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Sonata Arctica is one of the best bands I have ever heard play live. Some of the songs on this album I would prefer to listen to as opposed to the original ones. Misplaced, for example, just screams out at you. It seems faster and better than the version from Reconing Night. Victoria's Secret is another good example, starting off with Tony powerfully singing the song's melody into the mic to compliment the keyboards perfectly and to make the mood of the music much more epic and fantasy-like. It's like that with almost all of the songs on here.
...That's if you were just listening to the live album, but there is more to this than one album. It comes with a live dvd version of the entire concert, which is awesome. Nothing special, but awesome nonetheless. The only problem? Tony.
Now, let me say that I think Tony Kakko is an awesome lyricist and vocalist. He can hit notes that not many other people can and can really get you to sing along with the music. But watch him live and...oh my hell, it's gay as fuck. Not all the time, but quite often he will almost mime what he is singing. Too much body language can get annoying, especially when you do it in the gayest way possible.
But don't let that turn you off. The music itself is incredible and is a must have for any hardcore SA fan. However, if you are just a casual listener, then I don't recomend it.
Sonata do not disappoint with this one: 20 tracks on the DVD (counting the intro), 15 on the CD (from the same concert) as well as some mildly amusing drunken hijinks captured on camera by various inebriated band members make this package good value for money as well as highly entertaining and well put-together.
The sound is reasonably sharp although Jani's guitar sounds a tad less punchy (but no less audible) than it does on the studio releases but his solos are razor-sharp and fun. The bass is all but lost in the mix but then, that's how it is on the albums. Henrik's keyboards are spot-on and Tommy's drums are as solid as a rock providing an unshakeable backbone to the proceedings.
Tony's vocals are on top-form as he romps and frolics about the stage, seemingly unable to hide his glee from the crowd. The man is not what you would call a 'moody' frontman; his apparent joy in his music a refreshing change from singers who look like they're having a fucking miserable time on stage.
Indeed, the rest of the band seem to be having just as much fun as they blaze through a near-flawless set containing killer cuts such as 'Broken', 'Black Sheep', 'Sing in Silence' and the anthemic 'Don't Say A Word'. There are a few classic tracks absent from the set-list which I'm sure a lot of fans would have liked to hear ('Weballergy', 'Silver Tongue', 'Wolf And Raven' to name but three,) but there isn't a bad song on there and any fan would do well to get this CD/DVD set or, better yet, go and see them when you get the opportunity.
Here's hoping they come back to England some time soon.
I mean, it's no Unleashed in the East or Memoires . . . Live (which, in case you're a filthy commie and haven't heard, is Manigance's absolutely mindblowing live album). It's got a lot of Sonata Arctica's less impressive songs as opposed to the rocking stuff on Silence and Ecliptica. And Kakko still sucks at singing.
But it's a definite improvement over Songs of Silence, which was a few songs away from total abortion level. The sound is better, the crowd isn't as retarded, and the feel is overall more exciting and more reminiscent of what a live CD should be--an excited crowd, a band that performs well, and just the proper mix of atmosphere and actual music to create that unique feel that live CDs give (although whoever sings the backup vocals forgot to use his mic or something because I can barely hear that shit). There are a few fuckups where Kakko drops a solo or something, but the band obviously practices a few times before giving the concert. Special attention should be given to Liimatainen who is dead the fuck on in all of his solos and guitar work (8th Commandment is mindblowingly good) and Tommy Portimo who does a great job keeping Kakko on the same page as the rest of the band.
Speaking of Tony Kakko, let's talk about the frontman for a minute. He is without a doubt a very talented keyboardist and has the ability to hit the high notes, as is evident in the studio albums. That said, his performance style sucks. A good frontman knows how to balance the performance with the entertainment--you can jump around and do funny things to the song and get the crowd into it as long as you finally get around to doing the songs and doing them well. Kakko spends so much time trying to get the crowd singing along, attempting vocal ornamentation (ooooAAAAOOOAAAAAOOOOAaaaAAAAAAOOOOHHHHYYEAAHHHHHH) and growls (what the fuck Tony you don't do growls you're the frontman for Sonata Arctica for Christ's sake), and overall trying to be EXCITING that he drops several cues and cheats just about every single high or sustained note he has, and it's really irritating. One of the great parts of Sonata Arctica's music is when Tony nails a high notes and it just sits there and pierces you for a while, but that never happens on the album, to my great disappointment. It's probably a great show to see live since he's so excited all the time, but it doesn't transfer well to the live CD.
That said, it's not nearly as bad as in Songs of Silence, and everything else is so dead on that's it's hard not to at least enjoy this live album. Less of Kakko's bullshit and more asskicking stuff like Mary Lou and Weballergy would have pulled it into the 90's, but it's still an album worth picking up if you're a fan.
Oh, and by the way Tony, you don't need to announce every song before you guys play it. If your dumbass fans don't know Kingdom for a Heart after the first few bars then that's their fault, not yours.