I’ve always thought of Avantasia as Edguy’s more mature, more refined sibling. Even though Edguy is the older of the two, Edguy still likes to go out and party whereas Avantasia is more likely to have friends around for dinner. Don’t get me wrong, both Avantasia and Edguy still have a great time and no doubt both still end up rat-arsed by the close of proceedings – they just go about it in different ways. Both Edguy and Avantasia reside at Tobias Sammet’s house of course, and while Edguy is out partying and cavorting, Tobias has the time at home to plan the meal, drinks, games and entertainment for the forthcoming Avantasia soirée. There’s friends old and new on the invite list – Tobias knows it might be awkward for some of the new ones at first, but they will be soon made to feel welcome and let’s be honest, if Tobias thought they wouldn’t get on with each other, they wouldn’t be here.

In this scenario it’s easy to picture – everyone is assembled in Tobias’s vast dining room and there’s a little trepidation in the air from some, because on the previous Avantasia gathering Tobias served up a rather overdone slice of Meatloaf substitute as the first course and it wasn’t to everyone’s taste, but this time Tobias’s solo aperitif is a full-bodied classic Avantasia 9.40, served with a dash of piano, plenty of dynamic power and a large helping of melody. He’s set the scene so now the other dinner guests can weigh in and as they are always encouraged to do they all take turns to help him dish up the courses and sometimes even politely and quietly clear away the dishes afterwards (he’s an absolute gent that Bob Catley, always welcome!)

Looking around the room, you see Geoff Tate and Michael Kiske sitting together comparing vocal styles and sharing stories about fronting bands, Eric Martin and Bob Catley are quietly chatting and warming themselves by the fire. But in another part of the room there’s much amusement as Jorn Lande, is entertaining Ronnie ‘Pretty Maids’ Atkins by effortlessly doing impressions of other great Metal singers. Then there’s an awkward moment as he says “Hey Ronnie, check this out, I’ve been working on a Hansi Kursch”, just as the Blind Guardian vocalist himself walks into the room. Hansi doesn’t care, he knows no-one can sound like he does and when it comes to it, even though Jorn can sound like so many great singers, he sounds even better when he is being himself – and this time around is no exception. Just as these three are just getting to know each other, they get the shock of their lives as Mille ‘Kreator’ Petrozza suddenly joins them, challenges them to tequila shots, quickly downs a few, says he has to be elsewhere and leaves as quickly as he arrived. Everyone looks a little surprised, but “Book Of Shadows” was still a great addition to proceedings. Besides, it’s probably all Felix Bohnke’s fault for laying down such an energetic drum track…and of course for having such an amusing name that always gets a laugh at Avantasia parties.

With all the food and drink prepared, the ever loyal staff have of course been invited out of the kitchen to join in the fun, so Felix, Sascha Paeth and Michael Rodenberg are all congratulated on their efforts towards the event, just as the doorbell rings – it’s none other than Candice Night! “That’s Ritchie Blackmore’s missus” Bob whispers to Eric “A damn fine singer – I’ve heard her in that Blackmore’s Night y’know” he continues and Eric nods in agreement. Tobias fusses around his new guest and together they serve up “Moonglow”, a delicate but robust concoction that has the rest of the room entranced. Maybe it was those tequila shots, but clearly inspired, Jorn and Hansi quickly cajole their host into joining them for a lengthy spell of “The Raven Child”, and not to be outdone Ronnie whisks Tobias away right after for a briefer snifter of “Starlight” – potent stuff indeed! As this concludes our gracious host spots Geoff Tate momentarily sitting on his own (Michael Kiske is either in the toilet or maybe chatting to Candice Night but we won’t dwell…). Tobias joins his old friend and reflecting together the poignant “Invincible” is borne. But Tobias knows this is no way for an Avantasia night to go and immediately encourages his buddy Geoff to help him dish up a large, red-hot plate of “Alchemy”, which goes down very well with the other guests.

Tobias keeps everyone’s spirits up by continuing the up-beat vibe with a round of “The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn”. Ronnie, Jorn, Geoff and Eric are all up for this raucous favourite and almost unspotted by the others, Mr. Catley chooses this moment to warm up his vocal chords. The game completed four of the five collapse back into their chairs…but Bob remains standing. It’s always the highlight of the evening, everyone knows that Tobias generally has something classy and special for Bob to help him present and as “Lavender” is laid out it proves to be another hearty, satiating course. As this draws to a close Michael Kiske appears from the shadows. Geoff and a couple of others thought he’d gone home, but Michael had been sitting quietly with a glass of red, enjoying watching proceedings, waiting for the best moment to step forward. So as Bob takes a large glass of brandy back to his comfy seat by the fireplace, Michael stands and delivers his gift “Requiem For A Dream” to the other guests. Tobias has been saving this one and once again enjoys the two of them performing like he always imagined they would at the Helloween parties (if you see what I did there…?) he used to throw when he was younger.

Everyone applauds, and even Bob nods his approval – but the night isn’t over yet. Various beverages of varying potencies has been consumed, the mood is buoyant and Tobias has decided to round proceedings off in riotous style with his version of that 80’s pop/rock classic “Maniac”. He puts everything into it, even convincing Eric Martin to join in. It finishes and everyone stares in silence. As one they all stand up and start to leave the room. Tobias looks crestfallen…but it’s all a ruse! They’re just joking! They’ve all had a great time and to Tobias’s obvious relief they all crowd round him and congratulate him on a splendid evening, just as good as always, and vow to return next time he is having one of his bashes.

As his guests leave and drift off into the night, he notices Jorn has taken a bottle of whisky with him and is passing it round, Geoff and Michael are still talking vocal gymnastics and while they are all distracted Bob Catley elbows them out of the way claiming it’s his taxi that’s waiting. Tobias smiles “It’s hard work, but another success” he allows himself to think as Sascha gives him a wave from the end of the driveway that appears to say “see you again soon”. Tobias looks at his watch “Oh bugger, Edguy will be back soon, better get all this cleared up” he exclaims and closes the door.

(8/10 Andy Barker)