I did rather swear when this gig was announced as I realised it was the same night as Prong in London. Well you can’t be in two places at once and it was really no contest as I had never seen the headliners here and it was their first ever show in England so choice was easily made. It was good to notice a big queue already snaking down the road before doors and as usual at such an event it was one that spanned through the ages with a lot of people you wouldn’t normally see at shows in the capitol. Once getting into the venue everyone started salivating as the scent of garlic was wafting through the place. I am guessing the bands and crew had probably just been served dinner courtesy of the Italian restaurant next door; any vampires were no doubt heading off to escape.
First up are Stream Of Passion a band pretty much discovered by Gentle Storm supremo Arjen Anthony Lucassen and one who have bloomed and blossomed into one of the best but seriously underrated (compared to some of their peers) symphonic metal groups. As they steam into first monstrous track ‘Monster’ they instantly had the audience who had politely crammed to the front eating out their hands. It’s heavy as hell and you can really feel the powerful bombast surging through you as Johan throws his dreadlocks wildly about and plunders the bass and the guitarists Stephan and Eric fire out the riffs from either side of the stage. Marcela Bovio takes up the centre and oozes radiance with her vocals as natural and unforced as ever. When the chorus hits it knocks you flat and has many singing along and clapping away. It is slightly odd watching tracks like this live as after viewing the group’s interesting promo videos which are done with gangsters and guns at their heart I find myself looking around cautiously wondering if someone’s going to burst in and attack. Slower parts really pull the heartstrings and numbers like latest album title track ‘A War Of Our Own’ simmer and seethe, boil over and really send you off on an emotional rollercoaster. They take a breather and politely invite us to a show in Holland where they will be playing the whole of their debut album Embrace The Storm. It’s damn tempting too even if the promise of tulips are not top of the agenda for me. For now we settle with the stirring ‘Deceiver’ sweeping me back in time to first discovery of this band who have been with me ever since. The audience definitely approve too and things get very clap happy. It’s a stirring and evocative display and there’s definitely a good reason I have never missed a London date from the band. Radiohead cover ‘Street Spirit’ frankly pisses all over the original from a great height and literally melts us in its caress, a burst of power crooning flying up to the stratosphere and beyond. The violin comes out for a brief strum on The Hidden World with everyone singing and swaying along and last number ‘Haunted’ really goes for it like a poltergeist tossing everything around. It bounces off the walls and through us, a fitting finale to a stirring set.
Before we could get too unhappy about the end of this particular show The Gentle Storm see both Marcela and Johan back in the fold. The former is on the side lines a bit as backing singer as now it’s time for Anneke van Giersbergen to shine and that she does with a striking orange top lit up making her look like a beaming Dutch Xmas tree (well these thoughts made sense at the time). As Endless Sea’ takes the storm off in a fashion that is far from gentle due to the hefty backbone of drummer Ed Warby and it’s obvious this is going to be one of those special shows. Filling out the other parts on stage are guitarist Ferry Duijsens and Merel Bechtold both beaming away and obviously well into things and hidden away a little keyboard player Joost van der Broek. It’s an all-star ensemble even if it is missing its creator who decided not to take part in the live shows. As the band flow into ‘Amsterdam’ and make me wish I was wearing clogs (not really this isn’t a New Model Army show) it’s a case of not knowing quite what to look at as there’s so much happening on stage. There comes a point on ‘Brightest Light’ were Marcela and Anneka stand facing each other and embark on a duet serenade when it finishes Anneka beats her heart knowing that they have nailed things perfectly and I am sure a few audience members hearts had practically stopped during this trade off. ‘The Storm’ does just as suggested not just bringing the rock but tumultuously dashing us against it with Warby battering away and vocals giving it the theatrical flair of a rock opera it really goes down errr a storm and is met by a huge round of applause. For those not expecting the odd number from the vocalist’s former band The Gathering they were in for a surprise as things simmer down for ‘Eleanor.’ It’s more than welcome especially when one considers how often The Gathering themselves played the UK (not very much at all) and to hear it with the original vocalist harmonious tones really sends some of us off on a hazy trip.
Also unexpected is some really gentle stuff that sees Anneka come back just with guitar to play ‘Wish You Were Here’ a cover by a certain British band whom I really shouldn’t have to name. She continues on calm mode with the likes of Ayreon cover ‘Valley Of The Queens’ a lilting and gorgeous ballad. Unfortunately it’s part ruined by downright rudeness courtesy of a group of idiots talking loudly, laughing and belching; it was rather embarrassing and I had to wonder if they got lost on the way to a St George’s day UKIP rally, fucktards.
Pint and the band’s double album purchased it was back to stormy things that thankfully drowned out any further chatter as Cape Of Storms heralds the full band back on stage to blow us away again. White flashes of light fly off the stage in co-ordination with the hefty drumming and it almost had you ducking in case of possible lightning strike. Another part of the set that was hugely welcome was Gathering classic ‘Strange Machines’ a firm favourite and a number I had never really expected to hear live again. We are told the band are due back later in the year with Delain but honestly the fact they are supporting really sits wrong. Both the Gathering Storm and Stream Of Passion should definitely be booked for Bloodstock in my opinion! More Ayreon numbers such as Isis and Osiris are played and I suddenly realise that not only has time flown but the band have played almost 90 minutes. There’s no getting away for them yet though and encores are demanded and commanded and blimey next is an unexpected Devin Townsend cover ‘Fallout’ a song the singer collaborated with him on. It’s almost too much to take in and with a final number ringing in our ears the storm finally passes over leaving us shell shocked and ravaged; what a great night, it’s going to remain in the memory for quite some time!
(Review and photos © Pete Woods)