Live Reviews

Delain / Xandria – Manchester Academy 2: Live Review

Delain / Xandria – Manchester Academy 2 – 21st April 2023

Manchester is privileged to be on the list for one of only two UK dates for Delain. The ‘new’ Delain. But as Pete Townsend wrote for Roger to sing – meet th enew boss, same as the old boss. In a good way. Their Dark Waters album showcased a lineup of many changes – with Martijn Westerholt still at the helm, the return of guitarist Ronald Landa and drummer Sander Zoer was both inspired and a sound tactical move. New recruits, bassist Ludovico Cioffi and singer Diana Leah, have fitted in seamlessly, looking and sounding the part and the album was an unqualified success.

While Ludo and Ronald are clearly having a ball prowling the stage lip and the platforms, all eyes are on Diana and the question of how she fares onstage with the huge boots and presence of Charlotte Wessels to fill. As she sings Queen Of Shadow, her interview quote of “The past is our shadow, not our prison,” looms significantly. It might be a long shadow that’s cast from the band’s history, but the opening track The Cold sees the quartet punch out the cinematic drama from the off. In at the deep end, scruff of the neck stuff, Diana confidently strides centre stage and she’s “awaiting the sunrise,” which sends a combination of chill and goosebumps and the packed room is awash with a combination of chills and goosebumps. When they play the trump card quickly and launch into Suckerpunch, Delain DNA fills the room and we know we’re in safe hands. All is well. The mic stands are still shining brightly. Any demons have been suckerpunched.

With the maestro Martijn creating and conducting the symphonies from the vast arsenal of sounds in his relatively compact rig on his riser, the energy is palpable. The rabble-rousing has Manchester seduced, clapping along and joining the singalongs with gusto. The choruses are big and bold as the band work through a set that strikes from the heart of a clutch of albums. The legacy is well-harvested and peppered with new classics. Another trump comes with The Quest And the Curse whose ‘newness’ doesn’t stop it from sitting comfortably in a set that’s cleverly constructed. Any possible joins are hard to spot.

Greatest song – ever!” shouts a voice from the back as the gentle intro to April Rain begins before the cover of The Cranberries Cordell spotlights Ronald, and offers a mid-set breather. The additional voice of Paolo Ribaldini ups the ante again. An inspired collaboration (clever move too…) and a stirring run of songs where Diana channels the angelic in Beneath and Queen Of Shadows holds its own as classic Delain looms; The Gathering and We Are The Others are first names on the teamsheet, staples of any Delain set as the landmark WEATO album is highlighted for the final lap. One that’s epic and grandiose with the orchestral stabs and crescendos piling up and for all the grand gestures, they’re forever underpinned by the Westerholt melodic sensibility. Everyone’s on the same page, desperate for the band to continue and provide the fix and the tentative run of shows in the refreshed guisedeems that they’ve delivered.

There’s a promise to return again soon. We had it from the horse’s mouth in our recent chat with Martijn Westerholt. It can’t come soon enough and for sure, Delain will be welcomed back with open arms.

Tour support from Xandria who are cut from pretty much the same Symphonic Metal cloth. Another band who’ve undergone lineup changes that now see Ambre Vourvahis in the ‘no pressure’ lead vocal role. She’s quite a find as the band highlights their ‘comeback’ album from which much of the set is built. The Wonders Still Awaiting is celebrated with what she tell us is their key piece, Reborn, before switching from the angelic to the darker side of her vocal talents. One moment, the melodies are soaring heavenwards before the fringe falls and the tone darkens to horror movie mode and the sounds of some unseen Devil within.

As guitarists Rob Klawonn and Xandria mainman Marco Heubaum throw their shapes, toss their manes and pump out the Metal, the symphonic swathes emerge from the depths. You Will Never Be Our God sets the tone for the set and for the evening as the under combines with seductive melodies. Nightfall provides the operatic mid-set dip into Xandria history, but the focus, like that of their headline partners, is very much on the now. Reborn indeed, Xandria making big steps in their re-emergence as they regain a place back on the Symphonic metal ladder.

Delain online:  website / facebook / Twitter / Instagram  

Xandria online: website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

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