Saturday, May 24, 2008

Mathias Nygård is the Finnish Dio

Afterwards, I felt a little bad for Ensiferum. Here they were, headlining one of the most consistently excellent shows (opener to closer) I've seen in a long time, and they weren't even close to the best thing I'd seen all night. They weren't dogging things, either, but after Tyr, Eluveitie, and Turisas all worked the crowd into a hopping, dancing, bashing frenzy for some three hours straight, the headliners needed something a little extra - something they didn't quite have - to really push their show over the top.

Not that I'm complaining: Ensiferum's "not quite good enough" still really rocked. But I think the band's problem stems from something they lack; something the other bands, especially Eluveitie and Turisas, had in spades (or maybe spade?): a really strong front man. Petri Lindroos started to get the idea by the end of the set, but either he lacks the charisma or the experience - which seems a little surprising for a guy who's been a professional musician for at least six years - to know how to get a room packed full of people to really move.

Mathias "Warlord" Nygård is another story. The Turisas founder/singer/producer/genius not only has the goods behind the mixing board, but on stage as well. I might mention that I bought the ticket for this folk metal festival specifically to see Turisas, so I had some high expectations; expectations that grew exponentially when I learned the band had decided to include "In The Court of Jarisleif" on their set list, as I was looking forward to celebrating the madness of drinking metal. Of course, they delivered - or I wouldn't be writing about them in such glowing terms - but none of them would have been met without Warlord's masterly approach. About halfway through the set - around when he divided the crowd in half to do some competitive singing - I realized who he reminded me ofy: the great Ronnie James Dio. Not in singing style, or singing ability, because the combination of the crappy BB King's acoustics and his own reticence made half of the singing inaudible, but in sheer showmanship ability: the man just knows how to run crowds. He mentioned at one point that Paganfest was their first US tour, but if they generated that kind of energy every night (and drew the same capacity crowds) I have no doubt they'll be back for more.

One final item of note: As a part of the frenetic pacing of "Jarisleif," I was looking forward to seeing this man rock the accordion solo, but he decided he was going to disappear into the wilds of Amsterdam a few months ago, so Turisas hired Netta Skog, who looks a lot like Elizabeth Röhm, as a stand in. She played the parts perfectly, so the hiring was a good choice, but either a.) she found the spectacle of a few hundred idiots hurling themselves into each other really funny, b.) she was having a really good time, or c.) someone told her you need to look happy on stage, because she had a big grin on under her warpaint the entire time. Looking happy while you're playing is so unmetal.

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