Beset by multiple postponements and starting to carry the distinct feeling of questioning whether it would ever actually happen, the long-promised coheadline jaunt between Within Temptation and Evanescence is finally here. One band titans of gothic symphonic metal that gradually branched out into collaborations as diverse as Xzibit and the others responsible for changing the lives of an entire generation of goths, it’s truly worthy of being called a once in a lifetime tour.
That naturally means there’s problems; the O2 arena has apparently had issues with all standing tickets, forcing gig goers holding them to the box office for physical copies – fortunately discovered well before doors. Sole support Veridia, an alt rock band from Tennessee, have the unenviable task of warming up for the two gothic titans and to their credit, rise to the occasion as best they can. Playing a style that sits somewhere around heavy rock with bluesy and even funk laden groove occasionally, it’s not particularly different per se but it’s delivered with sincerity and conviction. Bringing out Amy Lee for a mid-set piano ballad is a hell of a power move too, although one where the star power looms large over their final two songs.
A giant banner for your upcoming single is certainly one way to promote it; there’s even a QR code for people to download Within Temptation’s brand new app where they’re streaming it exclusively. It’s a nice little reward for those interested, if not the most atmospheric way to begin a set and rather strange that they don’t play it at all given the huge ad. There is, however, a giant carved head at the back of the stage that towers and draws the eye that hints at the band’s new era.
If there’s one word that describes their set it’s extravagant; that giant head splits in half, animations play on a giant screen including song lyrics, there’s more fire than a high school chemistry class and Sharon Den Adel comes on with a spiked headpiece and one arm armoured. Put simply, it rules. They’ve got the songs to back up the production, too. Paradise (What About Us) is a huge stomping number while Angels soars just as its namesake including Den Adel ascending on a platform to the top of the carved head. The crowd is completely swept up in the extravagance, unsurprisingly: dancing, singing and clapping along when prompted. Closing on the one-two punch of What Have You Done and Mother Earth just cinches it; this was everything a symphonic rock arena show should be – loud, brash and almost total sensory overload.
It’s a tough stage show to contend with. To their credit, Evanescence don’t hold back. It’s still a spectacle but one that takes a different tack, with triangular lighting and a drum riser that acts as a giant light diffuser. “What’s up London, we finally made it!” Amy Lee exclaims gleefully after the opening salvo of Broken Pieces Shine and Made of Stone. The early setlist is predominantly newer material; 5 of the first 6 are new, with the exception of Going Under that gets the loudest cheer so far. We might have seen the piano rising out the floor trick with Veridia already but it’s just as cool the second time, accompanied as it is by Lee’s iconic voice and songs.
Lee herself is lightning in a bottle; charismatic, with the kind of powerhouse voice you’d know anywhere. She’s arguably why they have less of a spectacle, tasteful lighting and swirling backdrops all helping keep the focus on her. The gothic grandeur isn’t lost at any point, nor is the crowd’s rapt attention as they make their way through a setlist that ebbs and flows between emotions and piano driven moments against surprisingly heavy guitars. The likes of Better Without You show that marriage of anthemic and heavy, while Call Me When You’re Sober elicits one of many huge singalongs throughout the night as it dials up the gothic melodrama even further. There’s no other song they could end on than Bring Me To Life; the song that caused millions of gothic awakenings globally and remains to this day their biggest hit. Predictably then, it goes down an absolute storm, following an equally glowing reception for My Immortal that sees more than a few damp eyes. It might’ve been three years in the making, but this nostalgic goth dream was more than worth the wait.