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Live Reports   

Stratovarius: again and again



Band: Stratovarius
City: Villeurbanne
Venue: Le Transbordeur
Date: 2010-01-19
Audience: around 800 people

Pictures: Julie


Matias Kupianen, the newcomer

In the past five years, Stratovarius have known almost as many splits and reunions as they have album releases and tours – to the great dismay of the fans, and to the sheer pleasure of us “journalists”, who can’t live without a healthy dose of drama.

According to Matias Kupianen, this is all over.

The man, whom we met shortly before the Villeurbanne show, seems to be naturally anxious and does his best to avoid meeting our gaze. Joining a band is one thing – filling in for a long-time member is another. And standing in for the band’s founder, without whom everybody thought Stratovarius was dead, cannot be an easy task…


Lauri Porra

An anxiety pretty much palpable on stage at first, but which progressively fades away and leaves its place to sheer enthusiasm, thanks to his bandmates’ encouragements. Lauri Porra, the bass player who joined the band in 2005 following the departure of Jari Kainulainen, is smiling and obviously at ease.

Without reaching the heights of perfection the band used to attain back in the days of the fantastic live album Visions Of Europe (1997), this new line-up delivers a very nice performance. A freshness that makes us forget the dark memories of the 2004 and 2005 tour, marked by the visible coldness that existed between the members of the band.


Timo Kotipelto: tired but professional

Charismatic as ever, Timo Kotipelto is, however, vocally tired, and that can be heard from his very first lines on. But the man is a pro, and he won’t let these small difficulties interfere with his performance. But Jörg Michael is the one that will grab all our attention.

Unlike Phil Rudd (AC/DC) or a subtly nervous Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree), Stratovarius’ drummer hasn’t built his reputation on feeling or originality. Jörg is simply the new generation of human metronome: binary, precise, faultless.


It’s all about the click!

Not very rock’n’roll, you’ll think. And yet, Jörg Michael, who poses as an imperturbable robot, is captivating – plus, his perfect relaxation and great mastery of tempo are quite impressive. The man is so at ease he could make you believe drumming in easy. He even manages to keep the rhythm when he throws his sticks to the audience. And when he loses said sticks, nobody even notices: he has already found another one, and no beat is missing.


A decent and efficient set

One word regarding this tour’s excellent setlist. The songs that make it up have been the same for years now, it’s a fact. This year, however, the arrangement is slightly different.

From the very beginning, the Finns offer an awful lot to the audience, with a more than traditional but always efficient four-song sequence: as soon as the lights go out, the choirs of “Destiny” resound. A sample of the dramatic intro is played, and the band only come on stage when it’s time for them to play the speed part of the song. They even go as far as making a short pause before playing the ambient part, and for a few seconds, everyone believes they won’t perform it. Well done!

Then came “Hunting High & Low”, “Speed Of Light” and “Kiss Of Judas”. A good start, to say the least – and not a single break between the songs: the band will only let the audience catch their breath after this sequence. “Deep Unknown” will be the first of the three songs from Polaris to be played tonight – all of them songs that will give a good impression on stage. For the latest album to date, that’s not much, but it’s not a surprise, either: Elements Part 2 (2003) and Stratovarius (2005) were also a bit neglected on the previous tours.

However, according to Matias, this state of affairs could change. But we should leave him the time to learn the old repertoire first! One excellent surprise should be noted: the great comeback of “Paradise”, never played in 2004 and 2005.


A good show

One of the least impressive moments of the concert was undeniably the part devoted to guitar, bass and keyboard solos: too long, without any feeling and leagues away from the famous “Holy Solos” (of whose main theme Jens will play a few notes). Quite superfluous.

The waiting time before the encore is close to zero. “Forever”, usually made a few bars longer to let the audience sing, will be played in one go, and “Black Diamond” will conclude the set – no surprises here. All right, it’s part of the myth, but it really is a pity to hear these two songs follow one another in such a systematic way. The audience always pretend to be happily surprised, but still…


That was better, right? Right?!

It’s undeniable, the road will be long before the band can offer the magic of the Visions-era shows again. But compared to the dying Stratovarius of 2005, it’s a lot better. In the absolute, a Stratovarius concert is always a highly enjoyable show – like a giant karaoke, full of kitsch and audience-friendly hits.

Setlist:

Destiny
Hunting High & Low
Speed Of Light
Kiss Of Judas
Deep Unknown
A Million Years Away
Solos
Forever Is Today
Paradise
Twilight Symphony
Eagleheart

Encore:

Forever
Father Time
Black Diamond




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