Sunrise Avenue and The 21st Century Orchestra – Live in Berlin – October 2014 – North German Radio –
Sunrise Avenue in concert tonight. Complete with the 21st Century Orchestra in Berlin, recorded in October 2014 for North German Radio as part of their Soundcheck series.
First off, I admit to not being all that familiar with Sunrise Avenue, other than knowing they got started in Helsinki Finland around 2002 as simply Sunrise. They added Avenue in 2003 and wound up becoming huge in Europe, with five albums, two of which are platinum, a string of singles and a few DVD’s to their credit. They are not particularly well known in the U.S. and “kind of known” in the UK – but are household names in the Scandinavian countries as well as Spain, Germany, Switzerland and Austria.
Singer-songwriter Samu Haber established Sunrise together with Finnish singer-songwriter Jan Hohenthal in April 1992 in Espoo, Finland. They performed at a variety of pubs, small festivals and private parties until 1998, when Haber moved to Spain. The other band members at that time were Sami Heinänen (bass) and Antti Tuomela (drums).
After four years in Spain and only a handful of performances at private Spanish events, Haber moved back to Finland. The band changed the name to Sunrise Avenue in October 2001 in restaurant Memphis in Helsinki at the “Sunrise world domination plan meeting.” By that time Tuomela had left the band and the band had no drummer. Bassist Sami Heinänen designed the American Street sign logo for the band after the meeting.
Jan Hohenthal left the band in 2002 as he wanted to focus on his own career. These days Hohenthal plays with his Finnish folk band Metrofolk. Heinänen introduced a new guitarist, his high school friend Janne Kärkkäinen to the band in 2002.
With a new drummer, Juho Sandman, the band performed in many student events, small festivals and in small clubs mostly in the Greater Helsinki area. The guys worked with two Finnish producers (Jone Ullakko and Jani Saastamoinen) before finding their future in-house producer Jukka Backlund. Haber still says Backlund is the “All time musical mentor and teacher for himself and for the band.”
Between 2002 and 2005 Haber visited record companies and agencies 102 times in Finland and Sweden before they were finally signed to small Scandinavian label Bonnier Amigo Music. The answer was always the same: “Without black clothes and make-up, rock music can’t succeed.”
To finance the debut album On the Way to Wonderland, Haber introduced the “Sunrise Avenue Business Plan” to his friend, a copy machine sales man Mikko Virtala. Virtala financed most of the album’s recordings and a trip to Midem Music Expo in Cannes, France to meet the European managers and labels. In Cannes Haber met the band’s future manager Bob Cunningham from the UK. On the Way to Wonderland was released in 2006 in most of Europe. Their biggest hit “Fairytale Gone Bad” reached several top positions in radio and single charts in many European countries, and the band performed three sold-out European tours and the biggest European festivals, such as the main stage of Rock am Ring in 2007.
After a quiet 2019, at a press conference in Helsinki, the band announced on 2 December 2019 that they would not continue past 2020. They announced one final single titled “Thank You For Everything” and a small final tour in 2020 with a total of seven locations plus one festival, after which the band will no be longer active. However, on March 1st 2021, they seemingly reunited, announcing new website and new album, alongside new band merchandise.
Not everything they do is with a 75 piece orchestra – this was something of a one-off and became elements of a Greatest Hits album released in 2014. I am on the fence about the extra-added flourishes and drama – not sure if the pulse-racing crescendos are anything more than high voltage window-dressing or not. But you will admit pairing up a rock band with a Symphony orchestra isn’t an every day occurrence – I can think of only two who did it; Procol Harum and Deep Purple.
I’ll toss the ball in your court and let you decide.