Monday, October 29, 2007

Red Sox Win World Series (No not a repeat of the 2004 headline)! Nightwish and H.I.M Concert Experiences.

Well, the Red Sox won the World Series...AGAIN!!! Damn, twice in one lifetime! To paraphrase Arnold Judas Rimmer, I'm turning into Hugh Hefner! Okay, maybe not the best obscure reference to use, but I think you get the idea.

I was only five in 1967, the Impossible Dream season of Yaz, Jim Lonborg, Dick Williams and the over-achieving Sox that lost a World Series to a Cardinals team with four future Hall of Famers (Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Orlando Cepeda and Steve Carlton), and got people in Boston to care about baseball again.

Since then, I lived through the agonies of the following seasons: 1972 (Aparicio falling down around third base to kill a rally against Mickey Lolich. The Tigers won the game, and the AL East), 1974 (Blowing a seven-game late August lead to end up in third place behind the Orioles), 1975 (The World Series, for all its color, was a frustrating event for the opportunities squandered), 1977 (All offense, no pitching), 1978 (A 1951 Dodger-like or 1964 Phillie-like collapse), 1986 (The World Series nightmare of the final inning of Game Six, and being damned certain that there was no way we'd win Game Seven), 1988 through 1991 (Two more division titles, and quick exits at the hands of Tony LaRussa's Athletics in '88 and '90, plus frustrating finishes behind the Blue Jays in '89 and '91), 1995 (Quick playoff exit at the hands of the resurgent Indians), 1998 (Same), 1999 (Same, but at the hands of the Yankees, with a little help from some shitty umpiring), and 2003 (Aaron Boone's homer off Wake) before the Miracle of 2004 happened. So the Sox went back to the usual plan in 2005 and got eliminated from the playoffs by the eventual champions, the White Sox. 2006 was a wasted year with injuries that killed the team.

How great then, was it, that the 2007 season turned out the way it did? It certainly didn't seem that it would go this way after the Yankees came roaring back from being eight games below .500 in late May to finish two games back of the Sox before getting burned by the Indians in the first round. The Sox fell into the 3-1 deficit and rebounded to win the league championship and there was, for a change, little doubt that they would beat the Rockies in the Series (though I didn't think it would be a sweep). Hats off to this team of mostly familiar faces (Papi Ortiz, Manny, Schilling, Wakefield) mixed in with newer veterans (Mike Lowell, Daisuke Matsuzaka, JD Drew, Coco Crisp, Julio Lugo), and, thank goodness, with some younger guys (Beckett, Papelbon, Youkilis, Pedroia, Ellsbury, Buchholz) that put this team in a position to remain at the top for the foreseeable future. Enjoy your parade boys!

And while we aren't on the subject, I realize I haven't posted my concert reviews for the Nightwish and H.I.M. shows of October 20th and 21st (when the Red Sox were winning games six and seven of the ALCS), so here goes:

On Saturday the 20th, Nightwish and support band, England's Paradise Lost, played in front of about 500 people at the Palladium in Worcester. Paradise Lost was plagued with equipment problems for the first three songs. There was no sound coming from the lead guitarist's amp. After straightening that out, the band recovered to play a decent set, made up mostly from songs from their recent CD "In Requiem".

Nightwish came out and blew the place away with a set mostly of material from the new CD "Dark Passion Play" and "Once". New singer Anette Olzon proved she could handle the lead mike as she belted out her parts in songs like "Bye Bye Beautiful", "Amaranth", "The Cadence of Her Last Breath", "Eva" and "Sahara" from the new CD. She also handled the stuff from "Once" fairly well as the band took us through "Nemo", "Dark Chest of Wonders" and "I Wish I Had an Angel". Bassist-vocalist Marco Hietala turned in a powerful performance in both capacities, as he shined on "The Poet and the Pendulum", "Master Passion Greed" and "The Islander" (on which he played acoustic guitar), as well as on "Bye Bye Beautiful" and "I Wish I Had an Angel".

Keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen did everything, including playing looped pieces of the orchestral parts from the songs to fill out the sound. Guitarist Emppu Vuorinen was terrific, playing slicing, biting leads and relentless riffs throughout the show. Drummer Jukka Nevalainen must have lost at least ten pounds during the set, as he never stopped hammering, except for the quiet of "The Islander". The band did reach back into the past a bit and played "Wishmaster" towards the end of the set, but that was it for the older stuff. I'd have liked to have heard them play "Dead Gardens" from "Once", or "The Carpenter" from "Angels Fall First", but since they had already done three songs from "Once", maybe they felt that was enough. And I'm sure Marco could re-work Tuomas' vocal part on the Carpenter and get out the acoustic guitar again.

Anyway, Nightwish was terrific. The band was tight, they looked like they were having fun, and have apparently dumped the "Where's Tarja?" baggage that a lot of folks expected them to be carrying. My only caveats were the above-mentioned lack of variety in the set. Maybe this is due to some of the extremely high parts Tarja sang that Anette may not be able to reproduce, or maybe its just the band's way of saying the future is now. If the latter, then I'd say that future is bright based on this show.

The next night, H.I.M. played in front of twice as many people as saw Nightwish (some of whom, like me, came back for this heaping helping of Euro-rock). I managed to get inside just as the boys took the stage (the usual parking garage I use was locked, and I had to drive two extra blocks to find something that wasn't crazy expensive, so by the time I got to the venue the queue was twice as long as it was the previous evening). Anyway, like Nightwish, H.I.M. chose to play mostly recent material. They played most of the new CD "Venus Doom". I think the only song they didn't play was "Song or Suicide". They counteracted the brutal sonic assault of songs like "Passion's Killing Floor", "Kiss of Dawn" and "Bleed Well" with lighter stuff from "Dark Light" like "Killing Loneliness" and "Rip Off the Wings of a Butterfly". Valo would go from manic, gyrations to the grinding rhythm of the heavier numbers, to statue still, almost as if he was looking at a nightmare landscape only he could see as he crooned the painful lyrics of his slower songs.

The boys also took a crack at some of the material from "Love Metal" with stuff like "Buried Alive By Love", "Soul on Fire", "The Sacrament" and "Circle of Fear". The oldest song they performed was "Pretending" from "Deep Shadows and Brilliant Highlights".

Linde was the unsung hero of the show, as his fuzzy riffs and dense leads provided a sharp contrast to Burton's surreal keyboard sounds. I have no words to describe what I heard him do. Psychedelic? Ethereal? Chaotic? Urgent? How about blending all that together and mixing it with the harshness of Linde and Mige to go with Valo's lamentations? Gas hammered away on the drums, and was better than I'd expected. He and Mige, on bass, more than held the foundation of this show together.

All in all it was quite a show. Valo is close to what I expected, as he didn't do much that I'd expect from a "traditional" metal front man (I know, "categorization", I know...), but he had the crowd in his pocket from the moment he stepped into the spotlight, and kept them there the entire show. The band was tight, and even stretched things out into some extended jams on songs like "Soul on Fire" and "Sleepwalking Past Hope". These guys have been together now for several years, and are obviously comfortable with one another. From here, the boys head west. Their tour is longer, and takes them to more places than Nightwish's tour. After having seen both bands on back-to-back nights, I'd like to say that the next time they come to this area it will be to headline the DCU Center, but since I couldn't get the ass-monkeys on the local "hard rock" station to even consider playing one cut from each artist (despite the fact that the shows were held a mere 15 minutes from where those mindless hacks broadcast), I'd say they have an uphill battle to reach the status they enjoy at home here in the US. Still, these shows give me hope!

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