Caught Live: Black Star Riders with Blues Pills, Tax The Heat, Parr Hall Warrington 10th November 2017

It was a late decision to go along to this gig, which I would have booked far sooner had my car not been off the road. Warrington is not far from me, it is slap bang in the middle of the cities of Liverpool and Manchester so you’d think it is convenient for both. That didn’t stop the regular ‘what, no Manchester?’ comments on the band’s Facebook page when this tour was announced, which overlooked that this autumn run of dates was intended to hit places where they hadn’t been on the spring tour earlier in the year.  To get there without a car is straightforward enough, there’s even a direct bus to the town which runs along my road – it’s the getting back. I decided the best way was to get the train there from Liverpool Lime Street, as there was a late train back which got you there in time for the last bus.

This bill featured four bands, and despite setting out at what I thought was an early time, I’d still managed to miss openers Dirty Thrills. Apologies to those guys, as I entered the hall while the crew were changing the stage over for next band up Tax The Heat. I saw these guys earlier in the year at Chester, a real up-close-and-personal gig that has gone down as one of the gigs of the year for me. The bigger stage suited the band, as they gave a lively run-through of tracks from their album ‘Fed To The Lions’ as well as airing a couple of new numbers. Their sound is relentlessly heavy right through, Jack Taylor’s thumping drums are accompanied by fuzzy bass from Antonio Angotti, and given extra wallop from guitarist JP Jacyshyn. On top of all that is frontman Alex Veale’s equally heavy guitar – he takes the majority of the lead solos as well – and they pair a monstrously heavy sound with excellent vocal harmonies from all four members. The only let-down was the out-front sound, it tended to swirl around in this hall. The place isn’t particularly big but has quite a high ceiling, and this would be an issue all night. That was a little disappointing, as this is one of the better venues in the area when it comes to actually being able to see the bands on the stage, it has good sight lines wherever you are in the room.

JP Jacyshyn of Tax The Heat

JP Jacyshyn of Tax The Heat

Tax The Heat's Alex Veale

Tax The Heat’s Alex Veale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sound problems aside, Tax The Heat gave a great account of themselves once again. They were never going to top that Chester show this time, but this is a band that’s going places and I predict they’ll be headlining venues bigger than this within a year. A nice touch for the Remembrance weekend was the poppy on the headstock of Alex Veale’s guitar, good to see. Following that the next band up were Swedish retro-rockers Blues Pills.

On the two occasions I’ve seen Blues Pills before they’ve been let down by a sound balance that gave far too much prominence to Zack Anderson’s bass. The sound tonight was only a little better in that regard, but their out-front mix was still a mess – actually worse than the previous band. It all tended to blend into one in places, so much so that it actually neutralised singer Elin Larsson’s powerful voice. She is without doubt the focus of this band, with guitarist Dorian Sorriaux and drummer André Kvarnström stationed over one side of the stage, with bassist Zack Anderson and touring keyboardist/guitarist Rickard Nygren over the other, giving the singer the centre of the stage in which to move about. She certainly does that, with moves ranging from sensual swaying to saucy thrusting, with plenty of jumping about thrown in too! They’re a band I really like, because of their modern take on 1960s/70s blues rock with plenty of jamming, solos from guitar and organ, plus of course that voice on top of it all. They were still very good, but with a decent sound balance they’d be sensational. The other slight let-down for me came when they left out ‘Devil Man’ from the set, choosing instead to close out with a cover of Jefferson Airplane’s ‘Somebody To Love’. It was a good version, but it was ‘Devil Man’ which hooked me on this group in the first place.

Dorian Sorriaux of Blues Pills

Dorian Sorriaux of Blues Pills

Elin Larsson (Blues Pills)

Elin Larsson (Blues Pills)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s been a few years since last I saw Black Star Riders play a full set, there have been a few changes to the ranks since then with Robbie Crane now on bass in place of Marco Mendoza (now a member of The Dead Daisies). They have also changed drummer this year with Chad Szeliga taking over the position from Jimmy DeGrasso. With three albums now under their belt, they have gradually loosened the links to guitarist Scott Gorham’s former band Thin Lizzy since reforming as Black Star Riders in 2012. Three of the current Black Star Riders membership were touring as ‘Thin Lizzy’ up until then, when they opted to make a new album of original material. Initially they included a great deal of classic Lizzy numbers in their live set but as time has gone on they have been able to lessen the dependence on that material.

Scott Gorham (Black Star Riders)

Scott Gorham (Black Star Riders)

Ricky Warwick (Black Star Riders)

Ricky Warwick (Black Star Riders)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The band came on to big cheers, as this hall had gradually filled up during the sets from the previous bands, opening with ‘All Hell Breaks Loose’. Straight away, the sound hit like a sledgehammer – this is one thing that is definitely different from Thin Lizzy days, Lynott’s outfit were never this relentlessly heavy. They still have that twin-guitar sound, provided by Damon Johnson as well as Scott Gorham, plus vocalist Ricky Warwick adding extra weight with his own rhythm guitar, which may help explain this heavier sound. It was extremely loud, even so they still were stymied a bit by the acoustics in this hall. The current set included plenty of singalong anthems, such as ‘Finest Hour’ and ‘Testify or Say Goodbye’ which had the crowd bouncing from the off. Warwick was in good form all night, sounding strong vocally and encouraging plenty of clapping along from this crowd.

A trio of Black Star Riders

A trio of Black Star Riders

Damon Johnson (Black Star Riders)

Guitarist Damon Johnson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of only two Lizzy nods all night came mid-set, with ‘Jailbreak’; that did show however, that good as their own material is, a classic like that is pretty hard to beat. They played a lengthy and unrelenting set packed with hard rocking numbers, there were few pauses for breath! After ‘Bound for Glory’ they ended things with ‘Whiskey In The Jar’, which even Lizzy themselves seldom played once they really broke through.  That sent the punters home happy, as this one was quick off the blocks to get out in order to get back to the station in time for that last train!

All in all a good value night of hard rock, despite missing the first band there was still plenty to enjoy from the bands I caught. The sound issues were the only quibble for me, however the bands themselves gave plenty and I look forward to seeing any of these again in future.

4 – Deserving

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Chuck Mosley 1959 – 2017

I got in from a gig on Friday night to hear that original Faith No More vocalist Chuck Mosley had died, aged just 57. That was the latest shock news in the world of rock, and one I certainly had not seen coming.

Chuck Mosley appeared on the first two Faith No More albums; he joined the band in 1985, taking over the lead vocal role from a certain Courtney Love. It was with him that their debut album ‘We Care a Lot’ was released that year on an independent label, but it wasn’t until the band signed to Slash Records (distributed by Warner Bros.) that they began to attract attention both in the US and abroad. The second album ‘Introduce Yourself’ featured a re-recorded version of the title track of their debut, and the song  ‘We Care A Lot’ ( lyrically, taking a swipe at the sort of pop star charity events which Live Aid had started around that time) even charted in the lower reaches of the UK singles charts. It was around that time that the band were starting to feature in UK magazines such as Kerrang! and such was the interest surrounding them that they were brought over to the UK to play shows. I caught one of these dates, at Stairways club in Birkenhead in early 1988, having heard ‘We Care A Lot’ and finding it to be substantially different from the hair-metal norm which was around then. The gig had an almost punkish vibe to it, there were goths, metalheads, punks present. The band played a set which, although definitely hard rock, touched on many other elements e.g. funk, punk rock, led by Jim Martin’s sludgy guitar and the eerie keyboard sounds of Roddy Bottum. They also included a cover of Black Sabbath’s ‘War Pigs’ that night, at that time it wasn’t quite such a cool thing to cover a Sabbath track as it became in the decade which followed.

I wasn’t quite sure what to make of these guys (still being a young Metal fan who had definite ideas about what constituted hard rock /metal) but it was already clear that they were going to be big, they were so very different to everything else around at that time. What I hadn’t realised that it would be without Mosley when they did – a year later he and the band parted ways, with Mike Patton taking over lead vocal and suddenly, the band broke big with the next album ‘The Real Thing’. Faith No More would go on to massive success, with many of their new followers completely unaware that there was anybody else on the mic before Patton. The inevitable lawsuit between Mosley and his former band followed once they made it big, which was eventually settled and the singer moved on to join hardcore punk outfit Bad Brains, with whom he spent two years. After forming another band (Cement), releasing two albums, he was sidelined for a year while on tour after a road crash involving the band’s driver. Mosley sustained a broken back, effectively ending that project.

He didn’t reappear again until 2009 releasing an album called ‘Will Rap Over Hard Rock For Food’, featuring several guest appearances including one from former bandmate Roddy Bottum, then the following year appeared on stage with his old band for the first time since 1988 at a Faith No More gig in San Francisco.  He performed for the last time with Faith No More at two special shows in August 2016 to celebrate the reissue of debut album ‘We Care A Lot’.

On his passing, his family released the following statement:

After a long period of sobriety, Charles Henry Mosley III lost his life, on November 9th, 2017, due to the disease of addiction. We’re sharing the manner in which he passed, in the hopes that it might serve as a warning or wake up call or beacon to anyone else struggling to fight for sobriety. He is survived by long-term partner Pip Logan, two daughters, Erica and Sophie and his grandson Wolfgang Logan Mosley. The family will be accepting donations for funeral expenses. Details to follow when arranged.

Faith No More also released a statement on Friday evening:

It’s with a heavy, heavy heart we acknowledge the passing of our friend and bandmate, Chuck Mosley. He was a reckless and caterwauling force of energy who delivered with conviction and helped set us on a track of uniqueness and originality that would not have developed the way it had had he not been a part. How fortunate we are to have been able to perform with him last year in a reunion style when we re-released our very first record. His enthusiasm, his sense of humor, his style and his bravado will be missed by so many. We were a family, an odd and dysfunctional family, and we’ll be forever grateful for the time we shared with Chuck.

The ‘alternative’ metal boom which happened in the 1990s incorporating elements including rap and funk certainly would not have happened without Faith No More, and Chuck Mosley must be regarded as one of the pioneers of the sounds which went on to dominate the rock scene in the decades which followed.

He will undoubtedly be remembered for ‘We Care A Lot’, that and ‘Anne’s Song’ are presented below.

From black to My Indigo – Within Temptation’s Sharon den Adel launches solo project

The ‘mountain out of a molehill’ award for this week goes to Within Temptation and singer Sharon den Adel. After the band’s website was black for an entire week, save for a stark message about an official statement ‘coming soon’ from den Adel, the site was finally restored on Friday morning 10th November, with the announcement following soon afterwards. Essentially it was to reveal that the material she has been working on, and hinting at, in recent weeks is indeed for a solo project called My Indigo with the first single issued today, also called ‘My Indigo’.

You can hear what she has to say here; she had appeared on a Dutch TV programme the night before to unveil this project (which was then partially translated and shared by fan site Don’t Tear Me Down)

Cut through the hype and what we’re left with is: singer of band announces solo project, band not splitting and will be back next year. Was there really a need to darken their whole site for seven days just to tell us that? OK, I get that she’s admitted to some domestic issues and that she felt it was time for a bit of ‘me time’ after twenty years with the band, but still – this whole thing feels a bit unnecessary. Surely she could just have announced it on the day in question without giving fans a reason to start speculating wildly, that black background definitely hinted at something a lot more than this.

On the other hand she did get people talking, and music fans like this one blogging so I suppose she has achieved her objective, so well done Shaz (!) With that in mind then here is that song which emerged today, with initial thoughts below:


If you’re a Within Temptation fan because of her voice above all else, you will probably like this song. She is in good vocal form, however if it was their symphonic Metal style that lured you in, then you are unlikely to take to this. It’s the sort of thing that would sit well on a pop radio station such as Heart radio; starting off well enough with her voice over acoustic guitar, it soon kicks in with that 1980s vibe complete with a gated drum sound and squeaky, electronic effects in the chorus. It is catchy, and might win her a new audience, but is definitely not my cup of Metal. I will admit however, that my judgement may be coloured (indigo?) by this whole episode; had it just been released without all of the surrounding hullabaloo I might actually have been more receptive to it.

I wish her well with this project, however until such time as Within Temptation reconvene I’ll focus on other bands of that style for my symphonic Metal fix, or just dig out ‘The Heart of Everything’ and ‘Mother Earth’ for another spin!

2 – Disappointing

Caught Live: Y&T, o2 Academy Liverpool 5th November 2017

I shall resist the temptation to make puns about the fireworks on stage from the veteran American rockers on Bonfire Night, when Britain invariably flouts all smoke regulations for one night of the year with fireworks and bonfires across the country. The band always tour Europe and the UK at around this time of year and for the second year in a row, they stopped off at Liverpool. This time around they were supported by Bournemouth hard rockers Voodoo Vegas, and I was in the hall early to catch them as they went through their paces before a sparse attendance. The quintet, fronted by vocalist Lawrence Case were a traditional hard rock outfit, he in particular had a strong tenor voice and although most who were coming to this show were still in the pub during this band’s set, he got the early attendees nicely warmed up. They boast a twin lead guitar team in Jon Dawson and Merylina Hamilton; even in 2017 you rarely see females in mixed-gender bands who are not lead singers so this old rocker was pleased to see that attitude starting to change (of course, Stone Broken’s Robyn Haycock is also breaking down barriers with her powerhouse drumming for that band).

By the time Dave Meniketti and his troupe hit the stage the attendance had swollen somewhat, though it still wasn’t quite the packed house the crowd were nonetheless noisy and enthusiastic. Opening with ‘Black Tiger’, it was another run through of the group’s back catalogue focusing on their hit albums of the early-to-mid 1980s. So out for another airing were the likes of ‘Mean Streak’, ‘Dirty Girl’, ‘I Believe In You’ and ‘Winds of Change’ (dedicated to the members of the original band, with the loss of guitarist Joey Alves earlier this year only Meniketti himself remains from that line-up). Despite the fact that there has still been no more new material since 2010’s ‘Facemelter’ they can still change things around from year to year. This year they performed two songs from the Meniketti solo albums of the mid-90s (‘Lay Me Down’ and ‘Storm’), ‘when grunge took over and the likes of us didn’t get much of a chance’ according to the frontman. This set included many of the favourites though, with their only legitimate UK hit ‘Summertime Girls’ being restored alongside ‘Lipstick and Leather’, and ‘Contagious’; both of these featured Aaron Leigh on the bass, who took over the four-string from Brad Lang last year. ‘Squeeze’ was also performed late in the set, guitarist John Nymann took on Phil Kennemore’s vocal for that number. Other treats were ‘Barroom Boogie’, ‘Masters and Slaves’ (pertinent in these times) and ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’s Gonna Save The World’, before they encored with the traditional ‘Rescue Me’ and ‘Forever’.

Y&T's John Nymann

Y&T’s John Nymann

Dave Meniketti of Y&T

Dave Meniketti of Y&T

There’s little new I can say about this band; they come around every year, play a long set packed with great songs and always get their crowd fired up however many turn out. As was the case last year, they didn’t pack the room out but did draw a decent turnout for a Sunday night, made up of many fans who knew the songs and sang them back at Meniketti with gusto. As I’ve observed before though, they seem to be ‘preaching to the converted’ as the people who come always do so, yet you’d think a band of this calibre should still be attracting new people. They have the songs, they have accomplished players, great vocals, fine harmonies and Meniketti is still one of rock’s greatest lead guitarists, up there with Gary Moore in my humble view. Why they’re still playing clubs when others of their ilk went up to arenas and have become more revered by the masses, remains a mystery. Possibly it is that they always were a more down-to-earth outfit even during their 1980s heyday; they weren’t featured in gossip columns or embroiled in scandals like some other rock bands of the day, but always had that hard-working, professional attitude.

So long as they continue to come over to the UK and play though, I will be going along to see them. They’re a throwback to when rock bands did it all live; no samples, no backing, no trickery – just good honest playing. That’s still something to be commended in this era when technology seems to be taking a bigger role in all forms of music, including rock. They played for two solid hours and still couldn’t fit in classics like ‘Hurricane’ or even ‘Midnight In Tokyo’, but no doubt they’ll be back next time around. As will I!

4 – Deserving

 

Caught Live: Mostly Autumn, Citadel St Helens November 4th 2017

Towards the end of this lengthy show, Mostly Autumn mainman Bryan Josh gave a dedication to a recently-passed friend before he and the band played ‘Heroes Never Die’. It bypassed everyone in the hall at the time, but a day later the group posted on their website that it was Liam Davison, a former member of this band who had recently passed away. The show – a long one of at least two hours with an interval in the middle – must have been difficult for the seven-strong band then, but they still turned out their usual high-quality live performance.

The last time I saw this group was almost four years ago now, at this same venue and I recognised only husband-and-wife pairing of guitarist/vocalist Bryan Josh and lead singer Olivia Sparnenn-Josh, plus bass player Andy Smith and keyboardist Iain Jennings from then. They tend to have rather a fluid line-up, probably inevitable when there are so many in the ensemble and that the players do have other gigs. This band and fellow proggers Panic Room have often seen members go from one to the other, for instance. Currently it is drummer Alex Cromarty, second guitarist Chris Johnson and vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Angela Gordon that complete the line-up, though when I got into the hall I found it packed, so from my spot my view of all these players save the drummer was obscured by Iain Jennings!

Mostly Autumn's Bryan Josh

Mostly Autumn’s Bryan Josh

Singer Olivia Sparnenn-Josh

Singer Olivia Sparnenn-Josh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They spent a few minutes adjusting a setup, before kicking the set off. I recognised few numbers (‘Drops of The Sun’, played second, was one of those I knew) but with this band, it really doesn’t matter. You know what to expect regardless of whether you know the songs or not – multi-part vocal harmonies, gentle intros, dynamic vocal from Olivia Sparnenn-Josh ranging from gentle to powerful, and eventually the whole thing builds into a mighty crescendo, usually accompanied by some weighty lead guitar from Bryan Josh. Not to mention, back-projected visuals with various scenes ranging from moon images to ocean waves, forests, sunsets; you get the idea.

This audience, even by my standards (!) was comprised of many ‘of a certain age’ – I did think that the gig by Michael Schenker over in Manchester on the same night might have impacted on the attendance here (it was a coin toss for me, the fact this venue is easier to reach for me swung it!) but the place was very busy, a much better attendance than last time I saw them here in truth. They were treated to many epics, the sort of thing you really do have to pay attention to and so, for once, there weren’t the usual plethora of phones held up in the crowd (one or two down the front were spotted).

Even among rock fans, this is a cult band still – they don’t get heavily featured on Planet Rock for instance, they merit only cursory mentions in the magazines (save for the subscription mag published by The Classic Rock Society, who once again put the band on at this venue) yet they continue to thrive. It does show that there’s still a demand for live music that is not served up by a corporation on a heavily-rotated playlist, something you have to listen to properly and not have it serve as mere background for the office. They are always worth seeing whenever they come around though, and I will try not to make it another four years before I go along again! 😀

4 – Deserving

 

 

Within Temptation. WTF?

Fans of Dutch symphonic metallers Within Temptation have been sent into panic mode as their website suddenly went dark on 3rd November, with this ominous-looking message as placeholder:

The same message has appeared on all of the group’s social media sites, at the time of writing how soon ‘soon’ will be is unclear. Of course putting out a post like that with no further information only generates wild speculation, which is already rife on their Facebook post with this message. What’s known is that they have been working on material for a planned 2018 release, and up until the day before this post they had been updating their social media pages regularly, even providing studio updates. For the site to go dark without warning, just plain white text on a black background (mentioning ONLY den Adel by name, not the group as a whole) looks ominous indeed.

Unconfirmed word is that there will be a statement on Wednesday. *UPDATE* As of 7th November the social media pages have updated to say the statement will follow on Friday 10th. However this is not helping their cause. Like everyone else I can only guess but that sounds like whatever it is needs to be ratified, pored over and checked word-for-word before it goes out. That doesn’t suggest good news any more than the black background does. If they have something major to announce, they’d surely have been better off just doing it when the time was right rather than keep their fans on tenterhooks like this? If however, it turns out to be about a new album, tour or some other product, it will backfire since they have now got their followers girding themselves for a bit of bad news.

Within Temptation have been around for 20 years now and have released six studio albums to date, the last (‘Hydra’) coming in 2014. Built around the pairing of singer Sharon den Adel and guitarist Robert Westerholt, they have slowly become one of the leading bands in this scene alongside Nightwish, and their former keyboardist Martijn Westerholt (brother of Robert) went on to form Delain, who have themselves now become one of the big bands in this sub-genre. It’s fair to say their following is a devoted one, who turn out every few years in great numbers whenever they tour. Their last UK tour was sold out everywhere they went, such followers of a band which is far from being mainstream are the sort to become deeply emotionally invested in them, and that is why the reaction to this post was so predictable. As a fan (not a ‘fanatic’, I’ve seen them twice and have several of their albums) I’d be sorry to see the end of this group but again, while there is little information to go off at this point, that post suggests the singer at least will have more to offer the music world.

If it is the end, they left some great songs – here are two:

Caught Live: Delain ft. Marco Hietala (plus Serenity, Cellar Darling), TivoliVredenburg Ronda, Utrecht NL 31 October 2017

This was a gig I booked a long time ago, having decided that once again the Netherlands was easier to reach than the only scheduled UK date for this tour, at London’s KOKO. It was of particular interest since Delain had a special guest in Marco Hietala, appearing on all dates. The Nightwish bassist and vocalist has a long-standing relationship with this band; he played bass on their debut ‘Lucidity’ and contributed vocal parts for some songs, and has since featured on subsequent Delain albums as a co-vocalist. In addition, he has appeared on stage with the band whenever schedules allowed, notably when Delain toured with Nightwish for a US tour in 2015.

It was going to be quite a long day, as Delain had arranged a special screening of their just-released live DVD, filmed a year ago at Paradiso in Amsterdam and marking their tenth anniversary. I was at that show and at the time of writing, am still awaiting delivery of the DVD which was preordered some time ago.  The screening took place at the nearby Louis Hartlooper complex, a cinema and cultural centre. Needless to say I got there a few minutes late (!) and was greeted by none other than Delain singer Charlotte Wessels. She waved me through even before I could show her the email with my reservation on it, with a cheery ‘See you tonight!’ as she pointed me towards the cinema hall. As it turned out, although I had missed a Q&A with her and the band, the screening had just started with a short documentary which also features on the DVD, chronicling the band on their 2016 tour and showcasing a few of their devoted fans.  That was a fun watch as I recognised several faces in the fan meet and greets, thankfully not mine (!)

Following that there was a brief interval, and I availed myself of a much-needed glass of refreshment before the showing of the Paradiso concert DVD. It was great to see that on a big screen, and with surround sound too and it almost felt like being back there. A full review of that DVD will follow once I get it, but initial impressions were that the production was extremely slick and polished, with many cameras covering it there were a lot of cuts from one shot to the next. It actually reminded me of the way Whitesnake’s ‘Live… In The Still Of The Night’ DVD was presented, which was similarly pacy in style. I’d not even been to find my hotel yet, so after catching up with a few Delain fans I know after the screening it was off to find my place and quickly shower and change for the evening’s events.

TivoliVredenburg is a large, multi-purpose venue with several halls inside; built on the site of the old Muzikcentrum it is close to Utrecht Centraal railway station, so is handy for travelling. The old site was the setting for a Dio live concert film released in 1984, but this show would take place in the ‘Ronda’ hall two floors up. With a capacity of 2000, it has good views from almost anywhere in the hall but with a stage set quite high up, so the advice I had been given from fellow fans was not to queue for the front row. I entered the hall and almost immediately ended up in a heap – the doors lead to a tiered section with steps down, and what I thought were also steps turned out not to be. Dimly-lit and with little to distinguish the actual steps from what was actually a tiered standing area, I took a step off into thin air and promptly tumbled down two of these rows! Luckily only my pride was hurt, but that was a bad start to the evening.

Having dusted myself off and found a decent spot across the floor I settled for openers, Swiss folk-metallers Cellar Darling. I only heard of this band in the summer when a track of theirs was featured on a rock radio show broadcast in the Merseyside area, and only later learned that the group were formed by three former members of Eluveitie. On record they are a trio comprising of singer Anna Murphy (who also plays hurdy-gurdy),   drummer Merlin Sutter, and guitarist Ivo Henzi but as the latter also plays bass in the studio, for live work they bring in bassist Nicolas Winter. They do have a unique thing going on in that hurdy-gurdy, though the material was a curious mix of nu-metal rhythm and folky rock. The main soloing came from Murphy’s hurdy-gurdy rather than Henzi’s guitar and from my viewpoint to the side, it looked like she was wielding an overgrown bus conductor’s ticket machine (!) I was still intrigued enough to get their album afterwards, which features a cover of Queen’s ‘The Prophet Song’. I’ll be interested to see whether or not Bus Conductor Metal is the big thing for 2018!

Cellar Darling's Anna Murphy

Cellar Darling’s Anna Murphy

Georg Neuhauser of Serenity

Georg Neuhauser of Serenity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Up next were Austrian power metallers Serenity. This was the third time I’d seen them and each time it had been as support to Delain. They’re another band with a long history of working with Delain, they’ve toured together several times and Charlotte Wessels has collaborated, on ‘Serenade of Flames’ (a track from previous album ‘Death & Legacy’) as well as working with Serenity vocalist Georg Neuhauser on the Phantasma project and concept album ‘The Deviant Hearts’. They were their usual bombastic selves, plenty of energy and enthusiasm, some nimble-fingered playing from guitarist Cris Tian and excellent vocal performances from both Neuhauser (a soundalike to Sonata Arctica’s Tony Kakko to my ears) and bassist Fabio D’Amore. For all that I’ve never quite got into these guys, despite having two of their albums on CD I enjoy them more in the live setting than when actually sat down to listen to their studio work. Each time I’ve seen them they’ve had a different guest female vocalist, this time it was Natasha ‘Tasha’ Koch who accompanied Neuhauser on several songs, including ‘Serenade of Flames’.  She sounded good and looked glamorous, as well as having a sense of fun – she is Dutch and laughingly mocked Georg’s attempts to address the Utrecht crowd in their own language! They’re well worth seeing whenever they come around, although by the singer’s own admission they don’t come to the UK often because it is ‘so expensive’, as he once told me.

The current run of dates marks Delain drummer Ruben Israel’s last shows with the band before standing down; and they’d pulled out the stops to make these last few dates special. There was the usual huge backdrop (based on the ‘Moonbathers’ artwork) but this time the ‘moon’ changed to show visuals throughout the set, reminiscent of ‘Mr Screen’ from Pink Floyd tours of days gone by. The set was changed around a little too, in order to accommodate songs not normally performed, especially those which on record featured Marco Hietala. The now-familiar intro tape of ‘The Monarch’ heralded the arrival first of Ruben Israel then guitarist Timo Somers, soon followed by the rest of the group as they launched into opener ‘Hands of Gold’. The first treat for the audience came in this number as George Oosthoek appeared to perform the ‘growl’ vocal parts, another vocalist whose history with Delain dates back to ‘Lucidity’. From there it was a regular-ish Delain show, although they played usual set-closer ‘We Are The Others’ second this time. It was high-energy stuff for the first part of the show, until the band left the stage to just the singer, keyboardist Martijn Westerholt and guest cellist Elianne Anemaat for the gentler ‘Scarlet’. After resuming the bombastic stuff and keeping the crowd on edge for ‘Here Come The Vultures’ and ‘ Fire With Fire’, Marco Hietala was finally introduced for ‘Your Body Is A Battleground’. That sent the crowd into even greater raptures, cheering his name loudly between songs. He stayed for a few more songs (including the seldom-performed ‘Nothing Left’) before leaving the stage temporarily, while Charlotte Wessels urged yet more cheering, saying ‘he might come back’! This crowd needed little encouragement, their crowds tend to be enthusiastic wherever they play and it was certainly no different in the singer’s home city.

Delain's Timo Somers

Delain’s Timo Somers

Merel and Otto of Delain

Merel and Otto of Delain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most of the material Hietala performed on stage were songs he recorded with them, the exception being the Queen cover ‘Scandal’. On record it is sung by Wessels alone, but here it was presented as a duet and worked better than I had anticipated this night. The ensemble ended with ‘The Gathering’, complete with loads of streamers and then the whole band plus guests took bows, and posed for a group pic in front of the still-cheering crowd.

This was by my reckoning the twelfth time I’ve seen Delain, four of those have been in their own country and this went straight up there as one of the best shows I’ve seen them give – even better than the Paradiso show which we saw again earlier in the day. Charlotte was in splendid voice all night, she has really strengthened her vocal in the last couple of years and is now no longer that slightly shy girl fronting the band. She’s confident, assertive and has a full house like this in the palm of her hand from first song to last. She even quipped after one prolonged bout of cheering that their next album would be called ‘Delain – drunk on power’!  The addition of the Nightwish man was icing on the cake and it was a privilege to see him add his distinctive tenor live to songs he contributed to in the studio. Only minor quibble (there’s always one!) is he could have been on stage with them for a bit longer, I would especially have liked ‘A Day For Ghosts’ played (even though it was Liv Kristine he duetted with on the record, the live band have performed it in the past).

Charlotte Wessels of Delain

Charlotte Wessels of Delain

Guest vocalist Marco Hietala from Nightwish

Guest vocalist Marco Hietala

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For all that it was a terrific show, as I do not expect to see the band again for at least a year this and their new DVD will keep me going until then. Whenever that DVD arrives!

Some fan-filmed footage from the show is provided courtesy of youtubers Delain UKTV and TauRush2:

5 – Delightful