Paganfest - Frankfurt, Germany, 22.04.2008
|Event:||Paganfest Europe Tour|
Paganfest - Frankfurt, Germany, 22 April 2008 by Promonex (36)
It was one of those nights anything could happen. The Paganfest tour featuring Ensiferum, Korpiklaani, Moonsorrow, Eluveitie and Týr - the wet dream of any Viking metal fan - had been touring all across Europe, half of the time in sold-out venues. In Frankfurt, Germany this lineup was going to give its very last gig before Ensiferum, Eluveitie and Týr were going to team up with Turisas to plunder Vinland. The Frankfurt gig hence marked the departure of Moonsorrow and Korpiklaani and it turned out to become a celebration of five bands having a great time together. But let's start at the beginning...
Like at every date of the tour the night was opened by a local opener who had been voted via an internet poll. In Frankfurt this local opener was the medieval folk metal band Nachtgeschrei. And I must say, I had quite a great time during their gig. I spent it with a salami pizza with mushrooms from a nearby Italian take-away, just to realize a few minutes later that Nachtgeschrei had not started one hour after the doors opened - like it said on the flyer of the event -, but half an hour earlier. Drat, why does this always happen to me?! Oh well, the pizza was worth it.
Týr were up next and this was the third time I had seen them live. Their set started with an intro which was annoyingly long and in fact turned out to be the wrong one. With zero momentum the Faroese vikings started into their set consisting mainly of material from their upcoming album "Land". The last time I've seen them in this venue, when they were supporting Amon Amarth in 2006, I had found them rather boring - this time they were even worse. The sound was terrible for the first few songs and the many unknown songs made it pretty hard for the band to communicate with the audience. Add the fact that most visitors were thirsty for easily digestible battle and drinking songs, a thirst Týr's progressive mid-tempo compositions were unable to quench, and you get a crowd which appeared rather bored and apathetic while Týr were delivering a rather unconvincing set. Only during "Wings of Time" and especially "Hail to the Hammer" the band managed to break the fourth wall, connect with the audience and motivate it to sing and cheer along. Certainly one cannot solely blame the band for this unimpressive gig as the Batschkapp has never convinced with great acoustics, and having witnessed Týr in a considerably bigger hall with a considerably bigger and especially more appreciative audience I know they can do a lot better if the conditions are right. A more varied setlist with some of their more well-known songs would've been a definite improvement though.
Setlist: Gandkvaedi Tróndar, Sinklars Visa, Wings of Time, Fipan Fagra, Hail to the Hammer
The night could only get better. Next Eluveitie entered the stage and kicked off their set with "Inis Mona", the lead single and probably most commercial song of their chart-breaking album "Slania". As I despise this song I've admittedly had quite a hard time getting into their performance. Perhaps undeservedly so as the band gave it their all as always. Next song was "Gray Sublime Archon", also from their new album, during which I successfully moshed my way up to the front to witness the band close-up. It's always a treat to see this octet live, especially as each instrument which other bands need keyboards for is actually to be found on stage. Sevan Kirder, the folkemon of the fold, occasionally swapped his bagpipes (grimly decorated with a goat's skull) with several kinds of flutes while constantly moving on stage, the girls Meri Tadic (violin) and Anna Murphy (hurdy-gurdy) displayed their stereo headbanging skills and frontman Chrigel Glanzmann, sometimes equipped with a whistle, sometimes with a mandola, had the crowd completely under control. There's a huge disadvantage to all this authenticity though: if the sound ain't right, one or the other instrument might end up drowned out. As I've already elaborated the sound was far from great that night and even though the crew was gradually getting the hang of how to tweak it, they weren't able to prevent that, perhaps depending on the listener's location in the room, vocals and guitars tended to overpower the other instruments, so that "Of Fire, Wind & Wisdom" presented itself as a more or less blunt Gothenburg-style melodeath song. The sound did get better soon after though and Eluveitie proceeded with what would become a very good gig after all. And after they've finished their set with the energetic "Tegernakô" I was left behind somewhat disappointed - because "very good" is far below the standards of Eluveitie, whom I've learned to appreciate as one of the best live bands I've ever seen. If you haven't witnessed them live yet, go sure to change something about that - I just hope the acoustics at your gig are better than they were at this particular one...
Setlist: Inis Mona, Gray Sublime Archon, Of Fire, Wind & Wisdom, Bloodstained Ground, The Somber Lay, Tegernakô
After Eluveitie's energetic gig I was looking forward to Moonsorrow setting a counterpoint to the rest of the lineup. Once again I was to be disappointed. Not because Moonsorrow were bad, not at all - in fact their performance was top-notch and even the sound was good. They just didn't quite do me the favour with the setlist as they preferred going with the flow and assimilated to the jolliness of the other bands. But that's just a minor issue. Moonsorrow's intricate mixture of black and viking metal warranted for the most eclectic, dark and mature set of the night, with maturity being something of a rarity that night - looking sideways into the crowd one could only confirm the accusations that viking metal is the new "in" thing among the metal kiddies nowadays. At least none of those seemed to be into slam-dancing... Anyway, back to Moonsorrow. Unfortunately I'm not all that familiar with their albums, so I cannot really reconstruct their setlist. If I recall correctly they started their set with the rather jolly "Pakanajuhla" and went on with the upbeat "Ukkosenjumalan Poika". The grand "Sankaritarina" was definitely one of the highlights during which the entire crowd was singing along. They went for another rather upbeat and partially jolly song afterwards (might have been "Kivenkantaja") and eventually they've concluded their set with the 20 minute epic "Jotunheim" as the grand final. Towards the end of the song Janne Järvelä of Korpiklaani and Heri Joensen of Týr came on stage to sing along with Moonsorrow's beer-belly monster and frontman Ville Sorvali - certainly not the last surprise guest of the night. After half a dozen of songs the band went off stage again disobeying the crowd's shouts for an encore. I for my part had the strange feeling that I had never seen the band as good as tonight, yet they failed to impress me as much as they used to. The flavour of darkness and transcendence I usually sense after their sets felt totally diluted by their more upbeat songs, so that I didn't quite have the impression of having seen a band which is much different from the others. A terrific show nonetheless which could have done with a slightly bigger focus on black metal.
Setlist (?): Pakanajuhla, Ukkosenjumalan Poika, Sankaritarina, Kivenkantaja (??), Jotunheim
Korpiklaani are certainly the most consistent band of this particular scene, kind of the Bolt Thrower of folk metal. While this might please many fans for getting one quality album after another once a year, many others - and this includes me - stopped listening to anything they've released after their 2005 album "Voice of Wilderness". Hence my expectations were pretty low, but lo and behold, Korpiklaani did manage to blow me away! Their setlist was as varied as can be, starting off with "Wooden Pints", one of their classics from 2003 and went on into the future with "Cottages and Saunas" from 2005, "Tuli Kokko" from 2006 and two songs from their brand new album Korven Konungas. The crowd was totally ecstatic, moshing, jumping, dancing, chanting and having an absolutely awesome time! This was the moment when Korpiklaani went for an unexpected full stop: Janne grabbed a shaman drum, sat down and... yoiked! Old-school fans had been waiting for Korpiklaani to play this kind of music ever since they had changed their name from Shaman to what it is today and now Janne sat there, drummed on his little drum and gave all the young fans a taste of what these Finns had sounded like long, long ago. One by one the other musicians joined in, after a while the violins took the lead and the band followed into what was to become the instrumental "Pellonpekko" of Korpiklaani's debut album. After this short intermezzo the band took up speed again and even shifted a gear higher: "Journey Man" with its high-speed drumming and violin playing brought total havoc to the moshpit and if you had thought the crowd was going mad before the intermezzo already you got convinced otherwise by now. And Korpiklaani didn't slow down, fired one singalong hit after another into the crowd and made sure that absolutely no one stayed dry at the end of the night. During "Happy Little Boozer" even Eluveitie got on stage, with booze of course, partied with the Finns and made you wonder whether the people in front of or on the stage had more fun. This was one hell of a set and with their last song "Beer Beer" Korpiklaani made sure that absolutely no one would still have a voice on the next day! Total madness and Korpiklaani have once again proven that - even if you disapprove with the frequency of their releases - on stage they are a force to be reckoned with. And I'm looking forward to seeing them again in summer!
Setlist: Wooden Pints, Cottages and Saunas, Tuli Kokko, Kipumylly, Keep On Galloping, Yoik Intermezzo/Pellonpekko, Journey Man, Paljo On Koskessa Kiviä, Happy Little Boozer, Hunting Song, Let's Drink, Beer Beer
No rest for the wicked! There still was one more band to go and it was obvious that Ensiferum would have a damn hard time to top their predecessors. On their Tour Towards Victory Pt. II in 2007 they had a focus on their new album and on interaction with the crowd and managed to create a feeling of togetherness like I had never ever sensed it on a concert before. I was particularly looking forward to Petri teaching the crowd how to sing the lyrics "DA-DADADA-DA-DADADA" and let them sing the keyboard parts of "Iron" again. So much for my expectations. "Iron" turned out to be the first song and I was disappointed that the song for band-fan interaction was gone already. At least the band, clothed in white and blue kilts resembling the Finnish flag, asked the audience to raise the horns to "One More Magic Potion". But that was about it. The other fan favourites "Ahti" and "Lai Lai Hei" were played without motivating the crowd to sing along as well and I was wondering myself where all the spirit had gone I had sensed on their previous concerts. All in all there is not much to be said about Ensiferum's gig. It was good to great, the crowd was going mad - or at least as mad as they could get after Korpiklaani's exhausting set - and the setlist had something for everyone. But this was the fifth band in a row playing nearly the same style, so naturally one's mind got a bit numb of all this jolly-happy-humppa metal and my enthusiasm faded a bit, especially after Korpiklaani's and Moonsorrow's brilliant gigs. No, Ensiferum were not bad at all and the crowd celebrated them like the headliners that they were - I just know that they can do a LOT, LOT better. Petri pulled off a great show and underlined once again that Ensiferum without Jari Mäenpää is stronger than ever. The song selection was quite varied and probably pleased new and old fans alike. They even chipped in "Tale of Revenge" which wasn't even standing on the setlist. For my taste it was a bit incoherent in comparison to the setlist of their last tour, but I gotta admit I was really spoiled with that one experiencing the band in perfect shape in a perfect venue with a perfect crowd (yes Aschaffenburg, I'm talking about you!).
Between "Victory Songs" and "Blood Is the Price of Glory" (both from their new album) Petri announced to the crowd that this was to be the officially last song of the night and that they don't really want to leave the stage just to have to return half a minute later for an encore, so they decided they could just as well stay on stage and continue with their encore. They probably knew what was waiting for them off stage...
During the intro of "Treacherous Gods" diverse figures took the stage, clothed as mummies, garbage bags, some guy looking like Johnny Knoxville, Korpiklaani's Jonne (the only one I could identify) with a crown of ivy and some more people and just partied along. Petri got a black-red-yellow (Germany's colours) punk wig on his head which he didn't manage to get rid off again until the end of the song and he had the obviously hard task not to burst into laughter while Jonne repeatedly flashed his buttocks at him. Everyone on stage was singing and cheering along, everyone in front of the stage was singing and cheering along and one could truly sense that each and every person in the venue had an awesome time. Finally my spirits were lifted up as well and I couldn't hold myself back from getting into it for the final song again, the obligatory "Battle Song".
Once all the other figures disappeared from the stage the stage-divers got up again and gave the security guys a hard time. Here's a piece of advice for all of you: if you are so drunk that you fall over on stage already, don't attempt to stage-dive. If you are too stupid to look where you are jumping, don't attempt to stage-dive. And last but not least, if you are too stupid to heed these pieces of advice, at least don't jump further than the first few rows where people are likely to notice you. I don't know how reliable my sources are, but that one guy who disobeyed all three of these rules and jumped head-front into a clear spot of the moshpit allegedly has a broken jaw now. Fortunately the set was about to be over anyway, so there was no reason to interrupt the whole show due to that idiot. So the stage-diver got carried out with barely anyone noticing, Ensiferum finished their set and the crowd was happy and exhausted after having witnessed five giants of the contemporary folk metal scene.
Setlist: Iron, One More Magic Potion, Ahti, Lai Lai Hei, Guardians of Fate, Intro, Dragonheads, Tale of Revenge (?), Token of Time, Medley (not "Finnish Medley" though), Victory Song, Blood Is the Price of Glory
"Encore": Treacherous Gods, Battle Song
All in all I was pleasantly surprised by bands I didn't expect to deliver (Korpiklaani and, to a lesser extent, Moonsorrow) and negatively surprised by bands I did expect to be a lot better (Ensiferum and Eluveitie). Especially Ensiferum suffered from the fact to have played as the last band of a relatively homogenous lineup. Nonetheless one had the feeling to have witnessed a bunch of bands which had a great time together, which brought a smile to about everyone in the venue. Plus we have also learned the basic rules of stage-diving with the help of someone doing it all wrong.
I have to say though that I am not really contented with the format of the tour coming off as a festival where bands just get used up and don't have the opportunity to play to a crowd just devoted to them. As most of the tour was sold-out though it comes as no surprise that organizer Rock The Nation has already announced the successor of Paganfest, this time featuring six bands plus local openers (+ an extended lineup at selected venues). While for the lovers of intimate and relaxed concerts of the band of their choice this certainly might not be the best pastime one has to acknowledge that such a tour brings many bands, which wouldn't have the means to do it on their own, to those fans which might not be as spoiled with concerts as we are here in Central Europe. I for my part had an enjoyable night and satisfied I wandered off home to digest my pizza...
||Written on 03.05.2008 by Daniel "Promonex" Pereira loves to enthuse people with stuff he's enthusiastic about; as writer, photographer, promoter and DJ. Metal Storm staff since 2005.|
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