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Avatar's "Ages" streaming series, 5 Things to Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Tuesday, January 5, 2021

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Avatar formed 20 years ago in Sweden -- an anniversary the heavy metal group expected to celebrate live in concert, in some form. But celebrating is complicated these days.

So the quintet is starting 2021 with an ambitious Plan B -- Avatar Ages, a four-episode virtual concert series that will focus on individual albums, with fan-voted set lists for three of them. Avatar's latest album, last year's "Hunter Gatherer," is first up on Saturday, Aug. 9, with the rest of the catalog to follow.

It's not exactly what frontman Johannes Eckerstrom and his bandmates had in mind, but they're certainly not complaining about the opportunity to do the "Black Waltz," and more, together once again...

• Eckerstrom says by phone from Gothenburg that he was initially "very much against the idea to do a stream concert. I lacked vision. I only imagined us standing on a stage in a venue somewhere, with no audience in front of us, and retendering. We are theatrical band, but we're not into that kind of theater. The roar of the crowd is 50 percent of the show. So I couldn't for the life of me imagine us doing that and feeling OK with it."

• The frontman changed his mind after being presented with production designs along with a concept spread over multiple episodes. "I started to feel like a livestream is no longer a compromise; Suddenly it became an opportunity to do things in a way we couldn't have done otherwise -- number one is just the huge chunk, vast amount of material we can perform. We can't bring four to five hours of music on the road, but we can do it like this. Suddenly it became a fun challenge. It's kind of like a TV show, but the live side is still the biggest part of it."

• Eckerstrom enjoyed watching the fan requests come in. "A lot of stuff is kind of what we expected, but one thing that is real exciting is we will end up playing our third album (2009's self-titled set) from front to back. That's an interesting one, when were really wanted to push ourselves into a band that didn't exist before. It felt like a real starting point for us, in a way, a very important album."

• A silver lining of the COVID-19 shutdowns for Eckerstrom has been its effect on his creativity. "I have never written this much music right after a new album release as I have this year. We have all been writing. It's one of the things you can do when you can't tour. There's an abundance of freedom, and I've been very inspired -- we all have. I think something very exciting will come out of this, I really do."

• Eckerstrom resides in Finland while Avatar remains headquarted in Sweden, and he voices disappointment at the latter's largely hands-off handling of the pandemic early on, which wound up backfiring. "I get sad sometimes. I get angry sometimes. I don't think the elected officials (in Sweden) were totally wrong; We don't expect a prime minister, no matter which party he's from, to be an expert on pandemics. But when the experts keep coming up with different conclusions compared to other countries, that's troublesome. Finland is doing better than Sweden, but there’s a lot of people (in Sweden) I care about, so it was very disheartening."

"Avatar Ages -- An Impossible Concert Experience" livestream series begins at 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 9, with an episode focusing on 2020's "Hunter Gatherer" album and "Avatar's biggest songs." Subsequent episodes stream Jan. 16, 23 and 30. Tickets via AvatarAges.com.

Web Site: www,avatarages.com

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