Reunions were last year’s biggest trend. Farewell tours are all the craze in 2018. RHAPSODY managed to kill two birds with one stone: they reunited for a farewell tour that has just reached its second European leg. Eat your heart out, Gene! I was stoked when the band announced a date in nearby Budapest, Hungary and already started packing my proverbial bags for this epic journey.
Not everyone is familiar with the story of Rhapsody, especially now that there are three incarnations of the band. There’s Rhapsody of Fire led by founder Alex Staropoli, there’s Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody and the one I had the chance to see play last night. This last one, simply dubbed Rhapsody was made up of members who’ve been together since the “Symphony of the Enchanted Lands 2” days, until Staropoli and Turilli decided to part ways due to the infamous creative differences and each form their own Rhapsody.
Are you keeping up so far?
Most importantly, this lineup also included Fabio Lione, whose voice left a mark on this band and the entire power metal scene. Getting into discussions regarding which Rhapsody is better is like debating which part of a shattered glass can hold the most water. Still, even though Staropoli was absent, this was probably the closest to the iconic lineup we’ll ever get to see.
The honor of warming up the crowd fell to Romania’s SCARLET AURA. The band is fronted by the lovely, charismatic Aura Danciulescu, whose voice, demeanor and outfit bring a younger Doro Pesch to mind. The same can be said about their music. They boast a slightly modern heavy metal sound with lots of screaming guitars and catchy choruses. The band presented their own material as well as a cover of “Zombie” to honor the late Dolores O’Riordan. What surprised me the most is how well the audience welcomed the band, as if Rhapsody themselves have already taken the stage. I haven’t seen an audience react so well to a support act, and the band seemed to appreciate the fact as well.
The venue went silent for a while until BEAST IN BLACK hit the stage. I admit I never got into this extremely popular young power metal act. I tried listening to their debut album a couple of times, but whether it’s the production, their image or something else, I never really quite got into it. Boy, was I wrong! Just like Sabaton, who are an obvious major influence for this band, Beast in Black shows its full potential live. They give off this HammerFall vibe that is guaranteed to move the crowds. Frontman Yannis Papadopoulos is particularly impressive, hitting the highest of notes with ease. Hearing demanding tracks like “Blood of a Lion” or “Blind and Frozen” was just amazing. Like my friend said, “it’s like having both Anette Olzon and Marco Hietala in one person”. Tight musicianship, great stage appearance and catchy tunes are bound to ensure this band has a bright future ahead.
If I had to describe Rhapsody’s show in one word it would undoubtedly be bittersweet. Throughout the show I was haunted by the fact that this will likely be the last time I’m seeing what’s left of the original Rhapsody live, if they stay true to their word. However, that did not ruin my excitement as the band tore through their famous classics, a few deep cuts and lots of tracks from “Symphony of Enchanted Lands” the band just recently played in its entirety during the festival season. Among them was surprisingly even a cover of Andrea Bocelli’s “Time to Say Goodbye (Con te partirò)”, accompanied by Fabio’s story of meeting the famous Italian singer. The power of Lione’s voice as he sung that song as well as “Lamento Eroico” was tear-jerking.
Although this was not my first time seeing Rhapsody, the only other time I saw them was after Luca had already left the band. Neither of the following incarnations is the same without the members responsible for their fame, but I sorely missed Luca’s presence then. I realized that only now that I’ve seen him in action. Luca is the heart of this band. He is a bomb teeming with unstoppable positive energy, buzzing around the stage with a smile that hasn’t left his face for a single second. The same goes for Fabio, who no doubt played a large part in the band’s rise to fame. Kiske may have the voice, Khan may have the charm, but Lione is the complete package with his powerful voice, radiant charisma and sincere emotion that can make a grown man cry.
Speaking of that, I was honestly moved by the stories Fabio told while introducing the members of the band. He spoke so highly and so fondly of his band mates, that I think he was about to cry a couple of times while sharing all those memories. That’s precisely why I think this is not just another cash-grabbing farewell tour, but a reunion of people who enjoy each other’s company and who felt they owed their fans one last goodbye before Rhapsody becomes a legend. Sure, that leaves us with two more Rhapsodies, but even though I might not want to admit it – it’s not the same.
As far as the audience is concerned, the Hungarian crowd can either be really cold or really crazy. This time, they were the latter. I swear I haven’t seen mosh pits as crazy as the ones during “Holy Thunderforce” or “Emerald Sword” at shows by far more extreme bands. Everyone sang along with the band, at times even louder than Lione or the backing tracks. Speaking of that, even though it’s hard to nit-pick at such an amazing show, live keyboards were definitely missed though it’s probably out of respect for one of the band’s founding members Alex Staropoli who didn’t take part in this tour. Additionally, I really expected a couple of more songs from their debut, but the list was pretty great as it is, both for old-school and casual fans.
We bid farewell to a legend in the company of fans and smiling faces. If this really is the end of the band, I can’t imagine a better farewell than this show. And if they decide to change their mind down the line, I’ll be the first to welcome them back with open arms.
By Jovan Ristić