Show report: Sonata Arctica, Delain and Xandria in Ottawa
Concert review: Sonata Arctica, Delain & Xandria live at Mavericks, Ottawa (10/09/14)
Last week I went to see quite an interesting concert in downtown Ottawa at Mavericks. A lot of people had the same idea and decided to fill the small metal pub on a Wednesday night at 7 p.m. to see the Finnish melodic power metal legends Sonata Arctica as well as the opening bands which were the Dutch symphonic metal band Delain as well as the German symphonic metal outfit Xandria in a brandnew line-up including a new Dutch singer and a new live bassist.
The first band to hit the stage was Xandria around 7:35 p.m. I had seen the band back in 2008 in Cologne with old singer Lisa Middelhauve and again at Castle Rock Festival in Mülheim an der Ruhr in 2012 with another singer called Manuela Kraller. Over the years the band had evolved from a more commercial and soft gothic metal act to a progressive symphonic metal outfit with epic dimensions. The band's concert last week was by far their best performance I have seen so far. This is largely due to the excellent new record "Sacrificium" which I bought at the show and which is a solid candidate for my favourite record of the year. The band performed with grace and energy and especially the two new members convinced me. New singer Dianne van Giersbergen made a charming appearance, interacted constantly with a steadily growing crowd and performed very well from a technical point of view by hitting pretty much all of the high notes. Italian live bassist Fabio d'Amore performed with energy and often had a big smile on his face. It really felt as if he was already an irreplacable part of Xandria to me. Even though the band's set was rather short with five songs from the two last records played in a little bit more than twenty-five minutes, this was actually the best part of the whole night. The band managed to deliver five highly diversified tracks that represent the new image of Xandria extremely well. They played anything from an epic symphonic metal hymn over shorter and harder tracks with catchy choruses to more laid-back ballads with soaring vocals. At the end of their set, I definitelty wanted to hear more and the crowd seemed to share my opinion. I have rarely seen an opening band getting such a warm welcome by a crowd.
About half an hour later, the second opening band entered the stage to promote its very good current release "The Human Contradiction" which I also bought at the show in a limited edition. One thing that stroke me was that singer Charlotte Wessels was smiling throughout the entire set. She was in an excellent form and in addition to this, she was absolutely enjoying her presence on stage and constantly interacting with an energized crowd. The band chose a solid set of around ten catchy, energizing and fast tracks that sounded fresh and made the crowd move quite a bit. Many of the songs actually work much better on stage than on the band's studio records. I really liked the band's furious approach as opposed to the more elegant album versions. I had seen Delain before at Amphi Festival V in Cologne back in 2009 where the band had already performed very well. This time, Delain were even more passionate and really transformed the stage into their safe home where all musicians felt at ease. Apart of the energizing opening tracks of the set, I must cite "The Gathering" and "We Are The Others" as highlights of the show because many people in the crowd sang along to these anthems and I'm not only talking about the fans who already knew these songs but about almost anybody at the show. Even though I slightly prefered Xandria's performance, Delain was extremely engaging and got an even greater feedback from the crowd. I even heard people calling out for one more song after the band's set of forty-five minutes or so which isn't all that usual for an opening band.
The location was very well filled and probably almost sold out when main act Sonata Arctica hit the stage. They started the show ten minutes later than announced and were still silently rushing through the crowd and to the backstage minutes before the beginning of the show. Maybe that's why the band looked slightly nervous at the beginning and didn't perform the first two tracks very well. Especially the vocals were quite a bit out of tone. Even the crowd seemed to realize that something was going wrong there. But from the third song on, things got much better. The band regained its self-confidence and singer Tony Kakko interacted more and more with the crowd. Sometimes, it was really hard to understand what he was actually saying because he was speaking extremely fast and with a strong accent but his appearance was sympathetic and he made a lot of jokes as well. The music started to improve as well and a first highlight that really moved me was the excellent performance of "Replica". The band performed a total of four tracks from its excellent debut album "Ecliptica" which will be released in a re-recorded fifteenth anniversary edition in October 2014. To my positive surprise, the band's more recent material worked better on stage than on the albums. I actually liked the emotional performance of "I Have A Right" and the catchy homage to the band's hometown in form of "Cloud Factory". After fifteen bad opening minutes followed sixty memorable minutes that made the whole crowd call out for an encore. So the band came back after only two minutesto perform another twenty minutes of additional material. Especially the performance of the speedy and melodic anthem "Wolf & Raven" as well as the catchy and energizing closer "Don't Say A Word" followed by a funny rendition of the fast-paced drinking song "Vodka" were absolute stand-out moments of the night. After far more than ninety minutes, Sonata Arctica almost thanked every fan in a very emotional manner. The crowd thanked the band with minute-long enthusiastic cheering. Even though I came to the show for Delain and especially Xandria in the first place, I really enjoyed my first Sonata Arctica concert and I guess I would go and see them again on stage. When I left the location around quarter to midnight, I had a big smile on my face and I still saw several band members walking around, taking pictures with the fans, giving signatures or having a chat at the merchandise section.
The next interesting concerts in Ottawa are coming very soon, so stay tuned for more exclusive show reports on my blog. I hope you had some fun reading this.« Di Renjie: Shen Du Long Wang / Young Detective Dee: Rise Of The Sea Dragon (2013) - Traditional elements overrun by modern effects in a fast-paced but hollow fun ride - 7/10 (03/09/14)Reviewing the perfect concert: Anthrax - Chile on hell (2014) »
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