“Absence makes the heart grow fonder. We’ve been dreaming of this for years!” Amy Lee screams with delight at a packed O2 Arena. Her words resound with us all on very different levels; this night being the result of literally years of rescheduling and logistical nightmares caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite it being a school night, the crowds are strong, the energy is electric, and many are here to celebrate not only this incredible line-up of musicians but a sense of ‘normality’.
Upon arrival, just looking at the crowds, it is easy to spot the mature dedicated followers of Evanescence and Within Temptation since their rise to fame in the early 2000s. Now, many are accompanied by smaller, younger members of their clan in what feels to be a ritualistic process of passing the gauntlet of music tastes between generations. And let’s not forget, many of the songs we anticipate hearing will allow us to revisit the years when this era of music defined who we were and who we wanted to be.
On paper VERIDIA, an alternative rock band from the USA Tennessee appears to have a hard job opening the event for two incredible Titan bands, however, their energetic and synchronized stage presence, with catchy songs led by the formidable Deena Jakoub ensures that we recognize their talent on merit alone, rather than just any old warmup act. Deena teases the audience with her incredible vocal range and commanding presence, leaving us wanting more. One of the most powerful moments of the night was when Deena introduces their next song written in memory of her late father. Her voice trembles as she visibly holds back tears and explains, ‘I wrote it as a way to cope with my grief. She welcomes Amy Lee to the stage to join her; a grand piano appears from a stage lift, and they hold each other as Amy reflects on losing her brother. The audience is incredibly supportive, and we prepare for a powerful modern ballad. Hearing the blend of vocals, seeing the powerful release of their grief through their incredible and intertwined lyrics, ‘I’ll Never Be Ready’ was magical and, despite a strong 20k audience–you could almost hear a pin drop. The audience related to this so much, uniting the struggles, grief, sacrifice, and sense of loss we experienced over the last few years.
“Time to shake away those tears!” Deena laughs afterward, and once again the stadium is propelled into thundering riffs and pounding drums. Not only are they incredibly talented and energetic musicians, but from their interactions with the audience, they are down to earth, humble, and deserving. They have completed the all-important task of a first-act band- we are certainly ready for Within Temptation.
Opening with Our Solemn Hour immediately allows those who are not accustomed to Within Temptation to hear the fundamental pillars of this band’s sound, which stem from orchestral and symphonic styles. The use of pyrotechnics from the very first song accelerates the adrenaline as singer Sharon Den Adel screams “We’ve been waiting such a long time!” to a cheering arena.
A wonderful characteristic of Within Temptation is that they do not conform to a certain genre. Amongst the hardening riffs, melodic vocals, and operatic trimmings they show that they are unapologetically experimental. This type of evolution can either make or break an existing band, but they are not afraid to push outside of their defined remit where stagnancy of similar-sounding songs and themes only provides coverage to a limited range of fans. They have progressively become harder, more dominant, and more aggressive; using their platform to reflect the current world events–made relevant during Raise Your Banner as Sharon roars ‘SLAVA UKRAINI’ and waves the blue and yellow flag, dedicating the song to Ukraine. They are certainly a treat to watch– showing off their incredible catalog of songs ranging from Mother Earth up to their newest EP ‘Don’t Pray for Me’; the band appears incredibly comfortable, running, strutting, and commanding the stage. Most importantly, Within Temptation seem to know what their fans want; the crowd cheers when Finnish singer Tarja Turunen’s virtual face appears on-screen duetting to Paradise, and more energy could be seen in the standing crowd during What Have you Done, their first charting single in Canada and America punching through as the penultimate song. It is all you could want from a live band, made even better with the stunning and hypnotic performance of Sharon. She gave her absolute all to every song despite struggling at times to talk due to a cold (and she even apologized for any ‘bad notes’). This slice of information highlighted the incredible range of her vocals which she did so well to achieve despite visibly being under strain at times. This type of humble attitude warms you to them; approachable, kind, and human.
The time was now upon us. The crowd roar as the lights go low; the standing crowds edge even closer to the stage, people hurriedly scuffling to their seats in anticipation; seeing one by one the musicians take to the stage in the darkness during instrumental Artifact/The Turn. The anticipation of knowing that we are moments away builds until finally the gain and vibrations of the hammering drums and guitars burst through the arena for Broken Pieces Shine. Singer Amy Lee runs onstage, looking fantastic, a ball of energy, and instantly meets all expectations from a packed arena. “What’s up, London!? We made it!’ Amy laughs, a small nod to their fans’ patience, dedication, and love.
Their visual set is perhaps not as impressive in terms of stage production, lighting, and pyrotechnics as their co-headliners, Within Temptation, but this arguably makes room to focus on the musicians themselves, where Amy’s vocals are incredibly distinct, strong, and powerful through every song as she spins, stomps and kicks around the stage, forceful for our attention. And it is now Evanescence’s turn to show off their catalog of music ranging from The Open Door to their most recent album The Bitter Truth when Made of Stone sees the crowd uplifted once more. Unsurprisingly, Going Under is an absolute anthem with everyone in the arena screaming at the top of their lungs just to be heard. It is clear that the newer material is a hit with many here, who chant hypnotically along with Wasted on You, a testament to the signature sound of Evanescence. Amy is a force of her being as the appearance of the grand piano rising on stage becomes an omen for good things to come. And we are not wrong. Far From Heaven, Your Star and Call Me When You’re Sober demonstrate the complexity and talent where Amy effortlessly manages to blend the haunting and somber moments of just her and a piano, then combine a full band somehow managing to complement rather than overpower. Backing vocals performed by new bassist Emma Anzai (Sick Puppies), add an extra element of magic. Evanescence is a band whose progression of music has largely gone unchanged (although fans may disagree) however, the evolution comes from within the members themselves where lyrics often reflect the current climate and explore difficult experiences of life and death. Notably, Amy begins Use Your Voice as a platform to announce, ‘no one can take your voice, no one can tell you what to feel – remember to use your voice!’. And yet again, Evanescence knows just what their fans want; a powerful rendition of My Immortal completely turns the crowds to mush – Amy’s voice so brilliantly commanding and mesmeric made even better when the band joins in for the last several bars. It should come as no surprise that when the moment for their last song arrives, screams of joy resonated across the arena as the piano started Bring Me to Life – the audience was completely in a trance as the music takes over – singing, dancing, swaying: the crowd has spoken. Evanescence shows that they are good at what they do.