On arrival at the Ritz venue it was clear that the popularity of Delain has increased dramatically and with two quality supports this was a must-see tour especially if you prefer the genre. It appeared that the venue security didn’t have a clue about using a separate entrance for guest passes when you are working as opposed to being a normal punter and meant that I only just made it in time to catch Canadian rockers Kobra And The Lotus even though they let my shooter in.
It was clear that KATL had a small battalion of fans as the venue was rather sparsely filled which was explained when you looked at the queue for the merchandise area that only waned when Delain came on stage. The enthusiastic entourage stood front and centre greeted KATL vehemently as the band confidently strode on stage and kicked off with “Gotham”. I am not one for making comments about the attire band members are wearing but it is absolutely obvious that when bands of this ilk play the lead front woman is always dressed in an outfit that completely contrasts with the rest of the band. This applied to Delain as well and smacks of corporate marketing manipulation to pander to certain people within the metal community which I’ll leave at that.
Confident on stage the band worked the audience with considerable aplomb but were let down by a fuzzy sound mix that rendered Brittany’s vocals almost inaudible and required that I remove my ear plugs to hear her at all. That sentiment was echoed by my shooter after he did his stint in the photo pit as they aired “Hold On” after a bit of small talk that the bass player, Brad Kennedy, was sporting a video camera and was streaming the show live. As the set progressed there was some improvement in the sound as a new tune, currently available to the public called “Trigger Pulse” was aired to a cheer as it seemed a lot knew it. Planting themselves firmly in the hard rock style, the song was catchy and lead nicely into the closing tune “50 Shades Of Evil” as I’m sure the bands fans were satisfied with their show.
During the interceding period between KATL and Swedish epic metal titans Evergrey the crowd had swelled substantially, even though the merch queue was the same as it was when I entered. I had my suspicions that the gathered throng were really only stood there to wait for Delain and my suspicions proved correct as the whole audience was wholly indifferent to the band’s music which was far more accomplished than KATL and with a cracking new album released, “The Storm Within” I expected the band to go down like a veritable storm. Arriving on stage Tom Englund said “Evening Manchester” to a stilted cheer and went straight into “Passing Through” which increased the heaviness a hundred-fold after KATL.
I appreciate that supports are never going to get a sound like the headliners but here the mix afforded Evergrey was abysmal, extremely muddy suffocating Tom’s awesome vocals to the point of oblivion as they hit their stride with “The Fire”. A short bit of chat ensued with Tom saying who they were continuing with “Leave It Behind Us”. The audience had a bit of energy for this one by joining in the hand clap catalysed by the band. Previously when I’ve seen Evergrey they have huge stage magnetism that is transfixing but here they seemed a little weary and even a bit uninterested which might have been down to the lacklustre audience reception but I still loved them anyway as they played “In Orbit”. As the set got to “Broken Wings” some of the audience decided they liked that one and proved it by engaging with the band who were faultless on every level but adding a guitar solo was probably not the best move for the set but hopefully the band gained a few new fans.
Delain’s popularity is at full velocity as every time I see them they play it is to bigger and bigger crowds as this act is destined to achieve high four figure audience numbers with regularity in the not too distant future. The crowd had increased massively as each tessellated themselves to get the best vantage point. As the intro was played the band members filtered on stage to varying degrees of audience cheer to continue the build-up as the drum riser and separate keyboard towered over the audience and allowed the focus of their show to not rest entirely on vocalist Charlotte Wessels. Arriving on stage to a gigantic roar “Hands Of Gold” followed the intro as you could see practically every person singing the lyrics as the exceptionally confident guitarists bounced around the stage like a bunch of hyperactive children. Charlotte was completely at ease as “Suckerpunch” was belted out and was instantly recognised as Charlotte said “hi” to everyone. The whole show was backed by the audience on backing vocals for every song it seemed especially on a crowd favourite like “Get The Devil Out Of Me”. The bands choreography was perfect with each knowing what the others were doing we got an early synchro headbang from the band and is a spectacle to behold, none of this I’ll shake my head side to side, the band could give Amon Amarth a run for their money in the headbanging stakes. Personal favourite “Army Of Dolls” was pumped out as the symphonic keyboard break was immense and bands should take note, if you have symphonic or keyboard sections then get a person to perform them live as a backing track doesn’t cut it.
The perfect sound enabled every person in the band to have some focus which was dutifully done by the lighting person shining spotlights on the various band members when appropriate and added another layer of professionalism to this slick outfit. None more so than on the start of “April Rain” which had that light firmly focussed on the keyboardist Martijn who I thought was utterly fantastic throughout the set. As expected “April Rain” was instantly recognised with a breath-taking cheer and was a standout song of the whole evening for me. Popular, heavy and oozing power “Here Come The Vultures” hit the crowd with a layer of heaviness not seen so far in the set and as the song went towards its finale the audience sang the humming section at the end to looks of astonishment on Charlotte’s face as she stood back next to Martijn. When the crowd had done she then did her bit to close the track properly. “Fire With Fire” had Charlotte kneeled down in front of guitarist Merel as she sang but was still taller than her even kneeled down, OK I’m exaggerating but it wasn’t far off.
As the bands main set was nearing completion with “The Gathering” and “Pristine” streamer cannons were fired to a cheer as the band jumped up and down encouraging the audience to do the same which some did as some decided to clap their hands instead for safety’s sake I suspect. As they disappeared offstage the inevitable chant of “Delain” ensued and they were quickly back on stage for “Mother Machine” again instantly acknowledged and sang throughout by the crowd only for the momentum to drop due to a stage light failure before “Don’t Let Go”. The shouts of put 50p in the metre were predictable but funny as eventually the lights returned to for the song to start. The energy of Delain is stunning to say the least, they fly around the stage never tiring, no signs of boredom as they came to the front to smile at the fans as Charlotte dropped to her knees brandishing her light sabre like microphone stand. As ever the set ended with the poignant but outstanding “We Are The Others” as Charlotte said the song was about us, about you, about all of us and it likely that this song will never leave the set.
Despite the disappointing sound afforded KATL and Evegrey nothing could top the sheer vibrancy, exuberance and infectious energy that Delain poured over their audience.
Review: Martin Harris – Photos: Andy Pountney