Words by: Robert Sutton
Images by: Robert Sutton Photography (Facebook)
Gamma Ray is undertaking a world tour at the moment doing their ‘Best of the Best’ tour in support of their ‘25 years of Rock in Metal’. Their tour however had only the one UK date and this was at O2 Academy Islington on the 8th December.
Support for the night was from Neonfly and Serious Black.
Neonfly are a power metal, melodic metal, British metal band and currently have two albums to their name. Their latest ‘Strangers in Paradise’ has just been released. For some reason the doors of the venue were not opened until about ten past seven and Neonfly hit the stage at seven thirty, so the audience were just getting into the venue and ordering their refreshments when the band started. With half of the stage cordoned off to the band, due to the drum kit riser for Gamma Ray the stage front was a little crowded for the group and along with all the cabling for the monitors and other equipment this made moving about on-stage a bit of an issue for front man Willy Norton. However he did manage to move from stage left to stage right without tripping over and once us photographers had left the pit area at the front of the venue after our allocated three songs, he then made the most of this space as well.
As always for the support groups, time passed too rapidly and before we knew it, it was time for their last song. This is a great ‘up and coming’ band and really worth checking out if you can when they are next playing in your area, but you may need to be quick as Frederick Thunder’s (guitars) seemingly addiction to feathers you may not actually be able to see the group soon due to the amount of feathers on stage!!…
Serious Black are a ‘new’ power metal band who only formed in January last year, however they do comprise of some very talented and experienced members. They have one album so far, ‘As Daylight Breaks’, which was released this year. Despite them being a relatively new band as such, they played their set as if they had been together for many many years and with their front man Urban Breed ( vocals) really knowing how to gel with the audience and also with the help of a bit of a KISS song , they got the audience into full participating mode, with them singing , chanting and with lots of head banging to the songs. Again this is another band to watch out for in the future as I’m sure they will soon be playing to much bigger audiences in the near future. And for those no aware, Urban Breed has been around a long time and consider by many a top notch vocalist, from his days in Tad Morose.
Gamma Ray, Well what can I say, they have been around on the scene for twenty five years now, have fourteen albums and always look like they are having fun when they play live. They are a ‘melodic and bombastic power metal band with positive and critical lyrics, fantastic guitar work and wonderful vocals’…well that’s what they say about themselves and to my mind I have to agree with them. The only slightly disappointing thing about them is that they didn’t play more UK venues on this tour.
Kai Hansen (vocals and guitar) opened the evening’s performance with ‘Welcome’ from their 1990 debut album ‘Heading for Tomorrow’ and then followed this with ‘Heaven Can Wait’ from the same album.
He then introduced the ‘new boy’ Frank Beck to the stage as second vocals. I have to say that most to time you see two vocalists in a heavy metal band these days it is more for the growling than the singing!!, but this combination of two true vocalists did actually work quite well at tonight’s performance.
The evening progressed with the crowd giving plenty of ‘Hoy’ , Hoy’, ‘Hoy’ ‘s when prompted , plenty of head banging and a bit of witty banter from Kai especially when introducing their next track saying ‘Another one of our Smash hits… that didn’t make the charts…like all the others…’
About half way through the evening ‘s performance we were treated to the customary heavy metal drum solo from Michael Ehré, which for someone who does not get too excited for drum solos I thought was actually pretty good. Then came my next dread at a concert….a bass solo…I have heard some really awful bass solos in my time of going to concerts and I really don’t understand why the groups do it…This one was bearable, but I did notice quite a lot of the audience taking this break in the proceedings to head for the bar and the toilets….
Gamma Ray played a super fifteen song set list and finished the standard set with ‘Somewhere Out In Space’ the title track from their 1997 album. After this they said their farewells and left the stage. Looking at the time ( a few minutes to 11pm) I was not totally convinced that they would actually come back on-stage for an encore , but sure enough they did and played ‘Heading for Tomorrow’/’Avalon’ and ‘Send Me a Sign’ as the encore songs.
Whilst it was not quite a sold out show, the venue was pretty full and the overall performances of all three bands gave the audience a great nights entertainment and I have to say that the showmanship of all three/four lead singers did all the groups justice.
2: Heaven Can Wait
3: Last Before The Storm
5: One with the World
6: I want Out (Helloween cover)…with a bit of Reggae vocals
7: Valley of the Kings
8: The Silence
Drum /Bass Solo
9: Dethrone Tyranny
11: Master of Confusion
12: Rebellion in Dreamland /Heavy Metal Universe /Ride the Sky
13: Somewhere out in Space
14: Heading for Tomorrow /Avalon
15: Send me a Sign