Celtica – ‘Celtic Spirits at Merkenstein’
There have been many bands doing life shows during the lockdown. The format is pretty standard, just do as you would with an audience except without one. I’ve heard several bands mention the awkwardness of that approach on stage. With such a typical setup how can you be original? What about waiting for restrictions to be lifted and then having a small audience on the video to interact with? What about theatrics? Bring in the folk dancers, and the fire-eaters. If there’s a show being recorded, why be constrained to normal venues when there’s alternatives?
Celtica has addressed all these questions, featuring all of the above elements in a life show set right in the middle of one of the classic stone structures of antiquity, with their own entourage of medievalist fans following them into the fray. Everything is your standard concert, synchronized guitarists, crowd-work, flashy theatrics to go with the solos, pyrotechnics except done within wooded ruins. The idea certainly is novel, and was a spark of brilliance as far as digital concerts go. Celtica has realized that they aren’t restricted to convention and have squeezed all the juice from the fetid lemon covid threw at the music industry and killed the bitter taste with enough alcohol that there was none left for the crowd (or that is my theory about the lack of beer among the crowd). The fan videos were also shown in the end, which is something most metal bands have only done with music videos at the present, which just tops off the creativity Celtica had with this endeavor.
There are only one or two issues with the show depending on your point of view. The first problem will remain even if readers aren’t picky with their music. Specifically, the issue of the beginning. While it is an interesting change to see a troupe of fans traveling to the show under medieval banners, in full medieval attire, fifteen minutes of silent walking is a bit too much. To Celtica’s credit they do try to keep it interesting by including one or two little encounters, but generally, for the traveling five minutes is enough. The second issue is one of taste, if listeners aren’t overly fond of instrumental music without vocals, they will eventually zone out. It’s different being in the crowd and being hyped up, but listening to music on a stream is passive listening. In other words unless you actively behave like you’re in the crowd and get fired up, you will zone out at some point or another. Though thankfully, Celtica did throw in the other performance arts at the sidelines to keep the show interesting for those not sitting at home thrusting their hands in the air.
In terms of the music, it sounds lifted right off the studio album. Overall the music is crisp, clear, well balanced, and executed as well as any live show could be. In this reviewer’s opinion they may have spent extensive time making sure that the music would be flawless, considering the sheer amount of planning that must have gone into the logistics of the show.
Overall there aren’t any issues on the musical side, and the main issue with the video is the cinematic at the start, which could have been shorter. And in general, it seems Celtica may very well have set the bar with what is possible when a band has full control over the live shows they stream.