Sonata Arctica – Club Academy, Manchester 15/04/13

Owing to the lack of dates near to me in Cardiff, I decided to make the trip up to Manchester in order to see one of my favourite bands, Sonata Arctica, play a show at the Club Academy.

Opening the show was NeonFly (7/10). I’d checked out this band prior to the gig and admittedly hadn’t really enjoyed them but I decided to go into this with an open mind anyway. To put things simply, NeonFly truly proved that you don’t necessarily have to enjoy a band’s music in order to enjoy their live show. The five-piece put on a truly impressive and energetic performance and the crowd were definitely behind them, singing along at every opportunity.

They ended their set with a track called Heart Of The Sun, which was one of the first times it had been performed live, with frontman Willy commenting that he’d probably wind up making up the words for most of it! The band left the stage to enthusiastic cheers, having warmed up the crowd brilliantly. There needs to be more bands like NeonFly – they really put the work in to engage the crowd and put on a show to remember, and for that I salute them.

I am of two minds about Pythia (6/10), however. I have been a fan of them for a fair few years now and both of their albums are on a semi-regular rotation on my ipod, but they just didn’t seem on par on this occasion. The performance was lacking slightly and whether this was because their music didn’t really fit with the other more “power metal oriented” bands on the bill or whether they were just having a bad day, I don’t know.

The performance wasn’t helped by the bad sound quality in the venue; aside from lead singer Emily admitting that they’d not had time to soundcheck, the bass also decided to cut out during the penultimate song, causing her to joke that they would have to do a Jazz Odyssey set! Their fairly short set allocation didn’t really give them time to shine, and as they finished I found myself slightly disappointed after previously being enthusiastic about seeing them again.

It was then time for the band that everyone had been waiting for, Sonata Arctica (10/10), who played an absolute blinder of a set. Greeted by a roar of cheers from the crowd, they launched into a perfect rendition of Only The Broken Hearts (Make You Beautiful). The crowd just came alive and the energy in the room from band members and audience alike was incredible. One of the things I love about this band is just how happy and relaxed they look onstage with one another, in particular drummer Tommy, who wore a massive smile on his face from start to finish – a smile so infectious that you can’t help but smile with him. And I did.

As guitarist Elias fluffed his way through an introduction to Alone In Heaven, talking about heaven and hell, bemused singer Tony couldn’t help but butt in to give a well-timed (and terrible) pun of “what the HELL are you talking about?” which was greeted by a wall of laughter from the crowd. This is exactly what this band is here to do – entertain and have a good time.

One particular highlight of the set was the inclusion of rarity The Gun, which is a non-album track from all the way back in 1996! It’s one of those tracks that comes across superbly live and whilst not all of the audience knew it, it still got everyone moving. A track that everyone did know, however, was The Last Amazing Grays. Tony introduced this one by speaking about how there were no songs about wolves on their latest album (and that their next album should only feature wolf songs!) before asking the crowd whether they would like to hear a song about the aforementioned animal. This was definitely one of the most popular ones of the night, with near enough everyone singing along and raising the roof. The atmosphere was simply electric and the cheers rang through the venue as the song ended.

Broken, whilst not one of my favourites of theirs, translated really well live. It was introduced by Tony speaking about how keyboardist Henkka had now been in the band for over ten years and that he was surprised he wasn’t broken yet! The relaxed setting played out well and I found it particularly amusing when Tommy broke a drumstick and proceeded to find the whole thing hilarious, pointing out the “significance” of breaking a stick during Broken to anyone onstage who looked at him – Henkka in particular, who was stood up next to him.

Following this was a solo set from Elias. I was a little disappointed that they’d decided not to do an acoustic set on their UK tour, but on the other hand it was an exciting opportunity to hear Elias play some things on his own as I am a huge fan of his solo releases. It was a short but sweet compilation of his best tracks, but it truly was a treat to see them in a live environment rather than only being able to hear them on CD! It also divided up the set nicely before the full band came back onstage to continue with the show.

One of the best moments of the night came from the performance of Tallulah, when it became apparent that perhaps some of the members of the band maybe weren’t as fond of it as others! During the introduction Tommy mimed out actions to bassist Marko, taking great delight in joking about with him before getting down to business with playing the song. It truly was entertaining to watch him laughing and joking, and it was clear that the night had descended into immaturity as after Henkka had finished off the song by playing an impressive medley on his keyboard, Tony chimed in, singing “It’s getting hot in here so take off all your clothes!” to Henkka.

Of course that was it then, as Tony then turned to Tommy (who’d been playing a hip-hop style beat on his drums) to playfully tease him about finding the dressing room cold when it was boiling up onstage. So naturally, members of the crowd then began to yell at Tony to “get his kit off” (which he at first didn’t understand) and it swiftly descended into the room and stage filled with laughter before finally being able to play the following song, Full Moon, in which Henkka finally jumped down from his platform next to Tommy in order to interact with his bandmates. Almost like musical chairs, Tony hopped up there for a bit before Marko turfed him out and played the remainder of the song from there.

Predictably the last song of the set was crowd favourite Don’t Say A Word, which was fast-paced from the get-go. Every last remaining bit of energy was spent as everyone clapped, punched the air and sang out their lungs to this one and their set-staple outro of the song Vodka (basically the words “vodka, we want some vodka” sang to the tune of Hava Nagila) was a fantastic way to end the night as ever.

It was an absolutely stunning gig and once again proved that Sonata Arctica truly are a force to be reckoned with.

Sonata Arctica: Website|Facebook

About Natalie 1943 Articles
Soundscape's editor, who is particularly fond of doom, black metal and folk (but will give anything a chance). Likes to travel to see bands abroad when she can. Contact: nathumphries@soundscapemagazine.com or @acidnat on twitter.

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