STRATOVARIUS with special guests SYMPHONY X

Elements Tour 2003

Live in Tampere, Pakkahuone 21.3
and Helsinki, Kulttuuritalo, 22.3, Finland

The few shows that Stratovarius are playing with their new album "Elements part 1" have gotten just the attention that was expected from fans. The shows in Tampere and Helsinki were sold out and the venues aren't small either. But sometimes that isn't a good thing from a fans point of view. In Tampere there are only few places where you can see the band unless you're really tall. One is in the front row and no one likes to be there, because of the high volume and the pressure coming on you from other fans. Helsinki wasn't any better, though if you had a seat ticket, you could watch the show in peace. The floor looked like a sea of people when looking from up and wasn't tempting at all.

One thing that also draw people to see these shows was the support band Symphony X, which is highly respected among musicians and the progressive metal fans. This was the first time the band visited our small country and the fans were reacting in that manner too. Most of the fans had come to see Stratovarius of course, but the few huge Symphony X fans did make a lot of noise to welcome the band here. Their both shows weren't exactly a "sight for sore eyes", as the guys didn't have much of a charisma and stage appearance. The only guy making some movement was singer Russell Allen, who actually has some resemblance to James LaBrie if you compare their moves. The other guys settled for headbanging, but that doesn't make a show at all interesting to watch. But of course the music is what matters and the short set didn't please the fans of course. The set list included songs:

Inferno (Unleash The Fire)
Wicked Evolution (The Grand Design)
The Accolade
Accolade II
Out Of The Ashes
Smoke And Mirrors
Sea Of Lies

Strangely enough, "Accolade II" was the song that worked best with the crowd in both places. Might be the radio play it has gotten in Finland, eventhough it is a new song and the fans are mostly into the older songs. The sound levels were pretty good in both places and they were better than what Stratovarius had. Allen had too much echo in his vocals and it really sounded ridiculous at times when he quit singing and the words kept echoing for many seconds after. He showed off some of his skills to the fans, who got really excited about it in Tampere, but in Helsinki he hardly got any feedback from the crowd that looked like they just got poured a truck full of bricks on them. Or maybe they were just too amazed and couldn't open their mouths.

The guitarist Michael Romeo is the main man in the band that all the technical guitarists look high above. But he didn't bring out a boring solo part that is so obvious to musicians like him. He gets to show off enough in the songs already, the music is so technical and guitar influenced. So a few times I found myself looking at his fingers running madly through the fretboard with my mouth so wide open you could stuff a fat cat in there. This guy is so amazing. I felt so bad about Tolkki having to play after him, eventhough he's a great player too. The other SX guys are also amazing musicians and all the fans were really pleased at the shows, eventhough short. The Stratovarius fans might not agree here, as Strato's music is much more catchier and "easy" going. There were a few comments after the shows about SX being boring and the other way round. So maybe this wasn't the best partnership for shows you could think of.

After a half an hour break in both places Stratovarius hit the stage with an obvious starter, "Eagleheart". In Helsinki they were suffering of bad sounds at first, Kotipelto's vocals being too high or too low at times and the music was way too loud throughout the show. Tampere was much better soundwise, though it was too loud in there too, which you noticed when walking around the area. The first row was terrible with sounds in TRE. I'm not a big fan of neither places, 'cos they both suffer of echo problems, which are sometimes hardly even noticed, but sometimes like in Strato's case can ruin most of the joy.

The set list between these two places had the songs in different order. The second song in TRE was "Find Your Own Voice", which had me listening to Kotipelto's high vocal parts and I was pleased of what I heard. He really has improved a lot from the early days and even since the last album. But I was not pleased about having to listen to this woman next to me singing along to all of the songs, screaming her lungs out. If only people would sing when they're asked to. The set list wasn't exactly my faves, as I would've wanted to hear "Papillon", "Drop In The Ocean" and "Fantasia" from "Elements", but they did include the end of "Fantasia" to the end of "Destiny" really well and if you didn't know either songs you might've thought it was one song. I guess if they played "Drop" it might not work live at all.


There weren't as much pyros as was planned but I really didn't miss them at all. I hate those suckers and the noise and smell following them. Not to mention what they can cause, which has already been proven during one Strato show. There still were fire fighters at both venues though. I'm happy to live in a safe country like Finland where things are taken seriously and when something happens, the safety precautions are top notch and I don't need to worry too much for my life.

In Helsinki the lights were terrible, they mostly came behind the band towards the crowd and made it hard to see and watch the band many times. Tolkki was standing in the darkness in both gigs and Kainulainen took the best spot on stage lightwise, like he was the front man. Kotipelto still has the same speaks between songs as before and some wild kicks.

He also threw his microphone stand across the stage in Helsinki a few times, which looked like it would land on someone. So he was the one having most of the action going which was nice to look at too. As fans have been dying to hear old Strato tunes, they got what they wanted in a medley. It was a good selection of songs and what really made my day was hearing "Tears Of Ice", a beautiful ballad that felt like Kotipelto was singing from deep within his heart, eventhough the song is written by Tolkki. What a moving moment. And this time Kotipelto was singing all the old songs with a great drive. Though it was kinda strange to hear him sing these, as you're used to hearing Tolkki's voice in them. But this medley brought back fun memories from the eighties and I'm happy they decided to do it and many others sure feel the same way.

There wasn't any huge stage sets or a big show really, most of the show was about lights (also on the ceiling with pictures) and the pictures (water drops etc) and lyrics running in the back screen. In Tampere it worked well, but in Helsinki the back was full of lights, so the pictures didn't show too well. But as we've gotten familiar with the Strato "mascot", the elk/moose, Strato brought us two dancing elks on stage during one song, drinking heavily of course. A nice way to reflect on the finnish mentality..yeah, blame it all on the innocent moose !

Other great moments of the set were the touching, gigantic and bombastic "Season Of Change" and the instrumental "Stratofortress". Not that I'm a huge fan of instrumentals and even hearing them live, but this time it brought some variety to the show, that often with these kinds of bands turns into a bass drum frenzy with a whiplash at the end of the show. I had a hunch what the encore would include and with "Paradise" I don't know what to think of. The song is a happy one, but the lyrics are sad. So should I be jumping for joy or what ? But that and the two other songs were probably the best selection for an encore, everyone is familiar with those and the crowd did go nuts. Finnish crowd is so strange though, when the band has only about 5 songs left to play they start moving and getting in the mood. So from "Will The Sun Rise ?" on both places had reached the mood of a great show. Though in Helsinki one mood spoiler was the seats. The fans either didn't want to stand up or didn't know they have the right to do that. So the seat sections were pretty calm, minus a few exceptions. So Kulttuuritalo yet again has let a band down, it's not the place for metal shows unless you really do enjoy sitting and just watching. I was happy though, for once I could see the band all the time without no one tearing me to pieces or stumbling over me. Me being a small girl I don't enjoy shows much from this point of view. Or should I say from an ass point of view...watching people's behinds ??

But all in all it was great to see Strato guys back on stage and to prove twice more they are a tight live band. Though somehow I ended up leaving both shows feeling like something was missing. The show was two hours long with great songs, but still something made me hollow. Maybe the lack of "Mother Gaia", "A Million Light Years Away", "Before The Winter" or "Coming Home" ? Oh well, you can't have everything as I always say and who in ones sanity would like to hear such sad songs anyway ?? But that's only me and I can guarantee you'll get your moneys worth ! Better hurry though to get your ticket, these fellows aren't on tour for long. And remember earplugs...

The set list in Tampere with a few changes in Helsinki (The medley might be missing a song):
Find Your Own Voice
Kiss Of Judas
Speed Of Light
Soul Of A Vagabond
Destiny/ the end of Fantasia
Father Time
Medley (Fright Night, Hands Of Time, We Are The Future, Dreamspace, Tears Of Ice, We Hold The Key, etc)
Season Of Change
Will The Sun Rise?

Hunting High And Low
Black Diamond

Gig report: Satu Reunanen
Pictures: Kari Helenius

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