28.5.2013 Helsinki FIN
It´s a pity that such a historic moment happened on a Tuesday evening and even pretty early for Finland… the Russian Band ARIA played their first gig ever in the Finnish capital – although those guys have been around for 30 (!) years and usually play in stadiums in their home country… unfortunately it seems still a bit difficult to get hold of physical copies, but there should be plenty of ARIA downloads and Youtube videos – which I would like to recommend here, until the question about the distribution of ARIA stuff is solved…
Thanks to Russian friends who got me some “souvenirs”, I even own 2 vinyls of this band (Герой асфальта “Hero Of A Speedway” and Игра с Огнем “Playing With Fire”) – therefore I was pretty curious what´s going to happen on stage. Even in their early years ARIA raised attention with high quality music and could have been a tough competition for Western NWOBHM acts. Unfortunately this band has never really made it across the border, and in the press conference they mentioned that back then this aspect did not seem really important to them.
Therefore I could only watch the last songs of the support band Dreamtale and cannot say much about their show – moreover, it was the first time ever I heard of those guys… Still, wow, when front man Erkki Seppänen was still bursting with energy towards the end of their set, I´d probably had no chance to capture a photo of him when they had started… Those last 3 songs I´d label pure Power Metal, reminding me a lot of Helloween with Kiske; first because of Erkki´s voice, and there were also some parts of “Angel of Light” that triggered “Future World” in my memory. The last seemed to be the hit song of the band, because many sang along with “Where The Rainbow Ends”.
Until then the Tuesday crowd had behaved in a typical way – the die-hard fans in front of the stage, a huge gap and the rest rather laid-back, rather sitting than standing, in silent appreciation. This was about to change drastically with ARIA. Good for the band, not that great for somebody who tries to make photos… let me put it this way, during the Aria gig you had plenty of seats to choose from, anywhere in the venue. The Aria-chanting began way before the gig was due, and when Mikhail Zhitnyakov (voc), the guitarists Vladimir Kholstinin and Sergey Popov, Vitaly Dubinin (b) and drummer Maxim Udalkov entered the stage punctually at 22:30h, the audience simply went nuts.
As I don´t speak Russian and also cannot read Cyrillic letters (that´s why I simply provide a photo of the set list below), I try to describe what it sounded and looked like to me. Which means, when I mention bands as comparison, I don´t want to say that ARIA are copying them…
Well, one comparison I already made when listening to the albums was with Iron Maiden – meaning the complex and variable song material and an excellent singer. Yet ARIA rather go Power Metal. Another band might be Accept – the sound and the show, when the string trio is rocking synchronised… and there is good old Hardrock and powerful ballads, but no Kitsch like those notorious Power Ballads for radio stations, more like ballads of a “Child In Time” quality. Besides Deep Purple I also had to think of the Scorpions, or Saxon, especially when the guys rocked off a bit heavier – yet they always remained in the melodious emotional and passionate music world and never turned to Speed/Thrash.
The reason why I also had to think of Status Quo was less the music and rather the behaviour of Vladimir Holstinin – the laid-back “controlling-it-all”-mastermind who leaves the action part to the others. Naturally it was mainly the likeable charismatic front man Mikhail, whose voice was excellent throughout the show and who impressed with a few words in Finnish (“Kiitos” – thank you).
As the Russians had also brought their own light person, the 2h (!!!) program + 2 encores impressed also with fabulous effects. But I assume that the fans at Virgin Oil might have reacted the same way if the band had just brought a few candles… everybody seemed to know every bridge, the exact words and the exact time when to sing / shout them, and the audience kept the enthusiasm high until the very last tone – this is indeed a rare incident for Helsinki. It was obvious, too, that the band enjoyed playing, even Maxim could be seen smiling behind his toms pretty much throughout the gig. 30 years in the biz and still so hungry and fresh – well, that´s something other bands should try, too…
What else to say that it was a great show with lots of ear candy, flawless and no weak songs or “holes”, the spirits were high throughout the gig – and time flew by. It didn´t really matter to me that I could not understand a word – well, it did, when I felt like shouting along, too… More of ARIA, please! If I was a festival promoter, I´d book those guys without hesitation!
There is plenty of videos @ the band´s YouTube Channel: