Caught Live: Delain presents Suckerpunch, Patronaat Haarlem (NL) 29 January 2016

Once again, Delain pencilled in a show at Patronaat, a 1000-capacity venue in Haarlem, Netherlands to close out a touring cycle. This gig, dubbed ‘Suckerpunch’ after a new song they unveiled recently, follows on from their ‘My Masquerade’ show at the same venue in late 2013. I was at that gig as well, so knew my way around the town and the venue. Although the band said this was to be their final show of their club tour for the current album ‘The Human Contradiction’, within days of this gig they had jetted off to the US, initially to perform on a cruise ship for ‘70000 Tons Of Metal’ and then to tour the United States as guests on the next leg of Nightwish’s world tour.  They’re currently working on material for their fifth full studio album, and are about to release another interim mini-album (‘Lunar Prelude’) featuring two new cuts and some live material.

A large contingent of British fans had made their way over to Holland for this show, and as on their autumn run of UK dates, they had arranged a VIP meet and greet for those who chose to take it up. The format was similar to the VIP package on the UK tour; there were posters and photo cards for the band to sign (many of us from the UK did not take the posters, being much too large to carry home when we’d brought only an overnight bag!), a photo taken with the entire group, two acoustic songs performed by guitarist Timo Somers and singer Charlotte Wessels, and priority access to the main venue. The latter is the chief reason I had taken up this option, although the venue isn’t that big so was not quite on the front row as hoped. Once we’d settled into our spots in the main hall, Charlotte herself came running in to remind us that there was one more element to this VIP package. She then handed over to keyboardist Martijn Westerholt, who was stood at the mixer desk. He then gave us a little background on the progress of the next album, before playing us brief excerpts of material they had so far. The extracts weren’t really enough to make an informed judgement, other than to note that what we heard was very much in the style they’re known for. Following this, we then took our places as the hall filled up rapidly.

The support on the night were fellow Dutch metallers The Charm The Fury. As is so often the case with support acts I knew absolutely nothing of these beforehand, but was briefed by fellow fans that their female vocalist (Caroline Westendorp) tended to do more of the ‘death metal’ style of vocal than clean singing. Their set was quite short, with a few new tracks from an upcoming album played alongside material from their first record. Of course, it was all new to me (!) but although they didn’t bring much new to the table, they gave an energetic set with the vocalist putting a lot into her performance. She reminded me a little of Arch Enemy’s Alissa White-Gluz, although she came over as a little less aggressive and ‘in your face’, and thus easier to warm to. I’d find out later I was nearer the mark than I thought during their set.

As at ‘My Masquerade’, following the support a curtain descended over the stage while they set it up for Delain. It wasn’t until about 9:30 their time when the main event began, with the curtain dropping to show only drummer Ruben Israel and keyboardist Martijn Westerholt. We could hear the rest of the band, but guitarists Timo Somers and Merel Bechtold, bassist Otto Schimmelpenninck van der Oije and singer Charlotte Wessels were still hidden behind another curtain in the centre of the stage as they opened with the new song ‘Suckerpunch’. Only when they got to the chorus did that curtain drop and the whole band were visible.

A few of their favourites followed before the first treat of the night; they’d promised guest appearances and some rarely-played tracks as they did at ‘My Masquerade’. They performed the ballad ‘Scarlet’ (a bonus track on some editions of the last album) with guest cellist Maaike Peterse and with Martijn Westerholt playing a real piano, as opposed to the electric one he usually uses on tour. They went back to harder rock with ‘April Rain’, then’ Sleepwalkers Dream’ before playing ‘The Tragedy Of The Commons’. That track was my favourite off the last album, and I’d never seen it done live before this show. They brought out Caroline Westendorp from The Charm The Fury to deliver the ‘growl’ vocals performed on record by Alissa White-Gluz, and she also provided clean backing vocal for the closing section. It worked very well, as noted earlier there’s a similarity in style between the Canadian vocalist and tonight’s opener. Much of the rest of the set was familiar, but they played the other bonus track from the last album ‘Don’t Let Go’ tonight, which is rarely performed. The new song ‘Turn The Lights Out’ (unveiled on last autumn’s tour) came next, then they brought back the cellist for ‘Silhouette Of A Dancer’. The guest for this song was George Oosthoek, who appeared on the original recorded version and has performed live on several occasions with Delain since then.

As has become commonplace at Delain shows, there was a prolonged pause so that the singer could take in the raucous cheers from the crowd. She then spoke – or tried to before being drowned out again – in both Dutch and English, as she knew many had travelled from other countries to be at this show. The main set was closed out as usual with ‘Not Enough’, then a three-song encore finishing with ‘We Are The Others’.

This was a better show than the last time I saw this band in Manchester, that night was for me blighted by a sound that was much too bass-heavy. This was better, or perhaps I was in a better spot; the bass was still a bit too dominant but it didn’t overwhelm as was the case at the Academy 2 last year. Nowadays with the band now featuring two guitarists, the leads are fairly evenly split between Timo Somers and Merel Bechtold, although the former also provides some good backing vocal on some numbers. The only slight gripe I had was the overuse of CO2 jets in the lighting rig, they were REALLY loud and the ‘PFFFFFFFFT’ when they were set off detracted from the playing in many songs.

Once again this was a triumph for the group, with another sold-out show in their homeland attracting an audience comprising fans from both home and abroad. It is likely we won’t see them again until the autumn now, hopefully their next album will be ready by then but 2016 also marks ten years since the release of debut album ‘Lucidity’. They are bound to do something to mark that anniversary, so I look forward to their return to European (preferably British!) shores soon.

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