Ah, it had been almost seven months since I last saw Stratovarius live. Well, only less than three weeks for the next show, and it will be a Gold Disc Party! Visions has gone gold in Finland, selling over 20.000 copies. But this time the show was at Lepakko (which means "Bat", the flying animal), which has some kind of tradition as a concert venue. This was my first, and possibly the last time there - it may be demolished soon. I won't miss it, it's small, crude, and the background music was boring AC/DC. Tavastia Club is still pretty much my favourite place for concerts :-)
Opening bands were Finnish Antidote and Swedish Narnia. I had seen Antidote a couple of times before, but never really got into them. They play double-guitar driven metal with heavy riffs, perhaps a bit thrashy. Narnia sounded pretty interesting, I hadn't really heard more than just a name. Vocalist didn't impress me, but the music was rather good melodic power metal. Instrumental and the last song from yet-to-be-released album were catchy and stood out from the rest.
But this is about Stratovarius after all. I had already heard some comments about the show in Turku the previous day, and I was happy to hear (and see) that the set had gone through some changes. Last year I saw Stratovarius live three times, and every time the set was roughly the same. Visions of Europe, though excellent live album, had yet again exactly the same set. But now, now they played even one song from Dreamspace!
First interesting detail was Jörg's drums, what the heck has happened to them?-) They said "Premier" instead of "Tama", and bass drums had interesting drawings on them. The second new thing was the new intro music, most people probably recognize it ;-) The set was opened with Black Diamond for a change, and the sounds were good from the beginning. Loud enough to be heard, and not too loud to make ears ache. Well, vocals could've been turned up a bit, or perhaps it was just the placement of the loudspeakers. They were a bit too far into audience, the front row (where I naturally was) was almost closer to the stage than the loudspeakers.
Fast pace continued to Father Time, and then to a really pleasant addition to the set, a song from Dreamspace, pretty simple but very catchy rock-tune Hold On To Your Dream. Then again a new song to the set, first time I heard any of the ballads from Visions live. Before The Winter worked even better live than it does on the studio album. The song had never really impressed me before, though it is a very good tune. The contrast between soft and hard parts is much more impressive when player live, and I like it.
Next, back to a bit faster tempo, Speed Of Light, Paradise and former show opener Forever Free. But then one of the highlights of the show, at least for me. It was really, really, really nice to see one of my favourite tunes from Episode live again after two years. Epic Eternity just managed to stun me from the very first time I ever listened to it. The, perhaps a bit surprisingly, the band went straight to Stratosphere, and played the whole instrumental! Definitely a lot better than to see the same solos for the fourth time in a year.
After Kotipelto got back on stage, the band members were introduced, and then some lucky guy who had won a radio station drawing earlier came on stage to get his prize: a brand new Ibanez guitar. Visions was played with the typical accuracy, though I couldn't hear Nostradamus in the middle-section, probably for the same reason vocals seemed to be a bit quiet. Will The Sun Rise? will soon be unnecessary for a while in Finland, when the sun doesn't even go down.
After the traditional break two first encores were played. The Kiss Of Judas was naturally one of them, and easy to guess when Jari and J&oul;rg were first ones back on stage. Perhaps a bit surprisingly Against The Wind was the only song from Fourth Dimension, both Distant Skies and Twilight Symphony were dropped. Hmmm, they could make space for We Hold The Key ;-)
Yet another break, and then Kotipelto promised a little more before last buses leave. The natural audience participation piece was again Forever with Timo & Timo, and the set was finished with Legions. And Kotipelto couldn't have been more right, 30 seconds after I got out and to the bus stop, the last bus left.
Overall a very good show - yet again. Seems like these guys just can't do it wrong. Good to see that the set lives a bit, it would be kind of boring to see the same songs four times in a year. More stuff from Dreamspace!-) I had little hopes that Stratovarius could've played one or two new songs. After all, they've already been in studio, both rehearsing the new songs, and recording some basic stuff. Well, perhaps in three weeks at Tavastia ;-)