Review by Paul Quinton
Although it’s a description that’s become frowned on lately, for fans of female fronted metal bands, whether it be Gothic metal, symphonic metal, whatever you like, this was a seriously mouth-watering bill. As this was part of what was only a brief tour, some people had travelled a fair distance to get to the show, and as a result, the intimate confines of The Musician were more packed than I can remember for any gig there.
Stream Of Passion originally began as a symphonic metal project by the prolific and usually reclusive, at least as far as live work is concerned, Dutch musician Arjen Lucassen, but when he withdrew from live work, some of the remaining members, including Mexican singer Marcela Bovio, kept the project going. Having seen them headline the Dames Of Darkness Festival at the Robin last year, the chance of seeing the band in the Midlands again was not to be missed and I’m pleased to be able to say that they didn’t disappoint.
The set was in two halves, the first being three tracks from the most recent album, A War of Our Own, including set opener ‘Monster’, which got a great response from the crowd, and ‘The Curse’, with its terrific chorus. Then we had ‘Deceiver’, from the debut album, which saw the welcome appearance of Marcela Bovio’s Flying V shaped violin. There were one two sound problems at this point, but it didn’t seem to bother the band and they carried on with a very accessible cover of Radiohead’s ‘Street Spirit’, which had the audience clapping along, probably an unusual occurrence in a Radiohead song. After that it was heads down to the finish with ‘In The End’ and another track from Embrace The Storm, ‘Haunted’. Apart from the band only being able to play 35 minutes, the only thing I could criticise in this set was the frequent, almost constant use of a backing track behind Marcela’s vocals. She’s a fine singer in her own right, and really doesn’t need this, but otherwise this was a really great set by a band who can come back and play a full show anytime. Tremendous stuff.
The debut album by the Anneke van Guisbergen-Arjen Lucassen project The Gentle Storm is interesting in a number of ways. Firstly it’s a concept album, based around the letters and diaries of a woman whose husband is a sea captain in the 19th Century and is away on a lengthy voyage. Secondly, although it’s a double CD, it’s the same set of 11 songs on each disc, firstly played with acoustic instruments in a folk style, the gentle part of the title, and the second played on rock instruments and played as hard rock, the Storm disc. I was very intrigued to know how the band intended to handle this, although I strongly suspected that the emphasis would be on the Rock element. I also thought that it was probable that the set would be just a straight run-through of the album, but in the end I was pleasantly surprised on both counts.
Although the set started with the first two tracks from ‘The Diary’, the second of which, ‘Heart of Amsterdam’, had an absolutely superb instrumental section, the band soon departed from the album’s running order by playing two of the later tracks on the album next, and if I was worried that the set would be a straight run-through, and as the album has a running time of around 57 minutes, it would have been a disappointingly short set, my fears were soon allayed when Anneke announced one of many selections from her past career with a track by The Gathering, ‘Eleanor’. Her band, sadly again without Lucassen, who played most of the instruments on the album, and who has little desire to play live, also included Marcela Bovio on backing vocals, and were an absolute joy to listen to, playing brilliantly and as tight as you could wish for, aided by an excellent sound in The Musician.
Midway through the set, the band cleared the stage while Anneke played a brief acoustic set, at first accompanying herself on guitar for a cover of ‘Wish You Were Here’, then being joined on piano and by Marcela Bovio for another ‘Diary’ song; ‘The Moment’, as well as, brilliantly, two Ayreon songs; a mesmerising ‘Valley of The Queens’ and even better, a brief excerpt from the awesome ‘Comatose’, from the 01011001 album. ‘Wish You Were Here’ has been covered by so many bands, it’s become something of a cliché, but in this environment it was different and interesting to hear it sung by a woman, and superbly, too. When the full electric band resumed, this remained the pattern for the remainder of the set, more from The Diary, more Ayreon and another from The Gathering. Live, the tracks from The Diary really came to life, the live setting seeming to give them an extra depth, almost another dimension, ‘The Storm’ in particular being a genuine ‘Wow!’ moment.
There were encores, of course, a terrific ‘Fallout’, from her work with Devin Townshend and the last track from ‘The Diary’, ‘Shores Of India’, rounding off a tremendous set. Seeing the two women singing on the same stage was a real privilege, and the band as a whole were on tremendous form. It’s said that this project may carry on beyond one album, and as The Gentle Storm will support Delain on their European tour in the Autumn, although there’s no word on whether this will include the UK dates as yet, but I’ll really look forward to hearing more from them
The only complaint I have about the evening was that, as good a venue as The Musician is, its limited size meant that the sheer number of people crammed in for this gig made it very difficult to see much of the band if you weren’t in the first half dozen rows in front of the stage, unless you were well over six feet tall, even for the support band. As brilliantly as both bands played, it would have been nice to see more of them as well. Otherwise, a fine, fine gig.