Thursday, 18 April 2019

Live: Avantasia - Moonglow World Tour @ O2 Forum, Kentish Town, London 16-04-2019

Avantasia played London for the first time in 2016, and it was my gig of that year. When the Moonglow album and tour was announced, and that there would be a London date, I was sold (took me a while to pull my finger out and sort a ticket, but I got it sorted eventually). I plumped for a balcony ticket this time around as I knew it would be a long show and a seat would be quite nice. I had a seat for a gig at the Forum earlier in the year and knew if I wanted to be comfortable for the gig, I would need to get there fairly early to get my place secured. That didn’t quite work out as planned and I arrived at the venue about half an hour after doors opened. After getting a pint (I will always wince at £6 for a pint of passable lager), I wandered over to the upstairs merch table, to see it was cash only. I hadn’t prepared for this eventuality so was unable to purchase a shirt. By the time I got into the balcony though (a good 45 minutes before Avantasia took to the stage), it was rammed, and I was in the upper standing area. Truth be told, I think this would be preferable to one of the bench seats as after a while, they get quite uncomfortable.

Before this gig, I had heard that both Michael Kiske and Amanda Somerville were not touring with Avantasia this time around (indeed, Kiske only appeared on one song on the album). I thought this was a shame but completely understandable given the nature of Avantasia not being the day job of anyone on stage (aside, perhaps from Tobi – not sure what the status of Edguy is at this stage). I’d given the album a few listens and really enjoyed it. Not my favourite album by them, but still very good.

Onto the gig itself – The first half of the show leaned very heavily on the new album with 9 of the 12 songs played from it (if you include the cover of Michael Sembello’s Maniac). This was no bad thing for me as I’d listened to the new album and recognised the songs as they were being played. Sometimes I find when listening to a new song from a band I love, it can take hearing it live to fully appreciate it. This is what has happened with a few of the song from Moonglow, in particular Ghost in the Moon and The Raven Child.  On the topic of Maniac being played, that was the first time I’d heard Avantasia play one of the songs they’d covered live, and I really like the fact they included it. I think previously they had only released cover songs on the Lost in Space EPs, which might be why they haven’t been played live before – but I’d love to hear them do either their ABBA – Lay All Your Love on Me or Ultravox – Dancing with Tears in My Eyes covers live (or both!) The other songs which made up the first half of the show were Lucifer, Reach Out for The Light and Dying for An Angel (the latter two getting massive reactions from the crowd).

When I refer to halves of the show, I should stress that the band didn’t go off stage at all (unless they weren’t needed for certain songs). The second half of the show was essentially a best of Avantasia which was bloody ace. I could list highlights from this half of the show, but I would be typing out almost everything they played. I enjoyed the first half the show, without doubt but I did prefer the second half more. I would guess this is due to having lived with the songs longer. Thinking back on this portion of the show, my only complaints are songs that weren’t played rather than ones that were. I would have loved to have heard Draconian Love again (and the guest singer was there, so it could have happened!) as well as The Wicked Symphony. I would have also liked to have heard more from Ghostlights, as I really liked that album. I would guess that a lack of Michael Kiske on this tour informed the decision to not play more from this album. The encore was made up of Farewell and the medley of Sign of the Cross/The Seven Angels. If I’m honest, I skipped out as the medley was starting because I was tired at this point and worked out if I left when I did, I could get an earlier (and quicker) train home.

Final thoughts – this show was bloody great. I know I started the last paragraph saying how the band didn’t go off stage unless they weren’t needed, but they were there for more than 90% of the set which is just immense when you consider the show was over 3 hours long. Tobi, as usual, was a superb frontman and excellent showman. He made fun of the balcony fans a few times for not being as lively/active/loud as the standing fans, but it was all in good spirit. As said previously, my only complaints about the show would be about songs not played (when you have a back catalogue like Avantasia’s – it is inevitable songs will have to be left out) and people who weren’t touring this time around. I’ve no idea if Michael Kiske and Amanda Somerville were just out for this tour or are no longer a part of Avantasia live (or otherwise). I hope it is just this tour they miss – assuming that is that there will be another tour. I had wondered if there would be another one after the Wacken 2017 show. The announcement of the album and tour was a nice surprise. Tobi did say on stage (in passing) that he wasn’t sure if there would be another Avantasia tour after this. He has said this before, but I can only imagine the undertaking to be able to tour the world with a band that has several guest singers from other bands. This show was ace, and I am sure will be in the conversation again come the end of the year for the top 10 gigs I’ve been to this year (currently been to 8 gigs this year, so it is definitely there at the moment!)

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Live: Behemoth – Ecclesia Diabolica Evropa 2019 E.V tour @ O2 Forum, Kentish Town, London 08-02-2019

I saw that the touring package of Behemoth, At The Gates and Wolves In The Throne Room (WITTR) were touring the USA and I remember thinking that it would be lovely if that would come to the UK. However, my hopes were low as the USA does get some insane touring bills which sadly never make their way here. Imagine my surprise and delight when I was wrong, and this exact touring package would travel round Europe together. The biggest surprises for me about this tour was the price (and how remarkably affordable it was) and the fact it would take place at the O2 Forum. If pressed, I would have thought they might try and hold this at Brixton. At The Gates had a headline show at the same venue in 2014, so I recall also being surprised they were now a support band in the same room (I do recall though it not being the busiest gig I’ve ever been to there). No complaints from me though, because for the most part, I like the Forum. My thoughts about the tour bill before the gig was love heart eyes emoji towards At The Gates, very much looking forward to seeing Behemoth (after seeing them once before at Wacken 2014) and also WITTR were there. I feel as though I should add that I recall trying to get into them some time ago and failing. I tried again before this gig – and failed again.

Looking at what time the doors opened, I felt confident that by leaving the hotel when I did, I would avoid seeing the band I wasn’t fussed about seeing. However, this confidence was dashed when I saw the size of the queue when I turned up. It was either that they hadn’t come on stage yet, or this was a repeat of when Slipknot played Wembley (and seemingly, about 75% of the crowd turned up after King 810). I got in as WITTR had not long started their first song and thought as I was there, I’d give them a chance. On reflection, I am glad I did so because I enjoyed them much more live than I did when listening to them on Spotify. I’m not sure I will go back and listen to them again, but I feared the worst when I realised I hadn’t missed them, and these fears were unfounded.

At The Gates…are bloody great. I’d seen them twice before this night – most recently on the earlier mentioned headline show in 2014 and on their first reunion tour at Wacken 2008. Fun fact, they were a part of one of the best festival runs I’ve ever been at – As I Lay Dying (awkward…but true), Carcass, Killswitch Engage, At The Gates, Nightwish and Kreator. Also, revisiting that running order, I realised I missed Hatebreed for Obituary – I’m sure I had my reasons but if making that choice today, it would be the other way around. Anyway, before going down that rabbit hole any further, At The Gates! They had 40 minutes and they made the absolute most of that time – they were superb. There was very little hanging around between songs aside from for the two/three times Tomas Lindberg talked to the crowd which I really liked. I remember thinking that if I was giving this set a festival score, it would have been a solid 9 out of 10. The one thing I really like about At The Gates at the moment is that they played 12 songs in this set, and 8 came from albums they have released since reuniting. Sure, it would have been nice to hear more from their earlier albums (no Under A Serpent Sun…), but it is nice to see a band have such faith in their post reunion material (and as well they should, because both albums are excellent). I am hopeful that At The Gates will announce a November/December headline run in the UK. Off the back of this set, I would go.

Since getting into Behemoth, I haven’t had many chances to see them live. The big regret was not going to Bloodstock in 2016 and seeing them perform The Satanist in full as that is my favourite album of theirs (and currently what I’m listening to as I type). I also missed then at Download 2014, but they were on stage at the same time as Linkin Park were playing Hybrid Theory in full and that album was instrumental into getting me into metal in the first place. Wonder if there are many people in hindsight annoyed about that clash? Probably not. Anyway, I saw them at Wacken 2014 and I remember them being great, but they were on in the middle of the afternoon/early evening when it was very warm, and that is not the ideal setting for blackened death metal really. I reckon it would be immense if they played as the sun would set there. Because of this, I was very much looking forward to seeing them indoors.

They set the stage up and then put up a curtain to block out the stage, which seemed odd until they used a projector to project an image of a massive upside down cross over an outline of the UK, which was cool. The stage show itself was great, with smoke cannons set up to shoot out upside down crosses, a bit of pyro and some cool lighting. Shout out to the mic stands as well, which looked like mini altars, superb. Setlist wise, they unsurprisingly leaned heavily on their new album (5 of out 14 played came from it) with songs from 4 of their other albums making up the rest. I would have liked for more from The Satanist but I wasn’t disappointed that there were only 2 songs from that album in the set. The set was unrelentingly heavy, to the point that by the end it was like having my ears and body assaulted in the best possible way (aside from the aching back from standing – I’m rapidly coming around to seating at some gigs). I think it is that reason why I was fine with the headline set being 70 minutes long. Sure, a longer set would have been cool, but I didn’t leave feeling short changed at all. Set list highlights for me were:

1)      The opening of Wolves ov Siberia, cause that song rocks
2)      Ora Pro Nobis Lucifier, because The Satanist and it got a very loud roar of approval from the assembled masses
3)      God = Dog because it was the first song from the new album released and it is bloody great.
4)      Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel, as that probably prompted the loudest singalong of the night.

Behemoth were bloody great. I’m not sure if they’ll be as good at Download in the middle of the day on the main stage, but if you are going and you like your metal heavy, blackened and death – go and see them. If you don’t, well go see them anyway!

TL;DR version

1)      Wolves In The Throne Room were better than I thought they would be.
2)      At The Gates were superb. I really want to see them live again.
3)      Behemoth were outstanding. I wouldn’t be shocked to be hyperlinking this blog come December when I write my end of year list.