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LIVE REVIEW: Tarja, Serpentyne, Abakas, /FORM Space, Cluj-Napoca, RO, 19/10/2022

It was back in 2015 when the city of Cluj-Napoca would first see a Tarja concert, albeit a classical one, held at the National Opera House of Cluj. In the years since then, the soprano has released two live albums, a Christmas music album, and two studio albums, the latest of which came out right before the pandemic, in 2019. After almost 7 whole years, the Finnish singer has returned to Cluj, ready to finally perform a rock concert for the 800-strong audience of /FORM Space.

Around half an hour after the doors opened, the first band to hit the stage were the Norwegians in Abakas. Though they had a short set of roughly 30 minutes, the 3-piece band managed to start the night in an adequate fashion, performing tracks such as Runaway or Cascade and teasing some songs off of their future album. While there’s no doubt that they’ve got skill, as seen particularly in their use of Maiden-esque gallops and riffs, it’s also clear that they still have quite a way to go in the music industry, as was highlighted by their pretty awkward stage presence. That said, Abakas left a relatively solid impression in their brief time onstage, which they ended by thanking the audience and proceeding to clear the stage for the remainder of the night. 7.5/10.

Up next were Serpentyne, a British band whose sound features a blend of heavy and folk metal. Their set was a bit longer than their predecessors’, at around 45 minutes, but it felt much longer in contrast. In the 12 years since they first started performing, they’ve attained some experience and display much more confidence compared to the other opening band, and their songs are quite decent, as seen in tracks such as Angel of the Night, but that’s about as much as we can say about them on a positive note. The songs were not bad on an instrumental level, far from it, but the lead singer’s performance was quite shoddy and, at times, quite cringeworthy, especially when you reminded yourself who would be coming onstage after them. Antics such as wearing LED glasses or “looking into an [electronic] crystal ball” fell flat fairly quickly, and it all detracted from an experience that, otherwise, wouldn’t have been bad at all.  6.5/10

Two and a half hours into the night, after the two openers had done their bit and the stage was cleared, it was finally time for the main event: the concert to which an audience of 800 contributed in selling out was about to begin. The lights dimmed, the intro track started playing off the P.A., and a black-haired Finnish soprano strutted onstage, joined by her accompanying musicians, before jumping straight into the aethereal and majestic soundscapes of the night’s opening song, Serene.

For the remainder of the night, Tarja Turunen would enchant the fully-packed venue with a medley of songs spanning her entire career as a solo artist: from more recent numbers such as In the Raw’s Goodbye Stranger and Diva off The Shadow Self, to the well-established songs such as I Walk Alone or Until My Last Breath. There was even a performance of the classic Nightwish song, Wishmaster, as well as a toned-down moment which saw the soprano perform a Finnish song on the piano, but not before thanking the audience for the continued support they’d shown her, especially during the two years we spent without any concerts.

Tarja was in top form for the whole hour-and-a-half-long set, performing her signature piercing, soaring vocals and jumping around the (tiny) stage, prompting the audience to sing, jump, and chant along to her songs. Her backing band was also phenomenal, as showcased by bass legend Doug Wimbish, whose swagger as a performer exuded a confidence only matched by the soprano’s own, as well as Alex Scholpp’s guitar playing and his ability to carry the guest vocals in Dead Promises.

By the end of the night, Tarja Turunen had once again proved to everyone why she is the reigning queen of symphonic metal, and all around one of the best live vocalists in the industry. Even if you hadn’t heard about her before, or had never seen one of her live performances, you could instantly figure out why she’s had so much success for over 20 years: from her immaculate vocals, to her energetic and charismatic onstage persona, she is as professional and well-loved a performer as they come. Kiitos, Tarja – we hope to see you again soon! 10/10

Written by Florin Petrut

Florin Petrut
Romanian journo that's into most geek stuff; when I'm not raving about music, I'm probably watching a TV show or a Marvel movie, and oh look, is that The Legend of Zelda??