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introLanxess-Arena, Cologne, Germany
11th March 2016
Sunrise Avenue with Wonderland Orchestra & Niila

I have been to many SUNRISE AVENUE shows over the last ten years. My experiences range from small clubs to open-air concerts with roaring crowds in front of the stage. The Lanxess-Arena in Cologne is a big venue and it is sold out. SUNRISE AVENUE are to perform with the Wonderland Orchestra. This can only mean new arrangements, an overall classical touch, and the usual fun with the “Finnish boys”.


Niila

NIILA is a Finnish singer-songwriter from Helsinki. The 28-year-old has been making music for many years. Uploading covers on YouTube and writing his own songs lead to his first EP ‘Sorry’ in 2015. The Cologne show date marks the release of his first album ‘Gratitude’. NIILA mixes different styles from pop to folk, adding some funk or quiet, sentimental tunes. His songs talk about life, its ups and downs, stories a twenty-something audience might relate to quite easily. He has a Facebook profile to keep in touch with his fans: https://www.facebook.com/niilamusic/ 

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Music & Performance
NIILA and his band – drums, keyboard, saxophone, bass, guitar – are the opening act. They start with some covers, and continue with songs from EP and album, among them ‘Sorry’, ‘Smell the Roses’, and ‘Restless Heart’. The vibrating music has the energy of a ONE REPUBLIC song, telling stories of joy, pain, love, and life. The audience dives into it, clapping their hands and dancing along. NIILA thanks the audience for the warm welcome and is greeted with loud applause. The show ends after 45 minutes, a nice warm-up for the main act.

Rating
Music: 7
Performance: 6
Sound: 7
Light: 8
Total: 7 / 10

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Sunrise Avenue with Wonderland Orchestra

The story of SUNRISE AVENUE starts in Helsinki in the year 2002. The Finnish rock band’s story of success, however, begins in 2006. They release their first album ‘On the Way to Wonderland’ in the same year. Their single ‘Fairytale Gone Bad’, an energetic pop-rock song about ending a relationship, turns out to be a huge success. SUNRISE AVENUE release four studio and two live albums over the years, and a best-of album in 2014. They play festivals and shows across Europe, rearranging their songs for the “Acoustic Tour” in 2009, and again for the “Big Band Theory” in 2013. Two years later, they play their first show with the Swiss 21st Century Symphony Orchestra in Luzern. The idea for a new tour is born: SUNRISE AVENUE live with Wonderland Orchestra. Find more information on SUNRISE AVENUE and the tour here: https://www.facebook.com/sunriseavenue/ / http://www.sunriseave.com/ 

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Music & Performance
With 12,000 people seated in the Lanxess-Arena, SUNRISE AVENUE and Wonderland Orchestra start playing ‘Wonderland’ behind a curtain. Halfway through the opener, the curtain is pulled up. Samu Haber is singing the well-known lines, accompanied by guitarist Riku Rajamaa, bassist Raul Ruutu, drummer Sami Osala, and tour keyboardist Osmo Ikonen. Strings and the wind section of the orchestra are seated left and right in front of drums and percussions. The setlist contains twenty songs from fourteen years of rock music, some of which the band and the orchestra have rearranged completely. The orchestra tour allows SUNRISE AVENUE to play songs fans haven’t heard in a while. Like ‘Sail Away with Me’, a beautiful acoustic performance by Samu, Riku, and a violinist. Next, the audience jumps from their seats, as the orchestra plays a furious intro to the county-rock smasher ‘I Can Break Your Heart’. Do SUNRISE AVENUE still love being on stage, making music? Yes, they do. As do their fans. “It’s sold out, Jesus Christ!” says Samu, and the strings open up on ‘Nothing is Over’.

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The curtain closes; Wonderland Orchestra takes a well-deserved break. SUNRISE AVENUE reappear on a small stage at the back of the venue, throwing out a wild unplugged version of ‘Unholy Ground’ that, well, shakes the ground. The five musicians return to the main stage to complete the show. SUNRISE AVENUE address the audience regularly, all smiles. Still, I miss their goofiness and silliness. Nonetheless, their music is nice. I enjoy the new arrangements. Some songs are pulled off impressively, virtuously by Wonderland Orchestra, others have a moody, jazzy air about them. One or two fail to reach me, but that’s okay. Sometimes, the music is just too loud, at least in the front. Its roaring makes it hard to differentiate between instruments. But in the end, SUNRISE AVENUE know how to please their fans, and deserve the cheers and frenetic applause after 140 sweaty minutes – and the anticipated encore, 2011 hit single ‘Hollywood Hills’.

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Setlist
01. Wonderland
02. Little Bit Love
03. Rising Sun
04. Kiss Goodbye
05. Forever Yours Nightliner Remix
06. Lifesaver
07. Sail Away with Me (Riku & Samu)
08. I Can Break Your Heart
09. Something Sweet
10. Somebody Will Find You
11. Nothing is Over (Tero Outro)
12. Hurtsville (acoustic B-Stage)
13. Unholy Ground (acoustic B-Stage)
14. Funkytown + Intro
15. Out of Tune
16. Girl Like You
17.  Sweet Symphony + Orchestra Intro
18. I Don't Dance
19. Welcome to my Life
20. Fairytale Gone Bad
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21. Hollywood Hills + Piano Intro

Rating
Music: 8
Performance: 8
Sound: 7
Light: 10
Total: 8 / 10

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All pictures by Daniela Vorndran (http://www.vorndranphotography.com / http://www.facebook.com/blackcatnet)


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