LIVE REVIEW : AMORPHIS + SWALLOW THE SUN
Rickshaw Theatre | Vancouver, BC
April 3, 2017
The sun was shining on Vancouver for the first time in what seemed like a decade on the 3rd of April. After a birthday weekend full of wrestling highs and lows in the excellent company of good friends, there was only one acceptable way to put an end to the last celebration of my twenties: going to see Finnish legends Amorphis’ first ever show in the rainy city, live at the infamous Rickshaw Theatre.
We unfortunately got to the venue fashionably late after hurrying there once we realized that time had eclipsed by us while we were at the Storm Crow Alehouse, and we therefore missed The Waning Light, the first band to play that night. In typical Vancouver fashion, the crowd was scattered throughout the medium-sized room so, though we arrived over an hour after the doors opened, I was still able to weasel my way to the front row, my rightful place, while Sagan stood to the side with my camera in hand to make her first attempt at concert photography.
The local opener that we did get to catch was Gross Misconduct, a death metal quartet with thrash and prog elements that make their sound truly unique. It wasn’t my first time seeing them as they also served Carach Angren and Kataklysm well in October of 2016, but the larger stage of the Rickshaw did wonders for their stage presence. With more room to breathe and move, the members who weren't confined behind the microphone were a lot more energetic than the last time I saw them and proved that they were worthy of sharing a stage with such a notorious act as Amorphis. Unlike many local acts before them, Gross Misconduct were a perfect fit for the international bands to follow and they left the stage with many new converts.
Next up were the Finnish horsemen of the apocalypse, Swallow the Sun. The doom musicians sounded exactly like what you would expect from a band hailing from a city that gets less than 8 hours of daylight 6 months out of the year; they were gloomy and heavy, melancholic and though their music was a tad too depressing for my bubble gum personality, Swallow the Sun’s sound was as tight and precise as can be, especially when they played the lugubrious song “Heartstrings Shattering.” Through their dark lights and clothes, they did play a visually stunning set and, while their music is not exactly something I would listen to unless I was in a particularly crummy mood, the artistry and the rawness of their performance made them a real delight to watch.
After Swallow the Sun left the stage, the crowd’s energy shifted. The hundreds of patrons who had filled the Rickshaw on a Monday night became excited and restless, looking forward to the next Finnish band getting on stage more and more. As the lights went down and drummer Jan Rechberger took his rightful place behind the drums, the crowd cheered deafeningly. One by one, the members of Amorphis walked in front of a horde of fans to a smattering of applause before the first notes of “Under the Red Cloud” echoed in the room.
There was a moment of doubt from the crowd, a moment where every person in attendance held their collective breaths, as if none could believe that Amorphis was there, in the flesh, at long last in our beloved city, in our sacred venue. Years of anticipation culminating to that one moment: Tomi Joutsen hoisting his steampunk microphone high up to sing his first few words. Like the voice of the Finn was all the convincing the Vancouver faithfuls needed to believe that the mysterious band had finally made it to them, the entire room collectively exhaled, relieved.
From that moment on, the night was pure, unbridled metal fun. Playing a mix of old and new songs to please everyone, there was not a moment where Amorphis didn't thoroughly impress. A heavy rainfall of crowd surfers plagued the photographers in the photo pit by the third song, leaving them to scatter to safety and allowing the more adventurous Vancouverites to tempt fate and crowd surf with gusto. Though there was only one security guard to catch them, none fell to their death.
From the constant downpour of crowd surfers and the relentless moshing, it was clear that the crowd was enjoying what Amorphis was offering, and there was no reason not to. With songs like “Sampo,” “Silver Bride,” “Bad Blood,” and “On Rich and Poor,” the setlist was exquisite and the obvious felicity with which the entire ensemble played was contagious, the spectators grinning from ear to ear between hair tornadoes to show their appreciation.
To me, Amorphis is like that person from high school who was friends with some of your friends but to whom you never really talked until your 10-year reunion where you spent the evening with them and realized how great they were. I was never really into Amorphis until my friend Gaby yapped about how great she found them. Her enthusiasm got me curious, leaving me to revisit some old Amorphis classics and getting hooked. So as the band played “My Kantele,” the song that actually led me to listen to more and more of Amorphis’ work, I felt a tinge of sadness.
The song was played to perfection, with an amount of elation and excellence that is rarely seen towards the end of a show, and all I could think about was all the times I missed out on Amorphis. I was on two cruises with Amorphis and missed out on four opportunities to rock out with the paragon of Finnish melodic-death metal. The sinking feeling in my chest brought on by the crushing weight of my regrets was replicated as the band played “Black Winter Day,” their last song of the night.
Though April 3rd was anything but a black winter day, the end of Amorphis’ performance cast a grey cloud over the city. For over an hour, the Finns rocked Vancouver’s socks off, only to leave us Amorphisless once again. It rained for days following their departure, the city weeping at the memories of a Monday night to remember, courtesy of Swallow the Sun, Amorphis, and their opening acts.
Gentlemen, thanks for the birthday show and the bangover.
Photography by WITCH HANDS for Bangover.net