Sonata Arctica @ B.B. King Blues Club (1/18/2006)

Logo - Sonata Arctica

Artist: Sonata Arctica
Venue: B.B. King Blues Club (New York, NY)
Opener: Queen Of The Ryche (tribute band)
Date: 1/18/2006
Label: Nuclear Blast Records

Finland has been one of the strongest contributors to the world of Metal music over the most recent few years. Of the many notable bands we have seen Nightwish make a dent in the Operatic Metal world while Finntroll serves up the Folk Metal side. Melodic Power Metal gets delivered a hefty blow by the one and only Sonata Arctica and for listeners of this end of the genre there are few better at it. Tonight, the guys in the group would be continuing the support of their Nuclear Blast release “Reckoning Night”. In early 2005 the band performed for the first time in the US with Thrash Metal legends Overkill. It was an interesting blend of styles and Sonata truly came out as a powerhouse that night. It would be great to find them on their first headlining tour for this run of shows. They would be the only major group performing for the night and across the tour different openers were being featured. For the New York appearance fans would be treated to of all things a Queensryche tribute band called “Queen Of The Ryche”. I had heard the name before and worried that this totally driven Sonata fan base would not be so accepting yet when the group began they certainly showed that there were chops aplenty. Lead singer Todd Kaminski leads the troupe formerly known as Lestat through the best Queensryche material in existence. Highlights of their set would definitely be the “Operation Mindcrime material and with the Ryche ready to unleash a new CD on the world I think this was a nice choice to have in New York.

Sonata Arctica came up very quickly after this and it was the musical equivalent of a hurricane on stage. The club was at a comfortable 800 or so attendees and honestly a growing in popularity headliner could not ask for anything more. Lead singer Tony Kakko is a fantastic front man and is in possession of one of the purest voices in Heavy Metal music today. He stands above some of his peers in the genre and while normally one expects a nice level of backing vocal from the other members – the strong choruses in Sonata material finds most members singing a lot during the songs. This gives their material an over-powering difference which makes Sonata Arctica unlike most of the other purveyors of Melodic Power Metal. As referenced earlier, the group was still in support of their latest release “Reckoning Night” and Tony was wearing a shirt that reminded you of the album. He also wore some sort of pajama pants which while a strange outfit for performance surely must have been comfortable and allow him to move as free and fast as he was doing. He possessed as much energy as his label mate Tobias Sammet of EdGuy and each of these singers grabs a fantastic level of connection to the crowd. For a band with only one album available officially in the States, I found it amazing and impressive that people were singing along with so much of the songs. The thing that is also interesting about Sonata Arctica is the fact that everyone looks like they are Friends and not performing a mere job of this. They all enjoy performing and being in new areas giving you their all as best as possible. Jani Liimatainen is a great guitarist and his melodies compliment the keyboard craziness of Henrik very well. Henrik’s weapon of choice tonight would be a “key-tar”, keyboard that one can wear and run about the unfortunately confined stage. That is the one drawback of the venue itself. Tommy and Marko are also wonderful players and merit noting as well. The set list would be interesting as while the band would promote this latest album their song selection would cross a number of their releases and even include a medley of some older tracks mixed with newer ones.

Tony mainly spoke to the audience to let them know of how much fun they were having and while some of this was probably tour talk, they said the New York audience had been the best and most receptive so far on the tour. The reaction of the crowd to this was fantastic and I don’t think any cared if he was saying this at other shows. As a closer the band makes the audience sing and first it was a very odd choice of “Old McDonald” which led into their “Vodka Song”. Given the ages of the audience members being so vast and varied, I got a kick out them all singing about Vodka. The memory I took from the show was also the amount of smiles and energetic feeling that the audience had in them, not one person walked out of their disappointed with the exception of perhaps missing one song they would like to have heard. The band also was heard to have met with fans outside of the venue where pictures were taken and autographs signed. If for some reason you are still unclear on the band, grab a copy of the album “Reckoning Night” and invest a few more bucks for “Winterheart’s Guild” (my personal favorite and one that the group has received some amount of praise for). Sonata Arctica is a band that Metal needs and I hope they will be doing it for years to come.

Set List:
1. Misplaced
2. Blinded No More
3. Fullmoon
4. Victoria’s Secret
5. Broken
6. 8th Commandment
7. Last Drop Falls
8. Kingdom For A Heart
9. Weballergy
10. Tallulah
11. My Land
12. Black Sheep
13. Medley
14. Don’t Say A Word
15. The Cage

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