KAMELOT / SONATA ARCTICA / BATTLE BEAST
Date: 19th September, 2019
Venue: Patio Theater
Ticket: $36/€33 - $110/€100 (VIP)
KAMELOT had already visited Chicago on the “Shadow Theory” touring cycle last year but seeing them again was not negotiable, especially when considering that they have been gathering some serious momentum on this side of the Atlantic. That’s right; the presence of Tommy Karevik behind the mic along with the three studio albums have infused the KAMELOT fanbase with young blood (no pun was intended with the band’s mastermind’s last name...) and therefore, the shows have been gaining in terms of energy and attendance. This was not different, and despite the high levels of humidity, the theatre was packed with fans waiting to catch the entire billing from the very beginning.
And why shouldn’t they? I mean, BATTLE BEAST have already proven themselves as hard-working party-mood creators with groovy songs that are super-inviting to put your body into action. The loud cheers warned us that the show was about to start but the long line and the one person seating behind the tickets-desk was hinting that we were flirting with missing a bit of the show. Fortunately, the wait was shorter than feared and we entered the venue in the middle of “Unbroken”.
Once again, Noora Louhimo was amazing to watch and listen. Wearing a “Maleficent”-looking outfit (or maybe the horns forced my mind to make the connection), she used a wide-range of theatrical moves making it a total joy to watch the BATTLE BEAST set. However, she was not pulling all the weight of the entire show as the rest of the lineup did break a serious sweat, being fully aware of the effort an opening band has to make to get the audience going. Although, I think BATTLE BEAST are already in the path of creating a serious following here in the States and I am sure we will be seeing more in the not-so-distant future. “Good evening, Chicago, let me introduce us; we are BATTLE BEAST from Finland”, said Noora but really, the band did not need an introduction because there were quite a lot of metalheads wearing BATTLE BEAST shirts and even more who were singing along. The feel-good-Metal this band is serving is perfect to get things going; I mean, the addictive tempo of “Straight To The Heart” is bound to make you move, even if it is the second song of the first band on stage. As I said, the band was restless on the stage putting the icing on the cake and giving everyone another reason to leave their seat and get closer. “The Golden Horde” has a strong Power Metal footing with the faster tempo and the epic vocals and for this, was a great pairing with the slower and more Pop-py “Eden”. I guess, the band’s musical versatility is another plus to consider; the Finns can be groovy, fast, melodic and with Noora’s impressive vocals, able to serve all this.
Bassist Eero Sipilä was the second speaking voice for the night and his enthusiasm was a hard proof of the band’s enthusiasm and how conscious BATTLE BEAST are as far “working hard to get your music” is concerned. In fact, the next day the band would do the first headlining US show in Wisconsin just to prove what I just said about working hard. The US metalheads have a sweet tooth for Viking-themed songs and for this, “Bastard Son Of Odin” worked great, although I had more fun with my favorite “King For A Day” despite it being less heavy... The groove and the vocal lines are party starters and hence the perfect fit for a Saturday night. “Beyond The Burning Skies” was the last one out and frankly I would not mind to get a couple more from the Finns, who know how to work a crowd making SONATA ARCTICA’s job a bit easier.
BATTLE BEAST setlist:
02. “Straight To The Heart”
03. “The Golden Horde”
05. “No More Hollywood Endings”
06. “Bastard Son Of Odin”
07. “King For A Day”
08. “Beyond The Burning Skies”
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I have not been a die-hard follower of SONATA ARCTICA and therefore I am not onboard the “comparing albums” train. However, I am aware that this band has changed its sound and particularly has drifted away from the Power Metal of the “Reckoning Night” era. To my mind, this is totally acceptable once you’ve factored in the fact that the aforementioned album was released 15 years ago. Bands grow and change, just like people do, and this is something everyone needs to keep in mind, especially when criticizing new albums while expecting to get the same thing over and over again. Anyway, this is not the time nor the place for such discussion.
With the audience in a high mood getting to hear the spirit-lifting tunes by SONATA ARCTICA, made perfect sense that the mid-tempo “A Little Less Understanding” kicked off the set. It was no surprise seeing the fans following Tony Kakko’s invitation to wave their hands along the main groove. This gentleman has a positive and a down-to-earth attitude that makes him totally relatable and this is why he quickly connected with the audience. “Good evening, Chicago - did you bring your inner animal with you?”, asked the band’s frontman before passing the baton to “Closer To An Animal”. There were lots of SONATA ARCTICA fans among the people in the front rows and this helped the band to gain more traction, especially with the new material. “We are SONATA ARCTICA from Finland and we enjoy our weather the same way we enjoy our beer”, added Tony, giving the perfect assist to the melodic and a bit moody “Cold”. There is a certain type of melancholy “hidden” behind the keys and the vocal melodies that appeals to me, despite the fact that has little to do with the traditional Power Metal norms. Yeah, “Storm The Armada” is the perfect example and before you know it, the main melody has taken up residence in your mind. The faster tempo of “X Marks The Spot” came at the right moment to nudge the audience to start moving again with Tony mouthing the spoken parts adding the appropriate amount of energy this song requires; I guess, the audience’s energetic response was the answer to his question; “is Rock ‘n’ Roll” alive? Oh, I hope it is...
Tony sat down and asked: “Do you mind If I sit down and let you sing?” and this is exactly what happened for the opening lines of “FullMoon” that took us all the way back to the late ‘90s when “Ecliptica” was released. I love it when bands with more than two decades history say how important is going to concerts and supporting live music. “I want to thank you for buying tickets for a live show played by real people with real instruments for a live audience”, said Tony and I could not agree more, especially during these digitally “infested” days where one can have anything on his smartphone screen. Who knows how long live music will last at the rate things are moving... What is next? Virtual live shows that you can “attend” from your comfort of your house? SONATA ARCTICA dropped the curtain with the short “Vodka” cover that turned out to be quite fun, although it didn’t match the rest the set.
“Life is better alive”
SONATA ARCTICA setlist:
01. “A Little Less Understanding”
02. “Closer To An Animal”
04. “Storm The Armada”
05. “X Marks The Spot”
06. “Who Failed The Most”
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The area in front of the stage looked pretty much occupied, however there was a big number of people sitting down (remember this is a theatre and there are seats) which is something most probably attributed to the hot and humid conditions (this combination drains you out), but this was changing the closer we got to the headliners’ set. After a 10 minute delay, the lights went out and the taped-intro marked the time for KAMELOT. The first to appear onstage was drummer Alex Landenburg who happens to be the latest addition in the band’s lineup. Guitarist Thomas Youngblood followed holding a cell phone taking some early footage of the show and getting a bit more excitement from the audience (apparently, everybody wants to be on film these days). On a more serious note, KAMELOT kicked off the set with “Phantom Divine (Shadow Empire)”. Singer Tommy Karevik appeared last but definitely not least onstage, getting the loudest cheer, something that I find absolutely deserved because he is a great performer with a unique ability to connect with the audience. There was a short catwalk where Tommy spent a lot of his onstage time decreasing the distance between him and the fans, getting more energy from their reactions in the process. The singing-along was loud from the get-go, proving that KAMELOT are on a rising course here in the States and are rightfully so because their albums and live concerts showcase a rejuvenated band. I am saying this because KAMELOT belong to the group of bands that have become known with a specific frontman carrying a characteristic voice (ie Roy Khan) and therefore finding a new singer is a tricky business. With Tommy, KAMELOT have struck gold as he seems to be getting better and better with every tour. This time around, he looked and sounded in perfect form nailing all those demanding vocals without losing his smile and friendly posture at all. For the setlist opener, ONCE HUMAN singer (no pun intended) Lauren Hart showed up and handled the growling singing parts with grace and power.
I hate that “Rule The World” comes so early on the set because it is quite challenging to take photos during its rhythm section and not be able to watch the audience participating. Because the KAMELOT fanbase was into it from the first songs and this is a huge plus in concerts (can you imagine a band tearing it up with people just watching? Terrible). “Chicago, we are KAMELOT and we are so fricking happy to be here in a Saturday; are you guys ready to jump with us?” asked Tommy but I am sure he knew the answer, with “Insomnia” going down really nicely, even though the theatre setting had more echo than I liked. Following this one with my “The Black Halo”, favorite and super-glue catchy “When The Lights Are Down” kept the already gathered momentum going strong. Although I do appreciate having a big stage, I believe keyboardist Oliver Palotai was almost hidden in the back but I do understand the dramatics of having the center of the stage empty for the singers to roam. That’s exactly what happened during the chanting-along worthy “Veil Of Elysium” during which Lauren Heart reappeared to support Tommy. “This one is called “Karma”” said Tommy and gave me goosebumps as this song happens to be one of my live favorites; the main melody is perfect to chant along, the double-bass drumming is headbanging-friendly and the fists in the air chorus is as Power Metal as they come.
I dislike the use of cellphones during concerts (it is annoying to have small screens blocking the view towards stage) but there is some good in these evil devices too. “We are going to slow things down a bit” said the band’s frontman before asking the audience to light up the stage with their cellphones. Damn, this looked absolutely awesome during the beginning of “End Of Innocence” that was sung almost a cappella (there was some keyboard action) before bringing the rest of the gang back to perform the studio version. The band topped this powerful moment with another blast from the past when KAMELOT had clear Power Metal bearing.
Ok, the keyboards / drums solo was not something special but I did appreciate the chance to gather myself and try in vain to wipe the sweat off my forehead... Damn, the place felt like a Finnish sauna. The solo break also meant that we were heading towards the end with “Sacrimony (Angel Of Afterlife)” bringing back the rest of the band along with BATTLE BEAST’s Noora who managed to impress me once more with her onstage presence, aside from her stellar singing.
Oliver revealed that “Forever” would follow laying down the characteristic melody. As tradition has it, Tommy challenged the audience in singing along and as the past shows, this was one of the (many) highlights. The short “we will rock you” snippet and the short “goodnight” meant that an encore would be the last time to have KAMELOT onstage. At least for the time being, because Tommy said many times during the set that the band will return really soon, so hopefully this is something already planned but not announced yet.
The two-song encore had the usual suspect “March ?f Mephisto” with Lauren impressing with her growling capabilities. She showed up waving a black flag with the KAMELOT logo and even though it sounds kind of cheesy, it looked awesome with the red lights. “Liar Liar (Wasteland Monarchy)” dropped the curtain for another killer show by KAMELOT. The sound could have been a bit better but I suspect being close to the stage had something to do with this. At any rate, everybody was happy leaving The Patio albeit sweaty to their core...
01. “Phantom Divine (Shadow Empire)”
02. “Rule The World”
04. “When The Lights Are Down”
05. “Vespertine (My Crimson Bride)”
06. “Veil Of Elysium”
08. “End Of Innocence”
09. “Center Of The Universe”
10. “Keyboard And Drum Performance”
11. “Sacrimony (Angel Of Afterlife)”
12. “Burns To Embrace”
14. “March ?f Mephisto”
15. “Liar Liar (Wasteland Monarchy)”
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