18 years and we are still counting, Within Temptation have done it all; world tours, six full albums, live albums, DVD’s, compilation albums, even covers albums, they’ve seen it, done it, and bought a few t-shirts along the way. It’s actually quite incredible that a band who were formed along the lines of ‘a bit of fun’ has exploded into arguably the biggest symphonic metal giants they are today, surpassing the mighty Nightwish (this is a debate for another time Nightwish fans). Celebrating their sixth major album release, not including the Q sessions or Destroyer or any other compilation/live/covers/orchestral albums they have done in between, Hydra. Manchester was the first stop of their UK leg of the European Tour and with the incredible special gust support of Delain who incidentally are also celebrating their recent release of Human Contradiction; The O2 Apollo was in for one hell of a symphonic ride.
So the stage was set, the gorgeous acoustics of the Apollo hall were going to be put to the test with the powerhouse voices of the two operatic style vocals of Charlotte and Sharon; the crowd here were raring to go, a full house indeed, even for the uprising Delain, who look to be taking the symphonic genre by storm; with the lights going out and a roar of appreciation from the throng of eclectic fans eagerly awaiting the night ahead. A heavy brass symphonic overlay intro opens up the night superbly as the Dutch quintet stunning opens the set with the incredible ‘Go Away’; Charlotte Wessels voice was pitch perfect, no studio equipment needed as she unleashed that sultry voice for all to hear. The crowd looked on in awe as the huge catchy riffs of Timo Somers that provided the chugging power chords that give Delain its infectious drive to make you swing your head or mosh like a crazy person. Charlotte looked splendid in her tie-dye dress with an “ooh la-la” level slit up one leg giving her the freedom of movement she needed to dance around the stage swinging her hair from side to side at the most poignant moments of each song.
One thing was certain throughout and that was the awestruck attitude of the entire band as huge beaming smiles covered their faces from the outset; it was obvious they couldn’t quite get over the reaction of the crowd. Screams for new material was audible much to the delight of Delain and they delivered the perfect punch with ‘Army of Dolls’ and clear fan favourite ‘Stardust’ within their impressive set. Though only 40minutes were granted the quintet they made the most of the time they had with 9 blistering songs that the crown reacted to and bounced to. The sheer stage presence of Charlotte and Co. held the fans in fixation, singing chorus’ back to them much to their delight. Martijn Westerholt looked the part behind his double stack keyboard, blonde hair flying as he immersed himself in the energy the crowd were pulling off; Otto van der Oije created the right amount of power bass lines and melodic undertones that blended so sweetly with the skins and percussion of Sander Zoer on drums. It was a delight to watch the Dutch band strut their stuff once again to the thunderous applause of the crowd; their set included the huge hits of ‘The Gathering’, ‘Get the Devil Out of Me’ and the emotional ‘We Are the Others’ that always brings a tear to the eyes and yet at the same time make you stand proud of who you are, a truly iconic song indeed.
The lights finally went out to some symphonic intro, the giant Hydra banner dropped to reveal a rather theatric stage with two cloth Hydra heads, mouth gaping open to reveal a screen that separated them devouring each other. The intro continued with a short video of their own version of the Hydra myth before the giant sextet, Within Temptation finally roared into vision upon a three level stage raging out ‘Let Us Burn’ with video flames pouring out of the mouths of dragons. The crowd were on fire from the start bouncing away to the symphonic mix of heavy guitar riffs tearing through, Ruud Jolie and Stefan Helleblad were in the zone with their impeccable performance; both swapped solos throughout and not once did either try to out-stage the other, they worked in perfect harmony with one another. The thumping, pounding, drifting drum beats of Mike Coolen spread through the room as the octaves felt heightened by the room shape which also created the perfect acoustic setting for Sharons’ vocals to shine through. The three levelled stage was used to its full efficiency as Sharon, Ruud, Stafan and bassist Jeroen van Veen used it to full advantage; the steampunk look to the stage with sections that looked to have been borrowed from the set of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, it was clear that Within Temptation was looking towards the theatrics of their sets.
At either side of the second level, Mike Coolen set his drums alight with blistering pace as Martijn Spierenburg zapped us with his wondrous display on the keyboards; Hydra certainly got a lot of love on the night and for more than just the fact it was the tour of the album with seven of the ten tracks being played on the night; incredibly all the featured tracks took centre stage with videos of the featured guests being played between the mouths of the Hydra heads either side of the screen, more specifically ‘Dangerous’, ‘Paradise (What about Us)’ and ‘Edge of the World’ particularly shined, clearly designed for the live stage. The powerful favourites of ‘Mother Earth’ and finale track ‘Ice Queen’ fell seamlessly into the new material and the material in between; it was a flawless fit.
If Sharon’s beautiful vocals wasn’t enough, you were guaranteed to get something else out of the performance whether that was perfectly placed solos, thundering riffs, infectious up tempo melodies or stupendous bass and drum lines that just melt your face off with their low floor shaking pound. Sharon den Adel was a force to be reckoned with, completely in her element, Sharon was a joy to behold and for good reason, it was so clear how much she was enjoying herself, arm sways every so often and even some nice little nifty air guitar to add to her repertoire of movement. Never can it be said that Sharon just stands there, swapping around through the stage settings, even down to the simplest little bouncing on the balls of her feet, Sharon was like a little dynamo, in constant motion. It was a phenomenal set played out by Icons of their craft; ‘Faster’, ‘Our Solemn Hour’, ‘Stand My Ground’ and actually pretty much the entire set stood out, it was flawless.
A standing ovation from the circle above and a rip roaring applause from the entirety of the audience, Within Temptation had blown them away; with a final little hoorah, Sharon asked for the audience to participate in an experiment by screaming one thing with the cameras rolling “UK” and they did it in one take – this will obviously become clear at some point for the UK fans as this was to happen at all concerts along the UK tour. The crowd were in the ascendancy as they finally left the auditorium that is the Apollo, with the names Delain and Within Temptation on their lips. Within Temptation will be at Download this year and boy are they in for one hell of a show.
Dragon short movie Intro
1) Let Us Burn
2) Paradise (What About Us) [Tarja movie in background]
5) Edge of the World
6) In the Middle of the Night
7) Our Solemn Hour
9) Dangerous [Howard Jones movie in background]
10) And We Run [Xzibit movie in background]
11) Tell Me Why
12) See Who I am
13) Stand My Ground
14) The Cross
15) Covered By Roses
16) Mother Earth
17) What Have You Done Now [Keith Caputo video in background]
18) Whole World Is Watching
19) Summertime Sadness (Larna Del Rey Cover)
20) Ice Queen
Review: Aaron Emerson
Photos: Heather Mc