Moore Theatre, Seattle, WA

The beautiful and historic Moore Theatre was the perfect venue for Finnish band, Apocalyptica. Having formed in 1993, the band released their first album three years later, and were celebrating it with an intimate instrumental evening. The stage was set up simply with four cubed stools in front of four textured backdrops, with the band’s logo just peeking out.

The band took the stage to a roaring welcome, kicking things off with “Enter Sandman” and “Master Of Puppets.” Lead cellist Eicca Toppinin grabbed the mic, saying, “We put this album out in 1996, and it is amazing to be here in Seattle in 2017. We thought it would only be a few shows, and if we sold 1000 CDs, that would be cool.”

“We are celebrating the album we released 21 years ago,” he continued. “The first part of the set is the album as we recorded it. Since it is an all instrumental evening, you will all be our singers, so are you ready?”

That debut album is “Plays Metallica by Four Cellos.” It features eight instrumental Metallica songs played entirely by the four cellists.

It was a sight to behold watching each member take the lead through the songs.  Paavo Lötjönen was a dynamic leader, commanding the audience with his charm and charisma, constantly egging on the applause as they crushed through the demanding set.

Metallica music is not simple to play, let alone transcribed and performed on a cello. We are not used to Kirk Hammett’s blistering lead guitar solos being played by a bow, and seeing a “wah pedal” as Perttu Kivilaakso soloed through “Harvester of Sorrow and Creeping Death.”

Toppinin again said, “It is great fun for us to go back and play this old-school material from so long ago. Many things have happened in these last 20 years.  We have released eight studio albums, six of them with original material. You better check them out if you don’t know them; there is a lot of cool shit there. We have been traveling a lot with them, and this next song is kinda like our life, the life of a traveler, ‘Wherever I May Roam.’”

Toppinin introduced original member Antero Manninen, back from the past for this special anniversary tour. They call him “Mr. Cool” and his stoic yet precise demeanor was suddenly broken with a smile. Manninen led them into the last song of the set “Welcome Home (Sanitarium).”

A second set came after a short intermission, the stage stripped of its backing scrims to reveal an elaborate drum kit. The haunting beginning of “Fade To Black” built to eventually welcome drummer Mikko Sirén to the stage. Often times Kivilaakso and Toppinin moved to the front, trading licks back and forth through the solos.

It was impressive to see and hear the songs being played on instruments you just never imagine to be used. The cello is not a simple instrument, and to see these four masters recreate all the complexity and subtlety of Metallica’s music was just spectacular. The audience was screaming, clapping, and singing along to each song.

Kivilaakso took the mic and described the tour as “combat sports.” “As you can see,” he said, “Eicca has a busted lip, he smashed his mouth and lost some teeth a few days ago. Or you can describe it as a pretty rough night in Christian Grey’s apartment last night…50 shades of cello! Once you get rid of the blood you will have even better lips.”

The evening drew to a close with the classic anti-war song “One,” each nuance reproduced flawlessly.

If you have never seen Apocalyptica live you simply must do so. If you are able to catch any of the remaining dates on this special anniversary tour do not hesitate and miss it. It truly is a night to remember. One that left everyone screaming for more!

Apocalyptica Set List 1
Enter Sandman
Master Of Puppets
Harvester Of Sorrow
The Unforgiven
Sad But True
Creeping Death
Wherever I May Roam
Welcome Home (Sanitarium)

Apocalyptica Set List 2
Fade to Black
For Whom The Bell Tolls
Fight Fire With Fire
Until It Sleeps
Seek & Destroy

Nothing Else Matters

Review and photos by Neil Lim Sang