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!
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.
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).
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: