Sonata Arctica / Pagan’s Mind
21 April 2008
Islington Academy, London

My two previous encounters with Pagan’s Mind ensured that we were in line early to catch the Norwegian’s opening set tonight. As it turned out we had just short of an hour to wait after the doors had opened, but this ensured there was a large and expectant crowd, who cheered loudly as the lights finally went down.

However, the initial opener God’s Equation was a bit of a disappointment due to poor sound, though at its conclusion frontman Nils K Rue apologised, “We’re really sorry about the technical problems, but its fixed now.” True to his word United Alliance sounded infinitely better and the crowd didn’t need much encouragement to clap along to this catchy number.

Next up was the band’s cover of David Bowie’s Hallo Spaceboy, commencing with Ronny Tegner’s keyboard, who seemed in very good spirits this evening, constantly getting the crowd to clap along or cheer. Whilst the early part of the song is very reminiscent of the original, mid-way in, Jorn Viggo Lofstad’s guitar takes things up a notch heavier. Lofstad’s guitar was really roaring in a good mix and none more so than for Atomic Firelight, dubbed “The angry one” by Rue. Everything so far had been from the band’s latest album, God’s Equation, and this one really seemed to hit home.

My personal favourite Pagan’s Mind song, Enigmatic Mission followed, with Rue introducing Lofstad as “The World’s greatest guitarist.” Whilst this may be a bold claim, watching and listening to Lofstad is an absolute pleasure. His playing seems effortless whilst the tone brought to mind Joe Satriani at times.

Through Osiris’ Eyes, from 2002’s Celestial Entrance, can be guaranteed to always crop up near the end of a Pagan’s Mind setlist, being something of a signature song. It was therefore a treat that there was still time for one more with Alien Kamikaze closing a very strong set. Job done, the band departed, with Tegner walking off with his keyboard on his shoulder.

Pagan’s Mind set list:
God’s Equation / United Alliance / Hallo Spaceboy / Atomic Firelight / Enigmatic Mission / Through Osiris’ Eyes / Alien Kamikaze

Given Pagan’s Mind’s good sound and the fact that the wait between the two bands seemed to be forever, you’d have expected Sonata Arctica to have pristine sound. However, In Black & White opened with a drum heavy sound, with no bottom end and very low guitars and vocals.

The onstage sound must have been considerably better, as there was no berating of the soundman, as at Bloodstock 2004, but a happy looking Tony Kakko who asked the crowd, “Are you ready to rock tonight?” The number of Sonata shirts guaranteed the answer would be an overwhelming yes and the devotion and support was impressive.

Kakko announced that the band were going to play some stuff that had not been on their setlist for a while and, being a personal favourite, I was delighted to hear Kingdom For A Heart would be next. Unfortuantely, where Elias Viljanen’s guitar should have interwoven with Henrik Klingenberg’s keyboard in the chorus’ refrain, the sound left the song flat.

The crowd participation for Replica lifted that song with the fans swaying along, before Sonata continued with material from the Ecliptica album with 8th Commandment. As the crowd took on the first half of that’s songs chorus by themselves, Kakko stood back with an impressed expression.

Lighters and illuminated mobile phones were held aloft for Shamadalie, whereas aerobic style swaying brought Caleb to its conclusion. By this point I was resigned to the fact that the sound was not going to improve and the likes of Black Sheep, Wolf & Raven and Full Moon were not as strong as you would have hoped as a result.

Full credit to Sonata’s performance however, and being fully in control of the crowd, Kakko was going to have some fun. Splitting the crowd into three sections, he gave each a different sound, being a high hat, snare and bass drum. Sitting on a drum stool he then proceeded to conduct the crowd with drums sticks, turning us into the infamous drum intro to We Will Rock You.

Whilst Don’t Say A Word and The Cage brought things to a conclusion on a high note, the sound had really put a dampener on my enjoyment of this show. Reports are that the sound at the following night in Leeds was much better.

Sonata Arctica set list:
In Black and White / Paid In Full / Kingdom For A Heart / Replica / 8th Commandment / Shamandalie / Caleb / Black Sheep / The Worlds Forgotten, The Words Forbidden / Wolf and Raven / Full Moon / It Won’t Fade / Gravenimage / Don’t Say A Word / The Cage

Sonata Arctica
Pagan’s Mind