Date: 21st May, 2019
Venue: Patio Theater
It took me a couple of albums to deal with this side of Tobias Sammet’s artistic side. You see, EDGUY have not been on my radar so by association I falsely believed that AVANTASIA would not fall far from the tree. Ok, maybe the first two albums are closer to EDGUY’s Power Metal but “The Scarecrow” turned out to be an amazing album and the one that made me a fan.
Despite my interest for AVANTASIA having started something more than a decade, I had never had the chance to see this project on stage, although when considering the number of guests Tobias has in every album this makes absolute sense (impossible to align everyone schedule). In this context, you understand my excitement the moment the first US tour was announced with Chicago being one of the few stops. There was no supporting act as the 3-hr show demanded the audience’s full attention and for some, the stamina to see the whole thing through because who knows when this opportunity may appear again.
Patio Theater seemed like the right selection for this event with sitting and standing areas enough to satisfy everyone’s appetite when it comes attending Metal concerts. The stage was big enough to host the all the guests, back singers and Tobias’ backup band with room to move around so there was a lot to see and absorb. Around 20 minutes after 8pm, the lights went out, the audience went crazy and soon enough AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long” gave its position to Beethoven’s “Ode To Joy”… That’s right, it was a bizarre mix but if you think about it, both genres create strong emotions and represent the musical character of the AVANTASIA project that brings different types of music together. Two guitarists, one bassist, one drummer, one keyboard player and two backing singers assumed their positions and right on cue, Tobias appeared wearing a huge smile that would stay there for the next 180 minutes. “Ghost In The Moon” was the first on the setlist and proved to be the perfect show starter and the definition of a “feel-good” song. The sound was amazing and it is kind of rare to have everything tuned to perfection during the first songs of the set but to be honest I would not expect something less from Tobias. Someone would expect that the guests would start to appear later on the show but most of the AVANTASIA songs are written in a story-telling way with different characters involved so, for the next two PRETTY MAIDS’s singer Ronnie Atkins showed up. Damn, he sounded amazing during the faster “Starlight” and “Book Of Shallows”. During the latter and faster one Adrienne Cowan (one of the two backing singers) joined Ronnie to handle Hansi’s parts of the studio version. I was very happy that the setlist was based on the latest AVANTASIA even though I had not spent the amount of listening time I wanted but after this show I would definitely change that.
“Commercial radio is crap in Germany but I don’t know how it is here. Anyway, the record label asked for as single but there was a problem; it was 12 minutes long” said Tobias describing how radio works and then added: “We compromised to 11:30” obviously in a joking mood to underline that there was no way to write radio-friendly music. Jorn Lande was invited to break the music-playing silence with “The Raven Child”. This is another amazing singer whom I had no change to see live even though I am of fun of his musical endeavors since his MASTERPLAN days and his debut solo album. Did he sound perfect? You bet he did, and it is an amazing accomplishment to have all these singers on the same touring bus. After that song, getting goosebumps become a constant state although “Lucifer” came out more powerful of the two with Jorn on the stage. Before this one, Jorn had this to say; “This is another song with this fine songwriter; he writes so many great songs and I love to sing them”, showcasing the honest and mutual respect between the two musicians.
The jumbotron in the back was handling the visuals for every song putting the icing on this hearty cake. The next guest was Geoff Tate who took over the lead singing for “Alchemy” and it was another “damn, he sounds amazing” moment. Although, I cannot remember an instance when Geoff did not sound perfect no matter the band he performed with. Even if you were one those who “dislike” Geoff (for reasons I don’t and will never understand) if you’d hear his performance in “Invincible” you would have to eat your words. The spirits were high both on and off stage so it was the right moment for the faster Power Metal hymn “Reach For The Light”. How awesome(r) would this song be, if Kiske had joined the tour?
After “Moonglow”, Tobias did some explaining regarding the next on the set; “Many people asked why we did this song and the answer is because we are brave enough to do so. Metal means doing what you want”. A loud “amen” would have had been the perfect response because with this Tobias gave the definition of this music that many seem to have forgotten. “This man was the right person to do”, Tobias added and spread huge waves of enthusiasm the moment MR BIG frontman showed up. Oh my, Eric Martin was another guest singer who sounded equally amazing with the rest. Although I have to comment that Eric had the star quality and aura that nowadays have become rare commodities in the music scene. “Dying For An Angel” turned out be one of the many highlights of the night with Mr. Martin delivering Klaus Meine’s parts and because of this, the live version had a stronger Hard Rock character lifting everyone off their seats.
“He is my favorite British singer and the second funniest person after me”, said Tobias and I got excited before he announced his name. Mr. Bob Catley is indeed one of the greatest British singers and sadly for me this was the first time seeing him onstage. You see, MAGNUM have not toured the US and honestly I don’t see this happening anytime soon. But we got to hear his characteristic timbre for “Lavender” and particularly in “The Story Ain’t Over” I got to witness that Bob Catley is a great performer too. We were 13 songs deep into the set but the audience did not show any signs of wear or tear; “I won’t take it personally if you just stand there and not sing-along” joked Tobias but this is not what happened with my favorite “The Scarecrow” and with Jorn onstage. Apparently, I was not the only one who had this song as a favorite because the singing-along was over the top.
If I were to choose one of the most interesting pairing of the night that would have to be the one during “Twisted Mind”; “I have been with AVANTASIA for six years. My partner in crime is the man from the Seattle, the dark lord Geoff Tate”, said Eric and then added “I wish I had a ballsier voice to say this” and then he asked from Adrienne to growl the Dark Lord introduction… This showcases the respect and star-balance that exists between all these amazing musicians and proves why Tobias cherry-picked those to join him on tour. As expected the sing-along was loud and matched the magic that was happening on the stage with the two singers.
Ronnie Atkins played the role of Caesar giving thumbs up and down rating the audience’s singing-along and in the end, we rightfully earned his thumbs up in time before “Master Of The Pendulum”. The backing singers Herbie Langhans and Adrienne Cowan along with guitarist Oliver Hartmann handled the lead vocals in a powerful version of “Shelter From The Rain”.
“I have some good and some bad news. Bad news last song of the song the good news is not a shitty song”, said Tobias but when he commented about how awesome was downtown Chicago, he realized that there were more people outside Chicago who came to the show. “Why did we put the show here then?”, he joked but I am sure he got the message loud and clear; AVANTASIA have a powerful following in the States and this tour should happen again. “Lost In Space” was the good news but the even better news was that there was an encore. And this time it was a proper one with the audience football-chanting the band’s name that long that Tobias had to wait before speaking. “I wouldn’t say that we stole this one from Celine Dion but we borrowed”, was his way to introduce “Farewell”. But it was not literally farewell because that happened with everyone on the stage and I am sure seismometers close by recorded how “Sign Of The Cross” / “The Seven Angels” closed this E-P-I-C night.
From start to finish, this was an amazing show with amazing performances from amazing musicians. I really hope that the stars will align soon and we will get another reprise from AVANTASIA here in the States because apparently 3 hours were not enough.
01. “Ghost In The Moon”
03. “Book Of Shallows”
04. “The Raven Child”
08. “Reach Out For The Light”
11. “Dying For An Angel”
13. “The Story Ain't Over”
14. “The Scarecrow”
15. “Promised Land”
16. “Twisted Mind”
18. “Let The Storm Descend Upon You”
19. “Master Of The Pendulum”
20. “Shelter From The Rain”
21. “Mystery Of A Blood Red Rose”
22. “Lost In Space”
24. “Sign Of The Cross” / “The Seven Angels”
(click to enlarge)