Live Gig Review: Thomas Schwarzkopf
© Dhruv Kumar
All live Photos in NYC by Dhruv Kumar
It’s been three long years now since I saw the Metal Opera Project Avantasia live on stage. It was my third Avantasia show, so I already knew what to expect: over three hours of pure Melodic Metal entertainment with a huge number of guest singers. The guys around mastermind Tobias Sammet started their “Ghostlights” world tour on March 4th 2016 in Berlin. The venue “Huxleys” was sold out as well as other upcoming dates on the entire tour. I have to admit that the venue isn’t that big (there is space for around 1.500 people), but Huxleys is still one of my favorite places in Berlin.
I was very excited for this show, because I never experienced a tour start, so I didn’t know the setlist, the stage design and so on. Around 8:00 pm Avantasia finally hit the stage and started the “Metal Opera experience” with the first single of the new album “Mystery Of A Blood Red Rose”. All people celebrated that song from the very first moment. I still don’t get why Avantasia couldn’t win the preselection round of the Eurovision Song contest with that song here in Germany. But yeah, that’s typical German taste of music. It’s quite awful when you see which music is popular here. The mainstream audience is simply not ready for this kind of Rock music yet. But that’s not the topic here, so let’s get back to the show.
What impressed me very much was the stage design. It looked like an old medieval ruin with a balcony which was very cool. The show went further with the title track of the new album, so it was Michael Kiske’s turn and he delivered – as always. Pretty soon Ronnie Atkins joined the pack with “Invoke The Machine” and the following “Unchain The Light” combined the talents of both gifted singers. A truly powerful start. But also Tobias Sammet was in perfect shape. His vocals were top notch and you shouldn’t take that for granted, because there were moments in his career where he didn’t hit all high notes in the last few years.
With “A Restless Heart And Obsidian Skies” we got to hear the first ballad with the great Bob Catley on vocals. To be honest I was a little bit shocked when I saw him. He looked so tired and his face was bloated, but his performance was still awesome. Next in line was the man “who sounds like a grizzly bear, but has a heart like a teddy bear” (quote by Michael Kiske): Jorn Lande! I was so happy to see him back with Avantasia and he hasn’t lost anything of his energy on stage. This voice is simply outstanding. He did a fantastic job on “The Scarecrow”, “Promised Land” and many other songs.
Although he didn’t appear on the new album, Mr. Big vocalist Eric Martin was another welcome guest in the line-up. He performed his song “What’s Left Of Me” with so much charisma and passion. I love to see this guy on stage. He has a unique voice and is funny as hell. Beside all those gifted singers there were three more vocalists who ensured great backing vocals in the first place: Herbie Langhans, Amanda Somerville and Oliver Hartmann. Every one of them had a chance to shine on some solo parts as well: Herbie on “Draconian Love”, Oliver on “The Watchmaker’s Dream” and Amanda on “Farewell”. I think I don’t need to mention that they are all very talented people and each performance was very special! Oliver Hartmann delivered also some stunning solos on the guitar, as well as Sascha Paeth. Oh and I won’t forget the poor Felix Bohnke on drums who had to play over three hours non-stop.
So, was everything perfect in this show? Surely not. Some singers had little problems in remembering the right lyrics – but OK, it was the first show and they didn’t have the time to practice that much. Another strange thing is that Bob Catley and Eric Martin remained more in the background this time. I mean beside the big finale (“Sign Of The Cross”) each of them was part of just four songs, while Kiske and Lande dominated the show for most of the time. The mixture could have been a bit more balanced here. Speaking about mixture: if you look for something to complain about it has to be the setlist itself. Don’t get me wrong: I liked every song on this list, but all tracks (beside the new ones) were already played on previous tours. So to me it was a very “safe” setlist and I would have loved to hear some rarities. It simply wasn’t that surprising. Especially people who loved the second Metal Opera album had to be very strong, because not one single song of the record made it into the show, besides a two minute version of “The Seven Angels” – which was another step back, because they played that one in full length on the last tour. But all in all this is nagging on a very high level.
Finally I want to give a huge credit to the audience. Berlin is always a difficult place to play when it comes to Metal and Rock music. The audiences in other parts of Germany are always much louder and enthusiastic. Not so this time. Fans came from all over the world to see the show. There were people from Greece, Norway, Sweden and many more and they all celebrated their favorite band together. That showed me once more that nationalities don’t matter and that music has the ability to connect people. Thumbs up to a great audience!
When the show was over I left this place once more with a smile on my face. I’ve rarely seen so much playfulness, funny and talented people together on one stage. Avantasia are still a household number when it comes to live performances. Convince yourself and buy one of the last few tickets for the upcoming shows. You won’t regret it!
01. Mystery of a Blood Red Rose
03. Invoke the Machine
04. Unchain the Light
05. A Restless Heart and Obsidian Skies
06. The Great Mystery
07. The Scarecrow
09. The Watchmakers’ Dream
10. What’s Left of Me
11. The Wicked Symphony
12. Draconian Love
15. Shelter from the Rain
16. The Story Ain’t Over
17. Let the Storm Descend Upon You
18. Promised Land
19. Reach Out for the Light
21. Twisted Mind
22. Dying for an Angel
23. Lost in Space
24. Sign of the Cross / The Seven Angels