Sonata Arctica Plays One Of The Final Shows at Mill City Nights


Photos by David Rubene


My Uber dropped me off at the Mill City Nights a few minutes after 8:00 pm on Tuesday night. To my surprise there was already quite a line outside Mill City Nights, a venue that’s become somewhat of a staple in the local music scene but will unfortunately be closing it’s doors next week. I squeezed my way instead to meet up Twin Cities Media’s own David Rubene and snag a decent spot before the show started.

Perhaps it was the fact that tonight’s show was one of the last SwordLord shows that would grace this venue that contributed to the palpable energy in the air. Or maybe it was the fact the Twin Cities was in the midst of its first substantial snow falls of the season, and Minnesotans always seem a little extra giddy (or anxious) when the first snow of the season starts to fall. Whatever it was, the cold, snowy night Tuesday night in Downtown Minneapolis was the perfect backdrop for the Sonata Arctica show.

There were three bands that took to the stage tonight in Minneapolis – Omninum Gatherum, Leaves Eyes,and Sonata Arctica. Each of these bands hail from Finland so they are no strangers to the cold and snow, so I like to think they felt right at home tonight in Minneapolis.

The first band took to the stage shortly after 8:15 pm. As someone fairly new this scene, I realized I wasn’t sure who this first band was. I looked around and leaned over to a couple and asked who was on stage first. The girlfriend told me it was Omnium Gatherum (I guess the giant banner hanging on stage should have been my clue). Her smile and pleasantries were not exactly what I was expecting from this crowd. But we exchanged some small talk and all settled into our place in the crowd for the show. I leaned back against the wall and was impressed with the energy that Omnium Gatherum took to the stage with. The six piece melodic death metal came out at full speed – long blonde hair swinging and banging along to every beat on their 45 minute set. Omnium Gatherum played to the crowd with the intensity of a headlining act, not an opener and the crowd seemed to reciprocate. As the set rolled on, the crowd seemed to warm up as the set continued (the beer and whiskey everyone was sipping on probably helped too). Frontman Jukka Pelkonen urged the crowd out of their comfort zone with invitations “Come closer, don’t be shy. Come up here and head bang like you know you’re suppose to.” Each invitation to the crowd was spoken through his thick Finnish accent and accompanied with a big smile. For a band that plays with such intensity, they still seemed like they were having an absolute blast. “Let me see those hands up in the air,” Pelkonen urged. This invitation reminded me that “hands in the air” is pretty much universal, across every language and every genre, and everyone was just there to have a good time. 

I found David after the set and we debriefed the set while we regrouped for Leaves Eyes. More and more people trickled in as the evening went on. As I scanned the crowd I noticed a decent number of people rocking their Sonata Arctica shirts which made me excited for the headliner. Fans seeing their favorite band is the best, there really is nothing like it. Up next however was Leaves Eyes, which was in no way a filler between opener and headliner. Leaves Eyes also played through their roughly 45 minute set with the ferocity and intensity of a headliner. Leaves Eyes had this whole “Beauty and the Beast” vibe going on which was absolutely captivating. However instead of a yellow ballgown however, frontwoman Elina Siirala rocked a black high-low dress complete with long fringe in the back and kick ass boots. And instead of a blue velvet coat tail like the beast wears, frontman Alexandar Krull rocked a similarly badass head to toe black look. At one point he even came out in full Viking garb complete with helmet and sword. There is undoubtedly a theatrical element to Leaves Eyes but it was extremely mesmerizing to watch. I was captivated by Siirala’s performance and I don’t think I was alone. Siirala, Krull and the rest of the band had the crowd hanging on their every word. “Minneapolis, are you ready for a party??” Siirala asked the crowd before launching into the second half of their set. Again, I was glad to see that phrases “ready to party” pretty much translates across every language, every genre and every country. 

Leaves’ Eyes closed out their set with a big bow, much like the close of a Broadway play and the crowd generously poured on their cheers and applause. Siirala was greeted by a slew of eager fans ready to take selfies near the merch table, but she carried herself with such a grace and a poise. Her charisma, energy and overall performers spirit seems to spill over off stage as well.

I snagged one last beer from the bar before Sonata Arctica’s set. A venue rep hopped on stage to thank fans and offered up a few kinds words about the closing of Mill City Nights. For a venue that has seen a slew of metal shows throughout the years, it seemed only fitting that one of the last shows as Mill City Nights was Sonata Arctica. As backdrops on stage changed and a green mic stand lit up, the energy continued to grow in Mill City. Sonata Arctica wasted no time getting the crowd going. Frontman Tony Kakko is a force to be reckoned with on stage. His confidence and energy is almost contagious, and the crowd was feeling it. I made my way from the side of the crowd to the back and everywhere I went, people had their fists and horns in the air. Kakko moved across stage engaging fans from the left to the right, the front to the back. It’s clear these guys love what they do and they love their fans. Sonata Arctica left it all on the stage last night, which is all these fans can ask for.

From dudes in their leather jackets to a dad (with earplugs) and his son to some girls rocking their Sonata Arctica tee’s, everyone was there to have a good time and enjoy this night of music. As Krull from Leaves’ Eyes reminded us, despite recent political events, we’re all already united. This music is global. This music is international. The fans at Mill City Nights were already united in spirit around the ever powerful force that is music on Tuesday night. And Sonata Arctica’s riveting set was just what Minneapolis needed this snowy Tuesday night.