Apocalyptica – Budapest, 16 June 2001

It ain't art it's rock n' roll. Yep, cool slogan indeed but if the thing Apocalyptica is doing ain't art then nothing is. I'm sure you all have heard of these four Finns that are playing Metallica songs by four cellos. But you have to see them to believe it for sure! Their booking office must have good contacts to Hungary because they seem to play here every six months or so. This time it was an entry free Summer Opening Festival organized by the Ministry of Youth and Sport and even though the idea was good, the realization sucked big time. The band played on a small stage (not on the main one) that did not have enough room for the audience in front of. Can it mean they drew more people than expected? Honestly I don't know how many the organizers were expecting but there were about 5000 people squeezed together to watch the band play. (I assume the reasons of putting the band on a small stage and not the main one should be looked for in music industry circles because I suppose main stage time must have been paid by shitty pop record labels.) The atmosphere was wonderful, people were hanging from trees, standing on top of cars and trucks parked around the area next to the stage, the whole place was packed and the crowd was very responsive to the music.

Being a classical music fan I really appreciate the band playing melodic parts, some of the arrangements of the ballads are just wonderful pieces of music. When Apocalyptica is playing "Nothing Else Matters", "Unforgiven", or the opening parts of "One" you can bring your granny along and she'll also enjoy the performance. The ballad recipe is always the same: one of the cellos is playing the chord arpeggios, another one delivers the bass parts, the third one colors these previous two and the fourth one is playing the guitar solo parts. When the vocal lines come, usually it's the coloring cello to take them. And it works just fine!

However the band is at its best when they start to crush! The trick is that they use effects on the original sound of the cellos and this way they get sounds out of this instrument never ever heard before. One has to see these four guys jumping up from their chairs, starting to headbang, and running around the stage grabbing their cellos with when they do "Fight Fire With Fire" or "Master of Puppets". The audience was more into heavy tunes than ballads. People were shouting the refrain of "Master" and singing the whole "Enter Sandman" along with the band. The four Finns are born entertainers, they dress as a charismatic rock star should dress, their moves on the stage including headbanging, making the audience chant, grabbing the cello with and running from one end of the stage to the other, and making sexual intercourse moves on the cello are all very professional and get the crowd going.

And if anyone was to question the "artistic value" of their performance I'd say try to rearrange heavy metal on four cellos, try to play the driving power-chord riffs in the tempo they do, and most of all, try to change torn strings in 10 seconds during a song and do that 3 or 4 times a concert each member! If you've done that you can start to criticize. These guys are one hell of musicians; if you ever get the chance to see them live, don't miss them!

One snippet about the atmosphere of the show: people were climbing up on a truck that was parked (too) close to the stage. The band was playing "Master of Puppets" (remember it's four cellos on the stage) and the 100 people pressed together on the back of the truck started banging their heads all as if synchronized. Hilarious sight it was! Hair flying all over, the truck shaking as if there was an earthquake, the tires and the whole machine giving cracking and popping noises. Just to give you another mental picture: there was an exhibition of off- road cars and jeeps (again too) close to the stage. Imagine 15 people on the back of a small Suzuki 4WD jeep jumping up and down enjoying the flexibility of the damper. Poor owner!

Wanna party?! Go to a cello quartet concert! Just make sure to choose the right one, if it says Tchaikovsky instead of Apocalyptica it might not be the right one…

By Endre "Bandi" Hübner,