So everyone already knows how long I've been looking forward to this show---since last year, when I saw them last! I tell you, once you get a Strato show in your veins, it is like a drug---as many years as I went without ever seeing Strato live, I used to think that once I saw them live that I would be satiated and that would be enough. Wrong! Once I saw Strato, I wanted to see them twice. Then again, and again. Very addictive. I could see this band a thousand times and NEVER get tired. They could do the same setlist night after night during these thousand times, and I would STILL never get bored!
Needless to say, when I found out that Strato would be playing again the night before my birthday, no one needed to ask what my plans would be or what I wanted as a gift.
I have to tell you, my 27th year of life has been a great one. I started out the year with Strato, and I was lucky enough to end it with them. My final night as a 27-year-old would be memorable, indeed. This show, like the ones last year, were my birthday presents to myself, and honestly, I would not mind if this were to become an annual tradition.
Anyway, on to the details...
Today started off as normally as any other, except that I knew by the end of the night I would have my world rocked by Strato once again. My friend who went with me to the gigs last year agreed to go with me to this one as well. I was glad, because one of the things that sucks about not being able to drive, is always having to look for a companion willing to go with you to gigs. So she picked me up at 5:30 and we were on our way.
Traffic was a b*tch! Welcome back to L.A. Even though I was staying only about 30 minutes from the venue, we didn't get there until 7:20! Talk about standstill traffic!
Once the House of Blues was within my sight, I was really psyched. My friend had her car taken by valet while I tried to figure out why my wheelchair was disassembled in many different pieces. Usually it is easy for me to put back together, but when you have an attendant trying to help you that does not speak English, it is hard to explain to him that this piece does not go there, etc. So after what seemed an endless struggle to put it back together, we made our way to the door and to Strato.
When we got inside, another attendant (thankfully, one that spoke English) offered to guide us to where we needed to go. I noticed the merchandise booth nearby and asked if I could buy a shirt before we went upstairs to the balcony area. He said yes, and told us to meet him by the stairs when we were ready.
So we get to the merchandise booth, and who do I see there but Burning Reflection?! Yay! He had saved a place in line for me like he had promised, but as we barely showed up a few minutes before, there had been no need for him to do it. But it was still nice of him anyway. So while I was buying a shirt, the attendant came back and told my friend that he would be unable to get us up to the balcony, so if it was OK, could he put us near the front instead? Would it be OK with me? It wouldn't have been if the only other alternative would have been sitting on the stage!
After that, I invited Burning Reflection to join us at a good spot near the stage. He walked with us there but afterwards left to socialize with other folks. So my friend and I waited a little while before the opening act came on at about 8:30.
The opening act was a band called Point Zero, and I only remember two things about them: the singer looked like Bam Margera, and they really sucked. Onward.
After the sh*tty opening act, the crowd was really pumped for Strato. People started shaking their fists in the air and chanting "Stratovarius!" repeatedly. This only intensified when behind the curtain, we could hear the techs fiddling with the equipment. Even though it was only about 25-30 minutes between the two sets, it felt like a lifetime, and every moment closer only heightened the anticipation.
Finally, just when it seemed like Strato would never come onstage, the lights dimmed, the curtain went up, and...game on!
I swear, this show was f*ckin' amazing. From beginning to end, it never let up. Everyone was spot on, every song as intense as the last one. When they did "The Abyss of Your Eyes" about 3 or 4 songs in the set, I swear if I had died right then I would have been buried a happy woman. That is my favorite Strato song and I could not have asked for a better birthday present. (Then right after that, they went straight into "Phoenix", which is my boyfriend's favorite song---even though he could not be with me this night, I rocked out extra hard for him.)Hunting High & Low
Kiss of Judas
The Abyss of Your Eyes
Speed of Light
A Million Light Years Away
Will My Soul Ever Rest In Peace
Another highlight for me was "Will my Soul Ever Rest in Peace?". That's another one of my favorites, and the performance was so heartfelt that if anyone was not moved by it, then they have a heart made of stone. "Visions" was also another special treat, as well as "S.O.S.". There was no Lauri bass solo, but if that's the only "disappointment" of the show, it's a minor one at that. Really, the entire show was a highlight. Every single song was a joy to hear, and while I knew which ones they were going to do, it's something entirely different when you get to hear them for yourself and not have to read a review about it. I must have looked like a f*cking idiot, as much as I smiled and felt happy throughout the show. I know it's not very metal to smile much or make like things make you happy, but I don't give a sh*t. It's also very metal not to give a sh*t what others think.
Everyone in the band looked great; at the end of the moving songs, Tolkki would put his hand to his heart, almost as if he were feeling the intensity as well (which he probably was). Timo K. was amazing vocally as well. He also pointed at me a couple of times, I think he remembered me from last year's shows. Awesome. Lauri came to our side of the stage quite a bit (we were on Tolkki's side of the stage---once again I'm standing right in front of him!), that was fun.
Then at the end of the show, the band comes out to throw picks and drumsticks, etc. Jorg's drumstick flew right over my head, so I sort of ducked because I knew it was going too far for me to catch it, but not far enough to where it might not stop from clocking me in the head. Meanwhile, Jens and Jorg had a nice little belching contest, which was hilarious. I mean, aren't these the reasons why Strato shows are a necessity in life?
So when the show ended, it was barely past 11. This was another minor "disappointment", because they had only started at 9:30, and honestly, I felt I could go another hour!
A few minutes later, we decide to go outside to get the car and get some fresh air. I run into Burning again and we say our goodbyes. He tells me that the band is probably going to be coming out to sign stuff. I would LOVE to stay, so I ask my friend if she would like to hang out a while. She sadly informs me that she has to get up early tomorrow morning (you know, suck-ass real life things like work!), and we probably should be heading home. I'm a little---no, a LOT---bummed by this, but as she's the driver, what can I do? This is another disadvantage to not being able to drive---I'm always at the mercy of someone else's schedule and whatever I may want to do is secondary. So we said goodbye to Burning, and headed home.
You know, I wish this review was longer and more detailed, but really..."What Can I Say" that hasn't been said before? As much as I could write, there are no words to express what a Strato show is like and how great it is. All I can say is, be warned...if you have never been to a Strato show, be prepared for the fact that one is not enough. You will want more. And even while they are still playing, you still want more. I don't think anyone objected when Timo K. asked the crowd several times during the show if they wanted to hear more. I don't think anyone left that show immune from being a Strato junkie. I know I sure as f*ck am not!
And of course, when the show ended, Timo K. said they would be back soon, "whenever that is". Let me tell you, even if it was tomorrow, it's not soon enough for me!