I guess I was not the only one that was shocked by the sudden decision in mid March by lead vocalist L-G Persson to leave the current line up of the band The Storyteller to reunite with original member and guitarist Fredrik Groth. The rest of the band has decided to split due to that decision. Surprising not the least because the band had just released the brilliant album Sacred Fire in February and no touring or support had been done what so ever. If you look back at my interview done with L-G around that time of the release there are hints about L-G not being completely satisfied with the current musical direction of the band. But like all stories even this one has to come to an end. The Swedish power metal veterans from Gävle have opened up for bands like Blind Guardian, Saxon, Helloween and Bruce Kulick. They have now decided to go out with a bang and do another daring move – for the first time ever to perform in a completely acoustic setting. With the medieval and ancient musical influences in their music you could tell from the start that this could be the perfect match. This last gig was a proud and representative way of saying goodbye and a big thank you to all the loyal local fans. At the same time this was not the end but the end of an era. L-G and Fredrik and God knows who else will be back with The Storyteller in a new shape in the future with a plan to take the band back to where they once started out in the mid 1990´s. All I can say is that those of you that weren´t there really missed out on something special on a magical night! With pride and their heads held up high the guys belted out 8 hand-picked songs in a stripped down fashion. There were songs picked from almost all albums, but unfortunately, my favourite album Tales of a Holy Quest, was left untouched which has often been the case at gigs. I guess The Storyteller themselves are not too satisfied with the album somehow. The other album not represented was Dark Legacy which I have less of a problem with, being one of the weaker outputs in the discography. Although this was a goodbye gig the barroom is far from full but thankfully in an acoustic setting that is usually not a problem. Those who are there really dug it and were in for a real treat!
I start off with losing my way and going to the wrong place but a nice girl at Allstars in Gävle guided me to the right place and only 20 minutes before the band hit the stage. L-G starts off the gig by saying this is the first time ever for The Storyteller in a completely acoustic framework and something really unique before they start off with “Kingdom Above” from the second album Crossroads (2002). This is a great pick as it has got a lot of acoustic parts in it´s original version and they certainly get my attention right away. What a great start! They then introduce the title track from the fourth album Underworld (2005) which is a surprising pick but a song that really shines in the stripped-down environment. There is a lot of power in the song and the music despite being acoustic. It´s a mid-tempo song very suitable for this kind of treatment. When they finish L-G explains that it is time to do a new song off the newly released Sacred Fire disc and they plunge into the title track head on. A faster song it still sounds great which I did not think possible. I start toe-tapping and my head moves back and forth – a clear signal this is good – really good! L-G then tells us it´s time to go all the way back – back to the debut album and Y2K. A real sing along anthem in “Chant of the Thieves” gets everybody in the building singing along all they can and this is maybe the song that perfectly fits the acoustic setting and it´s nothing short of brilliant. L-G´s voice is in fine condition and the band really dig into it. Bass man Henke Branneryd is no longer sitting on the amp but instead half standing giving it 100% rockin´it out. The whole band seems to be on fire at this point and L-G tells us several times how fun these songs are to play.
We take another leap in time and back again to the hot new release Sacred Fire and the opening track “As I Die”. It´s another faster paced song and the band seem to really enjoy themselves playing it. The gig really heats up and the favourite moment for me is when they play the heartfelt ballad “Coming Home” off the new disc. It´s a beautiful and epic ballad that naturally fits the setting and it´s a stunning performance that sends shivers down my back. I´m really glad to hear this great song live for the first time as it was left off the setlist at the release party in November. L-G sings with emotion and comittment and it´s just brilliant. I find myself singing along knowing the lyrics all the way from start to finish. How are they going to top this? After the song L-G tells us a little about the rehearsals for this gig and how they toyed with cover songs and one song stuck and sounded really well. They don´t introduce the tune and says it´s up to the crowd to see if they can recognize it. L-G also says he does not think it has ever been done acoustically before. They kick into this Iron Maiden cover with 100% commitment and the song is “2 Minutes 2 Midnight” and not knowing the lyrics by heart L-G has to read the lyrics as he sings them. Guitarist Markus Backlund and Jacob Wennerquist are a really tight unit trading solos all evening long, and behind the drum kit we have Martin Hjärpe giving every song a pulsating vibe. After the song he philosophically asks himself and the crowd what Steve Harris and the boys would have thought about that. Disappointingly they then announce their “career defining” song as the last one for tonight! L-G says he wants to end the band the same way it started so many years ago; with two acoustic guitars sitting in original member Fredrik Groth‘s living room writing the riff that later evolved into this career defining song. Still, L-G promises this is not the last we have seen of them, The Storyteller and the other guys in the band. Together they play this 10-minute epic song that closes the self-titled debut album released in 2000 one last time. I´m of course talking about the 10 minute epic “The Storyteller” which is a fan favourite and after the song has been finished all of us (too few tonight) shout it out for one more song but there are no more songs tonight. They seem to be satisfied with ending it this way. I leave the concert hall with a feeling of having been part of something really special but also a feeling of wanting to have more. 8 songs is at least a couple of tunes short of a full gig.
When it comes to classy power metal there are only a few bands in the world that can match The Storyteller‘s quality and talent, honestly. The band has been releasing albums since 2000 without really getting the recognition they deserve. This seems to be the year that The Storyteller want to surprise us and always do the unexpected. It has been a little bit too much up and down for my taste but this night was certainly one of the highlights. This gig will bring memories that will stick – probably forever. The mediveal influences and the picked songs really fit this unusual and new framework 100% and it proves power metal does not have to be only about double bass drumming and falsetto screams. In a stripped-down format the melodies and hooks are highlighted even more and it fits L-G Persson‘s strong voice perfectly. This was a really classy and worthy way to put an and to an era. My favourite songs of the gig must certainly be “Coming Home”, “Chant of the Thieves” and “Kingdom Above”. Brilliant stuff! On the downside I still think 8 songs are a bit tight and one or two extras should have been in place. I will rate this gig very high by my standards and give it a 9 out of 10 geeks, the highest rating I´ve given any review so far. I think it would have been a great idea to have recorded these songs acousticly for one last acoustic album with this very tight line-up. That would have been an even better way to say goodbye! These versions of the songs are good enough and very suitable for acoustic settings and the versions deserve to be preserved in an album format. The grade of the gig is being lowered a bit for being a short gig with no encores, otherwise it would have been a full score. I´m eagerly waiting to see what´s next for The Storyteller. The story can´t be over and out .- right? There is also an anticipation of moving forward in the air. Let´s just start a new chapter in the book of stories.
Setlist on this night was: 1. Kingdom Above 2. Underworld 3. Sacred Fire 4. Chant of the Thieves 5. As I Die 6. Coming Home 7. 2 Minutes 2 Midnight (Iron Maiden cover) 8. The Storyteller
Read also my review of Sacred Fire: The Storyteller Unleashes The Sacred Fire
My interview with L-G Persson: Interview With A Storyteller