Sonata Arctica: The A is for Exceeds Expectations

For the last two years every time I have told Kevin about a live band or performance I wanted to see he would smirk and reply smugly “They are no Sonata Arctica”.

You see Kevin saw Sonata Arctica (a Finnish Melodic Metal Band who are insanely popular in Europe, Japan and South America though lesser known in North America) perform live many years ago and claims they were the best live show he had ever seen. He tells the story of their broken drum kit and how Tony, the lead singer, had the audience participate in a touching rendition of “We Will Rock You”. He fondly recalls the guitar player and the insane improvisations he made on stage.

In fact Kevin is downright wistful about the whole experience, smiling as he gets caught up in the nostalgia of the event.

Knowing how much the concert meant to Kevin I have secretly spent the last two years checking Sonata Arctica’s website to see if they were planning to come back to Vancouver (or even Seattle) so that I could surprise Kevin with tickets. In March this finally came to be and I bought two tickets to see the band live in Vancouver for September 24th.

The countdown was on.

Kevin was pretty thrilled and I have to admit even my folk-listening self was pretty darn excited. Sonata Arctica is an unbelievably great band. Their songs all tell a story and their melodies are incredible. I haven’t had a playlist since Kevin introduced me to them that didn’t include at least one of their songs.

Sonata Arctica

Sonata Arctica

But after a while the hype finally became overwhelming.

Here is a band that set the bench mark for all other live performances Kevin has seen in the last 7 years. This is a group that has influenced him profoundly and has become the subject of one of his fondest memories.

What if they didn’t live up to his memories?

After all since he last saw them they have lost their guitar player (he of the improvisations) and their bassist. Also they are all getting a little older now, what if they just can’t rock it like they used to?

The closer we got to September 24th the more nervous we both became. The excitement had turned slightly sour and instead we both made the journey to the mainland with a bit of trepidation. We hardly spoke as we made our way to the Venue and as we entered the doors we shared a look.

The opening bands were good (Xandria and Delain, for those of my readers who are interested in Symphonic Metal). The lead singer of Xandria has a beautiful voice (very reminiscent of early Nightwish) and the guitar player and bassist of Delain are great. The sound was a bit off for both of the bands but the Venue is a small-ish club and sound engineering is really only done for headliners.

I whispered to Kevin “This is fun!” (Can you whisper with an exclamation point?)

He just nodded back, nervous as we waited for Sonata Arctica to appear.

And then the lights went down and the intro came on. Sonata Arctica took the stage and instantly launched into their main single from their new album, a song I enjoy and have listened to dozens of times on my iPod.

It is not an exaggeration to say my jaw literally dropped in stunned amazement. The song on the album is great. The song live is phenomenal.

In the dozens of concerts I have watched over the years I have never seen anything like it.

The sheer talent of the band members, the unbelievable energy of the lead singer, and the obvious enjoyment they all have in performing just radiated through the Venue. I couldn’t take my eyes off Tony as he hopped around performing mini Kabuki style theatrical skits and playing air guitar on the microphone stand all the while signing the lyrics I have grown to love.

And guys, they have a keytar! How much cooler can you get?

Within the first three songs it became clear that Sonata Arctica is honestly without a doubt the best live performance I have ever seen. Kevin and I exchanged another look, this one much more positive.

I wish the performance could have gone on forever and I wish even more that we had thought to get tickets to see them in Portland on the Saturday night as we were already going to be there. Now when I check their website for concert dates I will do so for myself, already hooked and excited to see them again.

And every time I see a new band I will think to myself, “They are no Sonata Arcitca.”

The Venue, Vancouver BC Kevin and I are not in this picture. Moshing in Toms is not the best idea.

The Venue, Vancouver BC
Kevin and I are not in this picture. Moshing in Toms is not the best idea.

Post Script: My favourite song by Sonata Arctica is actually “Victoria’s Secret” which is the best song and they played it at the concert and it was awesome and pretty much made my year, but the song I have included, “Don’t Say A  Word”, was also played and is pretty darn great. And it actually has a music video.

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