“New York Fucking City” is typically a special stop on a metal band’s tour, for many reasons. Besides its obvious esteem and a population of fans much larger than elsewhere along a typical North American tour route, it often makes financial sense as the starting of ending point, connecting bands back to their far-flung home cities.
Monday, October 14 at the PlayStation Theater in Times Square was abuzz for this very reason, as folk-metal co-headliners Eluveitie and Korpiklaani, joined by opener Gone in April, punctuated their Wanderers Toward Rebirth Tour. All three bands were sentimental when addressing the crowd, and lay their musical wares on stage, sparing no ounce of energy. It was also the second-to-last metal show in the venue, which is scheduled to close at the end of 2019.
Montreal’s Gone in April was up first, with an operatic version of melodic death metal that dovetailed nicely into the evening’s lineup. The venue was sparsely populated, but blue-haired frontwoman and fiddler Julie Bélanger Roy did her best to warm up the audience, with a fair number of raised fists to her credit. The harsh vocals of male singer Aaron Rogers were delivered via backing track, but Steve DiGiorgio (bass), Yanic Bercier (drums), and Marc-André Gingras (guitars) accompanied Roy on stage. The troupe released their most recent album, Shards of Light, in September 2019.
The noticeable diversity and inclusivity among folk-metal fans was a boon to this show’s atmosphere. You want to make friends with someone dressed as though they’re on their way to a Renaissance festival? How about a Viking? Fans of different nationalities, genders, and tastes in metal? Some of each gathered on nights like this one to raise beers and expend positive energy, both towards the band and in a constantly-rotating mosh pit.
The set décor gave away which headliner would take the stage first; a Finnish backdrop of a field with an antler-clad shack, ostensibly containing a sauna, accompanied Korpiklaani drummer Matson’s drum set, raised on logs. It was an atypical night of the week for such a large tour to pass through New York, but in this case it was a public holiday, which meant that plenty of fans stopped by, although the room didn’t sell out.
Korpiklaani began with a few upbeat songs, one of which was “Land of a Thousand Drinks”, a play on Finland’s well-known nickname as the “Land of a Thousand Lakes”. Singer Jonne Järvelä and company then delighted the audience with “A Man with a Plan”, a song of beer-hall-esque, dance-inducing qualities. Jarkko Aaltonen’s solid bass tone complemented Sami Perttula’s unrelenting accordion, and the latter spun himself dizzy on stage while the audience formed a circle pit.
Järvelä bounced around the stage, flinging his dreadlocks around to “Happy Little Boozer”, matching the fans’ exuberance, reminiscent of an Alestorm or Trollfest show. Perttula and fiddler Tuomas Rounakari chased each other, grinning as many audience members held up their beers into the festive atmosphere. Most of the set was not particularly hard, but “Kallon malja” reminded us that we were a metal show, rife with growling vocals and guitarist Cane’s riffs. Järvelä even accomplished the impossible, coaching the crowd to successfully clap on the upbeat.
The pace calmed down with “Harmaja”, when Järvelä picked up a guitar and serenaded the crowd in hushed Finnish, along with Rounakari’s fiddle solo, that sold the song’s emotion and drew cheers from the audience. A few fans even recited the Finnish lyrics, and the song temporarily transported the room to Oulu; no, Kokkola; no, Tampere- well, one of the many cities that Korpiklaani cites as a hometown.
The end-of-tour spark was alight in “Kotikonnut”, and the band let loose on “Beer Beer”, punting cans of beer into the crowd. An unknown person in a shark costume delivered more, and Järvelä called for a stronger drink, leading the band into “Vodka”, then wrapping up the set. Final thoughts: can we give these guys a public holiday, just so we can celebrate this hard at the same time every year? First round’s on them.
Eluveite wasted no time kicking things off with “Ategnatos”, the title track from their 16-song LP released in April on Nuclear Blast. With nine people (or more with guests- keep reading!) on stage at varying points, it was more of an event than just a band, giving the audience numerous talents and instruments to behold. Holding a bevy of instruments, from harp to pipes to hurdy-gurdy, each musician occupied their own plot of land, but formed a cohesive unit.
In an era where it is increasingly popular and efficient to bring in backing tracks, there is something unique about having this many performers on stage. Eluveitie has experienced significant lineup changes in recent years, with several members departing to form the progressive folk group Cellar Darling. At this show, however, the current lineup gelled as if they’d been performing together since the beginning. Additional songs they performed from the latest release included “Abiramus”, “The Slumber”, “Worship”, and “Breathe”. Eluveitie sang both in English and their native Swiss language, at one point offering the audience a choice- although the crowd cheered for both.
“Deathwalker” was a heavier fan favorite, and dripped emotion with dreadlocked frontman Chrigel Glanzmann uttering both deep growls and high shrieks. The ethereal Fabienne Erni looked above the crowd as she sang, and utilizing the different platform levels of the stage, it appeared almost as if she had floated. The sound in the room was balanced and gave each layer its own opportunity to shine; but as a result, one drawback was that phone screens of eager concertgoers were alight for the duration of the performance.
Evocation II: Pantheon’s “Epona” was another highlight of the set, with Matteo Sisti creating numerous different sounds through his pipes, sharing them with the ever-rambunctious audience. Glanzmann later thanked the crowd for “listening to us tell our pagan stories”, and concluded the tour with an encore of “Rebirth” and “Inis Mona”, with the band and fans both not quite ready to go home.
Eluveitie will be touring across Europe for the duration of 2019, including a stop at Tavastia in Helsinki on December 19.