Live Reviews

Within Temptation, Evanescence – First Direct Arena, Leeds: Live Review

WORLDS COLLIDE – Within Temptation, Evanescence, Veridia – First Direct Area, Leeds – 19th November 2022

A double bill to die for, recalling the days when we had the chance to Delain with Charlotte Wessels opening up for WT. And the chance too for this tour to finally happen with two fantastic bands, leaders in their fields and fronted by two iconic singers making for a mouthwatering prospect of an evening of power-driven symphonic Metal of the highest order.

First up is Veridia. Deena Jakoub is clearly the vital visual point of the outfit and has a few tricks up her sleeve – the illuminated wings which she twirls during the thunderous opening of Blood Diamond and Feed The Animal certainly make for a striking and eye-catching image. Their take is a more contemporary electronic/rap Metal thing compared with the more established and traditional fare the headliners will offer. The set sees Amy Lee heading onstage to play piano on I’ll Never Be Ready – as if getting on the tour wasn’t a good enough endorsement, to have her presence on a track must be a real buzz. Proof, yet again and we can’t say it often enough, of why watching the support should be compulsory – they may well be headlining on their own soon enough.

With Evanescence and WT billed as Co-headliners, the running order has been alternated between venues, and sees Evanescence playing first in Leeds. They have a new album of sorts on which to focus. Doing the old catch-up like many bands, songs from The Bitter Truth are dotted through the set with Broken Pieces Shine getting the nod as the opening piece. It sees Amy Lee silhouetted and teasing behind the drum riser before striding to the stage lip to belt out the lyrics of confinement and determination, declaring “I’m not giving in, I’m alive!

A statement of intent from the kick off and the opening sequence has a strong focus on the heavier side of the catalogue. As the focal point at the foot of a triangular lighting rig and backdrop, Amy Lee exudes a passion and a force with which to be reckoned. None more so than in the intro to Use My Voice, when she urges: “Ladies, don’t let anybody speak for you!” and encourages us to “use your voice, don’t stop fighting for each other!” It’s a Boudicca-like declaration of intent repeated by Sharon later in the WT set. Fist pumping the air, arching back to reach the vocal highs and owning the front of the stage, her stage presence is a powerhouse of passion.

Seated at the piano, she reminisces about how she’s ‘almost’ 41 – “three weeks to go yet!” and still being privileged to be able to do this. A grand piano that rises (and returns post-mission) from the front stage block like one of the Thunderbirds, and where she spends a healthy proportion of the set, which at times recalls the Synthesis work where the orchestral, the symphonic, the symphonic side of the material gets a turn in the spotlight.

A little bit of an oldie,” Lee adds as the band dips back into the catalogue from Fallen and Open Door and of course, there’s little that can match the emotional clout of Amy Lee at the piano singing My Immortal. Phone lights are aloft, couples embrace and mums and daughters dressed in their Lee-inspired finery share a moment. Nothing less than Bring Me Back To Life with the confetti cannons letting loose can conclude the set and complete the welcome back for a familiar friend.

Between headliners, there’s an impressive breakdown and rebuild operation onstage. No simple switch of the snare drum, but a total dismantlement of the Evanescence platforms and risers. The angled rig is straightened up as the Within Temptation set is slowly inched forward and shaped. And what a set it is too. Normally at home in the theatres in the UK, the arena tour allows for a suitably grand production which is employed to the full during a spectacular set.

Sharon den Adel always makes a striking entrance, emerging gracefully from the first of many regular plumes of smoke to mount her vocal platform as the central round screen rises. She’s decked out in full Ice Queen headdress regalia (check the Don’t Pray For Me video) and flanked by guitarists Ruud Jolie and Stefan Helleblad (leather trousered dead ringers for former world speedway champ Jason Crump…) – they have their own little riser platforms for their bases. Together they’re belting out tsunamis of symphonic grandeur. Breaths are taken away, Metal horns are cast upwards. Long-term bassist Jeroen van Veen is almost as iconic a figure as Sharon, some may say a veteran yet as active as his fellow axemen, he’s never still, making a strong presence in the huge scope of the soundtrack.

With no new album to shout about, the set is a one-after-the-other, never-less-than-quality, rolling selection of tunes from the WT legacy. Opening with the “the world is in our hands” inspiration of See Who I Am, there’s a key emotional moment half a dozen songs in when the Ukrainian flag is unfurled for Raise Your Banner in a show of unity and as the number closes, Sharon identifies a Ukranian fan in the front rows. She’s clearly touched by the connection and the words struggle to come. If anything, it adds an extra shot of adrenaline to a performance that becomes increasingly epic in sound and scale.

Not for the first time, Sharon heads airborne, having been high into the rafters of the arena, she shows an impressive command of heights. Changing costumes into a glorious red dress, she heads skywards on a flying hoop for an exquisite All I Need. Arguably the high point (literally) of the evening which bearing in mind the magnitude of a double headline bill of Symphonic Metal giants, is saying something. When WT goes so far as to pair All I Need with the clarion call of The Reckoning, few could disagree. The latter is a huge battle cry, brutal at times – “Don’t let go, Don’t back down!” is the battle cry as Sharon drops the angelic crown to reveal an urgent aggression. Unusually, given the bombastic theme of the evening how a couple of power ballads from the headiners are the highlights!

Despite the crippling cost of energy, no expense is spared as the flames continue to fly, smoke pumps in regular bursts and the lights continue to provide a visual spectacle, spinning and spiraling from the overhead rig and the clutch of circular screens that project a constant stream of visuals. Musically, the hits keep coming in waves with not a note wasted and with barely a chance to catch a breath. Symphonic drama at its finest and most inspirational.

An unforgettable evening that refused to be beaten or unforgivably spoiled by pandemics. Both bands and their choice of support delivered sets that you couldn’t fault. Two major names (bands and iconic singers) not battling it out but complementing one another and pushing to heights where the air is clear. As per the billing, worlds might have collided and the result is a dazzling musical pageant.

Within Temptation online: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Youtube

Evanescence online: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Youtube

Veridia online: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Youtube

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