The title says it all! Opinions expressed here are those of the authors. Personal tastes may vary, and we are cool with that.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Gig Review: Sabaton at The Venue in Vancouver, BC

Last night was a highly anticipated evening on my calendar.  Ever since seeing Sabaton kill it opening for Evergrey in October 2011, and being blown away by their performance, I knew I'd spend the money to see them again if they ever came to my part of the world.  And they did.  The gig was announced a few months ago and I put it on my calendar in big letters, hardly able to wait.  Last night's show in Vancouver was the only Canadian date on Sabaton's current North American headlining tour, and even though I was having a shitty day and nearly talked myself out of going, I'm so glad I pulled myself together and attended.  It was fucking brilliant.

Using local support acts throughout the tour, last night's bill included Vancouver indy band Unleash the Archers and Kelowna's Empyria, a prog band signed with Nightmare records.  Doors opened at 8:00 and there was a modest line-up.  Because I've been sick, I didn't get to Scrape Records to purchase my ticket for $15, and instead plunked down $20 at the door.  Lesson learned: go get the ticket from the local metal shop instead of winging it on show night - you'll save money and support the record store.  In the end, the cost didn't matter; I'd plunk down twice that to see Sabaton again.

That first Sabaton show in Vancouver was also held at The Venue, located on the theatre strip on Granville St.  I'm not the biggest fan of The Venue - the floors are sticky, the floor isn't raked, and there is minimal seating for when you want to get off your feet for a while.  But I like I a hell of a lot better than the Rickshaw, where most metal acts perform when they come to Vangroovy.  But one thing that is good about The Venue is that the merch stands are in a common sense place, unlike at the Rickshaw where they are too close to the pit and always a pain in the ass to get to.

Anyway, bitching about the venue aside, as soon as I got inside I visited the merch tables of Empyria and Unleash the Archers, happy to see that Brittney Slays, UtA's vocalist, was manning the table.  I knew I had to say hi; my colleague at Sonic Cathedral, Robin Stryker, would have admonished me for not doing so, since Robin is a huge UtA fan and has had the pleasure of interviewing Brittney.  Also, my colleague at Black Wind Metal, Kevin, interviewed UtA for that site, so I had to go and say hi and introduce myself just to say that I had.  Brittney was doing her vocal warm-ups at the station as she handled money, and when I had the chance to speak to her, she was very lovely to chat to and very gracious.  In the end, I'm glad I got over some of my social anxieties and approached her; she is totally approachable, as is the band's bassist, who came to assist her.

Incidentally, I didn't recognize any of the house music that was playing before the show started, but there was one familiar song: Nightwish's "Storytime."  That made me happy, and I don't care who heard me singing along!

Brittney Slayes of UtA
Taking the stage first was Uta, and they did so at about 8:45.  For about half an hour, I'd staked out a spot to the right of the stage just under the giant hanging speakers.  This is a typical strategy of mine at gigs since I like to take pix.  When UtA took the stage there was a huge whoop from the crowd.  This band definitely has a following of significance and the crowd was happy to see them.  When Brittney began to sing, I was blown away.  She is so powerful she almost outsings the band.  I have all of UtA's releases (their most recent is an EP that's now available on iTunes) and let me tell you, she sounds so much more amazing live.  She is so dynamic and charismatic when she's belting out their tunes right in front of you.  I'm not exaggerating when I say I was blown away - it was a fantastic performance, complete with tons of windmill headbanging and the whole lot.  If you ever get a chance to see UtA live, DO IT!  They certainly won me over and Brittney how has a new fangirl.

My only beef about this set is that I didn't get many good photos because some 7 foot tall schmuck decided to plant himself right in front of me, obscuring my view.  Fuck man, if you're that tall, go farther back and let the shorter people see properly!

Next up was Kelowna's Empyria (pronounced empire-ee-ah).  Like I said, they're a prog metal band, and I thought they were OK.  Some of the members had very enthusiastic family members in the crowd, and that was fun to watch.  The music got better as they played further into their set, and I found myself getting into it more and more the farther the set went.  Overall, not exactly my cup of tea vocal-wise, but I respect this band for coming as far as it has in the time its been together, and it's definitely nothing to sneeze about to open for freaking Sabaton, so props to them.

And props to Sabaton for going the route of choosing local bands to open for them.  I think that's pretty classy. (Not to mention less expensive, which I totally realize.)

Finally, the set up and last minute sound checks for Sabaton were done, and the lights dimmed...and it was on.

As with the last Vancouver gig, the band chose fellow Swedes, Europe, to provide their intro music, and it was the same song, "The Final Countdown."  Loved it!  Then all went dark, and bursting onto the stage was Sabaton's new drummer, Robban Bäck, completely shirtless.  He took a bow then sat behind his kit, and then came the banging out of the intro to "Ghost Division."  Singer Joakim Broden jumped onto the stage and started belting out the lyrics and pounding around like he embodied the music.

Sabaton takes the stage!
If there is one thing I can say about Sabaton live, and I realize this isn't particularly creative, but it's all I can come up with because words are hard to come up with for this stuff, it's that they are larger than life.  All their movements are so full of energy that their stage presence is nothing like I have ever seen before.  They are all so into their music that they literally embody it.

For those of you who don't follow the band, they have three new members after a split a while back, and I wondered how they new members would be on stage.  And it turns out that they were just as awesome as the previous incarnation of Sabaton.  Guitars are split between Chris Rörland and Thobbe Englund seemingly pretty evenly, which was nice to see because it gave each musician a chance to shine in front of the crowd with their shredding abilities.  The only band member Sabaton hasn't replaced is Daniel Myr, the keyboardist; instead, they must be using a backing tape, which was fine.  I would like to see the keys played live, though!

The set list included all the usual faves, "40-1", "Primo Victoria", and stuff from the current album, Carolus Rex.  A few times, Joakim invited the crowd to help choose the songs, giving us a choice between two and taking a vote by most noise made.  "White Death" from Coat of Arms was chosen that way, as was the "Carolean's Prayer", which was sung in Swedish, since Joakim told the crowd that they'd had lots of feedback from fans requesting a song sung in the band's native language.  Other songs were "Poltava", "The Art of War" and "Gott Mit Uns."  I can't remember everything on the set list.

As for the crowd, it was ridiculous!  I'm so glad I staked out my claim early because I kept getting pushed forward.  It was nuts, but nuts in a good way.  There were no assholes doing the stupid wall of death or running around in a circle attacking each other with inflatable swords, hammers, or axes - thank God.  Everyone was very well behaved and there just for the music and the band, and it was great.  The band was very gracious about the reception, Joakim holding his arm out to show us his goosebumps.

Another great thing about this show was the simple lighting.  Some shows over light, IMO.  Sabaton keeps it pretty simple with not too much strobe lighting and not too much oddly coloured lighting, and a the lighting is mostly from overhead, which is very important if you're trying to take photos.  The Rickshaw has the worst lighting ever and I get a lot of crappy shots just because of the lighting.  Last night I got some OK shots but it wasn't because of the lighting, it was because no one on stage stood still long enough to get a decent pic!

Sabaton wound things up with "Metal Crüe" from Attero Dominatus (they also did the title track earlier on in the show).  And that was it.  It was over after about 70 minutes.  Joakim was so sweaty during his performance that he kept ducking behind the big skull curtain to towel off and re-hydrate.

On a personal note, I was very uplifted by this show.  It was the best show by far that I've been to (not that I've been to tons but it outdoes those that I have been to) since I started going to shows in 2011 when I moved out of the boonies where no one comes to play. UtA knocked it out of the park, Empyria was entertaining, and Sabaton were just too killer for words in this language.  And oh, the hotness of Joakim Broden!  Oh, how I wanted to burnish his breastplate!  But alas - I couldn't stay to hob nob at the merch table (if they even did that); it was past midnight and I had a long commute home on transit ahead of me back to my suburban lair.

I'm so glad I went.  It totally bouyed my mood, and it was the best $20 I've ever spent.  I will go and see this band at every opportunity I get because there is no show like it at all!

Edit @ 10:10pm, Feb. 20, 2013:  OMFG!  I just found out that the drummer at this gig was not Robban Bäck, but none other than Snowy Shaw!  I can't believe I saw Snowy Shaw live and in the flesh and I didn't even realize it!  I am blown away!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Mike Oldfield ft Tarja - Never Too Far

A couple of days ago, English multi-instrumentalist Mike Oldfield released new remix album  'Tubular Beats'. The album includes Oldfield's most popular songs with new arrangements and sounds. A brand new song 'Never Too Far' features Tarja's vocals.

Not really liking it. Tarja herself sounds good but the song is just too long and too boring for my taste. I heard this song twice and can't see myself giving it another go. Sorry Tarja.