For the second time in under a week I got to see a Finnish metal band perform live, having just seen The 69 Eyes, it was ironic that I should get to see Apocalyptica perform the following Wednesday evening, at a venue that I have never been to before.
Both of these bands are from Finland (both from Helsinki no less) but that is about the only similarity - they are both considered metal bands, but their styles are quite different. Apocalyptica is a symphonic metal band, using cellos in place of other stringed instruments, and often performing without a vocalist, as they did in Vegas at the Smith Center for their Metallica By Four Cellos tour stop.
For this tour the band is performing without local vocalist Franky Perez, doing an instrumental only performance of classic Metallica tunes. This tour is actually a celebration of their 1996 debut album Apocalyptica: Plays Metallica by Four Cellos which was remastered in 2016 for the 20th anniversary of it's release, and the band also released a live version of the album in 2018.
First and foremost, I have to say that my premiere experience at the Smith Center was outstanding. That building is beautiful and Reynolds Hall is incredible. It has theater style seating (2,050 person capacity) sloped toward an enormous stage. There are four floors of box seats along either side of the theater as well as four additional floors of balcony seating at the back of the theater, providing dramatic views of the entire hall, and the whole experience was very pleasant. I'm definitely going to keep an eye out for more events here!
Promptly, at 7:30pm, the four cellists of Apocalyptica took to the stage, seated across the stage in front of large lighted panels. The group consists of Eicca Toppinen, Paavo Lötjönen, and Perttu Kivilaakso, and touring cellist Lauri Kankkunen, along with Mikko Sirén joining on drums for the latter part of the show. Eicca and Paavo are two of the original four cellists and co-founders of the band, and Eicca handles the rhythm cello and keyboards and occasionally takes on the role of lead cello, while Paavo takes on the bass cello duties. They are joined by Perttu who is mainly the lead cello, and the newly annointed "fourth cello" Lauri, who handles both lead and rhythm cello. Lauri was added to the group for this tour, taking the place of Antero Manninen, who Eicca claims has "unluckily disappeared."
The first half was traditionally symphonic, starting off with "Enter Sandman" and roll right into "Master Of Puppets" without pause, after which Eicca takes a minute to let everyone know the agenda for the evening's performance. He explains that the first half of the performance would be the entire 1996 album, from start to finish, just as they had recorded it. He also explains that they had not brought along a vocalist, so those duties rested on the audience's shoulders - which brought laughter and cheering from the packed house! They complete the first half of the set with "Harvester Of Sorrow", "Unforgiven", "Sad But True", "Creeping Death", "Wherever I May Roam", after which they announced that they had one more song, and would then be taking a short break and return to play the rest of their Metallica repertoire. They finished off with "Welcome Home" allowing the "rookie" to do the opening solo, which Lauri of course nailed. The cellists exited the stage to a rousing applause!
During the almost 30 minute intermission the stage was reset, with the four panels behind each cellist removed to expose Mikko's huge drum and percussion setup - up until this point they had not used any percussions. The cellists start off with the intro for "Fade To Black" and by the time they hit the part where the song speeds up significantly, Mikko had taken his place behind the kit drawing a huge applause from the crowd. It was at this point that the symphony became a rock concert! The lighting changed drastically, keeping to the frantic pace of the music and the colors were more brilliant, whereas the first half was mostly dark with occasional bright flashes. After "Fade To Black" they began the intro to "For Whom The Bell Tolls", and Paavo grabbed the mic, encouraging the crowd to "misbehave, stand up, come closer" and sing along. Although the crowd stayed put, they did stand up, cheer, and a few began singing along unabashedly.
The second half of the show was even better than the first, and that is saying a LOT, because the first half rocked! They ended the second set with a two song encore and received a well-deserved standing ovation. I've had the pleasure of seeing Apocalyptica both with and without a singer and I could not possibly express a preference. This was an amazing experience, and was only the third performance on the current tour, so there are plenty of dates left all over the United States. I definitely recommend seeing this show! Simply incredible! Don't miss out! for tour info and dates check their website HERE.
Second Half Set List:
Fade To Black
For Whom The Bell Tolls
Fight Fire With Fire
Until It Sleeps
Seek And Destroy
Nothing Else Matters
Apocalyptica photos from Randy Udell at R U Rockin' Photos