KAMELOT / DELAIN / BATTLE BEAST
Having an all-ages show on a Friday involves a lots of stress as the Chicago evening commute is a brutal and unforgiving beast... The only solution to tackle this issue is having zero downtime after work and start chasing the traffic. Fortunately, a smart GPS found us a great detour, so we were parked and ready 20 minutes before the show start. That was a huge relief as I did not want to miss BATTLE BEAST whom I had not the pleasure seeing onstage (till now), and judging how much I have listened to “Bringer Of Pain”, this was a not-to-miss opportunity, especially if you add the rest of the billing to the equation.
Concord Music Hall was nicely filled with mainly young metalheads, proving that KAMELOT have managed to break the always hard US shell and have established a strong following. Apparently, BATTLE BEAST had their share from the young audience because when Finns took over the stage, they were greeted with a massive wave of enthusiasm. After the short taped intro, BATTLE BEAST kicked off their set with the up-tempo SABATON-esque “Straight To The Heart” in a party-mood that soon I realized how addictive it was. Yes, Noora’s powerful singing goes hand in hand with her high-spirits mood that is impossible to resist. To my mind, this makes the perfect concert opener, especially on a Friday evening where one needs the additional push to get over the working week’s fatigue and stress. Fists were pumping and soon there was lots of jumping up and down, proving right there the connection the Finns have with the Chicago metalheads. “Good evening, Chicago - we are BATTLE BEAST from Finland”, said Noora and without wasting any precious time let the heavier JUDAS PRIEST-laden “Bringer Of Pain” do the rest. The drum kit was cleverly placed on stage right, so the six-piece band had lots of space to move around despite the huge KAMELOT drum riser on the back. And there was a lot of onstage movement reflecting the band’s high energy level that got a click higher with groovy “Familiar Hell”, so I could not agree more with Noora’s statement when she said “BATTLE BEAST is back in town”. Ok, the lights and the sound were not that great (that light color was so unfriendly to the digital photo shooting). “Black Ninja” was the first oldie of the set, making me realize how fast time flies as this one comes from the band’s 2013 self-titled album. I guess, I should stop considering BATTLE BEAST as a young band, right?
Speaking of the live sound, I think some of the vocal melodies of “Lost In Wars” got lost into the mix and that is a shame since the atmosphere on this one is really crucial. Yeah, I completely missed the Tomi Joutsen sung part delivered by Janne Björkroth in this live setting. I don’t care if this sounds out of place, but I believe BATTLE BEAST have strong ABBA and/or BEE GEES influences that mainly shine through the keyboards and, in some cases, through the melodic vocal lines. I mean, how can you not hear this in the otherwise MANOWAR-styled “Bastard Son Of Odin” or in my favorite “King For A Day”? Especially the groove in the latter is an impossible-to-deny invitation to dance along. Yeah, I said dance in a Metal concert and this means that BATTLE BEAST succeeded to put everyone into a party-mood, and again, there are not many supporting bands able to do this nowadays. That fat guitar / keyboard rhythm section of “Beyond The Burning Skies” was the best way to drop the curtain to this most successful set and I believe the sound got a bit better and did better justice to Noora's impressive power and vocals range.
This was a great start and I am sure we will be seeing more of BATTLE BEAST in this side of the Atlantic, and this is absolutely deserved.
BATTLE BEAST setlist:
01. “Straight To The Heart”
02. “Bringer Of Pain”
03. “Familiar Hell”
04. “Black Ninja”
05. “Lost In Wars”
06. “Bastard Son Of Odin”
07. “King For A Day”
08. “Beyond The Burning Skies”
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It was time to change gears and get more melodic and a bit moody, I think. Yes, DELAIN are on that side as compared to the more in-your-face style of BATTLE BEAST, and this is also due to the different styles of the two ladies. Charlotte Wessels has a different performing attitude, and I think DELAIN have a bigger following here in the States, but I believe they have toured more here than the Finns. The stage was quickly prepared and, with the DELAIN backdrops, it looked bigger than it actually was. The lighted, white mic stands gave a nice look too, but all the eyes were set on the Dutch band as the taped intro gave its place to the keyboard-driven (and NIGHTWISH-esque) “Hands Of Gold”. “Thank you so much, keep those hands in the air” said Charlotte before the hit “Suckerpunch” was greeted with lots of ooohs and even more jumping up and down from the super-excited audience. When the band connects with the audience in this degree, the energy levels keep increasing, and no matter if you are a die-hard fan of the music, you cannot but have a great time. In front of us there was a couple well passed their 60s and obviously had a great time with DELAIN’s music, and I am sure the crowd’s reaction had something to do with this. I have no idea if they were accompanying a youngster or not, but what I do know is that I would love to be able to go to Metal concerts at that age, so I wish to them to continue feeling young at heart.
“Today is a special day as it is exactly one year since the last time we played here”, said Charlotte before the slower “The Glory And The Scum”. DELAIN were as active as BATTLE BEAST were, so the Dutch kept adding fuel on our tanks instead of depleting; yeah, things were getting better and better as we were getting closer to the headliners. Ok, the sound had improved a bit but not to that level I would like and be able to hear the keyboards and all those pre-recorded orchestrations that play an important role in DELAIN’s music from 'building up an atmosphere' point of view. I mean, some of that got lost during the slow “The Hurricane”. Charlotte started the characteristic vocalisms of “Danse Macabre” showcasing her different way of sings as compared to the used-to-death soprano-like female performers out there. If this song does not convince you, then check her singing in the catchier and definitely sing-along-inviting “Get The Devil Out Of Me”. “I think it is time to add more energy”, said Charlotte leaving the guitar-driven and heavier “Fire With Fire” do the rest, and then it was time to draw the lights towards the guitar duo of Timo Somers and Merel Bechtold who were occasionally changing stage sides and did their part on connecting with the audience. And what a connection that was! Just before “Mother Machine”, the crowd kept cheering that much that Charlotte was at a loss of words and so happy for that. Having seen DELAIN quite a few times, it is obvious how much their hard work has paid in terms of securing a solid fanbase here in the US. The DELAIN set ended with the super-hit “We Are The Others” that I think got the loudest response and singing-along that night.
That was definitely another great set, so everything and everyone were ready and pumped up for the headliners of the night, KAMELOT.
01. “Hands Of Gold”
03. “The Glory And The Scum”
04. “The Hurricane”
05. “Danse Macabre”
06. “Get The Devil Out Of Me”
07. “Fire With Fire”
08. “Mother Machine”
09. “Don’t Let Go”
10. “We Are The Others”
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Seeing a ladder onstage meant that there were some technically difficulties right before the KAMELOT set, and seeing someone doing something on the A/C unit, meant that the problem had been identified. So, after a 15min delay, and under the happy cheers of the crowd, the technician left the stage, and soon the taped intro “The Mission” meant it was show time. Drummer Alex Landenburg was the first to show his face onstage, leaving Thomas Youngblood and Assassin’s Creed-looking Tommy Karevik last but not least kicking off the setlist with “Phantom Divine (Shadow Empire)”. The lights were too bright, and combined with the fake smoke, made the life inside the photo-pit a battle in order to get a decent exposure, but judging by how the Chicagoan audience reacted, this was only an issue for the people taking photos... In other words, it did not matter as KAMELOT were killing it. Lauren Hart did the guest singing on this one but was not quite visible, hidden behind the smoke and the lights, but (again) the music was all that mattered. Aside from a fantastic voice, Tommy has a unique ability to connect with the crowd by being so direct and oblivious to what being a star and out of reach means. The sound was loud as it should, but the overall mix was a bit blurry meaning that all those details and orchestrations were getting lost, so I missed some of the fine details (especially the keyboard leads before the solo) in “Insomnia” which still came out great. Speaking of great, I totally enjoyed the headbanger “The Great Pandemonium” and I think Tommy was right about the fact that things were getting warmer and sweatier... And what a great pair that song made with the amazing “When The Lights Are Down” from my favorite KAMELOT album “The Black Halo” (from the Khan era). Tommy deserves additional credit as he nailed the vocals on this vocal chord strainer. KAMELOT have managed to create a solid US following with Tommy behind the mic, so it was no surprise seeing the sing-along response “End Of Innocence” got. Then it was Thomas' turn to get the mic and announced that KAMELOT will be releasing a live recorded DVD / Bluray, adding: “we have to have Chicago in”. There was a member of the stage handling a camera and took lots of footage of the wild Chicagoan crowd that was enthusiastic and as loud as possible to be part of this DVD. “Veil Of Elysium” kept us going and then it was time to slow things a bit and catch a breather as KAMELOT had kept the in-between-breaks at minimum. This is one of the few downsides the all-ages shows have, and having an early curfew is the one in this case. Anyway, “Here’s To The Fall” had Oliver and Tommy on stage, and I think if they had skipped the pre-recorded parts, the song would have been ten times better. Having additional stuff on the studio is fine, but live, I prefer the stripped to the live-parts serving, if you know what I mean. Of course, this is a thing of a personal taste and has nothing to do with how the two gentlemen performed.
“The next one is a really special song for me”, said Tommy before letting Thomas deliver one of the best guitar riffs he has written; yeah, “Ravenlight” came out absolutely fantastic and the crowd's reaction is the best proof. Bassist Sean Tibbetts is such a powerhouse onstage and he is great to watch and headbang along. The drum solo seemed out of place and borderline momentum-killer as the setlist was getting closer to completion. I would definitely prefer one or maybe two more tracks in place of the keyboard and drum solos. “March Of Mephisto” brought the band back onstage along with Lauren Hart who took over the growling parts. By the way, the pounding rhythm of this song sounds fantastic each and every time I hear it live. “You only need to remember one word to sing along with us for this one", said Tommy as pun since he was referring to “Amnesiac” that was greeted with extra enthusiasm, underlining once more what I said about KAMELOT having earned the biggest US support through the last three albums.
Charlotte Wessels and Lauren Hart joined Tommy for a killer version of “Sacrimony (Angel Of Afterlife)” but the next one managed to surpass this... It was time for Oliver to do a short keyboard solo that soon enough brought Thomas back onstage who started the well-know riff of “Forever” with the abundance of awesome guitar parts. Of course, there was more singing along with people trying to match Tommy's impossible to reach pitch... It was fun trying though. The band left the stage for a couple of minutes and it was time to hear the “KAMELOT, KAMELOT” chant which was loud and successful as it brought Sean onstage wearing some short of Steampunk-looking googles. He went left to right getting people to scream more and more before getting the rest of KAMELOT onstage too. “We have one more song for you tonight, this is your time to make some more noise”, said Tommy before “Liar Liar (Wasteland Monarchy)” which had brought once again Lauren Hart onstage doing the growling parts. And this is how the show ended with the promise that KAMELOT will be back soon in Chicago, and I am sure most of us we will definitely be there to greet them!
01. “Phantom Divine (Shadow Empire)”
02. “Rule The World”
04. “The Great Pandemonium”
05. “When The Lights Are Down”
06. “End Of Innocence”
07. “Veil Of Elysium”
08. “Here’s To The Fall”
10. “March Of Mephisto”
12. “Sacrimony (Angel Of Afterlife)”
14. “Liar Liar (Wasteland Monarchy)”
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