Keeping live music alive: Sonata Arctica Acoustic Adventures 2020 livestreams (29.05.2020 and 30.05.2020)


Written by: Milena
Published: 05.06.2020

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Sonata Arctica Acoustic Adventures 2020 livestream by Milena (14)


Sonata Arctica were the first band to announce two timezone-adjusted separate streams for American and European audiences on SemiLive, based on their recurring all-acoustic tours and sets. Seeing how they said there would be slight differences in the setlists and how one of my ambitions in life (hindered by geography) is to be the kind of person who sees multiple sets from the same tour, I figured I should just watch both. Here's how that worked out for the band and me, just casually keeping live music alive through the magic of the internet on Acoustic Adventures 2020.



Since the "American" show was scheduled at 3AM Finnish time, I assumed they would pre-record the first show and then just stream the recording at that hour. The second frontman of the band, keyboardist Henrik Klingenberg, broadcasted a short explanation on the band's socials: they would play live at 3AM on May 30th for the American time slot (which was May 29th, decent'o'clock for the watchers there) and 9PM that same day for the Euro time slot, so that we could watch the sun rise and set behind them, in a restaurant venue called Mustakari right next to the sea in Kokkola, Finland. With them staying up for the sake of this exceedingly romantic gesture, I decided to stay up and watch it.



An all-acoustic Sonata Arctica set demands an explanation, for those who aren't aware that this is a thing that happens: on special occasions, they started out doing short bits of the set on three acoustic guitars, one acoustic bass, and a cajon. When they started going on all-acoustic tours on their regular positions and with multi-instrumentalist (mostly second guitarist) Masi Hukari of Amoral in 2016 and 2019, they were free to go wild and play their power metal classics as well, at original tempos or close to them. Just the pack of five was playing this one, however, so the set had to be lower-key. "The Cage" and "San Sebastian" with acoustic guitar/piano duelling solos wouldn't be happening this time - next show ideas?



Time for the sunrise show! Weirdest gig of my life - late night, no crowd (except the fine people of the Sonata Arctica Discord chat), a laptop, and my gig outfit was actual pajamas, though the top part had to be a vintage The Days Of Grays t-shirt. And yet, as the stream started, I felt the usual pre-show jitters. Most of the band came in looking like '70s rockers playing a wedding, as is their custom for the acoustic shows: drummer Tommy Portimo with that standout gray fedora, and their under-eye circles were only slightly darker than normal. Our main man, Tony Kakko, has a proper wolf's mane now - we already knew his hair was fully gray, but it's grown out quite a bit - and he was sporting six of his (and my) favorite things: sporadically blended eyeliner (1), an oversized hoodie (2) with a plaid pattern (3) over a clashing graphic T-shirt (4), acid-washed jeans (5), and actual running shoes (6). So far, so good.



Sonata Arctica have a natural advantage over many bands in these streamed sets - they love playing for each other, each of the five for each of the other four, as much as they love playing for an audience. The musical and personal chemistry is palpable, and when the "Band Of Brothers" outro music closes their regular shows, you know it's real. If they had thought more strategically about which shows to record and release as live DVDs (and how often), they would probably be known as one of the top live bands in metal; this way, they're mostly a secret except to those who have seen them and followed audience recordings over the years.



Opening with a Japanese bonus track, how's that for a concept? The familiar 2019 Acoustic Adventures tour overhaul of the sleeper hit from Winterheart's Guild, "The Rest Of The Sun Belongs To Me", filled the room and my heart. The relatively new setlist mainstay "Life" followed, and by the time the old standard "My Land" wistfully rolled in on wisps of mist rising from the sea, I was feeling properly energized. Then came a duo of Stones Grow Her Name songs - another beloved bonus track, "Tonight I Dance Alone", melted into the slight tedium of "I Have A Right". My Pariah's Child favorite, "Half A Marathon Man", was selected next, and at that point it felt like they were playing for my taste alone. But it was "On The Faultline (Closure To An Animal)", the soft killer closer of The Ninth Hour, that truly launched me into the rising sun, as I remembered that first playthrough of the new album I always share with my sister, and us holding hands listening to it, in between two of the thousand tectonic life shifts Sonata Arctica have helped us through.



It's hard to select one of the guys as the MVP. A skilled multitasker on keys and most of the backing vocals, Henrik Klingenberg forgets he's human sometimes; the bass master, newly confident backing vocalist, and actual giant Pasi Kauppinen is a ball of infectious positive energy even when he has to stay seated; and the whole show lives and dies by Tony Kakko's incredible aptitude to take on impossible vocal lines without the support of distorted guitars, walls of synths, and orchestrations and Queen-style backing vocal harmonies he has a habit of writing and recording on the albums. No pressure, man. You'd think that since Tommy Portimo generally has less to do here than on a full metal show, he would be less noticeable, but his presence in the front is one of my favorite things about the setting, because he always looks like he is having the most fun any person has ever had. But they'll forgive me if I single out Elias Viljanen as the star of the unplugged shows - I don't know many metal guitarists who can replicate every note of what they usually do on the acoustic guitar, and then add to it, with both precision and personality.



"Alone In Heaven" feels more poignant in this environment, but at that point I was busy wondering why they would select three whole Stones Grow Her Name tracks for such a short set. Hold that thought. "Letter To Dana" is always great - or, as Tony said, "not bad after 20-odd years" - and this performance of it is probably in my all time top 10; when the band came down from that high, Elias was asked if he wanted to go through with playing the next track on the banjo. The tide of hype was high because I have never heard the banjo metal anthem "Cinderblox" played unplugged. However, next up was a thoroughly thought-out, banjo-led arrangement of "A Little Less Understanding", heavy on the bass and keys and sounding much better than it did on Talviyö. It's hard to imagine the focused, icy slash of "Paid In Full" described as "loose" and "rock'n'roll", but that's exactly how it came out, especially in the bridge before the keyboard solo where Tony turned towards Henkka and Tommy to try and keep the correct timing, with mixed results. It was time to say goodbye, and Tony wished us good night, good day, and good morning before he and Elias started their morning light lullaby duo version of "Victoria's Secret", a delicate and beautiful arrangement familiar from 2019 Acoustic Adventures, but probably a surprise to most of the viewers. Seeing the sun fill the room felt like the first ray of light entering my terrible, horrible, no-good year.



The stream required the ol' F5 CPR about five times, and I was worried about what that meant for the sunset show, which I predicted would be attended by twice as many people (and it was). But I was ready to watch that one live, too; there were no crashes this time (cheers to the stream provider SemiLive for fixing the problem), and they changed the setup around a bit. The band looked better rested, or perhaps it was just the abundance of good natural light coming in from the window, because it had only been 17 hours since the sunrise show ended.



The second stream was somehow both more rock'n'roll and tighter than the first one - flashier solos, more chatter, more assertive singing. Once again I was thinking about the evolution Tony has undergone as a live singer. He somehow went from already great to near-perfect in a graph line almost unnaturally pointing upward between the tours for Unia and The Ninth Hour, a period that spans ten years, featuring most of their challenging songs in the setlists. The most recent Talviyö tour was his only noticeable vocal slump in my memory, but judging by these streams and apart from a few rougher spots during some of the highest verses and riskier runs, he seems to be on the way back up to his usual form, and he's always one of the most engaging frontmen to watch. He has the gift of addressing everything we want to find out or hear or see right in the moment the thought is forming in our heads, and it works even over a stream link leading to a camera in a room somewhere. At times it felt like he was responding to my group chat.



These being Sonata Arctica shows, they can't go on without quips and inside jokes between band members, as well as the band and the invisible, but present, audience. In the first show, Tony announced the wrong song already within the first ten minutes of the stream, and then correctly pointed that out as a Sonata Arctica tradition. "Tonight I Dance Alone" in the second show featured some incorrect lyrics, another Sonata Arctica regularity/hilarity, and Henkka reassured Tony that the only rule is "your song, your rules". We learned that it's all fun and games until somebody brings a banjo, and that Henkka honored his promise from the first stream and went jogging before "Half A Marathon Man" was played again. Tommy was spotted enjoying a glass of wine during what few breaks he had, and when he tried negotiating to move to his drum kit in the shade, he was told he had to suffer with the rest of the band in direct sunlight. About a million other things happened, big and small, that are hard to put into words.



The first setlist change of the night was the wise replacement of "Alone In Heaven" with the bluesy The Days Of Grays deep cut "As If The World Wasn't Ending" (one of the highlights of the perfect show I saw in Belgrade in 2009), which earned Henkka kudos from the band even though he laughed and said he had painted himself into a corner with the new ending he tried to give the song. They earned a screen fist-bump from me when "Letter To Dana" was swapped with "Tallulah", not because I like it better but because this suddenly became one of the most balanced setlists the band has ever had: nine albums represented in 11 songs. Tommy was re-promoted to "the long-haired drummer of the band" Tony points to during the part of the song that always seems to descend into comedy hour, after spending a few years as "the short-haired drummer". Tony referenced his blue Toyota Corolla story before "Paid In Full" again, because they all rightly expect us to remember recurring bits of live shows from four tours ago that weren't even captured on proper official live videos, and he tried to make Henkka crack by addressing the bridge that proved troublesome in the previous stream directly to him.



The end of the show and the goodbye was piercing, and I reflected for a while on how happy I still am with them in my 14 years of fandom. "Victoria's Secret" was in the first batch of Sonata songs I heard on the 2006 compilation album The Collection, and when I discovered the live video of the acoustic version Tony played with ex-guitarist Jani Liimatainen (who is rocking some streams of his own with Insomnium), it was really special. I was hoping I'd hear the whole band do a full acoustic show one day. Flash forward to 2020, I'm sitting in my room watching them do it in real time over the internet because it's not safe to have actual shows anymore. Try explaining that to the girl who spent hours waiting for those formative videos to load on that newly discovered neat website, Youtube, while wondering how high school is going to work out for her.



One thing hasn't changed through all these years, and that's Sonata Arctica. They remain constant and unflinching in cyclically switching up everything they're doing once every 18 months, and whoever hasn't learned to see it coming by now needs a stronger eye prescription. Through these switches, the intensity of my love for the band only increases, even when they swerve outside of my personal taste and I spend a rare cycle bitching about something all the way. I hope there's a band you, the reader, love as much as I love Sonata Arctica.



I'm a bad gig photographer, and I'm even worse on the trigger with screenshots, but I tried my best. Hopefully everything goes back to normal ASAP and we go back to standard gigs and standard photography. The dream is alive?



 



Written on 05.06.2020 by A part of the team since December 2011. 7.0 means the album is good.


Comments

Comments: 15   Visited by: 82 users
05.06.2020 - 14:00
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Should've taken actual photos of the screen just for old times' sake
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- I've dreamt of that for years.
- Dying?
- Running.




2020 goodies
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05.06.2020 - 14:02
Milena
Learning To "X"
Written by RaduP on 05.06.2020 at 14:00

Should've taken actual photos of the screen just for old times' sake

Would work better than what the gallery function is doing for me right now
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"There comes a time when you look into the mirror and you realize that what you see is all that you will ever be. And then you accept it. Or you kill yourself. Or you stop looking in mirrors."
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05.06.2020 - 14:06
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Written by Milena on 05.06.2020 at 14:02

Would work better than what the gallery function is doing for me right now

Imagine expecting MS formatting to work properly
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- I've dreamt of that for years.
- Dying?
- Running.




2020 goodies
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05.06.2020 - 14:28
Milena
Learning To "X"
Written by RaduP on 05.06.2020 at 14:06

Imagine expecting MS formatting to work properly

It's fixed! I'm a wizard, Hagrid!
----
"There comes a time when you look into the mirror and you realize that what you see is all that you will ever be. And then you accept it. Or you kill yourself. Or you stop looking in mirrors."
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05.06.2020 - 14:53
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Written by Milena on 05.06.2020 at 14:28

It's fixed! I'm a wizard, Hagrid!

Oh my, now it's a readable article. Is there a link to the whole stream?
----
- I've dreamt of that for years.
- Dying?
- Running.




2020 goodies
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05.06.2020 - 15:30
Milena
Learning To "X"
Written by RaduP on 05.06.2020 at 14:53

Is there a link to the whole stream?

Just like a regular concert, it's gone ya missed it go see the next one!
----
"There comes a time when you look into the mirror and you realize that what you see is all that you will ever be. And then you accept it. Or you kill yourself. Or you stop looking in mirrors."
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05.06.2020 - 15:33
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Written by Milena on 05.06.2020 at 15:30

Just like a regular concert, it's gone ya missed it go see the next one!

All those moments will be lost in time
----
- I've dreamt of that for years.
- Dying?
- Running.




2020 goodies
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05.06.2020 - 15:41
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
Milena you are from europe, use 24 h time not pm am. We live in Europe.

Hehe in that time in their n mine place sun never sets, never rise, its up 24h per day, cool.

Same time i Never thought i will read live streem article
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Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing
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06.06.2020 - 00:36
musclassia
Written by RaduP on 05.06.2020 at 15:33

Written by Milena on 05.06.2020 at 15:30

Just like a regular concert, it's gone ya missed it go see the next one!

All those moments will be lost in time


Like cheese in the rain

Just kidding, I like power metal
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06.06.2020 - 01:00
Milena
Learning To "X"
Written by musclassia on 06.06.2020 at 00:36

Written by RaduP on 05.06.2020 at 15:33

Written by Milena on 05.06.2020 at 15:30

Just like a regular concert, it's gone ya missed it go see the next one!

All those moments will be lost in time


Like cheese in the rain

Just kidding, I like power metal

And I like you.

Then again, this isn't your average power metal. Waiting for "melodic metal" to become an accepted thing to say again...

Written by Bad English on 05.06.2020 at 15:41

Milena you are from europe, use 24 h time not pm am. We live in Europe.

Hehe in that time in their n mine place sun never sets, never rise, its up 24h per day, cool.

Same time i Never thought i will read live streem article

I just go with the thing that everyone knows tbh. And you will read at least two more, next week!
----
"There comes a time when you look into the mirror and you realize that what you see is all that you will ever be. And then you accept it. Or you kill yourself. Or you stop looking in mirrors."
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06.06.2020 - 01:06
nikarg
Mod
This is a very nice write-up, Milena. There is so much detail when the writer is a "fanboy/girl", and I am saying this in the best possible way. The reader gets info and insight that they wouldn't get otherwise.
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06.06.2020 - 20:41
Milena
Learning To "X"
Written by nikarg on 06.06.2020 at 01:06

This is a very nice write-up, Milena. There is so much detail when the writer is a "fanboy/girl", and I am saying this in the best possible way. The reader gets info and insight that they wouldn't get otherwise.

Thanks Nik. It is true, it's nice to just spend 2k words fangirling and sharing the obscure shit you know sometimes, when you are given the right opening
----
"There comes a time when you look into the mirror and you realize that what you see is all that you will ever be. And then you accept it. Or you kill yourself. Or you stop looking in mirrors."
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07.06.2020 - 23:38
EdenEcho
Great review, very informative for those of us who didn't watch the show. I traveled abroad last year just to see them during their 2019 acoustic adventures tour and I had a blast. It's also comforting to know there are fans of SA that accept and appreciate their evolution through the years. The constant bitching whenever they release an album has become really tiring.
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09.06.2020 - 12:54
Milena
Learning To "X"
Written by EdenEcho on 07.06.2020 at 23:38

Great review, very informative for those of us who didn't watch the show. I traveled abroad last year just to see them during their 2019 acoustic adventures tour and I had a blast. It's also comforting to know there are fans of SA that accept and appreciate their evolution through the years. The constant bitching whenever they release an album has become really tiring.

Thanks EdenEcho (love that song by the way)! I decided against traveling for acoustic adventures because I had an expensive festival to go to a month after the closest tour spot, now I massively regret it but who knew. Trying to figure out when you'll see bands who tour often but not in your location is a big headache, "next time they might come closer" and then you blink and several tours have gone by and you haven't seen them. Glad you got to see them and have fun.

And yeah, not to say I have never done any bitching, but I was a literal 14-year-old girl when they surprised us with the first switch, and since then I've been continuously baffled by grown-ass men who fly off the handle because whatever-new-SA-album only has 1-4 power metal songs and not 10. Every time I think they finally found something better to do by now, and every time I'm wrong!
----
"There comes a time when you look into the mirror and you realize that what you see is all that you will ever be. And then you accept it. Or you kill yourself. Or you stop looking in mirrors."
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15.06.2020 - 21:08
Liafev
Written by Bad English on 05.06.2020 at 15:41

Milena you are from europe, use 24 h time not pm am. We live in Europe.

Hehe in that time in their n mine place sun never sets, never rise, its up 24h per day, cool.

Same time i Never thought i will read live streem article


Really ? You are complaining about how people write ?
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