Live Show Review: Wintersun — October 10th, 2018
I forget exactly when I saw the show date posted, but the option to see Wintersun perform live, in North America, is the sort of opportunity that I could not let pass me by. I bought my ticket within minutes of their going on sale, and made plans for my third trip to Montreal in the calendar year. The only supporting band announced was Sarah Longfield, who I had only recently become familiar with thanks to her YouTube collaborations with Rob Scallon. In all honesty, it didn't matter who was opening — the option to see Wintersun was worth whatever the asking price was.
As the concert date got closer and closer, I was waylaid with a slew of illnesses: a flu, viral pneumonia and a pair of ear infections all hit me in succession, and there was serious concern that my hearing wouldn't be in any state to endure a live metal show. I ended up getting lucky in that I recovered enough to make it to Montreal and attend the show, although I was nothing close to 100% healthy. Still, my enjoyment of the performances was not affected and I'll consider that one of the few instances of good luck in recent memory.
When Sarah Longfield came out at almost exactly 7:00pm, I grew somewhat concerned that this was going to be a concert that ended really early. In spite of that, my attention was completely stolen by the performance. A three-piece unit, Sarah Longfield featured its namesake on guitar, a second guitarist and a drummer. I am not sure what to classify their style as, it was a purely instrumental mix of shred metal with some jazz influences. I was not familiar with any of the material, but the show was excellent; Longfield and co. have some serious playing chops and had the attention of a nearly packed Club Soda for the entirety of their 40'ish-minute-long set. I'm really curious to hear the group put out some recorded material after this show.
Bandcamp link: sarahshreds.bandcamp.com
Next was a surprise — at least to me — as a second band, Ne Obliviscaris took the stage. In addition to assuaging my fears of a short concert, the band put on an incredible performance. A six-piece melodic tech death unit, Ne Obliviscaris featured two vocalists, one handling death and black metal growls while the other provided clean vocals and played the violin on a number of songs. The band had an incredible stage energy, and the crowd was really into their act. Despite not knowing anything about the band prior to this — including that they existed and would be opening for Wintersun — they left a really strong impression on me. Their live show was smooth and incredibly dynamic, I'm going to enjoy researching their recorded material in the coming weeks.
Bandcamp link: neobliviscaris.bandcamp.com
Finally, we got to the main reason everyone came. A sold out show, a packed house, there was a special vibe in the air. I've been to a lot of shows in Montreal, and the crowds are always way better — both in terms of size and overall enthusiasm — than anything I've experienced in Ottawa, but this show was special above and beyond the norm. Wintersun were unfortunately lacking one of their guitar players, due to Canadian visa delays, but this didn't detract from the show at all. In fact, there was only a single, brief moment during the show where it was obvious they were using a backing track. The rest of the time, the band's stage presence and engagement with the crowd made the situation moot and unnoticeable.
I was incredibly impressed with the band's live performances, and the venue's sound was excellent. Wintersun further impressed me by playing a 2-hour-long set, including material from each of their 3 studio albums and even debuting a new, as-yet-untitled song. The band whipped the crowd up into a frenzy on multiple occasions and managed to get a number of sing-alongs going during the older material such as "Starchild" and "Time." I was absolutely elated throughout the whole performance and the band and audience seemed to really be feeding off each other. There was someone filming the whole band on stage, so I suspect portions of this show may end up on a live DVD in the near future.
After playing one of the best sets I've ever heard in my concert-going life, the show unfortunately had to end. Wintersun have issued 3 incredible studio albums, and I did have fairly high expectations for their live show. Still, nothing could have prepared me for the energy and pure, unadulterated fun I had seeing them perform live. I cannot recommend seeing Wintersun strongly enough — if ever you have the chance to do so. I'm so thankful I got to see the band in a packed, small venue, as I'd long ago assumed I'd never see them due to my aversion to festivals. The opening acts were phenomenal in their own respects, making for one of the best concerts of my life. Knowing what I could have missed due to all of my various ailments makes me even more appreciative that I was able to recover in time to make it to this show.
Bandcamp link: wintersun.bandcamp.com
Published: October 13th, 2018.