It seems to become a tradition for Russian promoters to make presents to metalheads of both sexes on International Women's Day. Last year, we had marvelous Doro Pesch performing in Moscow, but this year, we witnessed a no less spectacular event - the first ever Russian gig of Germany's brightest power metal hopes Edguy and Freedom Call.
We first met Edguy in the morning on March 9, when the band and reporters got together at a news conference. The media time was scheduled for 11.00 a.m., which is extremely early for the day following a national holiday. Reporters more or less coped with the problem, which cannot be said about the musicians - they showed up half an hour late and lost Tobias Sammet somewhere on the way. Such a development discouraged the reporters a little bit, for they were waiting for the band's leader and were not extremely active while he was gone. However when he did show up, the questions started coming one after the other - whether Hansi Kuersch will take part in the recordings of the second part of "Avantasia" (no, he's too busy), why Tobias changed the lyrics to the song "Power And Majesty" on the re-recorded version of the "Savage Poetry" album (the lyrics were just too stupid in his opinion), whether it was difficult to work with Michael Kiske (he agreed to participate in the "Avantasia" project as soon as he heard the material), how Tobias ended up recording vocals for Rhapsody's "Rain Of A Thousand Flames" album (Edguy and Rhapsody have a common management, that's how they met each other), etc. Despite being quite young (24 years of age), Tobias was very modest and showed no signs of megalomania. His bandmates were mostly silent, only guitarist Jens Ludwig and drummer Felix Bohnke would make short statements once in a while. Felix, in particular, had to answer the tricky question about his reaction to finding out that the song "Save Us Now" was actually about him. The drummer preferred to turn the question into a joke saying that it was the first time he heard about it, as he was always the last one in the band to learn the news, while his bandmates proudly announced that there was hardly another band that wrote a song about its drummer. Even the fact than German punks Die Arzte have a similar song did not confuse the musicians, for they said they have never heard that track.
Unfortunately, the press conference was quite short, and the band was at once taken to Moscow's major music market for a signing session. A sizeable crowd of people was waiting for the musicians there, and while they were busy with the handwork, we got acquainted with Edguy's tour manager, none other than Joachim "Piesel" Kustner, ex-drum technician of Running Wild and current guitarist of Iron Savior. Being a very nice person, Joachim did not seem excited about his career, and when we asked him whether he was the one we thought him to be, he said nothing more than "Yeah, I do play in Iron Savior, and next week I'll be touring with Running Wild" like it was the most casual thing to do among his acquaintances.
The signing session lasted for about an hour, after which the band went to do the soundcheck and the rest parted company. Freedom Call were approaching Moscow airport at the moment, so there was no way to see them yet.
The second part of "the German power metal banquet" occurred in the evening. The concern started very early according to Russian standards, already in 15 minutes after the time indicated in tickets. Contrary to our expectations (it is a common thing that most of the people show up at the venue by the time the headliners are to hit the stage), the audience was quite numerous by the time Freedom Call began their set. The reason is that Freedom Call are only a bit less popular than the headliners in Russia, even though most of the people know them as a project of Gamma Ray drummer Dan Zimmermann. 15 minutes after the scheduled beginning of the show the noise in the hall and people cheering "Free-dom-Call" became so loud that the musicians just couldn't stay backstage any longer. It was obvious that they did not expect such a response, as the expression of pleasant surprise on their faces could be missed only by a blind man. The band did their best at the show, even though the sound was not quite top-notch, for the drums and vocals were given much more space than guitars. It did not spoil the impression of the concert, on the contrary, we had the chance to enjoy all nuances of Zimmermann's fantastic playing. Moreover, for me it's much more important that the musicians put their heart and soul in the performance, and with Freedom Call it was just the case. I should especially mention the band's session keyboardist Ferdy Doernberg (Rough Silk). Session musicians are usually somewhere in the background and do not display any particular activity on the stage in addition to playing, but Ferdy was an exception to the rule, for he was responsible for a sufficient part of the show and obviously enjoyed himself to the most possible extent.
In a bit more than an hour, Freedom Call performed all the hits from their two records complimented by a cool cover version of "Dancing With Tears In My Eyes" by Ultravox. The band was ready to play even more, but it was high time to give way to headliners. We got an impression that if they had had the freedom, they would have played for another hours, for every musician still had enough force and enthusiasm. Zimmermann was the person who did not want to leave the stage more than the others, as soon as the final track "Hymn To The Brave" ended, he rushed to the edge of the stage to shake hands with the fans, which nearly led to some problems - loving fans were definitely obsessed with the idea of getting as close to Dan as possible and almost dragged him down into the audience. The guard managed to get hold of the musician and tried to show him the way backstage, but Dan escaped from his hands and rushed to the fans again…
In a few minutes, the drummer was already in different surroundings, one on one with reporters at an improvised news conference somewhere in the depths of the venue where mortals are usually not allowed under any pretext. A tiny room was crowded with reporters who were struggling to get closer to the table at which Zimmerman and an interpreter were sitting. "The interrogation" started with questions about the new Freedom Call album (the disc is not yet finished, but will be out in the summer), reasons behind limited availability of the "Taragon" EP (the disc is out only in Japan and France because the German record company believes that it will go flop under current market circumstances), involvement of Saxon vocalist Biff Byford in Freedom Call recordings (the band's singer and guitarist Chris Bay played keyboards on Saxon's "Metalhead" album, and Biff returned the favor for Chris never requested money for the work), and then…
Here we have to stop our report about the press conference, for at that moment we encountered the man whom we wanted to meet very much, even though we already had a chance to speak to him by phone. Ferdy Doernberg turned out to be a fantastic person, very polite and friendly, but I will not retell you our conversation, it had very little to do with music. If Edguy had not started playing, we would have spoken for two hours or so.
Despite the warm welcome given by the Russian audience to Freedom Call (or maybe because of that) Edguy began their the set with a sort of diffidence, as if trying to figure out what to expect from a new country. But already after the second track they felt more relaxed and started playing more assuredly. And Sammet seemed to grow a pair of wings - being very quiet and modest at the press conference, on the stage he was going crazy, running around, climbing on the drum-kit, jumping down, rushing to the monitors and so on and so forth (I must say that if affected his vocal performance a bit). The young man was so full of emotions that he even tried to say something like "Moscow! Cool!" in Russian, which raised cheers in the audience after they finally figured out what he meant.
In an apparent attempt to demonstrate Edguy at its best, Tobias allowed each musician to express himself, and we enjoyed three solos in the middle of the set, first it was Tobias Exxel on the bass, then Dirk and Jens on the guitars (all that during the epic title "Pharaoh"), and finally Felix on the drums in the beginning of "Save Us Now". In addition, we must mention a few vocal solos performed by Sammet from time to time - he held a sort of competition in singing between the right and the left sides of the hall, made the audience repeat unbelievably complicated vocal patterns and even tried to sing a Russian Christmas song in the original!
The tracklist was a pleasant surprise. Edguy did not limit themselves to performing new songs, even though they are really great, and pleased the crowd with time-proved hits from previous releases - "Wings Of A Dream", "Vain Glory Opera", "How Many Miles" and even "Avantasia". And the mighty "Out Of Control", the final song of the day, was just the perfect closer for the fantastic show. The people in the audience were nearly unanimous when they were telling to each other after the concert that Rage and Blind Guardian, who are soon coming to Moscow (I hope!) will have to work really hard to beat the impression made on that evening by "German power metal's brightest hope".
FREEDOM CALL set-list:
1.We Are One
thanks to GOST Music International for accreditation.