Progventure Part 9: Green Carnation - Another Night Under The Dam, Åseral, Norway, 31.07.2014
|Event:||Green Carnation: Special Show - Another Night Under The Dam|
Green Carnation - Another Night Under The Dam, Åseral, Norway, 31.07.2014 by Ivor (69)
Table of Contents
2. The Day Before (That Deserves an Honourable Mention)
3. The Dam (That Deserves a Separate Chapter)
4. The Show (or a TL;DR Chapter)
Another Night Under the Dam
1. Foreword ^
It seems that my Progventure prog searching trips are not only a convenient excuse to travel new places, or more often the only way of seeing bands I like I wouldn't otherwise get to see, but in some cases they are turning out to be events of a fairly unique kind. Another Night Under the Dam - the Green Carnation reunion show at the Åseral dam number 3 in Norway was unique in more ways than one. And it most definitely was special.
2. The Day Before (That Deserves an Honourable Mention) ^
In case you didn't know, this reunion show was not the first one for Green Carnation to be played under the dam. As I understood they were the first to play under the Åseral dam at the ass end of nowhere in the deep Norwegian mountains back in 2006. A crazy idea and a bold execution. Back then I didn't pay much attention to it as I'd have had no way of getting there anyway. However, I, as probably many a fan, was devastated to read of their split only a year later, even though I didn't realise how much I really appreciated the band. The only consolation left was the video recording they made of that show which, for reasons unclear to me, I have still yet to see.
From the looks of it, the split sucked bad. It sucked and it looked to be final. Even though Tchort had mentioned that he'd continue to write music, nothing seemed to be coming out of it. In about a year I figured it was over and the band shelved for good. This February, however, the news of a second show under the dam as part of the Eikerapen Roots festival came pretty much out of the blue. I knew I had to see Green Carnation live because there might not be another chance ever again. I knew I'd be there and I booked my hotel and flight to Kristiansand... less than a week before the show.
I got to Kristiansand on the morning of 30th, the day before the show with a clear plan of being a tourist and seeing the city. More importantly though, an interview with the vocalist Kjetil Nordhus was on the agenda at some point that day. I've never been to Norway, but if the rest is as beautiful as the little I saw of Kristiansand and Odderøya island, I'm in love with it. The views are just magnificent. Making a huge mental leap I concluded that up in the mountains with the dam and the lakes it'd be even more beautiful. The only problem was getting on the Eikerapen festival bus in time the following day. But I run ahead of the events...
Sometime during the day we agreed with Kjetil to meet after 6PM somewhere. Which became 9PM at Benny's. Which at about 9PM became 45 minutes later at Benny's as he was still eating up somewhere. Or I could join him and a couple of his friends right there and then. Which turned out to be just around the corner on the next street. Thus I walked into a bar and met this huge bald guy with a cool beard, and was offered a very good beer.
We moved on to Benny's soon enough, though. It turned out the band - half the band, that is: Kjetil Nordhus, the bass player Stein Roger Sordal, and the drummer Tommy Jacksonville - had offered to meet, have a beer and chat with any visitors coming to their show that happened to be in Kristiansand at the time. A nice gesture if there ever was one. However, whether due to short notice, or people arriving on the following day, the meeting wasn't a crowded one. All the more interesting for the few that were there, though.
For a band that hadn't played together for the past 8 years, the guys appeared very laid back and were drowning beers almost as fast as they were smoking their cigarettes. However, the dominating emotion of the upcoming show was excitement. They were excited not only to play together again, but to play there, under the dam again. They also talked about not wanting to do the exact repeat performance of the previous show but knowing that people still expected The Acoustic Verses being played. I also found out there and then that Kristiansand String Quartet was to take part of the show once more. And that the band had no idea of the expected attendance of the event. Kjetil figured that if there were about 400 people, he at least would be happy.
Tommy & Stein at the Bar
The evening went on for quite a bit with various topics being discussed. From politics to Stein's abstract art, from the choice of Dream Theater drummer to favourite albums, from Tallinn Music Week to stories of touring, and so on. For example, did you know that of the three times Light of Day, Day of Darkness has been played in full, it was once played to about 9 people in the States? Makes you jealous, doesn't it? I also got to meet the Australian fan Russell who'd be instrumental to me getting to the venue earlier the next day for the interview because between the beers consumed, as you can imagine, the one we were supposed to do during the evening got postponed to before the show.
3. The Dam (That Deserves a Separate Chapter) ^
Russell and his girlfriend picked me up in the afternoon and soon we were driving through the picturesque landscapes on a windy road up and down the mountainsides and round the lakes. I was riding along and thinking that the bus trip would have been a pain, as even the car ride was making me a bit queasy. The beers of the night before were also putting up a mild resistance to the breakfast I had in the morning. Since Russell was planning staying and camping for the night, I decided then that to survive the bus ride back to Kristiansand, I was going to have to skip a meal and a drink. In the dark it would be no fun in any case.
Arriving at Eikerapen festival grounds I looked questioningly up the mountainside. It looked like a steep climb from the base of some sort of a power station unit. Not really knowing how a proper dam looks like, I assumed that up there, somewhere over the hilltop, is a lake and a dam. Having found a crew bus going up early enough before the show, I got on it. The road up was indeed steep. I mean, I'd have doubted the soundness of the route if I was driving a car but going up on a full-sized bus was only raising questions in my head.
The first thing that surprised me over the hilltop was that there was yet another hill, and then there were more. We went on for quite a while, up and around the hills and the occasional lakes. I think it must have been over 5 click ride to the dam. Though the sky was overcast, the landscape looked no less beautiful because of it. If you haven't seen Norway, you think it is beautiful. Wait till you actually see it. The dam, however... It was simply stunning.
I think it's one of the most beautiful places I've been to. Definitely the most beautiful location for a gig I've been to. Since then Night of the Prog at Loreley has had to take a step down on the list. Coming off the bus in this small valley enclosed by three hills and two dams, having a small pond in the centre and a huge lake down by the road we came in, it was raising various conflicting emotions in me. I was disappointed as I was expecting grandeur. I mean, thinking about a dam brings up images of mind bending proportions. This, though, was maybe less than 30 meters in height.
I was also a bit disappointed at how small the valley itself looked. This, however, was soon replaced with a feeling just how right this place seemed to be for a musical gathering. As the band were up on stage doing sound checks and rehearsing, I took the opportunity to climb the closest hill by the most direct route I could find, disregarding that going up is the easy part of hill climbing. The hill I scaled was on the opposite side from the stage, and thus gave me the most perfect overview of the valley and the surroundings.
What surprised me, was how perfect the sound turned out to be up there: free of echoes, free of air shifting the sound around, free of reflections, loud enough, clear, and balanced. I swear, if Green Carnation had given two concerts under the dam, I would have spent one of them up there. Or on the dam opposing the stage as I saw some people actually doing later in the evening. Up on the hill in the night it would have been like the nature itself were playing Green Carnation just for me alone at the top of the world. That idea was beginning to look like an ultimate live musical experience, and I'm satisfied that I got a small attempt at it at the time, even if I enjoyed it briefly just for a couple of songs during the rehearsal.
I was also struck but how interestingly right the dam looked as a venue of choice. I was wrong to think that the dam is just a plain wall with the stage underneath. The supporting pillars were forming arched alcoves, spaces large enough to fit in quite a big stage. I mean, I come from Tallinn where we have Song Festival Grounds, a huge arch under which choirs gathered. These alcoves under the dam, looked very familiar and just perfect.
4. The Show (or a TL;DR Chapter) ^
There were no support for the show. It wouldn't have been right to have anyone else there. It was Green Carnation's moment to shine in front of the audience for the first time in over 8 years. An audience that came in from all over the world. In addition to the majority of Norwegians, there were Australians, Englishmen, Irish (even the guy to whom "Myron & Cole" was dedicated), I saw Russians, I myself am from Estonia. In short, the audience that knew it's going to be a special show.
And shine they did. Some might consider a reunion show as something to be done with full whistles, bells and fireworks. However, there was no excessive grandeur to the set up or the band presence. The location was vouching for that, the location and a quality light show projecting on the dam above. The atmosphere was relaxed, the audience maybe over half a thousand people, and the feeling intimate. This was one very down to earth performance considering the occasion.
In view of their previous show under the dam and fitting in with the intimate atmosphere, the band started out rather quietly with "The Boy In the Attic," the Kristiansand String Orchestra being in full support. While not exactly an acoustic piece, it defined well the dual nature of the show. This song was telling the audience that on one hand it's about the semi-acoustic music, on the other it's about heavy rocking out, and that this show is going to have it all.
Having made their introduction with the double-faced opener, they moved on to deliver a large part of The Acoustic Verses. So, in reality, the show had a rather quiet, slow but very emotional beginning. This part also enabled guitarist Michael S. Krumins to deliver his exceptional theremin performance during "Maybe?" and fantastic bouzouki solo in the middle of "Lullaby in Winter." These solo spots were about the only moments anyone could consider show-offs but them being at such fitting spots during the songs they were indeed part of the songs themselves rather than a breather or a distraction. The way it should always be, really.
Essentially this bouzouki solo spot also marked the turning point for the heavier part of the whole show. What followed was a mix of material from A Blessing In Disguise and The Quiet Offspring albums, omitting the début and Light of Day, Day of Darkness, a 15 minute medley of which was left for the very powerful encore. The turn for the heavier was also like a release of energy. Up to that point it felt as if the performance was somewhat guarded during the acoustic parts, as if appearing a bit of a formal occasion, and then, suddenly, it was just all out party, free of concerns.
Everyone in the band seemed to enjoy the show, each in their own way. Stein was rocking out almost from the first note to the last. Michael also did his share of that and shining during his solos. Tchort was the epitome of concentration always glancing at the rest of the band if all was sound. Tommy was appearing in thought during quieter sections but beating the hell out of his drums during heavy parts. Kenneth seemed to be in a world of his own behind keyboards, a cigarette lit and head often thrown back. Kjetil was the calm itself, befitting his deep voice, eyes often closed or looking into the far distance.
From the technical side, as a band, you wouldn't tell these guys haven't played together in 8 years. Then again, they are all professionals. The emotion, however, needs more than just professionalism. While I can't compare how they played before the split, I can tell that this show had what it takes and was really emotional. The songs, melodies, the lyrical topics, not to mention the occasion - I figure all played part in making this show deep with feeling.
When I say it was emotional, I really mean that. It's been a while since a show has left me with a very satisfied feeling, flashbacks, and vivid imagery for the weeks to come. It's soon going on a month since the event but I'm still spinning Green Carnation records and every time a song comes by I heard live I get flashbacks to the show. I've even woken up during the night with Green Carnation tune playing in my head, and no, it definitely was not a stereo I forgot to turn off.
1. The Boy In The Attic (A Blessing In Disguise)
2. Alone (The Acoustic Verses)
3. Sweet Leaf (The Acoustic Verses)
4. Maybe? (The Acoustic Verses)
5. 9-29-045 (The Acoustic Verses)
6. Lullaby In Winter (A Blessing In Disguise)
7. Into Deep (A Blessing In Disguise)
8. Writings On The Wall (A Blessing In Disguise)
9. The Quiet Offspring (The Quiet Offspring)
10. The Everlasting Moment (The Quiet Offspring)
11. Myron & Cole (A Blessing In Disguise)
12. A Place For Me (The Quiet Offspring)
13. Just When You Think It's Safe (The Quiet Offspring)
14. Crushed To Dust (A Blessing In Disguise)
15. Light Of Day, Day Of Darkness (Medley) (Light Of Day, Day Of Darkness)
5. Afterword ^
I think that after being to the show I've realised for the first time the extent that I appreciated Green Carnation and their music. I really feel honoured to have met the band, to have been part of this show, and feel the kinship with all the people that attended this special event. Because it really was special. Whether you want to look at it as an occasion, a location, or just a live show. Any aspect is special.
I mean, how many of you have managed to cross off a name from the impossible to see list? I have, and it gives hope that there might someday be another name to cross out. How many of you have been to a gig at a beautiful location that's going to be no more? I have, and it makes me both, happy and sad. Happy that I was there under the dam. Sad that - if I'm to believe what I was told - this valley will soon be flooded by the bigger dam. How many of you have been to a reunion show of a band that is still relevant? I have. Green Carnation still beat many a new prog album by a mile and more.
I just hope that this reunion was not just for the old times sake and paying respects to the dam soon to be demolished. Green Carnation are a band that are way too good to be shelved away. I sincerely hope that this was a reencarnation, if you know what I mean, a second breath of a band that is yet to reach the height of their career. Whatever the case, it was an honour to attend this event. Skål!
In the end I want to say big thanks to everyone I met who made this trip so memorable. You're all great!
Written on 01.09.2014 by
I shoot people.
Sometimes, I also write about it.
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