Xandria kicked off the night with an ominous backing track that played before they entered the stage. The symphonic metal band impressed even the most skeptical of onlookers with singer Dianne van Giersbergen’s remarkable operatic soprano voice, and the rest of the band’s mesmerizing live sound. Van Giersbergen’s stage accoutrement of stilettos and a long flowing coat with sparkling leaves made her look ethereal, and every move she made looked magical.
Though they were the first band to grace the stage, Xandria won the crowd completely over. The dramatic flair of the frontwoman, the simple, rugged, metal look of the rest of band, as well as the powerful vocals, their on-stage chemistry, the solos, the basslines, the backing tracks, and the bewildering speed, precision and brute force of the percussion kept the audience in awe. The performance of drumming god Gerit Lamm was so tremendous that his own bandmates kneeled before him at the end of the set.
I had no doubts of the greatness that is Xandria once I learned that the bass player on stage that night was actually Serenity‘s Fabio D’Amore, who is replacing Steven Wussow for the tour. To have a bass player on loan and still deliver a seamless performance is amazing, and Xandria left Vancouver with at least one new fan.
Shortly after Xandria bowed to the crowd, Delain made their entrance. They had some big shoes to fill after the performance delivered by the German band, but the symphonic metal band from the Netherlands held its own.
Charlotte Wessels’ jazzy voice sounded the same live as it does on the albums, and, coupled with the love she showers on her adoring fans in between songs, she was a great frontwoman. The entire band’s synergy made them really pleasant to watch. Though they sounded a bit more generic and commercial than the previous act, they captivated the audience by playing a good number of their most popular songs, including “Milk & Honey”, “The Gathering”, and “Stardust”. They ended their set with the ultimate misfit anthem, “We Are The Others”.
Delain seemed to have a good grasp on the importance of good stage presence. All five members owned every available inch of the small space they occupied. In addition, having a keyboardist to play the piano and more intricate arrangements in their music gave their live performance more depth. They were enthralling. They left the stage after a five minute round of applause from the delighted Vancouver crowd that had just received the gift of Delain for the first time ever.
After a thirty minute break to set the stage, the Finnish headliners walked on stage to a thunderous round of applause from the eager crowd. They opened with their single, “The Wolves Die Young”, the first song on their new album Pariah’s Child.
It was then that I realized something; Sonata Arctica are a rare breed. They are that band who sounds good in the studio, but just sounds exponentially better live. Tony Kakko’s voice was just as nasal, high-pitched and perfect live as it is in the studio. Elias Viljanen is a skilled guitar player who never missed a note and doesn’t know the meaning of a sloppy solo. Pasi Kauppinen is the archetypal crazy bass player, which makes the band so much more entertaining to watch. Henrik Klingenberg could not be a greater proficient at playing the keyboard and the keytar, impressing the gallery by sometimes playing one with his right hand and the other with his left. Tommy Portimo played with metronome-like precision the entire night, and with a smile on his face. By the time Sonata Arctica had finished their first song, the crowd was sweaty, ecstatic, and electric.
They played a few songs from their new album, notably “Cloud Factory” and “X Marks The Spot”, but seemed mostly to stick to the crowd favourites, including the gut-wrenching “Letter To Dana”, from the album Ecliptica.
Sonata Arctica have been around for 15 years, and it shows. They have perfected every interaction with the crowd, every headbang, every twirling of the microphone stand. At the same time, however, the show felt personal and spontaneous. The times where Kakko interacted with the crowd, he told us about their hometown of Kemi, Finland, and about the band’s humble beginnings. He introduced the songs perfectly, and the whole band followed through magnificently. After more than a dozen songs and an encore of three, Sonata Arctica left the building.
I have rarely felt more satisfied after a show. From the opening act to the track that played during Sonata Arctica’s exit from the stage, the Vancouver stop of Pariah’s Child tour was a success and an evening to remember fondly for years to come.
Written by Kai Robidas
Photography by Stephany Robidas