You know that GIF from the Titanic movie? The one with the old woman uttering “It’s been 84 years…”…well everyone in attendance tonight knows exactly how she feels. Postponed a gazillion times because of the C-word, the Evanescence/Within Temptation joint co-headlining ‘Worlds Collide’ tour is finally underway and blowing UK & European audiences away with two stunning stage productions, and more importantly; providing an emotion-packed evening full of positivity, and songs that many will still be singing long after the last curtain call fades into the night on the last night of the tour in Berlin on December 8th.
With this being a co-headlining tour, the acts rotate each night and both get a chance to close over the 18-date tour. Tonight, it’s Amy Lee and Evanescence who perform last, which means that come 8 pm, it’s the turn of Dutch masters of symphonic metal Within Temptation to take to the stage.
Coming off the back of a highly-successful jaunt as primary support to Iron Maiden in North America, Within Temptation are on a roll, and have built up quite a head of steam. Perfect timing for their biggest tour to date, and with that – their biggest production. One of those productions where you wish that the internet hadn’t been invented and you were witnessing for the first time everything that Within Temptation had to offer with this mammoth production, a visual extravaganza where ticket holders can see every penny of the ticket price right there on stage….and on a few occasions; above the stage.
The pre-intro choice of music – Leonard Cohen’s ‘You Want It Darker’, is an inspired choice, but also a bit of a misnomer because this is a show full of light, and hope. And once the orchestral intro fades out, the stage explodes to lift in a multitude of colours as the band tears into ‘See Who I Am’ which unbelievably is almost twenty years old. If you caught ‘The Aftermath’ – the Within Temptation virtual reality show produced during the lockdown – then you might think that you know what to expect, but this is ‘The Aftermath’ ramped up a thousandfold and at times you simply do not know where to look. Stage components that move; multiple levels to the stage with Mike Coolen (drums) and Martijn Spierenburg (keyboards) perched up high on opposing sides of the stage; a massive futuristic head that forms the centerpiece (equal parts the huge statue found in Wakanda in the Black Panther movie, the stage-filling robot from Queen’s ‘News of The World’ tour, and the chrome head from Fritz Lang’s ‘Metropolis’ movie); imaginative use of video screens; lights that work alongside the individual track (blue for ‘Ice Queen’, green for ‘Mother Earth’…that kind of thing); plumes of smoke that reach the ceiling; and pyro…lots of pyro. A full-on production is especially joyous to witness in these times of acts stripping back to keep the costs down.
Somewhat surprisingly for a venue not known for perfect sound, tonight’s sound is crystal clear, and every note that the incomparable Sharon den Adel produces reaches every part of the arena while still retaining great clarity. Regardless of the retina-blitzing production, it is hard to take your eyes off den Adel; spinning, skipping, hypnotic Asian/Middle Eastern dancing; her energy is endless, and her enthusiasm – infectious. There is a great throwback to the last time that Within Temptation played Glasgow and she asked if anyone in the audience was wearing a kilt, and wanted to come up on stage, someone obliged, and when they appeared on stage and Sharon asked them where they were from, the answer was “Poland”. As warm, and genuine as ever, den Adel is making up for lost time and is looking to connect with everyone in attendance, with a few parts of the show particularly striking a chord: before a rousing version of ‘Raise Your Banner’ she asks “If your country was invaded would you defend it?”, she then hoists a large Ukrainian flag and waves it throughout the song; a beautiful version of ‘Supernova’ is preceded by her talking about the loss of her father, loss being something that sadly so many in the crowd will have experienced over the last few years.
The camaraderie between the band members is there for all to see, and it’s obvious that they are having a blast. Guitarists Ruud Jolie and Stefan Helleblad, and bassist Jeroen van Veen, are a constant blur as they regularly swap sides of the stage, then meet in front of Coolen’s drumkit for some synchronized headbanging, always working the crowd, and refusing to stand still, it’s obvious that these guys have opened for Iron Maiden before and know how to whip up the crowd. And they can play, the guitar work from Jolie and Helleblad is a joy to behold, and that magic that comes with a twin-guitar line-up is prevalent throughout the 75-minute set.
Although most of the talk will be about the incredible stage production (including Sharon rising to the rafters on a large hoop for ‘All I Need’), without quality songs this would all just be window dressing, and Within Temptation have an arsenal of bangers; ‘Faster’ still thrills every time and gets the blood pumping; ‘Paradise (What About Us?)’ gives the vocal chords a workout (and comes complete with the appearance of Tarja Turunen on video); ‘And We Run’ (hello there Xzibit) stirs the senses; the middle-eastern tinged ‘The Reckoning’ is simply massive; new track ‘Don’t Pray For Me’ features some of the best vocals from den Adel in the last several years and piques interest in what a new Within Temptation album might sound like, and then there is the goosebump-inducing set-closing ‘Mother Earth’ which is as emotional in 2022 as it first was on its release in the year 2000. People often bemoan that there are no new festival headliners coming through, Within Temptation are already at that status in Europe, but with this production and a longer set; they are Download headliners in all but name. An utterly faultless performance.
The stage crew are faced with the gargantuan task of clearing the stage and as one team of roadies rushes off with Within Tempation’s gear, they pass Evanescence’s crew going the other way. Drum kits pass side-by-side, the massive centerpiece from Within Temptation seems to be on a rail and one dude happily pushes it along and off into the wings. The multi-level stage of Within Temptation is replaced by a two-tier stage set up completely clutter-free. Take a few steps away from the side of the arena and get a more central position, and the size of the stage and the incredible pyramid-like lighting rigs become more apparent; this is something special.
“We made it! Finally!” bellows Amy Lee once the noise from the crowd dies down after the opening salvo of ‘Artifact/The Turn’ and ‘Broken Pieces Shine’. Yes indeed, we have made it, and by Lucifer’s beard the Evanescence co-founder, and curator of a legacy that spans three decades, is beaming from ear to ear. With the breakthrough debut album ‘Fallen’ celebrating its twentieth anniversary next year, it’s easy to forget that Amy Lee has been in the spotlight since 2003 and since the aforementioned debut is a multi-platinum bestseller, she has played at the highest levels since practically day one, and how it shows. She really does make this look effortless. On stage, in front of a live audience, is where she belongs. Throughout the set, it is one staggering note after the other, and where others might overstretch and have to pull it back in, Lee always looks and sounds like she can move it up through the gears if required.
Lee is flanked by guitarists Troy McLawhorn and Tim McCord who both pull out hefty guitar licks and guitar-god poses with ease, the latest member of the Evanescence family Emma Anzai (of Sick Puppies-fame) looks at home playing on larger stages and her bass rumbles rattle free the dental work in your mouth while her lush backing vocals form quite a partnership with Amy Lee. And then there is the platinum god himself, Will Hunt on drums. Perched high up front and centre, he’s like a king looking down on his kingdom and surveying all in front of him, it’s impossible to miss Hunt as he is a mass of flailing hair and drumsticks moving through the arcs of light pouring down on him from above. The playing from all is tighter than tight, and Anzai has slotted in seamlessly and plays quite a role throughout the set (especially on moments such as the slow and brooding ‘Take Cover’).
‘Going Under’ is the first track to be aired from ‘Fallen’ and as you would imagine it gets a massive response. The old is quickly followed up by the new in the guise of ‘Wasted On You’ which begins with Amy on a keyboard stacked high up on a raised stage, a keyboard and a raised stage that she uses throughout the set, and attacks the stairs with a giddy sense of glee each time she ascends them, so much so that at times you get the impression that she was so pumped that she might still be climbing them now. One of the standout tracks on 2021’s ‘The Bitter Truth’ album, ‘Wasted On You’ begins with an electronic drum feel that soon explodes into a full-on assault from Will Hunt on a track that has an almost doo-wop swing to it. ‘Far From Heaven’ and ‘Better Without You’ are a few other new tracks that also pack a punch. The former features Lee at a grand piano as what seems like a thousand candles light up the stage, while on the latter the weighty bass slaps from Anzai shake the foundations, and the impressive lighting rig turns to darting red lights that cut through the darkness with surgical precision. The strength of the new material proves yet again that Evanescence are much more than just a legacy act and can still cut the mustard twenty years on.
The older tracks are greeted like returning heroes, and not just the tracks lifted from ‘Fallen’; 2011’s ‘End of The Dream’ is simply staggering. Beginning with the silhouette of Amy Lee atop the second tier of the stage, the track brews for a few minutes before Will Hunt brings the band in and the screens flicker to life with monochrome images of birds flying – but spooky birds, the kind that pecked that woman’s eyes out in ‘The Omen’ – and in true Billy Duffy/Slash guitar-god form, Troy McLawhorn climbs the stairs to take his solo in front of the giant screen. Superb. As the band are preparing to launch into ‘Call Me When You’re Sober’ – which Lee introduces as “Kind of an oldie” – she notices someone in the crowd in a spot of bother and stops proceedings to make sure that security can get to her and assist. Once the crowd member is safely out and under the care of the medical staff, it’s “game on” and the aforementioned ‘Call Me When You’re Sober’ kicks off a final flurry of tracks that other bands would be envious of. Among all the classics such as ‘Imaginary’ and ‘My Immortal’, is a gorgeous version of ‘Use My Voice’ where Sharon den Adel and Deena Jakoub from opening act VERIDIA join on backing vocals and cheerleading for a hugely uplifting few minutes. What else but ‘Bring Me To Life’ could end the show, and Lee is in regal form as she uses enough energy to power the city for a week. She knows what this song means to so many, and performs it with the same vigor and enthusiasm as she no doubt did the first time she performed it decades ago.
The perfect end to a perfect evening where even the most cynical of cynics would be hard-pressed to find fault. Amy Lee defies all logic, and if anything, her voice has gotten better. Decide for yourself on one of the remaining dates listed below – a tour to be filed under “Unmissable”.
Review – Dave
All images – Dave Jamieson
November 19, 2022 – First Direct Arena, Leeds (UK)
November 21, 2022 – Palais 12, Brussels (BE)
November 22, 2022 – Palais 12, Brussels (BE)
November 23, 2022 – Festhalle, Frankfurt (DE)
November 25, 2022 – Mitsubishi Electric Halle, Dusseldorf (DE)
November 27, 2022 – AccorHotels Arena, Paris (F)
November 29, 2022 – Ziggo Dome, Amsterdam (NL)
November 30, 2022 – Ziggo Dome, Amsterdam (NL)
December 01, 2022 – Rockhall, Esch-sur-Alzette (LU)
December 03, 2022 – Quarterback Immobilien Arena, Leipzig (DE)
December 05, 2022 – Gliwice Arena, Gliwice (PL)
December 07, 2022 – Barclaycard Arena, Hamburg (DE)
December 08, 2022 – Velodrom, Berlin (DE)
All tickets available, here.