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Sonata Arctica/Queen of the Ryche
Sunday, January 18, 2006
BB King's Bar and Grill
New York City, NY USA
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* Review and photos by Shaq
The ongoing trend of European metal bands making their headlining debut in the United States has now presented us with one of the finest power metal acts in the business, Sonata Arctica. Though they have played a handful of shows over here in the past, this was to be their first headlining trek through the country, and it was eagerly anticipated by their ever-growing fan base.
Since Sonata Arctica decided to endure this cross-country endeavor without the company of an opening band, each stop on the tour was to feature a local opener. For New York City, we were treated to the music of Queen of the Ryche. As you may have gathered from the name, they are a local tribute band to Queensryche. Although I had never seen them before, I had high expectations based purely on the fact that Symphony X’s bassist was up until recently a member of the group. However, that’s enough about former members, on to the current members and their show!
The lead singer pretty much had the old school Geoff Tate look down pat, and had the voice to back it up. He was also accompanied by a female singer, presumably assuming the role of Mary, who did a lot of backing vocals throughout the set, as well as some main vocals. The real shocker in the lineup was the keyboardist, who actually turned out to be blind. Blind or not, this guy had some serious chops and the crowd really got behind him. After the end of the set, the crowd was chanting “Keyboard guy! Keyboard guy!” as they exited the stage, which was very cool to see.
The band kicked things into gear with their rendition of “Sign of the Times”, and although a majority of the crowd was clearly there for Sonata, it became obvious who was a Queensryche fan in the house – fists were pumping, lyrics were shouted and heads were banging. The female singer, Kelli sang the vocals alone during “Anybody Listening” and this is where her voice really shined.
Queen of the Ryche continued to hammer through many Queensryche essentials, finally ending their set with the song from which they borrowed their name. Anybody familiar with Queensryche knows that the beginning of this song is the time of truth for proving how well one can emulate Tate. Todd took this opportunity to belt out the high note like nobody’s business, proving he deserves to be fronting a tribute to such a classic band. I’d recommend checking out this tribute to anyone who enjoys Queensryche; it is definitely an enjoyable show.
Sign of the Times
Child of Fire
Walk in the Shadows
Breaking the Silence
I Don’t Believe in Love
Eyes of a Stranger
Take Hold of the Flame
Queen of the Ryche
Sonata Arctica was formed in 1996, known originally as Tricky Means, who at the time did not play metal. However, in 1999 they released their Sonata debut Ecliptica, and ever since has been a leading force in the power metal scene. Since then, these Finnish metallers have steadily released three studio albums and a handful of other releases as well. Despite a definite trend of progression from album to album, Sonata Arctica have remained true to their core sound, and have yet to release anything that could be considered lackluster.
Now it was time for Sonata Arctica to grace the stage. Once the lights went off the crowd erupted, waiting for the Finnish quintet to come out and get things going. This is of course exactly what they did, and quickly opened their set with the first two tracks off of their latest release Reckoning Night, “Misplaced” and “Blinded No More.” Having never experienced them in a live setting before, I was blown away by their energy on the stage and overall performance.
What was to follow would be a barrage of what could be considered the “essential” collection of songs, spread rather evenly over their entire catalog. Despite being the Reckoning Night tour, they did not fill the set with songs from this release, but instead featured every album they have.
Another thing to note is Tony’s interesting choice of wardrobe for this tour. I feel I should note that when I met him prior to the show he was dressed in “normal” clothing, so the outfit was specifically for the performance. To further expand on that note: he can do whatever he wants, because he’s Tony! His voice sounded as good as ever and he was bouncing all around the stage the entire night.
The rest of the band delivered a great performance as well. Henrik was armed with a keytar, which he used masterfully to deliver the signature Sonata keyboard sound in addition to the ability to move about the stage freely. The band was clearly enjoying the reaction from the New York City crowd, who was singing along to seemingly every word of every song. There were times where Tony would just stop singing, and you could hardly tell because everybody there knew every lyric. They even threw in a reggae-esque section during Tallulah, which may sound cheesy but actually came across very cool.
After returning to the stage to begin their encore, Tony instructed the crowd that it was now our turn to sing, and he decided that we would have to sing “Old McDonald.” First of all, I have to say that it is quite an experience to see a packed house of metal heads, New Yorkers nonetheless, singing along to such a song; but alas, it was so. After this, and some more crowd participation inspired singing, Sonata worked into their “Medley” which contained bits and pieces of probably about ten more songs not featured in full in their setlist.
Finally, they announced that they were going to play their final two songs, which ended up being “Don’t Say a Word” and “The Cage.” Despite most of the crowd thinking this was the end of the show, it was not the case. To really end the show, Sonata Arctica went into their rendition of their song “Vodka,” and finally close it off with the introduction to Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water,” a riff known to everybody.
All in all, Sonata Arctica proved that they deserved the headlining slot in this country, and hopefully they will return before long, and perhaps bring over some more bands that need exposure in the United States. In the recent years we have been getting more and more metal tours, and if this is the caliber of shows to expect then all I can say to that is bring it on!
Blinded No More
Last Drop Falls
Kingdom For a Heart
Don’t Say a Word
Smoke on the Water
I would like to thank Loana dP Valencia at Nuclear Blast Records for the press pass and ticket.