Sonata Arctica

Live at The Wiltern

Los Angeles, CA 9/13/2008

Review by Travis Baumann

Sonata Arctica were the opening act for Nightwish, their Finnish country-mates for this portion of the "Dark Passion Play" tour. I have only been listening to Sonata Arcitica for a short while but I first noticed them a couple of years back by their awesome album artwork for the EP "For the Sake of Revenge".

Their motif, time and again, returns to either the lone wolf or the wolf pack. The back-drop banner behind the band tonight had a pack of wolves howling at the moon, one wolf for each of the band members on stage and the above mentioned album cover has a single wolf running straight at you while baring its teeth.

The crowd was very enthusiastic when the band took the stage. They had Elias Viljaren as guitarist, Marko Paasikoski on bass, Henrik Klingenberg played keyboards as well as a guitar-style keyboard around his neck, Tommy Portino on drums and the lead singer and mastermind of the band, Tony Kakko front and center.

All of the band members except the drummer also sang back up vocals on the chorus sections of the songs which lent a powerful male choir effect when necessary.

Sonata Arctica play a melodic, atmosphere-rich subgenre of metal often referred to as Power Metal or Progressive Metal. Keyboards and epic song structures lend heavily to their style as well as the use of the male choir effect aforementioned. On the studio albums they also use full choirs and stringed sections on certain songs.

The lead vocals are very melodic and never fall into the growled extreme vocals many other Scandanavian bands are known for.

The lyrical content is generally very emotion-filled and at times takes a personal, individual look at situations while others looks at things on a global or humanitarian level.

My favorite song of the set was "Don't Speak a Word". I was hoping for a few more off of their newest CD "Unia". I particularly missed "In Black and White" my favorite song of theirs currently. That being said, they did play a lot of fan favorites and had the audience wrapped up in their performance.

There were no additional bands tacked onto the evening so I was a little surprised at how short their set was in comparison to Nightwish but it was still a nice rounded set with at least time for one encore but without a huge pause before the band re-emerged.

While the rest of the band dressed fairly typical for metal bands, the lead singer looked different than any of the promo photos I had seen and was dressed in layers of button up shirts that all sported vertical stripes and then wore another layer under that. I figured someone from Finland might be sweating profusely in Los Angeles heat, I know I was sweating in the venue, but apparently he was cold!

He had on a headband to keep his hair out of his eyes but sang mostly with his eyes shut, envisioning the elaborate stories and emotions that accompany his lyrics.

In between songs the singer would talk, tell stories and generally be very friendly and gracious but the keyboard player would keep giving him dirty looks. The singer pointed to him and said, "He wants to kill me, we better do the next song". I am not sure why the hostility other than they were set to a strict time limit by the venue or the headlining act.

This was my first time being at the Wiltern since they removed all the lower level seating and done some minor changes and I was a little surprised at how strict and stifling the place is. In order to enter any door to the main concert hall you needed to show your ticket, over and over again.

You could not get near the stage, even with a photo pass, only bracelet adorned patrons had that privellage, how they got the bracelets I do not know.

Their photo area was a wheelchair ramp leading from the rear of the front section to the second and no one else was allowed near it. I was escorted there before the band went on and after the alotted three songs then immediately taken back to their office to relinquish my camera forcing me to miss part of the next song which was irritating and I do not like having my camera out of my sight.

To top off all this gestapo mentality they charge fourteen dollars for a beer! Extortion I cry!

Despite the difficulties of the venue, the band was a blast to experience live and Nightwish was phenominal as well, so for the right bands even The Wiltern is worth dealing with but it will go down on my list of worst venues in Los Angeles to see a show at.

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