Epica @ Concord Music Hall, Chicago (US)

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EPICA / MOONSPELL / STARKILL

Date: 29th January, 2016
Venue: Concord Music Hall
Ticket: $25 (€22)
Promoter: n/a


DimK: Last year EPICA had to cancel some shows in the middle of the North US tour because Simone had a family emergency and there are absolutely no complaints about it. Family always comes first and this is the end of the discussion. So, this tour was the reprise for all the fans who missed the opportunity to enjoy live the amazing songs from the superb “The Quantum Enigma” that was released in 2014. And to make the deal even sweeter, Portugal’s finest MOONSPELL had been added in the billing, so come Hell or high water, the Chicago date was not to be missed.

Even though this was a Friday show, the evening commute was good to us and the otherwise stressful drive to downtown Chicago did not last more than anticipated. When we entered Concord Music Hall, Chicago’s STARKILL were already onstage. The venue was filled pretty good and most of the people in the arena seemed to be enjoying the guitar shredding type of Power Metal STARKILL were playing. Still, the sound was overwhelmed by the double bass drum and occasionally the pre-recorded stuff was too high on the volume, totally burying the guitars. I don’t know, maybe I’m getting old and this is why STARKILL did not win me, even though I have to acknowledge how hard they tried to get the audience going.

MariaV: If I’m counting right, this would be the seventh time I’d watch MOONSPELL live in action, and still, I was so excited! If this band has fallen into your radar in the past, then you know that Fernando Ribeiro and the boys always deliver the Metal goods live, and through the years I’ve noticed that even the non-MOONSPELL fans became eventually interested on the Portuguese band, no matter Fernando’s strange sounding accent, Ricardo Amorim’s ‘stay-in-the-dark-side-of-stage’ presence and Mike Gaspar’s crushingly detailed drumming. So, that night was no exception; no matter if MOONSPELL have been constantly on the road for their latest offering “Extinct”, they still seem so eager and hungry to conquer metalheads no matter the fatigue all the travelling brings with it, or if the fans’ taste falls out of the Dark / Gothic territory. It seems MOONSPELL like taking risks and eventually win a tough game, something that happened that night too. I have to admit though I was a bit worried that the response from the fans wouldn’t be that warm, since inside Concord I could see mostly EPICA t-shirts, meaning that my beloved wolves would have a difficult mission to accomplish, and my fears became bigger and bigger while listening to all the chatting from the front rows once the introduction of “La Baphomette” was welcoming the MOONSPELL members onstage. Come on, people, if you want to chit-chat, do us a favor and step aside!

Anyway, as I said, things were tough for a MOONSPELL fan standing in the front rows, but then I thought “ok, let’s win this” and focused all my attention to “Breathe (Until We Are No More)” as Fernando asked “ok Chicago, are you ready to be under the spell?”. Being a supporting band in a tour like this means that you don’t have all the time in the world to properly connect with the fans and leave your mark as you would, but MOONSPELL are no new kids in the block, so they knew they had to take advantage to the max the 50 minutes given. And what could you really fit in such short time from a 12-album career? “Chicago, let me see your fists in the air before we go extinct” screamed Fernando, seconds before the opening riff of the latest LP's self-titled track stormed the speakers that sounded really stuffy, making the bass sound coming out like an earthquake.

“Night Eternal” (great wolf-ish backing vocals from Ricardo!) and “Opium” came back to back as expected having in mind the short time given, and especially the audience’s response to the latter was really surprising. As I said, there were so many fans wearing EPICA t-shirts that night, so I didn’t expect to see such a response for a 20 years old MOONSPELL song, but hey, it did happen. The MOONSPELL / MOONSPELL rhythmic chanting coming from the fans few seconds before “Awake” was really a nice surprise for me as it was for the band who instantly acknowledged this with Fernando saying “Chicago has been always a great city for us, thank you”.

“Domina” and “The Future Is Dark” might bring down the momentum a bit, since both tracks are not fast songs, but it’s really great seeing MOONSPELL including as many songs from their latest album as possible, giving the audience a chance to experience a band that is able to play live what records in the studio, and I think just for this only these guys deserve (y)our true attention/respect. Soon enough the headbanging order was restored with the closing MOONSPELL triptych “Vampiria” (after this one, Fernando thanked all the Chicago vampires out there who joined in during the ‘howling’ ending with him), “Alma Mater” and, of course, “Full Moon Madness” which to this day remains one of my favorite moments of every MOONSPELL set, since Fernando undertakes drumming duties as well during the last minute of the song, double-drumming with Mike as the fans clapping and chanting “we want more”. Great times!

50 minutes are too little for a legendary band like MOONSPELL but I know I shouldn’t be complaining; sure, after “Full Moon Madness”, it was time to say farewell, but Fernando’s promising words “until we meet again, stay under a full moon” before leaving the stage, filled me up with optimism that it will not take long for the Portuguese wolves to visit our shores soon. Muito obrigada, irmãos!

MOONSPELL setlist:

01. “La Baphomette” (taped intro)
02. “Breathe (Until We Are No More)”
03. “Extinct”
04. “Night Eternal”
05. “Opium”
06. “Awake”
07. Domina”
08. The Future Is Dark”
09. “Vampiria”
10. “Alma Mater”
11. “Full Moon Madness”

MOONSPELL

Moonspell @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Moonspell @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Moonspell @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Moonspell @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Moonspell @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Moonspell @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Moonspell @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Moonspell @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Moonspell @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Moonspell @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

(click to enlarge)


DimK: MOONSPELL were as great as I was expecting them to be, and the fact that they added more new songs turned out to be great, especially in a larger venue than the previous US shows I have attended. Still, there were some sound problems and I was a little bit worried whether this also would happen during EPICA’s set. The rather small photo-pit combined with the strict venue’s rules made me work harder than usual to get the pics, so I lost all the fun during the amazing “The Second Stone” which exploded after the taped intro. EPICA showed up onstage one by one leaving for last (but definitely not least) Simone who received the most enthusiastic welcome. Fortunately, the sound had discarded all the previous problems and the setlist opener was a blast performed by a band that is clearly on a top condition. And this was clear because everyone in the band seemed to have tons of fun and I don’t think I saw anyone stop smiling during the entire set. Like I have said so many times, when the band has fun onstage, then the audience has even more fun and this is exactly how it went during the amazing “The Essence Of Silence” which Simone introduced saying something like this: “Good evening Chicago, we finally made it”. Yeah, they finally did and headbanging was on the menu, especially during the heavier parts of this killer song sung by Mark Jansen. The band was in constant motion and everyone was teasing everyone while never missing a single bit of EPICA’s symphonic Power Metal with strong doses of Death Metal. Simone is not the kind of diva other female fronted Metal bands have and most importantly her singing has improved (some believe that pregnancy does that for singers) that I think is nothing but stellar on EPICA’s latest LP.

As I already said, there was a lot of onstage action (the very good light show helped a lot to see everything) and during “Fools Of Damnation” keyboardist Coen Janssen left his spot and got as close as humanly possible to the front rows with a customized curved keyboard set he was carrying using straps. Listening to the audience’s singing along and watching how everyone reacted during the faster parts, it became clear that EPICA were among fans that evening. Yeah, “Cry For The Moon” sounded amazing with the “forever and ever” line being handled by the audience in perfect timing like it had been rehearsed. The way the aggressive and melodic parts exchange leading roles is what defines EPICA and, of course, I am not talking about the over-used recipe of the beauty and the beast singing concept. There are distinct Death Metal breaks in several songs and the way they are embedded in the symphonic orchestrations is awesome and this is attested by songs like “Martyr Of The Free Word” with the neck-snapping guitar leads and the growling vocals courtesy of I-am-smiling-even-though-I-am-growling Mark Jansen. Still, the most powerful song-combo of the night was made by “The Obsessive Devotion” and “Victims Of Contingency” during which a nice mosh-pit was formed right in the center of the arena. Again, I will credit the nature of EPICA’s songwriting style and the way melody creeps out through the growling aggression (sometimes it’s the other way around). The way Simone’s singing lines change the song character is so addictive and also makes songs like those two perfect crowd pleasers and party starters. “Are you ready for more songs?”, Simone rhetorically asked and then added: “Don’t take BS from nobody. Live your life” and considering the audience’s young on average age, this was the best way to introduce the amazing “Design Your Universe” that started with only her and Coen on stage. After this one, EPICA left the stage and it really felt like only half an hour had passed and this is the downside of having fun; time flies when one is enjoying himself. Still, there was the encore tradition and it was nice seeing and hearing all the excitement to bring the Dutch back onstage because most of the times there is a lazy crowd that believes encores are simple expected and not earned. So, in this case we earned this and Mark acknowledged this reaction by saying: Thank you for being patient with us” before revealing that the band is currently working on a new studio LP and I’m sure we will be seeing them live in Chicago really soon. During Sancta Terra”, Coen and bassist Rob van der Loo left the stage and continued playing right from inside the photo-pit, pushing even more the excitement, and even though I hate seeing cell phones taking pictures, I found it quite amusing seeing a couple of fans trying to get a ‘selfie’ while being squeezed in the front rows.

“Consign To Oblivion” closed the set on a high note and with a pretty good attempt to perform a ‘wall of death’ (I think there were many who did not understand that the band was asking them to do, but in the end, they did good). Yeah, EPICA have really grown as a band in terms of popularity here in the States and I am sure in the not so distant future we’ll see them in a bigger stage and with a bigger production. Until then, I’ll conclude this write-up quoting Simone: “Be safe, be Metal”.

EPICA setlist:

01. “Originem” (taped intro)
02. “The Second Stone”
03. “The Essence Of Silence”
04. “Fools Of Damnation”
05. “Unleashed”
06. “Martyr Of The Free Word”
07. “Cry For The Moon”
08. “Sensorium”
09. “The Obsessive Devotion”
10. “Victims Of Contingency”
11. “Design Your Universe”
12. “Sancta Terra”
13. “Unchain Utopia”
14. “Consign To Oblivion”

EPICA

Epica @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Epica @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Epica @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Epica @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Epica @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Epica @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Epica @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Epica @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Epica @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Epica @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Epica @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Epica @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Epica @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Epica @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Epica @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

(click to enlarge)