Friday, March 28, 2003 @ 0:10 AM
Apocalyptica Live at Vega, Lil
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REVIEW BY: EddiesHead
Pre-show: I spent most of the day convincing myself that this was going to be something special, a truly unique occasion. On a superficial level I could have very easily dismissed the whole event as though it were just a gimmick, a novelty act. On the other hand, I like to consider myself open-minded and willing to give almost any kind of music a chance. The bottom line came down to the brief description I picked up from the “All Music Guide” - Apocalyptica are four cellists influenced by heavy metal and who gained notoriety by releasing an album of Metallica tracks. Even that information was nearly ten years old, but I decided it was better than another evening of sports on satellite TV.
Obviously, I knew very little at all about this band (??quartet??). Most of what I’ll be posting was learned through a couple of conversations over pre-concert drinks and additional info that the band shared (that I could understand!) during their performance. I learned that the group originates from Finland. The original foursome have changed and they are down to three official members whose names I’m not even going to try and repeat - sorry ( Eicca Toppinen, Paavo Lotjonen, Perttu Kivilaakso – Ed.). They have drafted in a fourth cellist to complete the package and from what I saw and heard I would never have known that there had been any modifications.
As I was sipping my second Tuborg I looked toward the front of the club and could see that there was a drum-set assembled in the middle of the stage. I was told that they have added drums and piano to complement their sound. The venue was fairly tiny - about the size of a volleyball court and by nine o’clock the small balcony that runs up the right side was full and the floor (SRO) was getting pretty packed.
Showtime: Without much fanfare the show began, and the four guys ambled onto the stage and started in with an interesting piece of music, which soon turned into Master of Puppets. The audience was very responsive and those that knew the words were singing them out loud. The cellist on the right side of the stage was using his bow to point at a few of the people in the crowd who were really getting into it. And from my perspective there were a lot of “devil horns” being flashed, and many of the heads in attendance were banging.
I wasn’t sure of it all myself at first. It really sounded good, but I wondered if it would all get repetitious after a couple of songs. So I decided to just absorb it all and I soon began to appreciate it. Even though the cellists were all sitting down they were definitely getting into it. In particular, the two guys in the middle were whipping their hair and head banging like crazy themselves.
For most of the evening the two guys in the middle of the stage alternated with their introductions of many of the tracks. “One” was introduced as the greatest ever Metallica song! I couldn’t catch (understand) some of the things being said but I did hear it when they introduced an original composition “Torreador 2.” I was intrigued to give a listen to something that might show a progression from their own interpretations of other bands “heavy metal”. And this song was phenomenal. I was a convert from this point on.
The guys took a break after this track and came back moments later to the ringing bells that lead into “For Whom the Bells Toll.” Other tracks that followed were introduced as “modern progressive cello music from Finland.” And all of their original pieces that they included the other night fit in well.
I’ve never tried to play any of the string instruments, but it must be exhausting. Every now and then one of the guys would leap out of his chair and play a part in the standing position. Honestly there was never a dull moment. After another needed break, they were joined by a drummer. I seem to remember this being about the point when they played “Enter Sandman.” Another crowd favorite. A couple of the other Metallica tunes they performed were “Nothing Else Matters” and “Creeping Death.” Not that Metallica was the only band to get the “Apocalyptica” treatment. I heard “Inquisition Symphony” by Sepultura get introduced, and I think they mentioned a Rammstein song at one point as well. There could have been others but I think I reached a point of shell-shock. This was such a refreshing experience for me, I really wish I had known more!
The finale was a song introduced as “Death Metal” but I didn’t catch if that was an original or someone else’s song they were interpreting. A very appreciative audience cheered them off the stage, and kept cheering until they came back for a final wave good-bye.
Post-show: I walked out of the venue with a strange grin. I knew I had seen something that surpassed my expectations. Not that I had many to begin with but all the same - I had heard some fantastic music, talked with interesting people, and had a great experience. You can’t ask for much more than that now.
In summary, I would have to say that if you are even in the slightest bit curious then this is well worth checking out. Hell, you wouldn’t be reading if you weren’t a little bit curious now. If you are already initiated and more knowledgeable than I, then I hope you’ll excuse my occasional lapses……….until the next time.