It had been a while since I went to a gig where the line to get in extended down an alley and to the next street over. I had almost forgotten what it was like – and so when I showed up at The Metro just before 8 on Saturday night, I just kept on walking down into the alley, a little further…a little more…oh! There was the end of the line. Made it. The good thing was doors opened shortly after I got there, so the line moved pretty quickly. There once was a time I would be waiting at those stage doors from about 4 in the afternoon (or earlier) and it is safe to say those days are well and truly behind me.
Getting in was pretty smooth sailing, and after a quick stop at the bar (only to give up because I couldn’t quite tell what beer they had) into the fray I went following the sounds of opening act Hemina. The Metro was already pretty filled out, with all the good spots on the barrier taken. Was going to try and go upstairs, but that would have involved pushing through a bunch of people and if there were no good spots, having to go back down so I found a nice spot against the wall off to the side and that became my home for the next few hours.
Having never heard of Hemina I had no idea what to expect – but I can say that if you ever get the chance to go see them play – you should do it. I have no idea if opening for a band like Apocalyptica is intimidating in any way – but if it is, Hemina certainly didn’t show it. They rocked that stage like they owned the place and had those who arrived early thoroughly entertained. At one point during the set vocalist Douglas Skene mentioned he had laryngitis or throat problems of some kind, so Mitch Coull would have to help out with vocals. I have to say, if I could sound even half as good as Skene when he has laryngitis, I would be over the moon! The guy sounded amazing. The whole band sounded great and were an awesome way to get the night rolling.
We Lost The Sea nabbed the spot for national support for Apocalyptica’s Shadowmaker tour and it couldn’t have gone to a better band. We Lost The Sea never fail to impress, and are just a really interesting band to see perform. They have this air of mystery about them and sort of just walk on stage like they are just having a jam session – and not opening for the Finnish giants Apocalyptica. Walking on stage there was no chatting with the audience. They didn’t even tell us who they were. They just grabbed their instruments and started playing. Admittedly, as their first song started fairly slow I think a lot of people weren’t sure they had actually started yet or not, so there was some talking among the crowd, but that didn’t faze WLTS. They just continued playing and when the song really got going and everyone finally caught on that “oh, hey the set started” a wave of captivation fell over us all. For a completely instrumental set WLTS know how to hold your attention, but it really isn’t hard with the way these guys play. Vocals really help draw a crowd in, it gives the audience a way to participate. They sing along and it feels like they are part of the show. With an instrumental set, unless everyone mouths and air guitars/drums there can sometimes be a disconnect between band and audience. That isn’t the case with WTLS. The intricate guitar work, heavy hitting drums and powerful keys manage to bridge that divide through pure admiration. And just as mysteriously as they entered, they left. With little more than a wave and a thumbs up to the crowd; off they went.
While both Hemina and We Lost The Sea played great sets, it was time for the band we were all itching to see. In fact – I saw them earlier get into a van while waiting to get in, but we all sort of missed it and when they drove off there was a just a line of people muttering “was that just…?” “did I just see…?” anyway – by now we were all nice and packed together ready too see Eicca Toppinen, Paavo Lötjönen, Perttu Kivilaakso blow us away with their insane talent. I last saw Apocalyptica when they toured in 2012 and I thought they were brilliant – now three years later they somehow surpassed that and I was once again blown away. Despite doing this for so long, it’s like they never stop trying to see how they can improve. Mikko Sirén somehow took his drumming to a whole other level and was just the perfect complement to the guys’ ever mesmerising cello. The thing about these guys that really gets me is the way that even 20 years later they continue to have fun on stage. The way they interact with each other – and the audience – the constant smiles on all their faces. They have fun – and it shows – and it makes the performance all the more memorable. Oh, and of course their crazy talent helps. A lot. They hoist their cellos from one side of the stage, really ripping it up, playing them above their heads, playing them while on the ground – and there is never a fault. They had complete control over the entire Metro Theatre, whether it was as they lead us through Metallica cover “Master of Puppets” or took us on a more gentle ride with “Bittersweet”.
One thing I was really excited about was seeing Franky Perez join them on stage, since his recruitment as vocalist for Shadowmaker. He was a great fit on the record, and after seeing him perform with them, that became even more evidently clear. Perez just seemed to fit. It was as if he had been there from the beginning. Alongside the tracks from Shadowmaker he handled older tacks like “I’m Not Jesus” and “I Don’t Care” excellently. He added a new dash of charisma and fun to the live performance, and while his talent was clear – there was no overshadowing the brilliancy of seeing Eicca, Perttu, Paavo and Mikko do what they do best.
The night was a good balance of instrumental and vocal tracks and like any other great show – was over way too soon. We were granted two encores, but even that just wasn’t enough. It didn’t feel like they had played for an hour, and I think we all would have been happy to stay for an hour more. But as they say, all good things must come to an end, but don’t worry – they’ll be back. Eicca promised us that himself.