Dutch symphonic metallers Within Temptation have worked hard over the last few years to raise their UK profile with tours and festival appearances. This is starting to bear fruit now with new album 'Hydra' reaching number six in the UK album chart and now a gig at the largest venue they've played so far in Scotland, the 2500 capacity Academy.
The large crowd were in early to catch support act and fellow Dutchies Delain. This five piece have created quite a stir with their lighter touch on the symphonic metal style and came on to a good reception from the crowd and left to a much greater one. They went down a storm in front of an adoring audience who loved frontwoman Charlotte Wessels' cheery personality and tuneful vocals.
The songs got a great reception to and this is obviously a band on the rise but I have to say I don't get it. Ms Wessels is easy on the eye and her cheery smile is engaging but I find her voice, and the songs limited. Most of the tunes aired sounded similar to my ears and at times they seemed to be playing one long song. I did enjoy 'The Gathering' from their debut album with it's lush melodies and catchy chorus but that was the exception to the rule.
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Within Temptation of course came on to a similar enthusiastic reaction, opening with the first track from 'Hydra', 'Let Us Burn'. They have an impressive stage set with risers and high quality back projections and the five piece band push out an impressively large sound. This is all background of course to the star of the show, singer Sharon Den Adel.
A consummate frontwoman, she is reaching icon status among those that follow the female fronted metal scene and as well as having a smooth, beautiful voice she is the hardest working person on the stage, constantly prowling around and trying to engage the audience with her every move.
Ms Den Adel's husband and the band's other main driving force, guitarist Robert Westerholt, no longer tours with the band and stays home to look after the couple's children. The rest of the band are competent players but are content to remain in the background for the most part so sometimes you are left with the feeling that this is the Sharon show. She handles it well but she has to do a lot to carry the show on her own shoulders.
I have mixed feeling about 'Hydra' finding it to be a little disappointing so I was unsure how much I would enjoy the new songs. As always happens when touring with a new album WT gave me lots of chances to decide and played seven of the album's ten songs. I thought 'Edge Of The World' with its' emotional overtones and swirling rhythms was magnificent, allowing the heartfelt, soaring vocals to shine through.
'Covered By Roses' worked pretty well too but the others aired brought up one of my main issues of the night. Several songs on the album are duets and as they have done before with 'What Have You Done' instead of having a guest singer or a band member sing them they show a video of the person from the album on a screen singing the song and Sharon 'duets' with the recording.
Within Temptation do use a lot of sampling etc to create their full sound but for me this is a step too far and too fake for a live show. 'Paradise (What About Us?)' and 'And We Run' are good songs and did sound great but I just couldn't get into watching half the vocals coming from video recordings. Just to be clear there is no miming from the Dutch beauty on the stage in person but I think these recordings detract from the overall experience.
I was mightily relieved when one of the duets from the album, 'Whole World Is Watching' was reworked as an acoustic ballad with a solo vocal and was for me was much more enjoyable than the album version.
The rest of the set outside the new songs was surprisingly full of gems from their back catalogue. I did expect them to play a few from the previous album 'The Unforgiven' and the catchy 'Iron' and the crowd favourite 'Faster' sounded fantastic but I didn't expect to hear the 'Silent Force' album being given a good visit. We got 'Jillian(I'd Give My Heart)', 'Stand My Ground', 'See Who I Am' and 'Angels', all of which sounded great.
It's a sign of how much regard the band's singer is held in when she managed to get away with saying she she was glad to be in Newcastle, and both she and the crowd had some fun with that little faux pas! I think she completely covered that off in the end by inviting a guy in a kilt up on stage to dance with her during their somewhat unusual cover of Lana Del Ray's 'Summertime Sadness'. I suspect the next time they play Glasgow there will be hundreds of guys in kilts!
Last song of the night was the inevitable 'Ice Queen' with its' usual feel good singalong and then it was much cheering and stamping as the band took their bows and made their exit in front of an adoring public.
I've seen Within Temptation a few times before and love the band but I felt this was a good performance but one well below their best. Personally I would like to see them take a step back from all the technology and make their live sound a bit more organic again.
However they have an adoring public who may disagree with me and to be honest, so long as Sharon Den Adel is singing I'll turn up to see them. Star quality indeed.
WT Line up:
Sharon den Adel – lead vocals
Jeroen van Veen – bass
Ruud Jolie – lead guitar, rhythm guitar
Martijn Spierenburg – keyboards
Mike Coolen – drums
Stefan Helleblad -rhythm guitar, lead guitar
WT Set list:
Let Us Burn
Paradise(What About Us?)
Edge Of The World
In The Middle Of The Night
Jillian(I'd Give My Heart)
And We Run
See Who I Am
Stand My Ground
Covered By Roses
What Have You Done
Whole World Is Watching