April 21, 2020, a year ago

Mark Gromen

gallery classic rock hard rock night flight orchestra

Have witness the phenomenon that is disco-era ABBA meets hard rock film score, aka NFO, each of the last couple summers, and scheduled for ProgPower USA debut in September. However, with summer festivals now scuttled and all concerts in jeopardy, for the foreseeable future, a livestream, from Sweden, might be the only chance (the rest of the world, outside their homeland) has to enjoy a dose of blast-from-the-past. Moving forward, only the luckiest contest winners will get to see the band in such an intimate setting! Fronted by Soilwork's Bjorn 'Speed' Strid and guitarist David Andersson (in dark suit counterpoint to the plethora of white stage outfits), as well as featuring the hulking Sharlee D'Angelo (too many bands to mention) on bass, Night Flight Orchestra are an anomaly in the metal scene, offering infectious keyboard/synth pop, with a heavy dose of dance rhythms, distilled through the filter of a ‘70s Swedish icon... no, not Seka, but the male-female quartet ABBA. Onstage, NFO employs a pair of female back-up singers (attired in vintage stewardess outfits), but it's the beret adorned Strid, with white dress gloves and Trans Am eagle crest across the lapels of a white suit coat, looking like an extra from Miami Vice, who offers a striking visual and vocal dichotomy from his "day job". No sleeveless, leather vest look here and the piercing falsetto accents atop a movie soundtrack, are light years removed from the Work's melodic death metal approach. 

In all honesty, the other times I've watched the Orchestra, I've had a beer in hand and the option of heading to another stage, to check out something else, should the attention span wane. No such luxury this time around, at least in terms of a diversion. A few thousand folks (like myself) watched it live. Countless more, undoubtedly, will watch the stream after the fact. Unlike some of the other lockdown entertainers, NFO was ready with plenty of merch, including special (exclusive) shirts tied-in to the broadcast. Nice touch! 

During the guitar/keyboard break of the opening "Servants Of The Air", the two stewardesses share a drink & a laugh. The hilarious ice skating competition promo video plays behind the band during "Divinyls", the ladies doing their half-turn shimmy, while adding backing voices. At the start of each song, the title pops onscreen, like a glorified video program. The lull between numbers was also used to implore fans to make donations. Somewhere between Survivor (guess it's the beret!) and Steely Dan, "Living For The Nighttime", features a voiceover: a telephone break-up call between a couple (the guy hanging at the Brass Rail, Toronto inhabitants!). The gals hold namesake old school receivers, in-hand, during the appropriate portion of the song/stageshow. Speed asks the fans to dance, claiming they have the right soundtrack. Cue "This Boy's Last Summer". 

The running order was similar to the recent (prematurely) concluded headlining tour, thank you very much Covid-19. "If Tonight Is Our Only Chance" is followed by newbie "Something Mysterious", the singer telling housebound fans to clap and sway to the music. Tonight, "Gemini" drops to a position later in the set, as cartoon animation appears on the video board behind the assemblage. As a syncopated 8-Bit pulse introduces "Golden Swansdown", the backing singers wrap Strid in a gold lamé cape. The video for said track, the only real attempt at a ballad, plays onscreen (a lone female interpretive dancer). Drinking throughout, the singer and girls joke about the Riesling they're drinking (one of alcoholic offshoots sold in conjunction with the band). Bjorn keeps the cape for funky, Miami Sound Machine sounding "Paralyzed". Working up a sweat, Andersson ditches the suit jacket, as hypnotic, pink/purple video concentric circles pulsate.  

Costume change! During synth interlude, most of the players leave the stage, only to return with Strid now in black outfit, in complete counterpoint to the color scheme he began the night, as they launch into "Can't Be That Bad". Another single/video accompaniment greets "Transmissions", with vintage electronic drum fills and falsetto male vocal. Andersson goes off on a bit of a riff that segues into bouncy, electronic piano backed "Satellite". Prior to the last waltz (pun intended) they all stop, to refill their glasses, as well as share a round of the band's Midnight Flyer rum (aka "rocket fuel," according to Speed!), aged in champagne barrels. Sadly, only currently available in Europe. They read some internet comments, including an apparent wedding (during the broadcast) in Bochum. Those crazy Germans! Like on tour, the hand percussion (bongos) "West Ruth Ave" ends the 75 minutes onstage, Speed asking for all watching to form a conga line, film it and submit to the band's social media. The two ladies bookend him, center stage, for this one and he even shows off a few dance moves. Andersson adds slide guitar (almost down to the pick-ups) and there's more falsetto. Quite the finale!

The stream and merch will be online for a while, so check it out. Might be a while until the next "performance.”

Featured Audio

HYPOCRISY – “Children Of The Gray” (Nuclear Blast)

HYPOCRISY – “Children Of The Gray” (Nuclear Blast)

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