Rockefeller Music Hall, Oslo, Norway, March 26, 2003

Stratovarius always give the audience a good package. Formerly touring with bands like Angra and inviting Rhapsody on the bill some three years ago, this year they have the balls to let New Jersey’s neoclassical and progressive masters Symphony X fill the “special guests” slot – something you would be outmost stupid to do unless you know how to handle your instrument and put on a great show.


Thunderstone is first up, but I have to admit I don’t pay too much attention to this Finnish Nuclear Blast-signed band. You may say that Stratovarius was a good Helloween-clone when they started out, or at least when they broke through. About Thunderstone, I’d say they are baby brothers of Stratovarius, and that’s not because they’re Finns, that’s musically speaking. I don’t need Stratovarius clones. So why did I embrace a Helloween clone some 10 years ago? Well, that was needed when you look back and see what Helloween was up to at that time, while Stratovarius still do what they do best, meaning no rip-offs are very much needed.

Symphony X

Symphony X is welcomed by a massive roar in the close to sold out Rockefeller. Let there be no doubt that also Symphony X have sold lots of those tickets. They run into technical problems as soon as they hit the stage, but with the band’s smiling faces showing no panic or frustration and with a front man as charismatic as Russell Allen, the guys simply get away with it. Starting off with “Unleash The Fire” (not that fucking fury), the riffy “Wicked” and “Evolution (The Grand Design)”, the first two from the last CD and the latter from “V”, these guys have become more than a decent live band since I first saw them at the Rock Hard festival in Germany back in 98. Michael Romeo shows why he is among the finest guitarists out there, always with a confident grin on his face, and Symphony X is indeed a tough act to follow.


Close to eleven o’clock (too bad, I saw diehard fans leaving the hall midway through the gig to catch the bus back home), lights go out and Stratovarius burst into “Eagleheart” from their latest CD, “Elements pt. 1”. Typical Strato-opener, and it works pretty well along with the pyrotechnics. I always get a little paranoid when I see pyro used in shows after the Great White tragedy, and man did Kiss use a lot of it in Melbourne recently, but for those out there going to see Stratovarius in the forthcoming month, please note that the band takes this matter very seriously. They don’t allow photographers in the pit, and red lights on the stage tells the band when to back off (that would be very much addressed to Timo Kotipelto at least). “Find Your Own Voice” is next, and speaking of Kotipelto; I have seen lots of Stratovarius shows, and most of them have been very good – but I have not heard the little man hit every note as perfectly as this night. He was dead fucking on the whole evening, pretty much like the rest of the band (always is).

“Kiss Of Judas” and “Father Time”, they both came in early, but like always, like every night, the climax is “Speed Of Light”. Where do you go from there? That’s always the song that does it for me. It’s like Savatage’s “Sirens”. It doesn’t matter how much other great stuff they can dig out from the catalogue, nothing can top that one.

Surprisingly, the title track from Stratovarius’ most “depressive” and dark album, “Destiny”, is played, and again; Kotipelto gets it all right. Not sure about the chronological order – I was having too much fun to find my notepad (I never had one) – other highlights are the instrumental “Stratofortress” where a few poor roadies have to dance along wearing elk masks, and of course the old school medley consisting of “Fright Night”, “Hands Of Time”, “We Hold They Key”, “Tears Of Ice”, and I think “Dreamspace” is in there, too, if memory serves me right. The song “Elements” comes across brilliantly live, with a screen behind the band used to set the audience in the right mode.

“Forever”, what can I say? That must be one of the best ballads ever written, and even the Oslo crowd sings well. Not sure how it went compared to the Finnish and Swedish crowds – Kotipelto always likes to compare – but I am amazed that my fellow countrymen know this song that well.

Now “Speed Of Light” is the highlight for me personally, but there’s no doubt that “Hunting High And Low”, the first encore, comes over as the biggest crowd pleaser this night. It is just the most perfect sing-along song ever written, I guess. The show ends with “Black Diamond” and most people go home satisfied. Most people means 99.9 %, only yours truly still remain at Rockefeller awaiting “Against The Wind”. He might still be there…

Seriously, Stratovarius puts on a great show, and although they are not technically showing off like their special guests, they are very professional and worthy of closing nights as headliners no matter how good their support acts are.



Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.