Tag Archives: O2 Academy

Into The Woods Tour

On Wednesday, with my ears just about having stopped ringing after last Sunday’s fantastic Iron Maiden show, it was time for another gig. The venue this time was the somewhat smaller O2 Academy in Bristol, to see psychedelic legends Hawkwind.

This was to be a very different proposition from the aforementioned show. I arrived at the venue before the doors opened and while there was not yet much of a queue and finished reading Cathi Unsworth’s “Weirdo” novel while I waited.

Magnus Martin, Richard Chadwick, Michel Sosna & Haz Wheaton

The doors opened at 7:00pm and, having perused the merchandise stall, I made my way into the main concert area and found a decent enough spot (practically exactly where I was for last year’s Gov’t Mule show) from which to observe proceedings. At 7:30pm the support act strolled unannounced onto the stage in front of a half-empty O2 Academy. Said act was in fact Hawkwind Unplugged – basically the headliners with acoustic guitars. Seemingly a little disorganised there was a fair bit of in-band discussion throughout their thirty minute set.

Richard Chadwick

Somewhat bizarrely this also included the appearance of a badger hand-puppet wielded by drummer and occasional vocalist Richard Chadwick… Anyway, musically the set was a pretty decent quick trip through Hawkwind history – mainly from the 70s, with one track from this year’s “Into The Woods” album and “Get Yourself Together” from leader Dave Brock’s pre-Hawkwind days that eventually saw the light of day on a 90s archive release.

Setlist:

1. Quark, Strangeness And Charm / 2. Get Yourself Together / 3. Age Of The Microman / 4. Ascent / 5. We Took The Wrong Step Years Ago / 6. The Watcher

1 originally from “Quark, Strangeness And Charm” (1977) / 2 originally from “Dawn Of Hawkwind” (1999) / 3 originally from “25 Years On” (1978) / 4 originally from “Into The Woods” (2017) / 5 originally from “In Search Of Space” (1971) / 6 originally from “Doremi Fasol Latido” (1972)

Hawkwind Live

After a half-hour break the band were back on stage – again unannounced – for their main electric set, and by now the O2 was fuller than it had been, but was curiously still less busy than at any previous gig I’d been to at this venue. Kicking off with “Earth Calling” into a lengthy “Born To Go” and with various trippy images projected onto the back of the stage, this was more like your archetypal Hawkwind.

Mr. Dibs & Haz Wheaton

The band are completed by Mr. Dibs (vocals / synthesizer), Magnus Martin (keyboards / guitar), Haz Wheaton (bass) – the latter bearing a strong resemblance to 70s era Lemmy, right down to the Rickenbacker bass guitar, I thought – and Michel Sosna (saxophone).

Haz Wheaton & Dave Brock

The set was heavily drawn from what many people would argue is the group’s golden era, 1972-76, with the remaining numbers coming from albums released in the last two years, completely missing any material recorded between 1977 and 2015. If you discount the 1977/78 songs aired in the opening acoustic set that’s something in the region of twenty albums worth of songs ignored. That’s something of a shame, but even with nearly two hours on stage there were still plenty of classics (“Silver Machine”, “Masters Of The Universe”, “Sonic Attack” etc.) that couldn’t be fitted into the show so one can’t complain really and it does show that Brock and his troops have belief in their new material to include four recent tracks.

Hawkwind – Into The Woods

I have mentioned before, I believe, about audience noise as people chatter when bands are playing. Despite the relatively small crowd this one was easily the noisiest between songs, in terms of talking, and not just between songs either. Between “Steppenwolf” and “Warrior On The Edge Of Time” Martin stepped out from behind his keyboards to play some acoustic guitar. I could only guess that this was some kind of interlude as the crowd noise was so loud that it rendered his playing virtually inaudible, but I have since deduced it was likely “Darkland” from “Into The Woods”. To make matters worse the folk around me had to endure a chap who alternated between enthusiastic hands-in-the-air appreciation of each new tune with then spending most of the songs talking – very loudly – to the people closest to him. Why do these people spend good money on a concert ticket, only to spend most of their time taking practically no notice of the goings-on on stage?!

Dave Brock

So, rant over… Brock’s Hawkwind do not put on a spectacle like that displayed by Iron Maiden etc., but then they do not have the financial support or resources to do so either. What they do do is concentrate on playing immersive and hypnotic music accompanied by some decidedly psychedelic images – and they do it jolly well.

Hawkwind Live

In view of the audience noise issues I would have to say that whilst I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of Hawkwind live, I will likely stick to their recorded output in future when I can really hear what’s going on and lose myself in the music…

Setlist:

1. Earth Calling / 2. Born To Go / 3. The Awakening (First Landing On Medusa) / 4. You’d Better Believe It / 5. Have You Seen Them / 6. Vegan Lunch / 7. Steppenwolf / 8. Darkland / 9. Magnu / 10. Golden Void / 11. Synchronised Blue / 12. Into The Woods / 13. Brainstorm / 14. Welcome To The Future / 15. Brainbox Pollution

1, 2, 3 and 14 originally from “Space Ritual” (1973) / 4 originally from “Hall Of The Mountain Grill” (1974) / 5, 6, 8 and 12 originally from “In The Woods” (2017) / 7 originally from “Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music” (1976) / 9 and 10 originally from “Warrior On The Edge Of Time” (1975) / 11 originally from “The Machine Stops” (2016) / 13 and 15 originally from “Doremi Fasol Latido” (1972)

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Like An Arrow Tour

Time for a word or three about the latest gig attended by myself and my good lady wife. Thursday 6 April saw the pair of us setting off for Bristol to see southern rockers Blackberry Smoke at the O2 Academy.

We left home just after 4pm, keen to avoid the issues that we’d had on our last concert trip to the city, when heavy traffic on the M32 had caused us to miss all but one song by the opening band when we went to see Dutch metallers Epica at the O2 Academy.

Taking the alternative route from the Severn Crossing meant that we travelled south briefly on the M5 before heading into the city via The Downs. The result of this was time for a visit to Pizza Hut before the show and still left enough time (just!) to make it to the O2 before the doors opened at 7:00pm.

From From The Access Area At The Bristol O2 Academy

As before, the venue staff were very good and soon had us in the access area for disabled customers and carers. Sadly this was where we encountered the low point of the evening. This show was clearly a popular one and the access area filled up very quickly. Unfortunately, however, it was obvious that a number of the seats were being taken by the able-bodied carers which meant that some of those with access needs were unable to get into the area. I appreciate that it is a help for the disabled person and carer to be close to one another – I stand behind my wife’s chair if room permits – and have no problem with the carers sitting if space allows, but on this occasion there were one or two who were clearly oblivious to the needs of others, whether this was by being unaware or just simply ignorant… well, only they will know for sure but I wonder if there is a better way for these areas to be allocated to customers so that those with genuine need get the seats first?

Biters – The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be

Anyway, on with the show… First up, from the same American town as the headliners – Atlanta, Georgia – were Biters. A rather different proposition than the headliners, Biters offer hard rock with a definite Seventies vibe. You can hear echoes of bands like Cheap Trick in their sound and a few of the songs, such as “Heart Fulla Rock ‘N’ Roll” were very reminiscent of Marc Bolan’s T. Rex. This is not a bad thing, as the band’s songs are original yet instantly kind of familiar.

Tuk Smith At The Bristol O2 Academy

Fronted by singer / guitarist Tuk Smith (“he looks like Noel Fielding”, said my wife, who’s probably not the first person to make the comparison), Biters are the kind of band that remind you why rock music can be such fun and make you want to pick up an instrument and play. To be honest I don’t think their records to date have really done the band justice in terms of getting their sound across and tracks like “Low Lives In Hi Definition” and the excellent closer “1975” hit far harder in the live arena. Songs were aired from their debut album as well as a few from their upcoming second full length release “The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be”.

Matt Gabs & Tuk Smith At The Bristol O2 Academy

Smith was an engaging front man and told a couple of funny road stories which I’m sure helped the audience warm to the band. Ably assisted by seriously impressive guitarist Matt Gabs – how could he see to play those great solos with his face almost constantly obscured by hair?! – bassist Philip Anthony and rock solid drummer Joey O’Brien, Smith’s band got the night’s entertainment off to a great start and went down very well with the Bristol crowd.

Setlist:

1. Restless Hearts / 2. Low Lives In Hi Definition / 3. Gypsy Rose / 4. Hallucination Generation / 5. So Many Nights / 6. Going Back To Georgia / 7. Stone Cold Love / 8. Heart Fulla Rock ‘N’ Roll / 9. 1975

1, 2, 8 and 9 originally from “Electric Blood” (2015) / 4 and 5 originally from “Last Of A Dying Breed” (2012) / 3, 6 and 7 originally from “The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be” (2017)

Blackberry Smoke At The O2 Academy

Once Biters and their small crew had cleared their gear from the stage and we’d had an interval it was time for the lights to go down again as singer / lead guitarist Charlie Starr led his band Blackberry Smoke into a storming rendition of “Fire In The Hole”. If you thought Biters had gone down well – and I did – then the response to Blackberry Smoke was nothing short of ecstatic.

Charlie Starr At The Bristol O2 Academy

Starr comes across a little like he’s part-rock star and part-evangelist preacher, which is no huge surprise when you realise that he comes from a very musical family with his dad being a guitar player and singer and his paternal grandmother teaching him all about gospel singing and harmony. The latter shines through on Blackberry Smoke material where every song is catchy and memorable, whether it’s one of their acoustic tunes like the hillbilly country of “I Ain’t Got The Blues”, the harder rocking stuff like “Up In Smoke” or the likes of “Pretty Little Lie” which sits somewhere in between. Large sections of the crowd seemed to know practically every word and sang along with great gusto!

Paul Jackson At The Bristol O2 Academy

Completing the line-up of the band are the ever-smiling Paul Jackson (guitar / vocals), Brandon Still (keyboards) and the hat-wearing duo of Brit Turner (drums) and steady-as-a-rock Richard Turner (bass, vocals).

Blackberry Smoke’s music evokes the spirit of bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Black Crowes (whose Chris Robinson gave Starr’s group their name), Blackfoot and The Allman Brothers Band.

Richard Turner At The Bristol O2 Academy

In fact the latter are given a nod during the extended rendition of “Sleeping Dogs” with a snippet of their “Mountain Jam” in the jam section that also features a blast of Led Zeppelin’s “Your Time Is Gonna Come”. I was slightly concerned that this lengthy workout would fall on deaf ears with my wife, as she doesn’t always enjoy that aspect, preferring the more country music elements at play. I needn’t have worried though. Shortly before the band left the stage prior to returning for a well deserved encore she leaned back in her chair and looked back to me asking what time the band had first come on stage. When I told her she looked at her watch and declared that she’d slept through about an hour of the group’s set – her pain medication taking effect as it had done during our previous visit to the venue, but for rather longer this time!

Brandon Still At The Bristol O2 Academy

In a setlist heavy with tunes from the group’s breakthrough album “The Whippoorwill” and last year’s release “Like An Arrow”, my personal highlights from the show, which didn’t have a duff moment in it, would be the superb one-two of “Six Ways To Sunday” and “Good One Comin’ On”, the aforementioned “Sleeping Dogs”, the simply brilliant “Pretty Little Lie” and an energetic cover of The Move’s “California Man”.

Blackberry Smoke

A mate of mine has seen Blackberry Smoke a number of times and been regularly enthusing about their performances. Although I’ve enjoyed their records before the show I hadn’t appreciated quite how good a band they are and will certainly look out for them on tour in future.

Jessica Simpson In The Dukes Of Hazzard

This was a top quality Southern-flavoured show that meant I just had to get my guitar out the next day and attempt to jam along to 2012’s “The Whippoorwill” album and also inspired me to dig out the “Dukes Of Hazzard” movie remake (nothing to do with Jessica Simpson’s greatest hits, honest guv!) and see if I can track down the original TV series too.

Blackberry Smoke – a great band giving us a great soundtrack on a great night out…

Setlist:  (I’m not 100% sure that this is right. The list on www.setlist.fm has changed a few times since the first person uploaded it and I’m positive it’s still missing one song that was definitely played, “Ain’t Got The Blues”, which I’ve used an educated guess to place at track 14!)

1. Fire In The Hole / 2. Six Ways To Sunday / 3. Good One Comin’ On / 4. Waiting For The Thunder / 5. Scare The Devil / 6. Like An Arrow / 7. Leave A Scar / 8. Rock And Roll Again / 9. Sleeping Dogs / Your Time Is Gonna Come / Mountain Jam / Sleeping Dogs 10. Shakin’ Hands With The Holy Ghost / 11. Pretty Little Lie / 12. Up In Smoke / 13. Let It Burn / 14. Ain’t Got The Blues / 15. Payback’s A Bitch / 16. Sunrise In Texas / 17. California Man / 18. One Horse Town / 19. Ain’t Much Left Of Me

1, 8 and 15 originally from “Holding All The Roses” (2015) / 2, 7, 10, 11, 14, 18, and 19 originally from “The Whippoorwill” (2012) / 3 and 12 originally from “Little Piece Of Dixie” (2009) / 4, 6, 13 and 16 originally from “Like An Arrow” (2016) / 5 originally from “Bad Luck Ain’t No Crime” (2004) / 9 originally from “The Whippoorwill” (2012) / cover of Led Zeppelin song from “Led Zeppelin” (1969) / cover of The Allman Brothers Band song from “Eat A Peach” (1972) / 17 cover of The Move single (1972)

 

Europe Tour 2016

20160514_095051Friday 13th May 2016. Friday the 13th may be unlucky for some, but it certainly wasn’t for me as I got to see the American blues rock band Gov’t Mule live in concert for the first time. I’ve mentioned before, when discussing the latest solo release from the band’s main man Warren Haynes that it was a track called “Bad Little Doggie” that got me into Gov’t Mule, some sixteen years ago, and I’ve enjoyed every record that they have released since then so when a small UK tour (just three shows) was announced which included a gig at the O2 Academy in Bristol I just had to go!

Bristol O2 Academy
Bristol O2 Academy

Meeting up with my mate in the queue outside, just before the doors opened, I have to confess that I was pleasantly surprised by the number of folk that had turned out for the band, as I had assumed that their profile was relatively under the radar here in England.

Gov't Mule At The Bristol O2 Academy
Gov’t Mule At The Bristol O2 Academy

Having found a decent position on a slightly raised section of the main standing area we chatted whilst waiting for the band to come on. Just after 7:30pm the house lights went down, the cheer of the crowd went up and the band appeared on stage, backed with an illuminated sign declaring “Gov’t Mule – Kicking Ass For 20 Years”.

Warren Haynes
Warren Haynes

Kicking off with a cover of blue legend Robert Johnson’s “32/20 Blues” the quality was immediately apparent. Aided no end by an excellent sound mix guitarist / vocalist Haynes lead his band through a two and a half hour set that genuinely seemed to fly by.

Backing Haynes were co-founder Matt Abts on drums, keyboardist Danny Louis who joined the group in 2001 and the most recent recruit bassist Jorgen Carlsson who came on board in 2008.

Matt Abts
Matt Abts

Haynes remarked early on that this was their first visit to Bristol and so they would play a wide range of their material. Noting also that there was a strict 10:00pm curfew at the venue he promised that rather than performing two sets with an interval, as is their normal routine, they would play right through. Sure enough at least one track was aired from each of the band’s studio releases, plus a clutch of covers, and they only took a very brief break over two hours later before returning to the stage for a well deserved encore.

Gov't Mule At The Bristol O2 Academy
Gov’t Mule At The Bristol O2 Academy

All four musicians were excellent. Carlsson ever-busy with intricate bass runs, Abts hitting the skins like a reincarnated John Bonham and Louis filling out the sound with some superb keyboard work, as well as playing lead guitar and soloing in “Funny Little Tragedy”.

Danny Louis
Danny Louis

In truth, however, my attention was mostly taken by Haynes. His soulful singing is perfectly suited to the band’s material and his guitar playing is sublime. Whether using a pick or finger-picking (and often switching between the two throughout a song), employing the use of a slide, hammering out some fabulous riffs or soaring through ever-impressive solos, the man is fascinating and inspiring to watch.

Gov't Mule At The Bristol O2 Academy
Gov’t Mule At The Bristol O2 Academy

This is a band that is renowned for making each show unique, and a quick check online proves this fact as there was very little repetition from show to show, in fact I think only one song was performed at more than one gig, meaning they played something in the region of fifty different numbers over the course of the three nights.

Jorgen Carlsson
Jorgen Carlsson

Highlights from this particular show would have to be “Game Face” with a middle section that included jazz classic “Birdland”, “Mule”, a stonking “30 Days In The Hole”, the gentler “Soulshine”, “How Many More Years” and the aforementioned “Bad Little Doggie” – was I over the moon to witness that one!

Gov't Mule At The Bristol O2 Academy
Gov’t Mule At The Bristol O2 Academy

The encore was the delicate “Beautifully Broken” which included a tribute to the late Prince with part of his “When Doves Cry” slotted in, followed by a brilliant rendition of “Railroad Boy”. The latter was my mate’s favourite song of the night. He’s not overly familiar with Gov’t Mule’s back catalogue but, as a fellow guitar lover, enjoyed the top quality musicianship on display from start to finish. Then it was out into the still-warm Bristol evening and a post-gig drink in a local pub before I made the journey back across the Severn Bridge.

On the merchandise front, a tour shirt was out of the question – £30!?! You must be joking! – but the band make audio recordings of all their shows available to buy through their website for around US$10 and I will definitely be making a souvenir purchase of this particular gig. A top class show from a top class band…

Setlist:

1. 32/20 Blues / 2. Wandering Child / 3. Child Of The Earth / 4. Temporary Saint / 5. Game Face / Birdland / Game Face / 6. Forsaken Savior / 7. Million Miles From Yesterday / 8. Whisper In Your Soul / 9. Monkey Hill / She’s So Heavy / 10. Soulshine / Tupelo Honey / Soulshine / 11. Funny Little Tragedy / 12. Bad Little Doggie / 13. How Many More Years / 14. About To Rage / 15. 30 Days In The Hole / I Don’t Need No Doctor / 30 Days In The Hole / 16. Mule / 17. Beautifully Broken /  When Doves Cry / Beautifully Broken / 18. Railroad Boy

1 cover of Robert Johnson single (1937) / 2 and 12 originally from “Life Before Insanity” (2000) / 3 and 7 originally from “High & Mighty” (2006) / 4, 9 and 16 originally from “Gov’t Mule” (1995) / 5 originally from “Dose” (1998) / cover of Weather Report single (1977) / 6, 8 and 11 originally from “Shout!” (2013) / 9 cover of Beatles song from “Abbey Road” (1969) / 10 and 17 originally from “The Deep End – Volume 1” (2001) / 10 cover of Van Morrison song from “Tupelo Honey” (1971) / 13 cover of Howlin’ Wolf single (1951) / 14 originally from “Deja Voodoo” (2004) / 15 cover of Humble Pie single (1972) / cover of Ray Charles single (1966) / 17 cover of Prince single (1984) / 18 originally from “By A Thread” (2009)Mule-Europe-2016-Poster-980x1272

The Ultimate Enigma

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The week before last my wife and I went to the O2 Academy in Bristol to catch the opening show of Dutch symphonic metal band Epica‘s short UK tour.

Epica-A3The night before the show we received word that the timings had changed so that the doors would now be opening at 6:30pm instead of 7:00pm. This seems to be a recurring theme with gigs lately, as this was the third in a row I’ve been to where the timings shown on the ticket was subsequently changed.

Having arranged a babysitter for the kids for the evening we headed off to Bristol in plenty of time to arrive for 6:15pm. We were aiming for that time as we had arranged for a disabled access ticket for my wife and were therefore able to enter the venue before the official time.

However, traffic on the M32 into Bristol had other ideas, and it was nearly 7:00pm by the time we arrived at the car park behind the venue. The door staff were excellent and arranged for a medical person to come and escort us to the area reserved for the disabled and their carers immediately. I must say that this was a huge help to my wife, enabling her to sit in a usually standing-only venue, with a good view of the stage as she wouldn’t be able to manage a standing event.

Scar Symmetry
Scar Symmetry

The first band of the night were Scar Symmetry, a Swedish death metal band, and the one I suspected that my better half would enjoy least. As it turned out the traffic delay meant that we arrived in time to witness the band’s final song “The Illusionist” so neither of us had time to make much of a judgement – though my wife did say that she thought the band’s singer had smeared his arms in baby oil to make himself look sweaty!

Eluveitie
Eluveitie

After a fairly brief interval it was time for band number two, Swiss folk metal act Eluveitie. An eight piece, the band feature two electric guitarists (Rafael Salzmann and Ivo Henzi), bassist (Kay Brem), drummer (Merlin Sutter), violinist (Shir-Ran Yinon), a hurdygurdy player / occasional vocalist (Anna Murphy), a guy who played tin whistle and bagpipes (Matteo Sisti) and a lead vocalist (Chrigel Glanzmann) who also played mandolin. Quite an eclectic mix of instrumentation resulting in a sound that I described on the night as sounding like they could have been the offspring of The Corrs and Slipknot.

Chrigel Glanzmann
Chrigel Glanzmann

The group had the audience well and truly enthralled, with Glanzmann and Murphy (who took the lead on the atmospheric “Scorched Earth”) being the focal points – there were even a couple of girls in the audience dressed somewhat like Katheryn Winnick’s character in the TV series “Vikings” – so much so that they had an encore at the end of their set, which is something that I’ve never seen a support act do in all the years I’ve been attending concerts.

Anna Murphy
Anna Murphy

Unfortunately guitarists Salzmann and Henzi were not very audible, I would imagine it’s rather tricky trying to get a good balance of such a range of instruments. I thought that Sisti had his work cut out too, simply because it can’t be easy trying to look all rock and roll when you’re holding a tin whistle and it’s not your turn to be playing!

A side effect of the  pain medication that my other half has to take is that she often falls asleep rather quickly mid-evening. This one was no exception and she did indeed fall asleep during Eluveitie’s set, albeit only briefly rather than completely. I don’t imagine that this is something that occurs often when they are playing!

Eluveitie
Eluveitie

Ultimately the band had nearly as much stage time as the headliners, and to be honest I felt that, enjoyable though their music is, it became rather samey after a while, with the Celtic reels tending to sound much the same from song to song. There’s no denying that the band went down really well on the night though.

Setlist:

Intro – Origins / 2. King / 3. Nil / 4. Luxtos / 5. Omnos / 6. The Call Of The Mountains / 7. From Darkness / 8. Brictom / 9. Scorched Earth / 10. Kingdom Come Undone / 11. Neverland / 12. Tegernakô / 13. Havoc / 14. Alesia / 15. Inis Mona

1, 2, 6 and 7 originally from “Origins” (2014) / 3 and 10 originally from “Everything Remains (As It Never Was)” (2010) / 4, 9, 11, 14 and 15 originally from “Helvetios” (2012) / 5 and 8 originally from “Evocation I : The Arcane Dominion” (2009) / 12 originally from “Spirit” (2006) / 15 originally from “Slania” (2008)

Epica
Epica

Before we knew it the lights went down again for Epica as the intro tape “Originem” from their most recent album “The Quantum Enigma” boomed out through the PA. This was just the first of seven tracks taken from that album given an airing during the set, demonstrating perhaps just how strong the band believe the record to be.

Ariën Van Weesenbeek, Simone Simons & Rob Van Der Loo
Ariën Van Weesenbeek, Simone Simons & Rob Van Der Loo

The band entered the stage – first drummer Ariën Van Weesenbeek, then keyboard player Coen Janssen, bassist Rob Van Der Loo and guitarists Isaac Delahaye and Mark Jansen – and they plunged headlong into “The Second Stone”, with singer Simone Simons last, but certainly not least, onto the stage.

Coen Janssen
Coen Janssen

From the off it was clear to see that here was a band thoroughly enjoying what they do. Janssen was very entertaining spinning his keyboard around to face different directions, sometimes strapping on a portable keyboard and interacting well with the rest of the band and the audience with a humour filled performance.

Isaac Delahaye, Simone Simons & Mark Jansen
Isaac Delahaye, Simone Simons & Mark Jansen

Delahaye and Jansen’s guitar playing was top-notch and fit seamlessly with one other, whilst also involving the audience through smiles and gestures.

Mark Jansen
Mark Jansen

Band founder Jansen’s harsh vocals came across clearly too. This is the one thing that my wife is less keen on, but she commented that it worked much better live than on record because she felt that the band’s instrumentation and vocals actually meshed better and made the experience more enjoyable as a result.

Isaac
Isaac Delahaye

Van Der Loo and Weesenbeek anchored everything brilliantly. It did seem a bit odd to see the drum kit positioned stage left (the keyboards being stage right) rather than centrally, but it was quickly clear that the central riser was for Simons to use in addition to the front of stage.

Simone Simons
Simone Simons

And what of Simons?  Well, her vocals were superb. Admittedly she was supported by pre-recorded backing vocals, but given the often choral nature of Epica’s backing vocals that really was the only way to achieve the fullness of sound that you hear on their recordings.

Isaac Delahaye, Cohen Janssen, Rob Van Der Loo & Simone Simons
Isaac Delahaye, Coen Janssen, Rob Van Der Loo & Simone Simons

Nonetheless, it was clear what was her live vocal and what was pre-recorded and her performance was flawless. Not as operatic as some singers in this particular genre, Simons has a purer sound to my mind making the lyrics clearer and more intelligible than some of her contemporaries.

Simone Simons
Simone Simons

Of course, speaking for myself, it doesn’t hurt that she is so easy on the eye too – though I wasn’t madly keen on the skirt chosen for this performance as it didn’t make the most of her legs – but that’s me being an old-fashioned sexist male I expect!

It’s hard to pinpoint specific highlights of the band’s set as it really was of a uniformly high standard from start to finish and the whole group performed excellently and with a clear sense of enjoyment and fun. This was illustrated perfectly by the rendition of “The Phantom Agony” at the end of the main set.

Epica
Epica

Simons prefaced it by asking if we’d all brought our dancing shoes and then said that they’d prepared a disco number for us. Naturally, as the song started I presumed she’d been joking. However, when a couple of minutes into the song the band broke into a disco beat and started dancing around it became clear that she was not! A video is currently available on YouTube. I’ve subsequently discovered that this isn’t the first tour that the band have done this on, but it was great entertainment on the night.

Mark Jansen & Coen Janssen
Mark Jansen & Coen Janssen

After keyboard teases from Janssen offstage the band returned for a well deserved encore before we headed off into the night for the journey home. A fabulous gig by a great band, with some excellent lighting and perfect sound – thoroughly enjoyable!

Epica & The O2 Audience
Epica & The O2 Audience

Again praise must be given to the staff at the O2 who were on hand to ensure that my wife and I were able to exit the building safely, even offering the opportunity to get to the merchandise stall quickly too. It’s also worth mentioning that all of the fans that we (or more specifically my wife) encountered were polite and respectful and did their best to give any help that they could. This all added to an already great night that will live long in the memory…

Setlist:

1. Intro – Originem / 2. The Second Stone / 3. The Essence Of Silence / 4. Sensorium / 5. The Fifth Guardian / 6. Chemical Insomnia / 7. Unleashed / 8. Martyr Of The Free World / 9. Cry For The Moon (The Embrace That Smothers, Part IV) / 10. The Obsessive Devotion / 11. Victims Of Contingency / 12. Design Your Universe 13. The Phantom Agony / 14. Sancta Terra / 15. Unchain Utopia / 16. Consign To Oblivion (A New Age Dawns, Part III)

1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 11 and 15 originally from “The Quantum Enigma” (2014) / 4, 9 and 13 originally from “The Phantom Agony” (2003) / 7, 8 and 12 originally from “Design Your Universe” (2009) / 10 and 14 originally from “The Divine Conspiracy” (2007) / 16 originally from “Consign To Oblivion” (2005)d6796a99ae794ff74612e4357654072b17339e2ca6a742cb46a9fe472ab18149_large