When The Gathering announced earlier this year that they would be coming out of hiatus to perform a special anniversary show featuring all of their members, fans the world over got excited, not least because legendary vocalist Anneke Van Giersbergen would be playing with them for the first time since she left in 2007. With such demand for tickets they decided to also add a matinee performance, playing two shows the same day in a one off performance with all The Gathering members past and present (though Almost a Dance vocalists Martine and Neils couldn’t attend in the end.) It was such a special event from a well loved band that fans from all over the world came together to celebrate with the band, with fans from all over Europe, USA, South America and even Australia coming together to enjoy the celebrations in a true ‘Gathering’. Playing the same setlist for both shows, they were perfect from start to finish.
With the background screen counting down and displaying scenes and album covers from all eras of the band, it faded out for the band to come on to the stage to play the classic Saturnine with the If_then_else musician lineup, with all four singers coming on stage to play the song together. Anneke may have been the singer on the original version, but the extra dimension added by the others worked well, with Silje’s dreamy voice, Bart’s dramatic gloomy sound and Marike’s great soft expressive voice combining well with Anneke’s powerful vocals. With great chemistry between them- especially considering it was the first time they’ve all performed together, it was a great new take on a classic song, Frank’s beautiful keyboard playing adding the melodic flourish to complete an emotional track. The band proceeded to play tracks from each album in their catalogue (besides Almost a Dance), with the classic Mandylion lineup playing a true crowd favourite with the heavy riff-fest that is Strange Machines, before the Disclosure lineup played a fantastic rendition of the trip-rock great Meltdown, with Silje and Frank duetting against a psychedelic backdrop of electronics, powerful riffs and trippy visuals. The chilling heaviness of Nighttime Birds once again with all four singers on stage drenched the Doornroosje with an electrically charged atmosphere, while On Most Surfaces from the same album gave Anneke the chance to sing her lungs out in a belter of a track, with Jelmer and Rene putting as much energy into their brilliant guitar playing and performance.
Taking us back to the old days with tracks from Always…Bart Smits gave a great performance growling his way through the old death/doom metal track The Mirror Waters, dramatically stalking his way around the whole stage, while Marike joined for the next song King for a Day, her psychedelic wailing so out there but brilliantly performed it ended up being one of the highlights of the set With Anneke being the band’s most famous singer the tracks featuring her went down fantastically, with the trip-rock Amity showing Frank having a lot of fun on one of his favourite songs of the group, and the intense guitar playing from Rene and passionate vocals on Even the Spirits are Afraid had the crowd getting really excited. The gloomy atmospheric heaviness of Mandylion was fantastic, especially with Silje joining Anneke on vocals for Leaves, with Noel providing an extra touch of atmosphere with his trumpet playing, and with Marike joining in for the psychedelically tinged In Motion I.
Though Anneke is undoutedly the band’s most popular vocalist, it shows the strength of their music that the album that was featured the most was Disclosure, the 2012 album with Silje on vocals, and the trippy psychedelic music of that album was fantastic in the live environment. The aforementioned Meltdown fuses upbeat electronics with modern rock and a good deal of the band’s trademark atmosphere, but Heroes for Ghosts is one of the most laid-back introspective ones in the catalogue. With Noel on trumpet and Silje lending her dreamy voice to a track with a great sense of pacing, building from soft and dreamy to a vibrant climax through the great layered instrumentation and soundscapes, it was one to stand back and really absorb. Paper Waves had Anneke join Silje for a duet of the upbeat Paper Waves, Anneke’s happy pop-rock vocals suiting the vibe of the song even more so than Silje’s breezy style in another great re-imagining on the day.
By a long way though, the highlight of the show was their rendition of the classic Travel. An incredibly emotional song, coming from both the lyrics and that melancholic layered sound-scape, it was the first time Anneke had performed the song since she left the band, and the sincerity of the performance was second to none. Looking almost overwhelmed by the occasion, the song itself, and the reception of the crowd she put so much energy, passion and emotion into her singing it seemed as if she would burst into tears at points during the song, and there were a lot of tearful eyes in the audience watching a truly historic performance, and one of the best I’ve ever seen. With the band being as tight as ever despite the years since she’s performed with them it was as if they’d never been apart, the chemistry on stage throughout the piece giving the extra intensity to the rendition. As the set closer the rest of the band came out to join her on vocals at the end, with Silje, Marike, Bart, Marjolein and Jelmer all coming forward to add to the emotionally charged end to the show.
Coming back for an encore, Anneke rejoined the band to play another passionate song, this time from the mellow, heartfelt album Home, with the melancholic instrumentation of Waking Hour once again filling the Doornroosje with a haunting atmosphere, Anneke giving it her all in what was probably the last time she will ever perform with The Gathering, leaving the audience astounded. One more song came in the form of the experimental I Can See Four Miles, another from the fantastic Disclosure. The sonic experimentation and soundscapes were unbelievable, especially with the entire band appearing on stage to perform together in one true ‘Gathering’. Marike, Silje and Bart singing, with the latter two also contributing keyboards alongside Frank, in his element creating soundscapes with his synth playing, while Rene, Jelmer and Noel all constructed a heavy wall of noise on the electric guitar, with Hans keeping it all together with the pounding rhythm of the drums, with Anneke oddly enough also drumming on stage. What completed the sound was just the dense sonic low end, with both Marjolein and Hugo playing bass, meaning a thick, gorgeously intense wall of sound was created, showing perfectly the experimentation, atmosphere and emotion that The Gathering brought to their music so successfully over the last 25 years.
The future of The Gathering is unclear given the band are still officially on hiatus, but with such a reception, it’s clear to everyone that they’re far too special a band to call it quits. But one thing’s for sure, whatever happens in the future with the band, what happened on Sunday in Nijmegen was one of the most special shows a band could ever play, celebrating a long history of amazing music with fans coming together from all over the world for one purpose – to join in with their unique brand of atmospheric music in one spectacular party.
All credit for photos goes to Neil Brinsdon, thanks a lot.
Watch crowd filmed footage of Travel from Sunday’s Matinee show below: