Van Canto – fzw, Dortmund; April 13th, 2014
So what does it take to get me to go to a Metal concert? The answer is simple and the same as for all other concerts I go to: good music! One of my colleagues had been telling me about his favorite band, Van Canto, for quite some time before I finally asked him to send me a link and gave them a listen. I liked what I heard and found the concept of Metal A Cappella rather intriguing. How many other Metal bands do you know, who sing all the instruments except for the drums? Right, same here. When I heard they would play in Dortmund I knew I wanted to check them out. I did and what I saw and especially heard left me much impressed and happy. Wow, they really do this well!
Despite a large crowd of people when the doors opened, everything went surprisingly peaceful – no pushing or shoving, just everyone walking in, taking their time. I wish it were always like that. Having a photo job that night I had access to the “trench” between audience and stage, but of course I could not stay there the entire time. Three songs for each band and out you go. After that, I stayed on the sidelines. When you only have three songs all you do is concentrate on taking pictures without noticing much else, but once your work is done you get to enjoy the concert.
The first band of the night was Winterstorm, a German Power Metal band. Their songs were melodic and they rocked. I liked them and so did the rest of the audience, going along with the music. As the second song they surprisingly played Van Canto’s current single ‘Badaboom’ which made the fans happy. Once the song was over they joked they had looked at the wrong setlist and called Stef of Van Canto for help. The whole band appeared, thanking them for “the first cover of one of their songs with real instruments”. They proceeded to rename “Winterstorm” to “Winterdienst” complete with a banner and reflective vests for everyone. When they were done they played a song together and showered Winterstom in artificial snow before they left the stage. It was all good fun and last show of the tour craziness. The jokes would continue over the course of the evening.
The band got to play 5 more songs, about 45 minutes in total and they were even allowed an encore. The audience called them back to the stage chanting “Winterdienst! Winterdienst!” 😀 It was a great start and the perfect warm up for what was about to come. I love it when a support act actually fits. Most people in the room were already into it and rocking along with the music at that point in time. I would learn later that this was nowhere near as loud and enthusiastic as they were able to get.
Into the Light
Kings will fall
Orden Ogan, also a German Power Metal band, were the second act of the night. Their approach to interacting with the audience was a little different from Winterstorms – a bit more in the face, telling us right away that the 125 people in the last city were loud and that 1000 people here should be louder. They joked about usually being “the only pussies on the bill” and asked the audience to respond to “Hello audience” with “Fuck you, Pussy!” – it worked quite well. As the second support act, their job was to keep the audience going and they did it well. When the singer yelled “Hamburg” at one point, he got a nice set of “boos” and had to redeem himself immediately. It was quite funny and the good thing was that this band did not take themselves seriously. The music was good too. I liked it, but it did not stick out to me as anything special. Very listenable though.
sorry, no idea
A second break followed for resetting the stage or rather clearing it of everything but a drum kit. I passed the time by having a nice chat with a fellow photographer who happened to know Poets of the Fall but didn’t know they had played at Batschkap in Frankfurt last year. And no, I do not mention POTF at every conversation I am having. 😉
The lights went down and to the sound of ‘Dawn of the Brave’ Van Canto walked on stage. At first it felt a little strange to see them only carry microphones and not see all the usual amps, effects and other technical toys on stage. The usual tangle of cables and such was just not there. The drum kit was on a riser in the back, which left the entire front of stage area for the five singers to walk around. On the drums was painted “rakkatakka” and “badaboom” which would play a role later on. Even long before the show and a few time since, shouts of “rakkatakka – motherfucker” could be heard from the audience. “Rakkatakka” is how they refer to the singing of instruments. The battle cry evolved from that.
I found it fascinating to watch them move and hear them sing. There was a lot of running back and forth and jumping up and down going on. The whole time they were communicating with the audience too – looks, gestures, asking them to clap. It was impossible not to be drawn in by this. The fans were from the first moment and I’m sure anyone in the place who was not a fan must have loved this by the time it was over. ‘Badaboom’ was the third song – the audience had already practiced singing along to that one and did it again now. Nightwish’s ‘Wishmaster’ was the first cover of the night. Certainly not an easy song to sing, but performed perfectly well. During the song “WInterdienst” was back on stage, sweeping it with brooms. Instantly I was transported back to a night in Essen almost a year before where I had seen magic happen, sang my heart out and laughed until my belly hurt with Pain of Salvation, Anneke van Giersbergen and Árstíðir. This was not the time to dwell on memories though – what was happening right before my eyes was way too good to miss.
The sound was really impressive – loud and clear, there was no wrong note to be heard. Songs varied between newer and older, cover versions and their own material. Everything from the singing to the drumming was just right and everyone was perfectly in tune with each other. It was pure joy just to listen and even more fun to watch them moving across stage and interacting with the audience. The response was unbelievable. People sang along, clapped along, cheered, headbanged, danced and were generally just having a good time. When drummer Basti did a call and response of “rakkatakka” and “badaboom” with them thy answered loudly and went along on cue with everything else too. As opposed to many audiences I have seen lately, these people did not hold their cameras or mobile phones up in the air to film everything. Instead, they had their hands up and enjoyed being in the moment and I’m not talking about the first few rows either. From front to back, people were involved and obviously happy to be there, all the way up to the balcony.
More funny moments happened during the show too with Winterstorm’s singer Alexander singing together with Sly for ‘Steelbreaker’, both wearing the same outfit or later, during ‘The other ones’, when two members of Winterstorm walked across stage dressed in towels and brushing their teeth. I think it was Ross who tried unsuccessfully to pull the towels away. It was clear that these bands had had a lot of fun touring together and enjoyed this last gig a lot. Needless to say everyone in the audience loved it, me included. After the main set they were called back for two encores before they said a final goodbye, thanked the fans, the supporting bands and the crew and took a picture with the audience in the back. At the very end of the show Basti threw drumsticks and signed drum heads into the audience and Sly stage dived before he went backstage.
Just before they had come back out for the encores I overheard someone say that he had come for Winterstorm, but thought that Van Canto were absolutely incredible. Right on! They were incredible indeed. Concerts like these are the reason why I will never stop checking out bands I’ve never seen before – sure, many of them may be average, but once in a while there is a real gem to discover and these are the concerts that make it all worthwhile. 😀
Dawn of the Brave
Fight for your Life
To sing a Metal Song
The other ones
One to Ten
The Mission / Master of Puppets
If I die in Battle
Fear of the Dark
With a happy smile on my face I walked out of the venue, stopping at the merch stand to get a CD. “Awesome concert!” I told the sales lady, “it was my first time seeing them, but I will come back for sure!” – at this point I had already added Van Canto on my long list of bands to go and see every tour if possible.