Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Concert Report: Tarja Turunen, Bucharest 22.06.2009

"I have a little wish to come back here, in Sibiu, in 2007." Tarja Turunen said in the ending of an interview taken after the last one of her classical concerts, in December 2005. After almost four years of waiting, Tarja's Romanian fans were thrilled when the wait had finally ended. A concert was announced in Bucharest, on the 22nd of June 2009, which was part of the "Summer Storm Tour", promoting her album released in 2007, "My Winter Storm".

Shortly after 8:00, the lights went out in the hall, Tarja's band appeared on the stage: Mike Terrana (drums), Kiko Loureiro (guitars), Maria Ilmoniemi (keyboards), Doug Wimbish (bass) and Max Lilja (cello) and started to play the first notes of "Enough", followed by Tarja who walked in the center of the stage and started to sing. By that time, everyone who had seats near the stage left them and tried to get as close to the stage as they could, in the photographers' line.

"Buna seara, Bucharest! It's really wonderful to be back, it's wonderful to be able to come to sing for you once again. Thank you so much for coming and welcome to my storm!", Tarja greeted the audience and they started to play "My Little Phoenix". During the first Nightwish song she sang, "She Is My Sin", the security was already trying to make the fans go away from the stage, but not with much success. Tarja then described the following song, "Damned And Divine" as being one of her favorite songs from the album and about "vampires and eternal nights". "Minor Heaven" was one of the many songs in which Tarja got to show off her beautiful voice and to amaze the audience. The well-known "I Walk Alone" was followed by an awesome instrumental song of the band, a.k.a. "Ciaran's Band Set", the one that is always played before "Ciaran's Well", the heaviest song from the album and setlist.

"Now, for my dreams I hold my life", Tarja hinted on the next song, which definitely didn't need any other introduction: "Sleeping Sun". "Lost Northern Star" and a cover of Alice Cooper's "Poison" were followed by a combination of four ballads "Wisdom Of Wind", "Boy And The Ghost", "Our Great Divide" and "Calling Grace", during which almost everyone in the audience sat down and listened silently to Tarja's voice. Next was a big surprise, a new song that had never been played live before, "If You Believe", during which Tarja remained alone on the stage and played the keyboards. "Nemo", probably the most famous Nightwish song made the fans go crazy once again; everybody was jumping and singing along with Tarja, and "Sing For Me" was officially the last song of the concert.

A few minutes later, the band returned on the stage to perform "Oasis", the only song from "My Winter Storm" that was composed entirely by Tarja. Before "The Kinslayer", another one of the many surprises, she dared everybody in the hall to stand up: "You wanna have one more? If everyone of you stands up, we'll do you one more. So let's keep on rockin', Bucharest, or what? Yes, yes, yes, this is for you!"
The last song was "Die Alive", and Tarja thanked her fans once again for coming and said that she is hoping to come back after the release of the next album, "What Lies Beneath".

Tarja managed to combine her own solo songs as well as Nightwish songs from her past in a way that the audience seemed to enjoy all of them just as much. Together with the talented musicians who accompanied her, Tarja's concert was the best concert in Romania of this year for many of the people attending it, a concert that she and her band obviously enjoyed just as much as her fans.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Concert Report: Stratovarius - Rockin' Transilvania 14.06.09

Stratovarius played on the 14th of June at Rockin' Transilvania as the headliners of the festival. The concert was part of the tour promoting their twelfth album "Polaris", that features two new members, bassist Lauri Porra and guitarist Matias Kupiainen, who is replacing Timo Tolkki, a long-time member of the band and the main songwriter for many years.

In spite of performing live for the first time in Romania, by the time the concert started it was obvious that the majority of the audience had come to see Stratovarius, so that one could barely hear Timo Kotipelto's voice during the first song of the concert, "Hunting High And Low", because it was covered by the huge number of fans singing along. Many classic songs like "The Kiss Of Judas", "Speed Of Light", "Forever", "Eagleheart", or "A Million Light Years Away" were the highlights of the concert, and Kotipelto was once again joined in singing by most of the fans.

Only three songs from the "Polaris" album were included in the setlist: "Higher We Go", "Winter Skies", and "Deep Unknown", three very powerful songs that managed to create a small sample of the album and attract the fans' attention. Once again, the number of the people attending the concert was not bigger than 800, but the band seemed to have a great time on stage and they managed to combine some of their biggest hits with songs from the new album and also songs that hadn't been performed in a long time, like "Will The Sun Rise?", in a way that they proved they can still write good songs and also that they are not that different from the old Stratovarius at the same time.

Closing the concert with what is most likely their most known song, "Black Diamond", Stratovarius' show was the perfect ending for a festival where other big names like Jon Oliva's Pain, Bonfire, In Extremo and Korpiklaani had also performed.

More pictures at this location.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Interview: Tarja Turunen, Kerrang 2009 (Translation)

Shortly after her four concerts in Buenos Aires and the collaboration with Rata Blanca in Luna Park, Tarja Turunen told us how she is preparing for the Metalway Festival and her expectations of "What Lies Beneath". At the Obelisk of Buenos Aires, she was interviewed by Cesar Fuentes Rodriguez. Pictures taken by Fernando Serani.

First of all, tell us how it felt for you to end your tour in Buenos Aires. You looked very emotional when you presented the band especially during the last concert.
Tarja: Yes, of course. Especially that my conciousness has grown in Buenos Aires and the people have realised my condition as an artist here, and the band was also very happy about finishing the tour here. We toured in many cities in South America, and I think that all of them would agree with me that we like it best here, the people are very nice, we feel safe on the streets, so playing one week in Buenos Aires was a good idea. On the other hand I was very happy with the shows, and everything went well, there will be many things to remember and keep in mind for the future.

You are heading to Metalway now, how does it feel to jump from a small and intimate place to a big festival?
Tarja: I am very excited because it will be the first show with my new album there. Since one and a half years since it was released, we didn't manage to combine the dates. And I am very eager to return to Spain, I have many fans there, I usually get in contact with them and I know they are looking forward to this concert and the ones in September. Of course that we will arm ourselves with a great setlist and we will clearly think what to do to please and entertain such an important audience. There will be many bands and their fans, and when there are so many people it's difficult to please everybody.

Last time you told me that you were to Ibiza. Would you like to spend more time in Spain?
Tarja: We were in Ibiza recording My Winter Storm, for a month, more or less. Before that I imagined Spain as party, party and party again. I didn't intend to go there before because that story of people dancing and partying all night didn't attract me much, but it was only in my imagination. I found an island of natural beauty, simple people and enough places to get lost. We rented a house, we recorded, had a good time, we were diving and traveling... very nice. Moreover, Barcelona is my favorite city from Europe. I love going there. As a matter of fact, I would like to live in Barcelona one day, a very beautiful city indeed.

About the band, I was surprised to not see Kiko Loureiro tehre, but it is obvious that it has consolidaded..
Tarja: Yes, I am working with Alex Scholpp on some songs for What Lies Beneath. Doug Wimbish is also helping me, even though he has many commitements and his position in Living Colour, Mike Terrana always tells me I am the first for him and to call him any time, Alex will be a father now, lots of things.. But yes, we really feel like a band, and I am very lucky to have these musicians with me, and eventually also Kiko.

With respect to your new ideas, do you intend to bring guests to interpret?
Tarja: Yes, I plan to have guests. There some songs that need special elements at times. The idea is not to make just a heavy metal album, but all these musicians that I have been working with come from different schools, which is very good because understanding the music with an open mind always benefits the result. Of course that before each song one starts to think about what the musician inteprets. I contacted some of the musicians that I like who were working on the album.

When will the album be released?
Tarja: The idea is to release it the following year. I finished about 18 songs, the lyrics are almost ready, and now I don't know when it will be released. I am very happy about the songs, the material is very mature in the composition but also in the lyrics, it feels very good to make it this way, with so much freedom and many people who understand me around.

Will there be any cover, like there was Alice Cooper's Poison on the first album?
Tarja: It was very difficult then. [laughs]

But it worked very well, so...
Tarja: I don't know yet. There could be a duet, I have the perfect song for that.

Some people were very surprised by the fact that you sang a cover of Seru Giran's "Desarma Y Sangra" at La Trastienda. You're not planning to record it, are you?
Tarja: No, definitely not. It's a nice song, and I sang it my way. Every time I do a cover I try to do it my way, but without ruining the original. I like the band and what Charly Garcia does. And besides, I like surprising people. [laughs]

And when you change your outfit on the stage, what is the reason behind that? Is it purely theatrical, or is there another idea?
Tarja: Since I was playing with Nightwish, I was trying to show to the audience how the songs "look like", to become in the same way the songs are. It's a part of the concert, for mi, I never got any comments from the band about what they saw. But I think that the people somehow expect me to do this. And today I think it is fantastic to chose my own outfits and to have this unbelievable artistic freedom to plan my concerts how I interpret them. I like the theater, I like the dramatic parts in my songs, and to show this in a theatrical way.

Do you feel different or weird singing Nightwish songs with a new band?
Tarja: [makes a face like"should-I-answer-this?"] I have a great band and the songs sound very powerful when these people play them. For me it is wonderful to be able to sing these songs now, that I couldn't sing properly at the time. When we recorded some of them I was in a learning process, and I couldn't give the best of myself for these songs.

Oh, you mean Passion And The Opera...
Tarja: Of course! For example. But now I can sing the songs I recorded with Nightwish a lot easier. I am a more mature singer and I know my instrument a lot better. And being with these musicians does nothing but help me.

At the moment you are preparing for the concert with Rata Blanca, that will be a special occasion. How is that working?
Tarja: Yesterday afternoon we had the first test, and I really had a great time with them. We will sing three songs, and two of them will be with Adrian [Barillari]. i think Walter [Giardiano] liked it, and I am also very happy about it. I like working with him.

When did this idea of working together emerge?
Tarja: Oh, actually a few years ago. but we never had the chance. Now we agreed on a big concert in Buenos Aires.

How was it to do a duet with Doro for her new album, "Fear No Evil"?
Tarja: It was great to know her better. When we recorded the two songs and talked on the phone and did the shows it felt very good because she has a very big career behind her and i respect her a lot. The things that I can do with my voice are nice, this is my characteristic and mixing it with a very different voice can be very difficult, but in this case it turned out very well. I can't make my voice more rough, it doesn't work, but when the completion is suitable, there is a chance that it will sound very well.

Then a duet with Angela Gossow would be out of the question. [laughs]
Tarja: I don't know.. Well I never thought about this before, but she could get a role with her voice in a certain song, telling a story, perhaps. But I think that it would be too much for my music, I don't know if I could go so far from the edge [laughs]. Many times I listened to her on the radio and I admire what she can do with her voice. There is no way I could do that with mine.

What thing? Forcing her throat so hard without ruining it?
Tarja: Yes. I really think that's admirable.

Some last words for the people who will come to see you at Metalway?
Tarja: That I am very happy to go there. And so is the rest of the band. returning to Spain is very important to me. I had a great time there and teh fans always keep in touch. I'm sure we will have a great time there.

Note: I just translated this interview with Tarja. Credit for the original text goes to the Spanish Kerrang! magazine (July issue), for the scans goes to The_Riddler, and the beautiful pictures were taken by Fernando Serani.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Review: Amorphis - Skyforger

"Skyforger", the ninth full-length album by Finnish heavy metal band Amorphis was characterized by Esa Holopainen as being: "a strong and unified entity" and "the most musical record [...] so far".
Once again, the lyrical inspiration has been the Finnish national epic, "Kalevala" the only difference being that the songs are not based on a single, certain episode this time, but on several parts of it.

The first track, "Sampo" opens with a keyboard melody, which hints on the presence of less growls, catchy songs and more clean vocals, while the second one, "Silver Bride" is definitely one of the highlights, having been previously released as a single and video."Sky Is Mine" and the title track, "Skyforger", are very complex, well outlined and representative for this album. "From The Heaven Of My Heart", "My Sun" and "Highest Star" are probably the most atmospheric and dark songs, in which the keyboards and soothing vocals can be easily noticed. "Majestic Beast", the heaviest song from the album, together with last one, "From Earth I Rose" remind of the sound of the first Amorphis albums by featuring heavier elements and growls.

Amorphis is known for changing the style with every new release; once again they have managed to keep similarities to older albums, while at the same time, "Skyforger" is different on another level; it includes more melodic, melancholic and epic elements.
Even though somehow repetitive, the songs are very well put together and seem to flow in a whole, while certain choruses are very easy to keep in mind and will still play in your head long after the songs themselves have finished.

Review: 8/10

01. Sampo
02. Silver Bride
03. From The Heaven Of My Heart
04. Sky Is Mine
05. Majestic Beast
06. My Sun
07. Highest Star
08. Skyforger
09. Course Of Fate
10. From Earth I Rose

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Concert Report: Korpiklaani - Rockin' Transilvania 13.06.09

Although the stadium's doors had opened at around 12:00, by the time seven Romanian bands started the Wacken Open Metal Battle there were 39 people in total. At that time, you could still see Jonne Järvelä and Jarkko Aaltonen walking around, buying other bands' merchandise or watching the first concerts, completely ignored by most people, with the exception of some who went to ask for autographs or to take pictures with them.

At 20:00, after the Hungarian band Superbutt, Korpiklaani started their concert. The audience consisted of one or two rows of fans leaning on the fences in front of the stage and the rest sitting on the grass and drinking beer, about 200 or 300 people in total. But the band wasn't bothered by the limited number of fans; every single band member played their instruments with a lot of joy and they all seemed to have just as much fun as their fans did. Jonne was in the center of attention, jumping and bouncing all around the stage while keeping a big smile on his face for the whole concert and everybody in the crowd had a great time, dancing and headbanging at the same time. The band's costumes, traditional instruments and typical stage decorations created the unique atmosphere of a Korpiklaani concert, while songs like "Beer Beer", "Hunting Song", "Happy Little Boozer" and the new single "Vodka" were undoubtedly the concert's highlights. After the concert, the whole band got off the stage to the fence where fans were waiting for them, and didn't leave until everybody had a picture or an autograph from them.

In spite of the small audience, Korpiklaani managed to carry out one of the festival's best shows, definitely rising above the performance of the day's headliner, In Extremo.

More pictures here.