A double header of Dutch symphonic metal made its way to London’s Wembley Arena last night with Within Temptation coming on the back of new album Hydra, and Delain having just released The Human Contradiction (reviews of each album are also up on Swirls of Noise here, and here respectively) Both albums are probably the best that each respective band has released to date, so the concert was always going to be incredible.
Delain were the first band to take to the stage, and they owned it. I saw them just 4 days short of two years ago to the day at London’s Islington Academy, a much smaller venue at 800 capacity, compared to the absolutely huge 12,500 capacity Wembley Arena, and they’ve really improved their live performance since then to match an arena of this size. Charlotte Wessels is an incredible singer live, she has a really powerful voice and gave a great performance, getting the crowd involved and singing along. The band played a set from all four albums, with two new songs from The Human Contradiction – Stardust and Army of Dolls, as well as older crowd favourites The Gathering, and We are the Others. The rest of the band are fantastic with great stage presence, especially guitarist Timo Somers, who played solos with real energy and showmanship, and Martin Westerholt, who’s keyboard playing really adds that extra flourish to the bands excellent metal sound. Delain have fantastic songs, and they work so well in a live setting, being really catchy and rocky, and playing to such a big crowd, they really manage to be at their energetic best. The band’s performance is excellent, and it’s a shame they only had the time to play nine songs, because a band as good as this, and especially after the release of such an incredible album in The Human Contradiction, should easily be headlining shows around Europe, especially on the back of this fantastic performance. It’s a shame they didn’t get to play more from the new album, but Army of Dolls was a really brilliant track live.
Within Temptation had a lot to live up to after how brilliant Delain were, but they played an amazing set nonetheless. Playing Wembley Arena, it’s a big step up from their previous tour where they played the significantly smaller Brixton Academy, but with a big stage setup, including a huge screen displaying images to go with the songs and huge props of the dragons from the album artwork for Hydra, it’s clear just how much of a live force they’ve been for so many years, and they really know how to put on a show. They played a fantastic set, spanning all their albums other than the début, and opening with new song Let us Burn they had lots of pyrotechnics to really add to their performance, and with the song being a real rocker it kicked their set off to a great start. Singer Sharon Den Adel is a fantastic singer live, much better than she’s ever been on the albums, and so are the rest of the band as well, the songs are all much heavier live than they are on the album, really making all their riffs much heavier and epic sounding, generally much better suited for the live environment. With Sharon and the rest of the band making full use of the whole stage with an energetic performance, they enthralled the whole arena with a fantastic set, playing most of the new album Hydra, with a varied set covering all aspects of the bands sound, other than their early doom metal days. There were the heavier riff oriented songs from The Unforgiving going down fantastically with the small mosh pit, and the emotionally charged tracks such as Stand My Ground, Angels, and what was one of the set highlights in The Cross, where Sharon sung fantastically. Edge of the World is a fantastic ballad, and there was an excellent, dazzling light show to go with a great performance, and the band played the powerful symphonic masterpieces they’re most well known for, such as the classic Mother Earth, Paradise (what about us?) and Our Solemn Hour, each with great energy. With an encore of four songs, they played the classic What have You Done, a lovely acoustic rendition of the soft and uplifting The Whole World is Watching, and Lana Del Rey’s Summertime Sadness from their series of covers they recorded in 2012. Last of all though was the classic symphonic masterpiece Ice Queen, a song which while powerful enough on the album, has even more energy when the band perform it live, and it was a perfect way to round off an excellent set of nearly two hours. It’s clear that the band really love what they do, and after more than fifteen years in the business they’ve got their live show down perfectly, with great energy, fantastic performance and an excellent theatrical stage setup. They’re much better as a live band than they’ve ever been on their albums, thanks to Sharon Den Adel as an excellent frontwoman, and guitarist Ruud Jolie who had an excellent stage presence throughout, and the great performances of the rest of the band.
Overall it was a fantastic evening with a great performance from both bands, and if you get the chance to see either Delain or Within Temptation they are definitely worth seeing, up there with any bands in the genre.