After three weeks of touring across Europe, Pain of Salvation arrived in Essen last Sunday, bringing along an original 70s living room as stage decoration, accompanied by Anneke van Giersbergen and Árstíðir. They invited us to an evening with friends and acoustic music and I already guessed that this would be something special. I admit this last concert of the tour made me feel a bit melancholic, as the bands had grown close to my heart over the past weeks and 6 gigs. As it happens there was not a dry eye in the house this evening – I have hardly ever laughed so much at any concert!
In the beginning Pain of Salvation´s singer Daniel Gildenlöw switched on the lights and explained in a few words what we were in for this evening. A journey through time, unraveling memories until – just like for people with dementia – only the essence of our core remains. The doorbell rang and in came Árstíðir, sat down and sang “Road Salt” together with Daniel.
Afterwards the Icelanders were alone with the audience and put their spell on us with dreamy melodies. They seemed to effortlessly master their instruments, and each and every one of them can really sing, no matter if lead vocal or harmonies. Resisting the magic of Árstíðir´s music proved to be difficult and at the latest with the choir song “Þér ég unni” they had won over the audience.
The fun began when they asked Anneke van Giersbergen to join them on stage and Gustaf Hielm from Pain of Salvation appeared instead. He had turned his T-shirt into a belly top, stepped up to the mic and spoke with a high voice. Shortly after that, Anneke took his place at the bass. Laughing, they switched places and treated us to Anathema´s “Everwake”. The powerful “Shades” and the quiet “Tárin” ended Árstíðir´s set, before they left the stage to great cheers. I´m sure I was not the only person there who would have loved to hear more.
Anneke van Giersbergen stayed and praised the Icelanders before she started her set with The Gathering´s song “My Electricity”. Her beautiful voice, only accompanied by her guitar playing, invited me to dream on . Before the main act of the night she allowed us to take a break, take a deep breath and just listen. She did not stay alone for long, but asked Karl James Pestka and Hallgrímur Jónas Jensson of Árstíðir back on stage for “4 Years”. For the Cindy Lauper cover “Time after Time” Daníel Auðunsson, Gunnar Már Jakobsson and Jón Elísson joined her. Who expected quietly listening to a soft ballad, was in for something different: During the song, all the other musicians hijacked the stage and started sweeping it with brooms. Our collective laugher made it difficult to keep singing.
Things calmed down again, it was time to listen and enjoy. The music was received well by the audience, the atmosphere was great and for the Doly Parton cover “Jolene” most people even sang along. At the end of her wonderful set, Anneke received much applause. I would have loved to hear more of her songs as well.
Pain of Salvation, the headliners of the night, started softly with the new song “Falling home”, moved into the past from there and became louder on the way. I can´t really claim to have any knowledge of the band´s discography, but everything they played that night was great. The perfect mixture of different songs to leave me and the rest of the audience in awe, all of this played in a relaxed living room atmosphere.
Before this tour I had associated an acoustic concert mostly with guitars and maybe a bass, but I quickly learned that a piano and drums have a place there as well. It was not to my disadvantage that I didn´t know Pain of Salvation beforehand and was surprised many times. No matter what they played, the Swedes were simply brilliant. One of the most memorable songs for me was the haunting “Ashes” – I´m still lost for words. This was not the only highlight of the evening, though. No matter if they were playing cover songs like Dio´s “Holy Diver” or their own like “To the Shoreline” or “Spitfall”, gitarrist Roger Öjersson, bass player Gustaf Hielm, pianist Daniel Karlsson and drummer Léo Margarit always hit the right notes. And the fact that Daniel Gildenlöw is an exceptional singer does not really need to be pointed out.
Of course they had guests on stage too, sometimes they announced their appearance by ringing the doorbell and sometimes they did not. For Kris Jristofferson´s song “Help me make it through the night” Anneke and Daniel sat comfortably on the couch at the back of the stage and it could have been quite romantic, if not for Ragnar Ólafson of Árstíðir who suddenly appeared on stage with a blonde wig as an extra singer. Kudos to those three for finishing the song without laughing. Later, for “Second Love” Gunnar Már Jakobsson was tossing and turning on the couch in his pajamas, because he just could not sleep any more.
There was much reason to laugh through “Disco Queen” as well where everyone who was not playing or singing the song, was dancing in the background in all sorts of costumes. Despite all these pranks, the music was not forgotten. Quite the contrary, it became unforgettable. During the softer songs, people listened, for the faster ones, they were singing and dancing along. The living room was rocking as well as the audience.
The encores started with the best version of Kansas´ “Dust in the Wind” that I´ve ever heard. For “Chain Sling” they pulled out all stops and with the last song “1979” there was a huge party on stage as well as in the crowd. The concert ended with thank yous to everyone involved and musicians hugging each other. It was clear that the people who had come together for this tour really liked each other, and for all of them it was time to say goodbye now. I consider myself lucky to have been part of this experience.