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Sonata Arctica Performs at The Warehouse in Calgary with Sanctity and Nebucadnezzer

Photo of Sonata Arctica

Band Photo: Sonata Arctica (?)

Currently trekking across North America on a 15-date tour, Sonata Arctica made a pit stop Monday night at The Warehouse in Calgary, AB. Kicking off the show was homegrown progressive/death hybrid Nebucadnezzer. Barely in their 20s, but playing the local circuit for over three years, the quartet did a fabulous job of warming up an already enthusiastic crowd. Performing local favourites like “Leviathan,” as well as tunes from their soon to be released independent album “Affliction,” Nebucadnezzer proved that the opening slot can be just as audibly intense as the rest. With talent beyond their years, Nebucadnezzer showed up with what seemed like no other plan than to slay.

North Carolina’s melodic thrash act Sanctity followed up the intensity almost as soon as the drum kits were swapped, and by the reaction of the crowd, you’d almost think they were the headliners. Still new to a recent line-up change, one that saw both singer and bassist replaced and the addition of a second guitarist, these guys got their freak on as much as the stage size would allow and involved the audience to the extreme. At one point, singer Brian Stephenson invited some dude in a plastic Viking helmet on stage to head bang with him, thrust the mic out into the front row for impromptu scream-a-longs, and even hauled someone else up for a piggy back ride. Unfortunately, a lack of barrier between audience and band wasn’t all singsongs and games. Stephenson got grabbed. A lot. He certainly didn’t look like he minded, but a couple times it looked like some fans just wouldn’t let go. And, with a sold out crowd of 400, and most of them already arrived and pushing against the stage, some equipment got knocked around and one monitor got shoved so hard it almost fell off the stage. Thanks to a soft-hearted member of the audience who put her hand underneath the monitor to support it while Sanctity finished their set – even after she got whacked from behind so hard I thought she was going to face plant it – the gear didn’t smash to the floor. In fact, the guys even took the time to make sure she was okay. Now that’s class. But the best part of Sanctity’s set, according to one fan, was the Wall of Death through which Stephenson ran before launching himself back onto the stage. And I think these guys announced “this is our last song” about three times before the crowd finally let them finish. Voted best new band of 2007 by Total Guitar Magazine, Sanctity owned the stage, proving that a little thing like breaking in new band members while on the road doesn’t hurt a bit.

But the break between Sanctity and headliners Sonata Arctica was almost painful, especially with how pumped everyone was by this time of night. Sonata’s techs took their sweet time tinkering around with equipment and getting everything in just the right place. It was nearly 45 minutes before the Finnish power metal act made their entrance and in that time as many people that could fit on the floor in front of the stage did just that. Throw into the mix a few crazies who like to punch and kick their way a couple inches closer to the stage, and it kinda takes the fun out of wondering when exactly your feet stopped touching the ground. Right before Sonata took to the stage, I managed to un-squeeze myself from the audience and took the high ground. From the DJ booth, I had a great view of both the band and the crowd and, while the quintet perhaps didn’t sound quite as tight as their jaunt across Canada in 2007, they made up for it with ferocious stage presence and their skills interacting with the audience kicked some serious ass. The air drums with the crowd into a cover of “We Will Rock You,” Henrik Klingenberg making the keytar look extremely cool and Tony Kakko’s energetic vocals in performances of fan faves like “8th Commandment,” “Black Sheep,” “Caleb,” “Shamandalie” and “The Cage” made you feel like you could listen all night. But all good things must come to an end and Sonata Arctica will play their last North American date on Feb. 19 at House of Blues in San Diego before making the journey to South America.

Before heading out of Alberta, however, Sonata Arctica took some time out of their busy schedule and found enough post-show energy to play an impromptu game of road hockey with a few loyal fans.

You can check out some photos from the concert in the photo gallery.

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