Words by: Erik De’Viking – Photos by: Adrian Hextall
On a warm Spring evening, metalheads from around the UK and Europe queued up for what was set to be an amazing gig. Performing to a jam-packed, sold out venue, Tobias Sammet and his Avantasia Moonglow tour ensemble made this corner of London theirs for one very special night.
As the lights went down, and a deep rumble of bass pierced the air, a brief interlude of the ‘Ode To Joy’ very aptly heralded the start of the evenings proceedings. Taking their places behind the curtain, the band went straight into ‘Ghost In The Moon’, as they were revealed to the crowd. Tobi quickly whipped the audience up into a frenzy, giving an energetic performance, while playing for the cameras in the pit before him.
Telling everyone he was “glad to be back in the best fucking city in the universe,” Tobi then announced that they were “going to play new shit, old shit, fast shit, slow shit, but not so much boring shit, as that would be fucking shit!” Up next was ‘Starlight’ featuring Ronnie Atkins, who declared “tonight we’re all Londoners” before belting it out with Tobi, and later Adrianne Cowan in a bombastic performance of ‘Book Of Shallows’.
Speaking to the crowd again, Tobi thanked everyone for their enthusiasm, mentioning he had the feeling it as going to be a great show when he took the stage. He also mentioned for the first time, that they had been warned they’d get fined if they played too long. This elicited a number of boos, jeers, and colourful shouts from the crowd. Asking if the audience had heard the new album before the show, he then revealed that although it was the best-selling album to date in the UK and most of Europe, the record label weren’t impressed when he suggested the first single should be nearly 12 minutes long. What was that song? It was ‘The Raven Child’, which featured Jørn Lande, as did the track that followed, ‘Lucifer’ from the Ghostlights album.
While the night was full of songs from the new album, Moonglow, there were fan favourites right across the Avantasia back-catalogue. As each song was performed, the backdrop would change to reflect the artwork for that album. Up next was Geoff Tate, for ‘Alchemy’, and ‘Invincible’. Looking back at the night, ‘Invincible’ has to be one of the stand-out moments of the show. The stripped-back, piano backed performance allowed both Geoff and Tobi’s vocals to shine, as they blended seamlessly together into a singular voice. It was a truly moving rendition of what was already an incredible song.
As Geoff made his way off stage, Tobi declared that he was “happy to be performing for the crazy, happy, lunatics of London again!” Pausing for the chants of Tobi from the audience, he continued, “you’re all great, and I thank you all!” Moving on, the band performed ‘Reach Out For The Light’ with Oliver Hartmann, ‘Moonglow’ with Adrieanne Cowan, and the surprise cover of the Moonglow album, ‘Maniac’ with Eric Martin. Martin would also sing on ‘Dying For An Angel’ before the indomitable Bob Catley joined the stage to perform ‘Lavender’ and ‘The Story Ain’t Over’ to thunderous applause. The clearly moved Catley, thanked the crowd as he made his bow and moved off stage. Once again, Tobi, in fine humour, was poking fun at something. This time it was the “little speakers as the front of the stage.” Which apparently were there so the people in the front few rows could hear everything clearly. He quipped, that “that must be why the tickets were so expensive”, before declaring that he planned on “giving everyone their money’s worth!” And he most certainly did!
The night carried on with ‘The Scarecrow’ featuring Lande, who stayed on for ‘Promised Land’ with Eric Martin. Lande started to joke about how he used to listed to Martin when he was growing up, a theme other members of the ensemble would play on during the night, much to Martin’s feigned embarrassment. As Lande left, Tate returned, introduced by Martin as “The Dark Lord of Seattle”, and the two performed ‘Twisted Mind’. As Martin left, Tate and Sammet performed ‘Avantasia’. Now at the two-hour mark of the concert, it was clear that the night was only really just getting started, as Tobi said, “two hours in, and we dare to play a 12 minute monster, when other bands would be playing a three minute hit before they finished for the night.” The raw energy that continued to pour out of Tobi, who moved about the stage like a man possessed by the very music he created, blew the roof off the Forum as they launched into ‘Let The Storm Descend Upon You’.
The next hour was dominated by by ‘Master Of The Pendulum’ with Ronnie Atkins, ‘Shelter From The Rain’ with Bob Catley, Herbie Langhans, and Ina Morgan, and ‘Mystery Of a Blood Red Rose’ with Bob Catley. Pausing to get the audience to light up their mobile phones, Tobi introduced their photographer as the 17th member of the band before getting a picture with the audience behind him. As we quickly approached the third hour of the show, the band play their final song, ‘Lost In Space’. Thanking everyone for coming, Tobi declares that they’ll, “definitely be coming back to London,” before everyone makes their way off stage.
As we hit the pause before the encore, the crowd is going mental. The entire balcony is bouncing with the force of the stomping feet and clapping hands. Everyone is shouting and making such a raucous noise that it’s almost impossible to hear, and just as you think it can’t get any louder, the band returns to the stage, and suddenly it’s deafening. Tobi is clearly humbled by the response as he looks on at the sell-out crowd and places his hand over his heart, as he says thank you. Breaking into ‘Farewell’ with Adrienne Cowan as the first song of the encore, we’re fast approaching a three-and-a-half hour show. By the time the entire ensemble is assembled to perform ‘Sign Of the Cross / The Seven Angels’ the night closes within minutes of what would have seen the band fined for going over.
Throughout out the night, there was a lot of love and humour on the stage. It was clear everyone was having a good time, and the palpable chemistry of the ensemble that Tobi put together just washed over the crowd, making those of us in attendance feel like honorary members of the band. This will be a tough gig to beat for 2019, and I hope the enthusiasm of the crowd will show Tobi that Avantasia could sell-out more than one show in the future. Thank you for the memories!
The Full Set-list
Symphony No. 9, Op. 125 (Ode to Joy)
Ghost in the Moon
Starlight – (with Ronnie Atkins)
Book of Shallows – (with Ronnie Atkins & Adrienne Cowan)
The Raven Child – (with Jørn Lande)
Lucifer – (with Jørn Lande)
Alchemy – (with Geoff Tate)
Invincible – (with Geoff Tate)
Reach Out for the Light – (with Oliver Hartmann)
Moonglow – (with Adrienne Cowan)
Maniac – (with Eric Martin)
Dying for an Angel – (with Eric Martin)
Lavender – (with Bob Catley)
The Story Ain’t Over – (with Bob Catley)
The Scarecrow – (with Jørn Lande)
Promised Land – (with Jørn Lande & Eric Martin, without Tobias Sammet)
Twisted Mind – (with Geoff Tate & Eric Martin, without Tobias Sammet)
Avantasia – (with Geoff Tate)
Let the Storm Descend Upon You – (with Jørn Lande & Ronnie Atkins)
Master of the Pendulum – (with Ronnie Atkins)
Shelter from the Rain – (with Bob Catley, Herbie Langhans, and Ina Morgan)
Mystery of a Blood Red Rose – (with Bob Catley)
Lost in Space
Farewell (with Adrienne Cowan)
Sign of the Cross / The Seven Angels (with everyone)
Written by: Erik De’Viking
My Global Mind – UK Editor
Erik De’Viking is a London based freelance music journalist. His musical interests include music in all its forms, and he is constantly on the lookout for new bands and genres to discover and later preach about to the masses.