Tonight is a power metal fans dream come true, Kamelot, a massive enterprise in the aforementioned sub-genre, are rolling into Manchester, and tonight is just one of three dates of the UK leg of their current tour, and with a London date being conspicuous by its absence, it is pretty nailed on that the club academy is going to be heaving tonight, especially as Kamelot haven’t ventured into this city before.

As I ventured into the basement confines, there was already a healthy gathering and an obvious air of excitement buzzing through the hordes. It wasn’t long before the lights dimmed and the first of the support bands on tonight’s bill took to the stage, the Austrian symphonic power house of Visions of Atlantis. From the outset the band were solid and energised, and the duelling vocals between Delauney and Guaitoli were mesmerising. Caser on drums, and worth noting, the only original member still standing (or sitting as he is behind the drumkit), created an absolute cast iron backbone for the rest of the band to feed off, and didn’t seem to falter or tire throughout the whole set tonight. The Bass of Glos was reliable and dependable, creating an absolute fiend of a vertebral column for the others to swing from.  They opened up with ‘The Deep And The Dark’ and this allowed the vocals of Delauney and Guaitoli to intertwine with pure romance and beauty. The set then continued with passion and drive through more tried and tested symphonic power fan favourites with the likes of ‘New Dawn’ and ‘Words Of War’. Mid set they unleashed the absolutely beautiful ‘The Last Home’ which allowed Delauney to open up and exhibit her absolutely flawless and perfectly formed angelic voice, and had the whole venue swaying in unison. The band then injected some more power and synth into the set with ‘Memento’ and finished the proceedings with ‘Return To Lemuria’. The band were bang on point tonight and the only negative I would draw from the brief set they were allowed tonight would be that the sound was a little on the quiet side, with the softer, hushed volume level not allowing the band to display their full power. These Austrians definitely need to return to our shores and definitely sooner rather than later.

After a quick shuffle on stage and the appearance of a rather interesting keyboard stand, the lights dimmed again and a cheer eluded from the crowd which had now visibly swollen since Visions departed the cramped stage. Evergrey appeared and strode onto the stage with a confidence and swagger which only escalated with the deafening roar which the band were greeted with. Englund planted himself centre stage and commanded the gathered masses with ease. Zander inputted the keys and synth with visible ease and Danhage kept himself to himself to the side, yet, if you paid him enough attention you could truly see that his accomplished and intricate fretwork makes him an understated master of his arts, especially when he flaunted with the solos that he infused into the tracks with pinpoint accuracy. Ekdahl and Niemann on the drums and Bass respectively furnished the set with a titanium soul, and the sound had been turned up to 11 from the very first chord to the last beat of the set. This extra volume definitely added the power and muscle which the band respectfully commands.

Onto the main event, and the stage had been transformed to within an inch of its life. There was a huge arch spanning the entire stage, reminiscent of a golden eagles wing span whilst in full flight, there were more light stacks on stage than you would  feasibly expect, and the already tiny photo/security pit has now been filled in with monitors and platforms making life in the pit a little precarious to say the least. The place was now packed and as you glanced out over the crowd, it was Kamelot shirts on pretty much every back in the venue tonight. The lights dimmed and the band graced the stage with energy and excitement overflowing.

Youngblood et al graced us with their presence first and then Karevik entered to the biggest cheer yet. They then carved open the atmosphere with precision and dominance worthy of their headline stature. ‘Phantom Divine’ was the opener and allowed them to really set their stall out with the inclusion of Lauren Hart to add the final, perfect element to the already exuberant and extravagant powerhouse. Hart and Karevik worked in perfect unison and together with the precision and authority the rest of the cohort created an absolute behemoth of a spectacle. As ‘Phantom Divine’ closed and Hart exited the stage, it wasn’t the last we would see of her as she was utilised later in the set with ‘March Of Mephisto’, ‘Center Of The Universe’, ‘Sacrimony’ and ‘Liar Liar’. It may be worth a little note that for some reason mid ‘Phantom Divine’, Youngblood appeared a little upset and gestured for one of the crew to throw the photographers from the photo pit. Totally unsure of the reason, maybe it was just health and safety, or the fact that we didn’t have sufficient climbing attire for the mountainous monitors and platforms we had to contend with.

The set spanned eight of their albums tonight, I’m just a little bemused as to why they had chosen to omit anything from the first 4 outings, but the set definitely highlighted a diverse and colourful past as well as the very current present offering.  ‘Amnesic’ from ‘The Shadow Theory’, probably got the biggest reaction from the Kamelot disciples who had assembled in Manchester tonight, and as the band closed the set and departed, it was obvious that they should have been playing a larger stage to a bigger congregation, the whole place was bouncing, every soul drenched with blood, sweat and tears, and there had even been a few beers spilt in the sociable, affable riot that Kamelot conjured up here this evening. Crowd and band alike have bonded over the crushing mighty party which has taken place, and every individual will be departing the club academy tonight on cloud 9, maybe even a 10 if there is one.

(Review and photos Phil Pountney)