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Apocalyptica Show Report And Photos From Washington, DC

When I heard that Apocalyptica, a Finnish band best known for playing Metallica songs on four cellos, was finally planning a full US tour, I was hopeful that they'd come to the DC area. Their show on September 12 at the 9:30 club in Washington, DC was, in fact, the first stop on this tour – the band had actually left Finland earlier that day (their time), I discovered. That Monday happened to be the day I returned from a week of vacation, but I was determined to catch their show and finally see them live after their release of five albums and many years of never touring in the States. I would have loved to have seen them before, but if this show could be considered payback for that wait, it was well worth it.

After my interview with Eicca Toppinen a little after 7, doors opened at 7:30 but it was a long wait until supporting act Eyes of Fire took the stage at almost 9pm. Still, the DJ had one of the best mixes of heavy rock and metal I’ve heard there to pass the time. The fact that Apocalyptica were playing at the 9:30 club was a good sign that they expected a decent turnout, as this two-level club is one of the best and largest in the area barring the arenas and pavilions.

The crowd was clearly not your typical metal crowd. With my Slayer t-shirt and eyebrow piercing, I was definitely in the metal-minority. In fact, as a self-described “metal geek,” I can honestly say I’ve never seen so many [mostly prepubescent] dorks at a concert in my life. The crowd was one of the youngest I’d seen – mostly teens, many young teens who obviously convinced parents to allow them to attend a “cello concert,” and many with parents in tow as chaperones.

When Eyes of Fire took the stage, most of the crowd, composed as it was, was not prepared for their heavy sound. Nor was I, I suppose. Their first song was pretty chaotic and did not appeal to me at all. Their second song was much easier to get into and had a catchy melodic riff throughout. However, neither the main vocalist (on bass) nor backing vocalist (on guitar, who had many vocal parts throughout the set) possessed a good enough singing voice to accompany or compliment their more melodic songs.

This was the case throughout the entire set: their heavy songs were chaotic with no defining riff or groove to speak of and entirely too much cymbal smashing, while their melodic songs, often possessing a good riff and feel, were marred by the out of place low-pitch yelling vocal style. Their second to last song was the high point of their set, in my opinion, as they played a mid-paced jamming style song with a decent audible doom-style groove throughout most of the song. The repeating riff had the best metal feel of their set. The final song had a promising melodic riff, but suffered the same issues with vocal delivery as the others.

While I was not impressed by Eyes of Fire, they were not bad overall. However, I considered it a good thing that their 30 minute set was all that preceded Apocalyptica, who were the main attraction. I’ve seen too many shows of late with four or more bands on the bill (and often one or two local openers before them) when I’m really interested primarily in one band, and it was refreshing to know that Apocalyptica would have over two hours to play their set, which they nearly filled.

After a short cleanup time, it was not long before Apocalyptica walked on stage with their cellos and were seated in the large bulky chairs with skull cutouts that awaited them. When playing live, they have a drummer who played with them for most songs as well. By now, the decent sized venue was fairly full, mostly of youngsters (and a number of parents) as previously described.

They opened with Master of Puppets (I believe, but am not positive) and two things struck me. First was how much better this song performed live than the rendition on their first album. Second was how many of the predominately non-metalhead teen audience knew the lyrics to this 1980’s era Metallica song.

Another standout song they played early in the set was Fight Fire with Fire. An unlikely cello tune, this Metallica classic was extremely heavy and fast. They continued to play a number of Metallica covers including Nothing Else Matters, Seek and Destroy, Creeping Death, and Enter Sandman, most to great crowd response and sing-alongs. They also played a couple of songs form their yet-to-be-released-in-the-US self-titled album including the ballad Bittersweet and a song or two from recently Reflections, which was finally released through Nuclear Blast in the United States this year. They played quite a number of original songs from their third album, “Cult” as well, which featured some of the heaviest of their original songs.

When they broke into Betrayal, one of their fastest songs, a mosh pit actually broke out briefly to one side, as it also did during their rendition of Sepultura’s “Inquisition Symphony.” It was hilarious to see the looks on the faces of all of these non-metalhead 13 year olds and their parents as they tried to distance themselves from the pit as quickly as possible amongst a crowd of people. They clearly were not prepared for that experience.

Far from remaining seated the entire time, the band members alternated taking standing poses and headbanging, and sometimes approached the crowd as well. Eicca and Perttu, who both have long hair best suited for the headbanging, were the most active and interacted with the crowd the most. They clearly loved playing their music and loved the reaction they were getting from the crowd.

The band definitely got the best reception I’ve ever seen. They played a couple songs for an encore, including Retrun of the Mountain King as the final song, and yet the crowd remained standing and yelling for more after they walked off the stage the second time. Apocalypica came out one more time to take their bows and walk off stage once more and the lights and club’s stereo finally came on, signaling the show had in fact ended. My only disappointment was that they did not come out again to play Metallica’s “One” and did not play it all night, as it features a jaw-dropping accurate solo that I’d love to hear played live.

By the end of the night, Apocalyptica had played for almost two hours and put on the best performance I had seen in years. In fact, it was the best performance I had seen since Slayer’s “God Hates Us All” tour almost three years ago, if not equal or slightly better than that show. The uniqueness of seeing these guys play on cellos coupled with excellent songs and showmanship makes it a show you should go out and see for yourself. Furthermore, if you are a fan of old school Metallica, this show is a must-see, as Apocalyptica play their tunes with the liveliness and energy that Metallica themselves would be hard pressed to muster these days.

You can check out my photos from the show in the photo gallery.

Do yourself a favor and get out to one of the remaining shows, as there’s no telling when Apocalyptica will be back for another US tour. Kids, tell your parents it’s a cello band. Metalheads, don’t be deterred by my comments about the crowd - go show the rest of them how to mosh!

Remaining tour dates are as follows:

Sept 14 Theatre of Living Arts - Philadelphia, PA
Sept 15 Paradise - Boston, MA
Sept 16 Spectrum - Montreal, QUE
Sept 17 Guvernment - Toronto, ONT
Sept 18 Cabaret Metro - Chicago, IL
Sept 19 The Quest - Minneapolis, MN
Sept 20 Beaumont - Kansas City, KS
Sept 21 Bluebird - Denver, CO
Sept 23 Richards On Richards - Vancouver, BC
Sept 24 El Corazon - Seattle, WA
Sept 25 Aladdin Theatre - Portland, OR
Sept 26 Great American Music Hall - San Francisco, CA
Sept 27 House Of Blues - Los Angeles, CA

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A self-described "metal geek," Doug Gibson has been listening to heavy metal for more than twenty five years and designed and coded Metal Underground.com from scratch over ten years ago.

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2 Comments on "Apocalyptica Show Report From Washington, DC"

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1. Muahaeyes writes:

Love reading the review. I saw the show in Chicago, at the Metro. It was AWESOME!

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