KAMELOT - F Is For Finns & Floridians
September 13, 2019, a month ago
Yeah, sometimes it feels like Sesame Street, trying to "educate" people that not all metalheads are Oscar The Grouch and our music isn't "trash." Case in point, the current Kamelot, Sonata Arctica, Battle Beast tour, some friendly metal, of the clean-cut variety. Heck, Sean Tibbetts (bass), Tony Kakko (Sontata frontman) and Noora Louhimo (Beast singer) could be one of Jim Henson's Muppets! World class production values, even if 13 songs seemed a bit short. Just three from last year's The Shadow Theory and while it's nice to still include a couple from the Roy Khan era (both off Karma), there's still nothing earlier and entire records (with Khan, or current singer Tommy Karevik) are skipped over, in the running order. Hats off to Kamelot for keeping their merch prices reasonable. Actually $20-$25 for a shirt is unheard of, these days.
Opening with "Phantom Divine (Shadow Empire)" sees Karevik (hoodie up over his head) and Lauren Hart both wallowing through a heavy mist of stage fog, courtesy of four jets lining the front edge of the stage. Philly fans know this is not the singer of the same name who has sung the National Anthem before Flyers home hockey games for more than three decades. She's the growling lead singer of Once Human, a band featuring former Machine Head/Soulfly guitarist Logan Mader. Tommy tells the crowd, "You guys are crazy loud!" Stage left, the pliable Tibbetts makes angular shifts, as he plays bass. His braided blond hair moving to a rhythm all its own. Based on Internet reports, tonight offers a radically different running order than the night before. Not sure if they were adjusting things they were unhappy about, or whether they'll be altering the set throughout the tour.
Tommy asks the fans to jump for green tinged "Insomnia". Youngblood's on the shadowbox/riser as he engages in some interplay with keyboardist Oliver Palotai. Paradoxically, a storm of strobes greets "When The Lights Are Down", an early fist pumper. Blood red hues virtually obscure what's onstage. Likewise, color confused lighting director opts for purple during “Vespertine (My Crimson Bride)". Darkened stage is populated by blue/red/yellow and green lights, for "Karma". Band founder Thom Youngblood and singer Karevik come together, briefly, stage right. The guitarist gets the crowd to sway their arms, back-n-forth, overhead. Following "The Human Stain", there's purple lit solos from the keyboards and drummer. Solos over, all 12 lights train on Karevik, to start "Burns To Embrace". The stage goes completely black. Then "Sacrimony (Angel of Afterlife)" sees two girls onstage, Hart and guesting Noora, reprising the roles made famous by Elize Ryd & Alissa White-Gluz, before they moved on to Amaranthe and Arch Enemy, respectively.
Proper set ends with "Forever", where there are band introductions and a crowd vs. Tommy sing-along. Return to deep blue stage, for "March Of Mephisto", a blinding white light (awakening) shines behind Hart, who rises from a crouch and unleashes some gruff vocalization, the role originated by Dimmu Borgir frontman, Shagrath. Curse Of The Spiderwoman outfit (with long ties/sleeves), as the stage turns crimson. Karevik arrives, in hoodie, as crossfire sci-fi laser fight is re-enacted by the lighting. There are puffs of smoke too, as the male-female duo face-off in front of what looks like a wormhole/portal. For "Liar Liar" finale, Tommy again climbs atop the center stage shadowbox and coxes the titular chorus from the sweaty throng. Still some eruptions of fog left in those cannons, as well as hellish notes dislodged from the femme fatale's throat. Quite the performance, all around. Take a bow!
Know it's just an opening slot, and only the second night of this tour, but Sonata Arctica have all but stripped the classics from the set (five of the eight aired selections were off the new album. Old hits "Black Sheep" and "X Marks The Spot" were there, just a week ago). Gray haired singer Kakko informed us the title of the new album, Talviyö, translates to "winter night" in Finnish. For a band that made their bones on the back of Stratovarius and like-minded speedy European power metal acts, the new stuff is sort of anti-climatic. Green lit "Whirlwind", from said platter, ends acoustic. "We started in Florida. We were boiling. As we came North, it got a little better, but we enjoy our weather like we enjoy our beer, COLD!" Cue the purple hued newbie of the same name. During their set, Noora Louhimo showed up in the bar, still in full stage regalia, horns protruding from her hair. "As a parent of two small kinds, I'm worried about the state of the planet," omits Kakko. "The next song is about that,” "Storm The Armada". "Who Failed The Most" ends with the singer, alone onstage, as piano notes tinkle from the speakers. It segues into the galloping, pink lit "FullMoon", a true oldie that affords Kakko something holiday, the crowd offering all the lyrics. Not using the mic stand, he hoists it onto his shoulders, then plays a bit of air guitar, with the prop. At one point, the entire band stops, allowing for an a cappella audience rendition. The concluding, mid-tempo "Life" has Kakko acting as a physical trainer. getting everyone to clap/move their arms overhead, during the "Vodka" sing-along finale. Know you want to hawk the current product, but bring back a few more "established" chestnuts.
Battle Beast are sort of sound like Nightwish getting rolled by Survivor and Night Flight Orchestra, in a back-alley brawl. Noora has a take-no-shit attitude that instantly endeared her to Philly. Ditto the "Born to kick your ass" lyric in "Bastard Son Of Odin". Sure there were lots of new Battle Beast converts tonight. Following high energy opener "Unbroken" she said, "Praise the gods of heavy metal" then right into bouncy "Familiar Hell". "Are you ready to go fucking Beasty," was the rhetorical cue for trilling introduced "Straight To The Heart", which saw the fans sing the danceable, titular chorus. Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson gets accused of possessing a wayward arm. Louhimo punches more air than a George Foreman opponent. Janne Björkroth (synth/keytar) was absent tonight, so lots of piped in extras, as on "Eden". Juuso Soinio had a stars & stripes guitar strap, all the more poignant today (9/11, the anniversary of the terror attacks). In the aforementioned "Odin", the singer departed from her Jazzersize routine, to include sidekicks as part of her full aerobic workout. Periodically, she blew kisses to the crowd, sometimes a full palm of the hand, others, just from her index finger. "Beyond The Burning Skies" finale concludes with counter clockwise wind milling by the guitars and bassist.