Avantasia Take Us On Power Metal Odyssey
Officially, Tobias Sammet only found out halfway through the set that Avantasia's first ever UK indoor gig had sold out. It can't have been hard to guess, though, as the Forum got very full very quickly. With no support act, everyone was there for just one thing and by the time the theme from '2001: A Space Odyssey' signalled showtime, the impatience was palpable.
As befitted the success 'Ghostlights' has enjoyed, the new album dominated the setlist and got a floor-shaking reception. Almost all the songs that didn't have one-off special guests were played, from the bombastic opener 'Mystery of a Blood Red Rose', to the massive singalong of next single 'Draconian Love', a storming rendition of 'Lucifer' that delivered especially strongly on the promise of the studio version and, of course, the soaring title track that must be responsible for many cases of headbanger's neck.
Of the many vocalists Sammet brought along, Michael Kiske got the most rapturous response. This may be due to his having the highest profile and singing on many of the heaviest songs, including the song 'Ghostlights', the band's theme song and the classic 'Reach Out for the Light', before which the crowd chanted his name.
However, all the singers had their turn in the limelight and all (except Herbie Langhans, but in fairness, the song where he was most prominent required him to sing lower) pulled off some jaw-dropping notes.
Jørn Lande naturally shone on crowd-pleaser 'The Scarecrow', even if the 1980s did call and say they wanted those trousers back. Amanda Somerville came to the fore on 'The Wicked Symphony', throwing herself into the role with a very flirtatious performance.
Nevertheless, in terms of putting songs across, a special mention has to go to Bob Catley. 'A Restless Heart and Obsidian Skies' might not seem like the most obvious earworm, but the warmth in Catley's delivery turned it into an uplifting anthem to linger in the memory.
Sammet himself has never made any secret of his main influence as a vocalist and frontman - here a stolen catchphrase, there a red military coat. While in my opinion, no one can match the Air Raid Siren, having such an accomplished role model has spurred Sammet on to achieve excellence, and not just in terms of singing style.
Most pertinently for this three-hour show of a genre that sometimes takes itself too seriously, Sammet has mastered the art of injecting humour into a set. He spent a lot of the evening making good-natured fun of conventional expectations (announcing everyone in turn as "On lead vocals ..." in the final medley), the crowd (when everyone started waving their arms in the air to the ballad 'Farewell', he quipped: "It's not very metal, but it looks good!"), his fellow-musicians (pretending to grab Kiske somewhere awkward when the latter hit a particularly high note) and most of all, himself (mocking himself for having unwittingly announced a song like Paul Stanley, then protesting very much that he loved Stanley - platonically, of course). In return, Eric Martin gave as good as he got, getting the crowd to call BS when Sammet hammed up the old cliché of whether there was time for more songs.
If there is indeed a way to influence time, as the concepts behind Avantasia's most recent two albums suggest, it's quite possible they have found it. While they were on stage, time didn't seem to exist. Let's hope not too much time will pass before they pay us another visit.