Tarja has always been one of those artists that have been held to such a high standard in the music industry. After her unfortunate demise from Nightwish, fans of the band were utterly devastated that their favourite, iconic frontwoman had been kicked from such a prestigious band, and worried as to whether or not she would continue performing music for a living. Luckily, fans did not have to wait too long for Tarja to get back into the swing of things, bringing forth her aptly named solo project Tarja with an onslaught of incredibly talented musicians. Eleven years since the release of her first album, Tarja is still making waves in the symphonic metal industry, and since she’s yet to begin the trek to Australia, getting the opportunity to witness the icon was undeniably exhilarating, and whilst I was on my seven hour journey across the Polish countryside, I can definitely admit that I was incredibly excited and joyful.
Bringing along the iconic Stratovarius, this made the trip all the more worthwhile. Also never having ventured to the land down under, this was also another once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I just could not afford to miss. Along with Stratovarius, the opening band Serpentyne had scored an amazing support opportunity, as well as this tour being their first ever ‘proper’ European tour, the band was all too eager to kick things off for the legendary acts.
After travelling seven hours across Poland, the doors finally opened (at an incredibly early 17:45 timeslot) with Serpentyne opening ‘The Nordic Symphony’. By the time Serpentyne had jumped on stage, the crowd was just beginning to truly come together, with major emphasis on the ‘beginning’, as when they started the room was only about a quarter full. This did not deter the band from putting on their best show that they possibly could, with guitarist Lee Wilmer going nuts on stage, followed with the tight performance from drummer and bass player Nigel Midleton and John Haithwaite, respectively. As they opened the stage, vocalist Maggiebeth Sand came out and starting bellowing out incredible operatic vocals reminiscent to that of Tarja, and it made complete sense as to why they were picked as opener on their tour.
The most intriguing part about this set was that they split it into two sections: the first being symphonic metal and the second being folk metal; and it worked. Complete with backing vocalist Vaughan Grandin laying out his all on the bagpipes (yeah, bagpipes), the band kept the crowd incredibly engaged and almost guessing what they’re going to do next, and for that I have to commend their talents and creativity.
It hits about 19:30, and the room has filled up immensely since Serpentyne had completed their set. Going from about a quarter when they began, to about two-thirds full by the time they were done, and there was only one reason for that: Stratovarius were up next. Being such a high profile band, the Finnish quintet showed straight away why they are such a high profile band. Their raw talent on stage, humbleness and creativity is off the charts, to the point where the band has essentially created their own flavour of power metal, as well as being one of the true founders of the genre.
The band wasted no time getting the crowd riled up and entranced, belting into ‘Eagleheart’ to begin the set. Being such a historical band, forming in 1984, there were a lot of middle aged individuals in the crowd, more so than the younger early-mid 20s, but that seemed to be no issue whatsoever, as everyone in the crowd joined together to sing along to beautiful tracks such as ‘4000 Rainy Nights’ and ‘Destiny’. The band’s performance itself was almost flawless; vocalist Timo Kotipelto did not miss one single note during the entire set, guitarist Matias Kupiainen nailed the entire set, even harmonising with the backing track’s solos perfectly, and especially bassist Lauri Porra providing his own flavour of bass playing whilst still being able to put on an incredible show.
The most incredible performance during Stratovarius’ set however, was drummer Rolf Pilve. Having recently filled in for the legendary Wintersun on most of their recent tours (including the one in Australia), I knew he was going to be a sight to behold with his actual band, and not only did he not disappoint, his performance alone was one of the most incredible of the night. Not only did he not miss a note, but he performed with such aggression and power that truly brought together Stratovarius’ atmosphere, almost bringing forth that triumphant feeling you get whilst listening to Power Metal.
Now that Stratovarius had finished, the act up next was one that you just know everyone was here to see; Tarja, and rightly so. Beginning the powerful set with ‘Demons in You’, the iconic clean/jazzy introduction started and everyone in the room went absolutely mental. The whole venue was packed at this stage (obviously) and even after not being a part of Nightwish for 13 years, it’s safe to say that Tarja is still at her peak in terms of performance. Blazing through awesome tracks such as ‘500 Letters’, ‘Undertaker’ and ‘Love to Hate’, Tarja and her backing band members were able to keep the crowd stargazed and in awe at the sheer beauty of the entire performance.
Informing the crowd that her next song was going to be her last, I was a little surprised, since it was only about 21:30 when she mentioned that, and considering shows in Australia usually don’t end until 23:00, I was a little bit thrown back, but nonetheless impressed and satisfied with such a journey. Tarja didn’t let the fans down however; as the final track she performed was the all time classic, ‘Until My Last Breath’, and boy did she kill it. That chorus live was one of the most breathtaking performances I’ve seen in my ventures in the European landscapes and shows, and it left such a burning, triumphant feeling that set the night to a perfect close.