Live Review: Von Hetzen Brothers at Night & Day Café, Manchester on 01-02-23

Written By and Photos By: NICK ASHTON

Manchester’s Night & Day Café witnesses a prog masterclass

Here for a short run of shows in the UK, the Von Hertzen Brothers arrive on stage at a packed Night & Day Café in Manchester to a rapturous welcome. It has been five years since the band last played in the city, and they have clearly been missed. With no support act tonight, the audience has not had anything to distract them from the build up to the main event, so they are more than ready when the band hit the stage.

It is traditional for bands to open their sets with a quick one-two of high energy songs to get the crowd going. But nothing in the world of prog is quick, except the change in time signatures. Instead VHB open the evening with Day of Reckoning and Blue Forest, from their most recent album Red Alert in the Blue Forest, which means that it is some 15 minutes before Mikko greets the crowd. And what a glorious opening duo of songs it is. From the outset, the trade-mark luscious harmonies fill Night & Day with layers of melody on top of Kie’s soaring fret work and Robert Engstrand’s keyboards. The message is one of hope in the face of an impending environmental crisis. Not a topic that at first appears like a winning formula for a night of rock and roll; but when it is packaged in such a beautiful soundscape you cannot help being absorbed into the Brothers’ world.

Next up is Flowers and Rust from 2013’s Nine Lives album, which features an impassioned vocal from Mikko, before the band segue into Frozen Butterflies. Kie is a blur of energy, attacking his guitar yet holding the maelstrom together to deliver a searing solo. A wall of sound washes over the audience, immersing them in the VHB universe.


The stage at Night & Day is not really configured for a band such as VHB, being narrow and deep. Hence the band have set up in a 2-2-1 formation; or a tunnel of love as Mikko explains. This puts Mikko and Kie up front with Robert and Jonne behind, leaving drummer Sami Kuoppamäki at the rear but not obscured for once. And that makes a difference because he is phenomenal to watch. As a genre, prog requires technical expertise and that is something which Sami delivers effortlessly, driving the complex songs ever forward.

Being from Finland, which has a long land border with Russia, VHB are very aware of the events taking place in Ukraine. Hence, they dedicate Freedom Fighter and Trouble to the people suffering the consequences of war, and send a stark message of defiance to dictators everywhere. Perhaps because of the anger that they feel over the war, the energy and aggression are ramped up, giving these songs real bite. There is palpable drama, especially in the attack of the guitars, while Mikko delivers the lyrics with passion and anguish. These are no empty boy meets girl pop songs.

All of a Sudden, You’re Gone is a beautiful lament for a lost loved one. It is a moving requiem, which saw the front row linking hands and swinging their arms in time to the music, echoing the mourners in the video. Anyone who has lost someone dear to them can tap into the emotions on display here and in doing so achieve catharsis. Again, this might not sound like a fun night of rock and roll debauchery; but the music is just sublime and takes you on a journey.


Although the band only arrived in the UK the same day of the gig, they show no signs of fatigue as they relish their extended two-hour set. We are treated to The Promise, Insomniac and Long Lost Sailor, as well as an insight into the challenges of a touring band. Mikko reveals that at the customs check earlier in the day, the official on duty asked which one of them was the drummer. The reason being that customs judge a bands’ level of craziness by the drummer, so if s/he is off the scale they will be in for a hard time! Fortunately, the band made it to the gig on time, so Sami must have been on his best behaviour.

The main set closes with The Arsonist and Let Thy Will Be Done, the latter calling on some audience participation during the chorus. The crowd make a good effort, but let’s just say that Mikko’s position as vocalist is not under any immediate threat! Nonetheless, everyone seems to be having a great time. By the end of the evening, sweat is dripping from the ceiling of the venue, which is no mean feat for a dank February night in Manchester. Everyone on stage is drenched, with the exception of Kie who remains cool and composed, despite sporting a woollen beanie and buttoned up waistcoat throughout the night. As the last notes of a mesmerising Peace Patrol fade away, the band gather for a final, exhausted bow amid cheers from the crowd.


After these dates, the band return home to begin writing for their next album and won’t be back on a stage until summer festival season. If they crop up on a line-up near you, I can highly recommend catching their set, as it is sure to be a highlight of the festival.

Day & Night Café



Get In Touch

Shopping cart0
There are no products in the cart!
Continue shopping