Live Photos and Gig Review Credit: Margarita Khartanovich (Photographer/Live Gig reporter Myglobalmind Webzine
What makes Stratovarius such an inspiring band? Perhaps, the fact that it is simply unbreakable! “We are stronger than ever, always together, forevermore/I hold my breath and wait ’til the end, until ‘morrow we’re unbreakable” as it goes in their latest single “Unbreakable” from the album “Nemesis” (2013).
They’ve been through several line-up and genre changes. They were dangerously close to disbanding and losing the name. Nothing could break them. Until the present they are one of the leading Finnish power metal bands alongside with Nightwish and Sonata Arctica. And up to now the metalheads love them, respect them a lot and try not to miss a new album release or a gig. So, what can you expect from a live show of a band formed almost 30 years ago, that has released 15 albums and consists of no founding members?
That night the legendary Helsinki live venue Tavastia was packed. I really like the place for its unique spirit. It is considered one of the best venues in Finland. If you played Tavastia, you are accepted to a sort of rock brotherhood, and that gives a band the credit for its musical achievements and significance. Fortunately, it’s groupies-free, so you are most likely to meet lots of music fans here with knowing looks and burning eyes that came to enjoy the performance of the band they respect, support and think of as something dear and essential in their lives. Stratovarius is definitely a band like this for Finns.
There was no barrier put in front of the stage in Tavastia. Though it complicates the matter for a photographer, it is also a very good sign that the band trusts the audience and wants to be as close to them as possible. I managed to elbow my way with a camera to the stage without even being shouted at or punched, and at a certain point some random guys even helped me to reach the first row in the audience to take pictures from a shorter distance. So, I felt kind of accepted in the Stratovarius fan gang by showing interest in their music and contributing in spreading the word about their glory.
The show started on time and with the sequence of songs most meaningful for the band, a great deal of which reached number one in Finnish charts: “Under Flaming Skies” (2011), “Eagleheart” (2002), “A million Light Years Away” (2000), giving a sort of retrospective view on their music path. I have a very nice memory that clusters round “Eagleheart” as it was the first song of Stratovarius I have ever heard, and I played it again and again as it always inspired me. Then they performed a new song “Dragons” from the latest album “Nemesis” (2013), and continued with “Deep Unknown” which is, in fact, a very well known single from Stratovarius’s 12th album “Polaris”. The new album was presented with just a few more songs “Fantasy”, “Nemesis” and “Unbreakable” with the band focusing on the most recognizable ones like “Black Diamond”, for example, that has been included in almost all live setlists since its release.
As you know Stratovarius had to search for a new drummer in March 2012, and already in June 26-years old drummer Rolf Pilve was welcomed to the band. If you saw him live, you wouldn’t believe that he was that young. He is an extremely ambitious and goal-centred music beast who has played over 500 shows by now being busy with loads of side projects, bands, jazz conservatory and teaching. Perhaps, that was why he was chosen by the band – all its members are nuts about music; each of them has a good music education background and a numerous amount of side projects that range from writing music for the TV shows to having their own record labels. Even though they are of different ages and characters, there is this passion for music making them an integral whole.
Lauri Porra (bass) is the great grandson of the famous Finnish composer Jean Sibelius and a fourth generation musician. Jens Johansson is son of the well-known Swedish jazz pianist Jan Johansson and brother of the heavy metal drummer Anders Johansson. Both of them are very modest, especially Jens. In Tavastia his keyboards were decorated with yellow rubber ducks as if he was mocking at himself and his skills rejecting again being considered one of the best keyboardists in the world (he believes there are many people that are far better than him). I should say he IS one the best – his sound is nothing but fresh, virtuosic and original. Timo Kotipelto (vocals) and Jens Johansson (keyboards) are the oldest members of the band who joined it earlier than the other three. And you can feel it when they are on stage: they are like spirit of Stratovarius, its milestones that are there to keep the band going, rooted and glorified.
After the encore was over, the audience raised Stratovarius’s flags and asked the band for more. And they gave them more – there was the second encore closing up the show with the song “Hunting High and Low”, which lyrics might be the band’s motto: “Now I’m leaving my worries behind/Feel the freedom of body and mind/I’m starting my journey, I’m drifting away with the wind, I go”.
Don’t miss Stratovarius live in the USA on September 12th 2014 in Atlanta, ProgPower USA
1. Speed of Light
2. Under Flaming Skies
4. A Million Light Years Away
6. Deep Unknown
7. We Hold the Key
10. The Hands of Time
12. Bass Solo
14. Keyboard Solo
15. Black Diamond
18. Hunting High and Low