Stratovarius – San Francisco – October 6th, 2009
Remarks: After four long years full of drama, shenanigans, and internet bickering, Stratovarius finally returned to the states to remind us of what’s important: the music! \m/ We got there only a couple minutes before Imagika started playing. Fortunately, we were able to get right up front, stage right, real easily. Unfortunately, the turnout for the concert was pretty low. I’m sure it could have been a bunch of different reasons, but both bands made sure to give the bunch of us that showed up some extra attention. They had no problem getting right up on the edge of the stage to hang out while playing.
Imagika ended up being the opening band, and it sounded like they were tapped last minute to open. They gave it all they had even though the vocals didn’t sound very clear for the first song and the bass dropped out in the middle of a later song. The vocalist was great interacting with the crowd and keeping things flowing. The bassist was awesome to watch as well, he was doing all sorts of tricks and flair while he was playing which was very cool. He was also left handed, so he automatically wins in my book. At one point, the vocalist asked us to help him out with the chorus by saying three ‘words’: GHB. Aside from not being words, we spend a lot of time trying to figure out what it stood for. Even though we managed a bunch of great ideas, apparently it stands for a date rape drug. Go figure.
Stratovarius was as awesome as ever. They definitely still know how to rock! They made slight variations on some of the songs (most noticeably on the drums) which made them sound new and kept us on our toes. Timo, Lauri, and Matias were making sure to travel all over the big stage. Jens was stuck all the way on the other side of the stage from us, but he was still most definitely on top of his game. Jorg looked like he was calm, cool, and collected while he was blasting out his various drum beats; most evident by his sunglasses he wore the whole time. Apparently Kotipelto was feeling a little under the weather and his voice wasn’t 100%. He definitely didn’t show until that song; it became a lot more evident after the show. It was also my first time seeing Matias in action, and he definitely is a capable guitarist. I noticed he had a tendency to lean down while he was soloing, making his hair cover his face and sometimes his hands. Gotta work on that so we can see him in action!
After the show, we lounged around a little and got to see Timo, Lauri, and Matias. I managed to get them to sign my poster that I got which was awesome. Timo seemed really tired and kinda out of it, he must have burned all his energy up during the show. Lauri and his infectious smile was very happy to see us, although I don’t believe he remembered us from last time we met him. Matias was very cool and easy to talk too. He said that he was hoping they’d be back next year, which is something I look forward to. He even remembered my friend mewissa from when she hung out with him at a festival in Europe. Good times. They headed into the near by bar, and we stuck around a little longer hoping to see the other two. Neither of them really appeared, so I was disappointed that I couldn’t get my proper picture with Jens. It’s been four years Jens, I’ll get my picture with you one day!
●Destiny (The haunting choral intro started playing over the speakers in complete darkness. Brace for epic! They started walking out one by one and it wasn’t long until they took over from the backing track. They played the entire song and man was it glorious.)
●Hunting High And Low (They didn’t waste anytime after the last song and the intro to Hunting was blasting at us. Even though we had a smaller crowd, it felt like there were tons of us screaming during the chorus. Lauri and Matias also joined in for backing vocals, combined with Kotipelto, it sounded really good.)
●Speed Of Light (After a little banter, they took right off again. This time it gave Matias a little chance to shine with some furious fretwork.)
●The Kiss Of Judas (Man this song has freaking everything. Lauri starting with a awesome mini-solo, Jorg keeping it steady in the back with his twirling sticks, Jens and Matias soloing, and Kotipelto all over the stage doing his thing. They extended the ending a little, but it wasn’t as cool as the version they did 4 years ago, it was toned down a little bit more.)
●Deep Unknown (First new track off their latest album. Was a cool song to hear. I kinda got the vibe that the crowd wasn’t as into it as the older songs. Probably cause the album didn’t do so hot here and they weren’t as intimately familiar with it as the other songs. I liked it though!)
●A Million Lightyears Away (Kotipelto displays his faux knowledge of their discography again and introduces this song as one being off the Destiny album. [PS: It’s off Infinite]. I was excited when he intro’d it, but once they started playing, it kinda felt a little off. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it though, it may have been in a different key. Didn’t stop me from singing along though!)
●Bass/Keyboard duet (Matias, Jorg, and Kotipelto headed off and Lauri went over and propped himself on Jens keyboard rack and they did a little duet together. I can’t say for certain if it was based off of something, but it was a nice little interlude.)
●Winter Skies (Lauri disappeared and Jens piano intro’d his way into this song. I really wasn’t sure what they were playing until we looked it up later; of course it was one of the songs off the new album I wasn’t very familiar with. Whoops. It was an awesome power ballad, Kotipelto giving it his all.)
●Phoenix (Hell yes! I loved this song. It was played flawlessly, including Kotipelto lead “Hey!” sections.)
●Guitar/Bass Battle (Another break for some of the guys. Lauri grabbed a beer and they passed it back and forth while one guy was soloing. They traded riffs for a while until Lauri stepped up for a more proper solo. Man, he was freaking all over the place. It’s so great that he’s still keeping bass solos alive. As he reached the climax of his solo, he was going nuts. Then he started tuning his bass down while still playing. Fucking classic. Matias stepped up for his turn, and he blasts us away with pieces of Fur Elise. This guy definitely knows his way around his guitar and made sure we knew that too. At the end, they introduce each other then end with a hug. Nice to have some band camaraderie, eh?)
●Forever Is Today (Back to the latest album. It wasn’t until they hit the chorus that I caught on. Good stuff.)
●Twilight Symphony (Kotipelto tells us we’re going back in time to his first Stratovarius album. The solos section was top notch and once again, Kotipelto nailed the second half of the song.)
●Eagleheart (Last song of the night. [Liars]. When he says it’s from Elements, Part 1, there’s only one conclusion everyone comes too. The three mobile guys were getting up close and personal now. On the second verse, they had a neat little section where everyone stopped playing and let Kotipelto go a capella for a line or two… except he choked! He just laughed it off and just kinda mumbled/hummed it. Good times indeed.)
●Forever (On the semi-darkened stage, I saw the stage tech come and wrap a plug for an acoustic guitar around Matias’ mic stand. I knew exactly what was next! Kotipelto tells us that they weren’t going to play this song since he wasn’t feeling too well, but they decided to do it by popular demand from a group of people in the front. Everyone was singing along, but they didn’t pause to let us sing like they usually do. They did let us ‘woaaah’ for them though. Towards the end, Kotipelto started showing signs of wear as he didn’t go for that long, extended high note that they sometimes do.)
●Black Diamond (Everyone disappeared again except for Jens who soloed his way up and down his keyboard. It eventually turned into the familiar melody of Black Diamond. Once everyone caught on, Jens stopped. Then he starts right back up, this time with the familiar harpsichord playing. Man, this song is so freaking awesome. And the solo sections was absolutely stunning. At the end, Jorg finally gets to shine in his own little solo to finish off the song. Then they all join in and big rock ending their way out!)