 2012. That was the day I got to see Sonata Arctica live in concert at the Bluebird Theater in Denver, CO. This is my recollection of this incredible night.
The Bluebird Theater, a historic and famous venue off of Colfax in Denver sat half empty just mere minutes before the show began. The fans huddled in their cliques, half of them sporting Sonata Arctica tees, standing around patiently for the openers to hit the stage. Kobra & The Lotus, a Canadian heavy metal band was the opening act. Obviously unknown to most in the venue, they managed to open the show up with some thrashing riffs, pounding drums, and a female vocalist with more balls than most men I know. Quickly, this unknown band earned respect from the crowd as more people began filing in towards the stage. The kids once standing still were now head banging and throwing up the horns. An obvious great choice for an opening act, Kobra & The Lotus is nothing but high energy heavy metal, complete with some seriously talented musicians behind their respective instruments, each had quite the moment to shine. The band ended their set with “50 Shades of Evil” which quite literally left the crowd screaming for more.
The second band to take the stage was death metal band Arsis, hailing from Virginia here in the U.S. An interesting choice for an opening band to one of power metal’s biggest acts, however the vibe was not lost and the crowd enjoyed the tunes. The promoters of most national tours always seem to throw in curveballs, which may work sometimes, but not always. A few fans tried starting a mosh pit during the last song, which unfortunately only ended up being about four, maybe five people, lasting around a minute. The band still put on one hell of a show, whether or not the power metallers in the audience actually appreciated it. Note: Arsis fans can download the band’s new EP, “Lepers Caress”, as a free download via Scion Audio/Visual.
After Arsis finished, the band that everyone in the theater was waiting for took the stage, Sonata Arctica. In a span of an hour or so the theater filled up quite nicely, the cliques seemed to have blended together, and everyone stood screaming at the stage when the first notes of “Only the Broken Hearts (Make You Beautiful)” sounded through the speakers. Note by note, the song went flawlessly, and Tony Kakko really knows how to play to a crowd. The band managed to keep up such high energy throughout their whole set, which was rather long, giving them chances to play songs off of each album. The crowd definitely favored the classics, because as soon as the first moments of “Black Sheep” were heard, everyone went crazy and started screaming. The excitement wasn’t nearly as perceptible during the newer songs, but the band still played it up and executed every note perfectly.
The guys of Sonata covered the entire stage, engaging each and every section of the venue. When Elias or Henrik had a solo, Tony would step to the side playing his mic stand/air guitar which was quite entertaining in itself to watch. Seeing the band members play off of each other was a pleasant site, making it obvious that the band enjoys every moment of what they do. Some notable tracks that were played were “Don’t Say a Word”, “Gun”, and “Last Drop Falls” complete with the ever popular lyrics “Walking in the cool night air, without underwear” which caught most of the crowd off guard as laughter broke through the music.
Hearing most of the Stones Grow Her Name album live brought an entire new perspective on the music, and seriously helped me to respect the album so much more. Even the track that I once hated “Shitload of Money” has now grown on me to the point that I don’t skip it on the record. Seeing these songs live brought an impressive amount of life and emotion into them that the recording seems to have missed. Seeing Sonata Arctica live is the best way to truly understand and experience their music. Even the slower, ballad-like songs had so much energy and emotion behind them that it would be truly hard to not be moved in some way or another. The show brought a few tears to my eyes and is something I will replay in my mind until the day I die.
A sincere thank you goes out the Sonata Arctica for changing my life all over again, Cheers!
Photos by Glenn Keil