Sonata Arctica -- San Francisco, CA -- February 9th, 2006 (Review & Set List)
NOTICE: Folks, this is the rough draft. It will be a makeover in the New Permanent Record.
TOUR: Sonata Arctica
SUPPORT: Light This City, Apocrphos
VENUE: The Pound -- San Francisco, CA
DATE: Thursday, February 9th, 2006
ATTENDED W/: Lokia
GEAR WORN: Plain Black Hoodie, Edguy Hellfire Club World Tour Shirt
MERCH PURCHASED: Wolf Tye-Dye ($30)
MOSHING REPORT: Clueless bumping at beset
MS LINK: ADD LINK TO METALSETLISTS LINKS
EDDIES AWARDED: 8.125
REVIEWED: Friday, February 10th, 2006
Fucking Nightwish! They announced (or hinted about) US tour plans a couple of times. Sonata Arctica was supposed to provide support for those tours, and it all would have ruled, a perfect fit for the bands and fans alike. Of course, Nightwish cancelled, we bitched about it, Tarja got herself publicly fired, and we bitched some more about that too. Nightwish and all the other bands that can’t keep their shit together: FUCK YOU. (And I want my fucking TicketAssRapeMaster transaction charges back from the dates you cancelled! Save your apologies, assholes! I want a refund! As if concerts were expensive enough with all the nickel and diming (overpriced beer, gas, parking, etc) that goes on!) Anyway, Sonata Arctica decided to do a US headlining tour instead, announcing most of the dates several months ago long in advance. Their San Francisco gig has been on my concert calendar forever and a day.
I’ve never been able to get into Sonata Arctica. Let me explain. Good luck on finding their albums in your local record store. If you do manage to find one, it will likely only be their latest, Reckoning Night. When you play the first track on it, you’re going to get whiplash from the whatdafuck moment. The music quickly accelerates to 120 MPH, pauses, and then continues into a different riff at similar speed. God damn it, I fucking hate that pause (for which there is no good musical reason), so much so that it really prevented me from ever exploring Reckoning Night very deeply. (Ecliptica, one of their older releases, got the shelf instead of a listen. I know, shame on me.) There were lots of little things I heard on Reckoning Night that annoyed me the way a gnat buzzes around a horse’s ass. By all normal measures, I should have fucking loved this band but I didn’t. The best that I could hope for from a concert night out with Sonata Arctica was an Amorphis-like “Holy Shit! These guys rocks!” moment of surprise and that’s it. There would end the relationship.
Doors were late, even by recent Pound standards. One of the biggest Pound crowds I’ve seen (for an indoor show) waited impatiently outside in two lines, one for will call and one for ticket purchases. On top of the fairly normal length cash line toward the parking lot and the garbage dump, will call draped from the gates to the corner of Cargo Way. Standing in queue and listening to Edguy on the iShuffle, I wasn’t quite sure how all these people were going to cram into the tiny Pound. By the time I worked my way inside, Apocrphos was nearing the completion of what I imagine was a shortened set, given a very late start.
I purchased my tickets in advance but I witnessed firsthand why it is good to buy your tickets up front instead of the cash window. Why? You just never know who’s going to show up. Where the fuck did Sonata Arctica get so many fans in the Bay Area? We’re talking about a freakin’ power metal from Finland, and one that doesn’t immediately come to the typical American mind as a power metal leader. Damn near every cheesy band you people make fun of was represented on the back of somebody’s concert shirt: Rhapsody, Blind Guardian, Manowar, and Hammerfall to name a few. I even saw a 1997 Bruce Dickinson shirt from his Accident Of Birth tour stop at Slim’s in San Francisco. The number of Goatwhore shirts was impressive too, given how few people I saw at their recent Pound concert in December. There were quite a few black metal people in attendance, donning a lot of Satryicon and Dimmu Borgir. SnakeCharmer will have to explain this relationship to us all.
Light This City directly supported Sonata Arctica. Last crossing my path at the Pound’s Cryptopsy concert as the opener, I now can’t remember why the fuck I liked them so much. Sure, a girl in the band always gets my attention but that’s not enough to keep it (usually). The set I heard from them last night conjured up the rhythms of the worst metalcore sellouts from the second stage of Ozzfest. Sure, the band had its moments but overall I fucking hated them. I can’t understand why but I REALLY liked them the first time around. I wasn’t drunk or anything. I just don’t get it.
One very positive note: the female lead growler (Laura Nichol) has greatly improved her skills. Last March and on their first album, she sounded like someone shoved a dead squirrel down her throat, there by causing her to whisp and gag out her lyrics. Yeah, I liked it but that’s just me. Last night, Laura was good as any average joe(sphine) growler that you hear at an average concert. That doesn’t sound like a compliment but it is.
For what it’s worth, the crowd seemed to dig them and a couple of silly short-lived pits broke out. Silly because have you ever seen power metal fans really mosh? It’s the metal equivalent of bumper cars. Light This City played approximately seven songs, most of which I believe were from their new album. Partial set list:
Guiding The North Star
One last dig at Light This City: Laura told the crowd that they listened to Sonata Arctica all the time. Yea, Sonata Arctica! Yeah, right. Sonata’s power metal influence REALLY shows up in Light This City’s metalcore. Whatever. Next.
Sonata Arctica took their own damn time hitting the stage. The crowd gave them an unusually large, mighty, true metal reception. Let me emphasize that I have no idea how Sonata Arctica attracted such a fan base here. Oddly though, there was no open melee / push to the stage. Maybe I’ve experienced too many sardine can pits but it was unnerving. It’s like the crowd screamed a good game but they largely held their place.
Comforting and familiar to me, the band opened up with the first two tracks off Reckoning Night. After experiencing the pause live (which wasn’t so damn bad), I immediately being to ponder another vexing question. Why was Jesus H. Christ fronting a metal band? I’m not making this up! The leader singer of Sonata Arcitca is a dead ringer for the for the stereotypical Western mug shot of Christ. If and when, the guy stops singing metal, he should pimp himself out for gigs during Christian holidays for beer money.
Four asswipes in the center of the pit (or at least where it normally is) caused problems for a lot of folks, including myself. Their lame ass jostling and dancing was yet another gnat on my own ass but worse yet, they started threatening people that bumped into them. I kept wanting to ask these wankers if they had ever been to a metal concert before but they would have just kicked my ass. Some guy behind us splashed his beer forward (no doubt because someone hit him) and one of their guys started looking for him and cracking his knuckles. Of the guys that were moving about, the only ones who showed any manors or decorum were the black metal people. Fucking amazing.
Sonata Arctica deploys a keyboard-guitar as one of their instruments, and I really hated the noise it was making, especially since it was turned way up in the mix. The band seemed to execute well, granted I don’t know their catalog / set list well. I know some of you think Sonata Arctica is total cheddar but let me introduce another word for you: thin. Dwarves (beside the four in the pit), elves, dragons, and steel didn’t come up as major topics in their songs, although it’s hard to process some lyrics at concert decibels. It just wasn’t as heavy as I thought it would be, proving that power metal beats or ballads are not enough to win me over.
Prior to the concert, I didn’t care for Jesus’ vocals because they reminded me of the Scorpions in that you have a European working his way through English that comes across too clean. No one talks like that. Let me tell you something: Jesus had some pipes on him, nailed his tunes, and did wonders working the crowd.
I left during the encore but they stuck to the standard list that we already have, so I’m declaring it entirely valid for San Francisco:
Blinded No More
Last Drop Falls
Kingdom For a Heart
Don't Say a Word
Some final thoughts on the set and first reactions to previously unheard music: Sonata Arctica played a couple of Dragonforce fast songs (i.e. The 8th Commandment). Their ballads didn’t strike me as anything special against my standardbear among all power metal ballds: Edguy’s Land Of The Miracle.
I drove home from San Francisco thinking about how little I cared for Sonata Arctica, that I wouldn’t buy anymore of their albums, that I didn’t care if they returned, etc. After I got home and started to check up on METALSETLISTS, I put on Reckoning Night in the background and let it go through the night. I listened to it briefly on the way into the work today. Despite my concert experience, I now think I wasn’t prepared to enjoy them because I have been REALLY enjoyed Reckoning Night. They’re no Edguy but I get Sonata Arctica now.
What happened after the concert doesn’t affect the rating I must deliver about the concert. Iron Maiden is the standard by which I judge all metal, 10 Eddies representing ANY Iron Maiden concert. Sonata Arctica earned only 8.125 Eddies in my book, but I have no doubt they will be a much higher 8 Eddie if they ever return. Please return with a new album.
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