Review of Tarja’s “Act II”


Reviewed by Zach Brehany

Note: for the purposes of this review, I’m mostly going to be focusing on the Milan performance, given how that is the only concert presented on the digital, CD, and Vinyl editions. 

There is a moment in the Milan performance that shows across the audience during the acoustic performance of ‘I Walk Alone’ that has yet to leave my mind a little over 24 hours ago. It’s a scene involving some fans holding a banner which said “With You, We Don’t Walk Alone”. When I first saw that, I broke out in a smile. It was a nice touch to show that. But it really had hit me when I was done for the day and thinking back on what I had just watched and experience. In a way, it felt like we have come full circle on the first decade of Tarja’s solo career with this release.

It has been many years in waiting for this release and given how popular among fan Act I is, this has been a live album we have been begging for. When it came in the mail and I unloaded everything, I was filled with this feeling of comfort very few artists can display. Looking at all of the different covers for the releases, looking at the photos, the disks, and all sorts of other little goodies, there was a feeling of something comforting, powerful, elegant, and eternal had entered my life again.

The packaging was simple, but what got my hands down for best packaging would be the media book edition. Looking at the almost mini novella inside of the packaging, the photos from both fans and professionals are breathtaking. Judging by the stills, we can see Tarja is more in her element, she feels more natural. Maybe because of the history of Italy, with the culture being viewed as being perfumed with romance, she looks like she is right at home. From the cobbled streets to the gorgeous waterfall lion looming behind her, we are about to enter her world again and see things as they are meant.

Hearing first the vinyl and CD releases, there are some elements that I love and a few that kind of bug me a bit. Besides being crystal clear, I loved how this album doesn’t cut out the crowd cheering like it did with Act I. With live albums, the point of them is to being able to think back and be able to imagine yourself as part of the audience. That being said, we need audience reactions for that very reason. Including a good part of it on the audio formats is great. My other little issue isn’t massive, but more like a person preference. I honestly wish that one of the other three concerts were featured along with the Milan concert. It isn’t a big issue, but something that would have been nice.

The concert itself has left me puzzled with one thought only as ‘Hit Song’ began and before it cut to credits: this will either be one of the most artistic concerts I have ever seen or will be viewed as one of the worse. For me, I would hope that it is remembered and valued as an artistic achievements. With live concerts in a visual medium, it is a bit hard to push envelopes of what you can do. Not good enough editing and you would might as well be watching a music video. If it is too extreme and grand, then you forget the music and only get half of the experience. It’s a bit of a tricky situation. However, what we got here is something special.

From the start with ‘No Bitter End’ all the way to “Until My Last Breathe”, I do not feel like I was experiencing how a concert of hers might be like, but instead feeling like we are entering her mind, her conscious. With the inclusion of various music videos, digital effects, and footage for these songs, I was left feeling exhausted and a bit closer to Tarja as an artist. To watch the Milan footage is like entering her imagination and how she might see the world and her music. If I am correct by any chance, then what a hell of an imagination.

With the rest of the band, they were all wonderful as ever. They all seem confident, comfortable, and not afraid to have a little fun. They seem to be enjoying themselves and that works well for me. Though, seeing Timm Schreiner on drums did take a few moments to get used to. He is a fantastic drummer, being able to be powerful and carry the beats. Over time and seeing more of him performing, I am sure I’ll see him in his role a bit better. But for what I have seen, he does seem to be holding himself well with all of the other giants that feel like they are at home.

Thinking back on my experience with this concert, I am left with a feeling of completeness. There is a lot one can talk about with Tarja: analyzing her lyrics, instrumentation, influences, styles, deeper meaning, and entire library of information. Act II feels like we just got a chance to understand and feel how Tarja feels about not only her music, but the world of itself.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

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