For those of you who’ve been asleep for the last few years, the latest name in hard rock is the Night Flight Orchestra, the side project of members of bands like Soilwork and Arch Enemy. Following the released of the excellent Sometimes the World Ain’t Enough earlier this year, NFO played their first-ever show in Helsinki to a sold-out crowd at On the Rocks on November 16th, 2018.
Full gallery coming soon.
Listen to the full setlist on Spotify:
This was actually my first time at On the Rocks since the water damage and subsequent renovation of the basement venue. I didn’t realize they had completely torn out the whole place and put it back together. The stage is now tucked in a corner where a bar used to be, with a bit more space for viewers. The queues for drinks were pretty long, leading us to wonder why these guys were playing at such a small venue. Was Tavastia booked solid during this tour? OtR was never known as a great venue for music, with notoriously bad sound quality, so this show was also going to tell whether or not the changes would help solve this problem.
Immediately upon arriving, one woman pulled us aside and expressed how thrilled she was that there were so many young people in the crowd. She was indeed correct, as the crowd seemed to range from early 20s until well past the 50s for a few. There was no official opening band for this show, but DJ Japi was nevertheless successful in setting the mood with hits from classics like Journey before the show started. One girl in fishnets had even scared off a pretty big radius of people with her vibrant dancing.
The band came on stage right on time to the title track from their latest album, and the bodies began to crush together as every hand went into the air to get clapping. Björn “Speed” Strid, regularly of Soilwork fame, came out in a vibrant purple suit with four stripes on the shoulders that indicated that he is the captain of this hard rock spaceship and was about to take us all for a musical ride. He wasn’t the only one dressed to impress though; David Andersson [Soilwork] was also in a suit, with Sharlee D’Angelo [Arch Enemy] in a white blazer, and the rest in similar attire. It wasn’t until the end of “Living for Nighttime” that I realized that the female vocals were not done by a backing track. I have to assume the two ladies on stage were Anna-Mia Bonde and Anna Brygård, wearing some cute, old-fashioned nurse’s outfits (I think – again, I was having trouble seeing the stage through the sea of clapping hands).
The setlist was a nice balance of some of the band’s best songs, but the best part was that each person in our group was thrilled about different songs. I was pumped about “Gemini”, “Paralyzed”, and “Josephine”, while Wille was excited to hear “Can’t Be That Bad” and “Midnight Flyer.” Everyone we spoke to said something along the lines of, “Wasn’t X awesome?”, with ‘X’ being a different song every time. In the end, the biggest complaints were that the set was not longer, missing great songs like “Winged and Serpentine” and “Barcelona”… well, they didn’t have all night after all. We had to make due. Admittedly, there were a few songs I’d have replaced, such as “Moments of Thunder”, which is just way too cheesy, and “Lovers in Rain”, which is a bit too slow for its second-in-the-encore position.
The performance was pretty fantastic as well. For guys who are used to playing on much bigger stages in a totally different style, the small space at OtR was pretty cramped; they made due like professionals and didn’t let it hold them back from really performing. D’Angelo and Andersson in particular were really showing their flair. Perhaps the best part of the whole thing was Strid’s vocals, combined with that of the backing vocalists. They were harmonizing so incredibly perfectly, and Strid was fully hitting the high notes in songs like “This Time” – I was actually rather surprised, as I’ve heard him cheat the high parts on “Follow the Hollow” at Soilwork gigs, so to hear him let loose with those high notes sent chills right through my spine. His visual showmanship was great too – he had the perfect visual rhythm to match the music, with sharp motions that suited everything to a T.
Strid didn’t stop to talk to the crowd too much, rather packing as many songs into the set as possible. Nevertheless, he did greet everyone, comment on the rowdiness, and ask if we could sing as well as we partied. They were just so much fun to watch. The girls might mop Strid’s face after one song, or Strid might pour glitter on Andersson in another. They had zero trouble getting the crowd to move and cheer and put their hands up.
They finished the main set with one of the few songs from their earlier albums, “1998”, and closed out the show with “This Time”, “Lovers in Rain”, and “West Ruth Ave”, leaving the crowd begging for more to no avail. At least in our case, we certainly left the venue with big smiles on our faces.
NFO proves that you don’t need to drop thousands on a fancy stage to put on a kickass, memorable show. You just need to have style and play great music. Everyone at Musicalypse agreed that this was the best club show we’d seen in years (if not ever), and even Jami Liimatainen’s [ex-Sonata Arctica, Cain’s Offering] Instagram feed said that he hadn’t enjoyed a show this much in a long time. If you missed out on tickets for this show, let’s hope you’ll get another chance to see them soon, and hopefully in a considerably bigger venue.
1. Sometimes the World Ain’t Enough
2. Living for the Nighttime
4. Midnight Flyer
5. Turn to Miami
6. Moments of Thunder
9. Can’t Be that Bad
11. This Time
12. Lovers in Rain
13. West Ruth Ave
Photos: Miia Collander