Kamelot is a show not to be missed in my book, not only because they're one of the best power metal bands still playing power metal nowadays, but because they're a special band to me and S. For whatever reason, we connect deeply over their music - probably for the same reasons they're one of the best power metal bands - they're melodic, epic, have powerful storytelling lyrics and fantastic delivery. They've always been great when we've seen them live. This time, we were worried about the sound, though. Soundstage has been plagued with sound problems the past two times we've been there - there were complaints both for Wintersun and parts of Paganfest. So, we had our metal horns crossed hoping Kamelot would prove the exception.
As we were walking up to the venue, we saw our friend D standing outside talking to a tall lady with bright blue hair. She shook hands with us and introduced herself as "Alyssa," and then she and D went into the venue. As we walked off toward a nearby beer garden to wait out the line, I turned to S and said, "Was that really her? Did we just shake hands with Alyssa White-Gluz?!" And he said, "Yeah, I think so. I guess we know who Kamelot's back-up singer is now!" :D
In contrast to previous shows, I was not very familiar with the openers this time. Kamelot's huge discography along with internet problems at work colluded to keep me from having a chance to listen to Eklipse or Delain in the weeks leading up to the show. Prior to the show, all I knew about Eklipse was that S called them "the female Apocalyptica," so I was imagining something with cellos, and metal song covers played with such intensity that it would look like the strings were in danger of being torn from the instruments. They weren't quite that - they were more of an electric string quartet, clad in gothic outfits - black lace, masks, a jaunty hat - playing sweeping or catchy music with panache, but not quite the violence of Apocalyptica. They started out with a few original compositions, and then played covers, which included "You Spin Me Round" and "Sweet Dreams." Although the covers were more welcomed by most of the audience - honestly, their whole set was exceedingly well received, with cheers even for their original songs - I preferred their original compositions. Perhaps I would have felt differently if they had covered metal songs rather than pop and rock songs. I also wondered what they would sound like without their backing track of drums and, I believe, some symphonics. The backing track certainly added to the intensity of their most sweeping moments, but surely the aching beauty of string instruments can achieve intensity all on its own?
All I knew of Delain, meanwhile, was their genre (female-fronted gothic-symphonic metal) and that I had a song or two of theirs in my novel's soundtrack. As far as all those female-fronted bands, they never really stood out to me - so I was pleasantly surprised by how good they were live. In particular, the guitar was much stronger than I'd expected - the first song started off with a raging riff, and there were more of those to follow, as well as spectacular solos. Charlotte Wessels's vocals, meanwhile, were just average, but what they lacked in virtuosity, they made up for in variety - ranging from a rocking alto, to a soaring soprano, and of course, the occasional piercing operatic vocals. I cut my teeth on Nightwish, so I have pretty high standards for operatic vocals in metal - Ms. Wessels's weren't exceptional, but they were good enough, and she only pulled them out for a few choruses. Overall, their performance was marked by variety - from sweeping symphonic metal numbers with forceful riffs and powerful vocals, to more rock or electropop-like songs that cut the intensity back a notch. Still, I enjoyed their set - things were energetic and catchy enough to get me headbanging and jumping along with the rest of the crowd.
Finally, the long-awaited Kamelot emerged. They began with a song from Silverthorn, which I'm not as familiar with, and then they launched into "Ghost Opera," one of my favorites. The crowd was really moving for the first couple songs - I believe there was a pit for both songs. A real pit, for Kamelot! That's the first time I've seen that. At first, something was wrong with the sound - the drums were way too loud, so that it sounded like just drums and vocals, the guitars barely audible. Luckily, that problem was fixed by the second song, and they sounded amazing for the rest of the night. As we were expecting, Alyssa White-Gluz of The Agonist emerged to provide female vocals, as well as harsh vocals in "Sacrimony" and "March of Mephisto," and Tommy Karevik's vocals were spot on.
Last time we saw Kamelot, Tommy was brand new to the band, and S and I were both happy with his
performance. I think he fills Roy's shoes pretty well - he is able to
emulate Roy's sound, and he even looks a bit similar. Of course it's
good for a performer to have their own personal sound and style, but for
a band of Kamelot's standing, some continuity is good - in order to be
able to keep playing all their awesome older songs, for example. The audience seemed to like Tommy as well - chanting his name at one point, which he said gave him goosebumps, and then added that he was glad he'd taken English classes XD
Speaking of old songs, they didn't pull out any real deep cuts, but pretty much alternated songs from their latest release, Silverthorn, with their classics like "Ghost Opera," "Center of the Universe," and "Karma." Although S griped about the lack of deep cuts, I was content with their setlist since they played the three songs I really wanted to hear: "Center of the Universe" (which inspired the third and last pit of the set, and also the biggest and craziest one, started by none other than my dear S), "Eden Echo" and "Forever." I always forget what a fast and intense song "Forever" is, considering the romantic lyrics. I was least thrilled with the choice to include "Song for Jolee," which I find one of the weakest songs on Silverthorn, but it did showcase Tommy's vocal chops quite nicely.
So when we stumbled out of the venue, sweaty and tired, I was quite satisfied. Kamelot had put on yet another magnificent show, which had (for the most part) not been ruined by sound problems, and the openers had been more entertaining than I'd expected. A good night, and a highly recommended show for anyone who likes their metal on the melodic or symphonic side of the continuum.
Next show: Anathema and Alcest, 9/13. So excited...in a, you know, quiet and peaceful way.