The Amsterdam Bijlmer Arena area of Amsterdam is named as such for good reason. It is the home of Dutch football pass masters Ajax, who ply their trade at the Amsterdam Arena.
Alongside this is the impressive Ziggo Dome which is hosting a certain Robbie Williams this very weekend… Fortunately MetalMouth are headed to the Heineken Music Hall which again is virtually stumbling distance away. To say it’s refreshing to have so many music venues next to each other and virtually 2 minutes from the nearest station is an understatement. Such organisation is fully welcomed!
After a non-existent queue, no security making it harder for people to get in and lockers in place of a cloak room, thus removing the existence of queues again we are inside. Okay, the need to purchase tokens for drinks at the bar is odd and comes with a price; a queue, but hey, it’s the first one so we are sipping water and shandies at the bar in no time.
For the uninitiated ‘Hydra’, the latest album from Dutch metallers Within Temptation is a multi-headed beast of a record, containing no fewer than 5 duets. The possibility of seeing several of these performed in the flesh in the band’s home country is somewhat tantalising to say the least, even if this 5,500 capacity venue seems rather twee for a number one band even the cab driver had heard of. Within Temptation though are playing both tonight and Saturday night to packed crowds and are filming the lot. Smile!
Dutch five-piece DELAIN (7/10) have been the main support for this leg of the tour, which isn’t much of a surprise as they complement the symphonic sounds of the headliners and are unlikely to have anyone turning away, their female fronted assault as easy on the ears as you would want in such a slot. They were also formed by ex-WT man Martijn Westerholt, who is of course also the brother of Robert from the headliners. The band as a whole sound a hell of a lot bigger than in previous years, say for example their performance at the UK’s Sonisphere festival back in 2010 in which they seemed a little muted when compared to their improved presence tonight.
The likes of the bouncy ‘Army of Dolls’ and ‘Stardust’ sit comfortably aside older tracks like ‘Go Away’ and ‘Get the Devil Out of Me’, allowing the mature heaviness to take hold of the moment. Charlotte Wessels controls proceedings more than before, ensuring the focus of the crowd holds during the lighter moments such as ‘The Gathering’, her voice rich with an understated power that you feel could let rip at any moment but it never needs to as it caresses the music in its own unique way. The absence of ‘April Rain’ is the only down point in an otherwise enjoyable set.
In a gap that seems like less than a pint later the stage comes back to life, the curtain raising to reveal an impressive set of stairs that dominate the whole area by rising to the back, the drummer and keyboardist placed equally apart on either side, as if on century duty for the star destroyer sized central screen behind. Giant hydra heads flank the stairs while the other members pepper the stage, Sharon den Adel floating out and immediately launching into ‘Let Us Burn’, a perfect opener, full of swirling choral sounds, a creeping verse and pumped up bombastic chorus, the type of which WITHIN TEMPTATION (8) have mastered for a decade.
Up next is another new track in the form of ‘Paradise (What About Us?)’, which was a belting first single featuring ex-Nightwish vocalist Tarja Turunen. Unfortunately the operatic wonder is not here in person to share singing duties, her vocals replaced by the recorded version and backed up by the video playing on the screen behind. This leads to the odd sight of Sharon not singing during these parts while the giant screen version of Tarja glares down on the little people in this part of the Netherlands. The strength of this material though hold things together.
‘The Unforgiving’ duo of the ‘Wicked Game’ hugging ‘Faster’ and the masterful ‘Iron’ restore a sense of normality before another new track ‘Edge of The World’ showcases why Within Temptation continue to be at the forefront of writing gleaming, metalised pop songs. The bright central light bathes the crowd in imagined moonlight with the screen showing the sea at night, soothing the atmosphere before puffs of smoke shoot from the front of the stage with a sudden succession of flashing lights.
Like Iron Maiden, Within Temptation are not ones to drag around an historic hits package. When they tour an album you expect to hear a lot of the material live, buffered by other recent music with a few older tracks thrown in to keep the old school fans alive and tonight is no different. This has kept them sounding fresh and continued the building of the fan base in successive years. Here, the likes of ‘Dangerous’ and ‘And We Burn’ (again both featuring their respective co-singers, ex-Killswitch Engage man Howard Jones and Xzibit on the screen behind) are as big as the band have ever sounded and could easily make the transition to larger stages such as Donington with ease. The music is even more streamlined than before with every note making an impact, even the more poppy ‘Covered by Roses’ slamming down with an intent born not from a group of musicians who accept any ounce of fat on their music.
It’s not all about the new tracks; 8 in total, 9 if you include the cover of ‘Summertime Sadness’, the more popular songs also get a rapturous response as you would expect. You can’t really argue with excellent moments of heavy pomposity such as ‘Stand my Ground’ or the ever beautiful ‘Angels’, Sharon showcasing one of the best female voices in modern metal in the process.
The encore takes up things to another level with ‘What Have You Done’ (yes, Keith Caputo’s giant singing head is featured on the screen behind) crashing down alongside the missile like lighting. ‘Silver Moonlight’ sees the return of the ‘live’ retiree Robert Westerholt, sneaking onto the stage at the top of the stairs to lend his growls to the evening. For those of us who miss the heavier ‘Enter’ era of the band this is a welcome treat and the fact he is there in the flesh rather than the screen makes a big difference.
The band wind down with acoustic versions of ‘Whole World is Watching’ and ‘Sinead’ before signing off the night with the inevitable strains of ‘Ice Queen’, a stone cold classic (sorry), a song that along with parent album ‘Mother Earth’ helped drag all that quality European music into the UK at the dawn of the millennium, giving those lazy promoters a poke in the eye at the same time.
Overall, a great performance despite the overuse of videos for the duets but at the same time how often do you see this at a gig? So let us say it was nice to see something different in the live arena which is becoming even more difficult in 2014.
In a time when the debate about future festival headliners is ongoing it’s a surprise that Within Temptation have never come up in conversation as on this display, along with their live production they are worthy of much bigger stages.