The ever amazing Anneke Van Giersbergen returned to the UK last week, touring with her new band The Gentle Storm and bringing fellow Dutch symphonic metallers Stream of Passion as support. Playing the small and intimate “The Musician” in Leicester, both groups put on an epic, powerful performance in a rousing, memorable show.
Stream of Passion are always one of the more exciting live bands the symphonic metal scene has to offer, and returning to the UK with a setlist coming mostly from their latest and greatest album A War of Our Own, they put on another storming show. Marcela walked onto the stage to the band’s progressive metal riffs of Monster, singing with the passion her band’s name implies. The group have a great stage presence on the tiny stage, with Johan’s headbanging and constant energy making him one of the best bass players to watch at the moment, Stephan stepping forward to deliver solos in an epic manner on each song, and Eric shouting at the crowd to get them going between songs. They’re not only a lot of fun to watch, but always give a tight performance, the great layering on songs such as The Curse and A War of Our Own having Jeffrey’s lovely piano melodies shining beautifully through the progressive metal riffs and Marcela’s melodious, powerful voice. The inevitable cover of Radiohead’s Street Spirit got an airing in a metal version all their own, giving Marcela a chance to show off her beautiful voice with her brilliant vocalisations at the end, while Haunted and Deceiver from the band’s first album Embrace the Storm were given a great performance on the tenth year since it’s release. Stream of Passion are one of the best live bands in the scene and hopefully they’ll be headlining shows in the UK in the near future, because they more than deserve it.
The Gentle Storm’s live band may not feature the man behind the music Arjen Lucassen, but it is a super group more than talented enough to bring songs from one of the year’s best albums The Diary to life. Stream of Passion’s Marcela and Johan played two sets in one night, providing backing vocals and bass respectively, joined by Joost van den Broek of After Forever on keyboards, and Hail of Bullet’s Ed Warby on drums. Rhythm guitar came from Anneke’s long term live guitarist Ferry Duisjens, while Arjen’s place on lead guitar was more than adequately handled by Purest of Pain’s Merel Bechtold – don’t be fooled by her cute appearance, she headbangs like a rock goddess while playing his intricate solos with effortless aplomb.
Walking onto stage to Endless Sea it’s hard not to be immediately drawn in by Anneke’s melodious voice, and the song is a true epic, the soaring instrumentals really kicking off the show with a rousing start, before diving into the upbeat folky Heart of Amsterdam, Anneke dancing and smiling away with an infectious charm. The band have fantastic stage presence despite the tiny stage, Johan and Merel headbanging away on each track with contagious energy, and Marcela and Anneke duetting and harmonising with great chemistry especially on Brightest Light. A trip back to the start of Anneke’s career with a cover of The Gathering classic Eleanor sees the band simultaneously rock the fuck out while and create a beautiful atmosphere with gorgeous layers of synth saturating the guitars.
There’s no denying that Anneke has the best voice in the world right now, not only in the sweetness and power of her voice, but the variation she can give in a set – belting it out with captivating power on uplifting metal track The Storm, before the band leave her alone on stage to strap on an acoustic guitar and melt hearts, gently cooing and leading a singalong for her expressively beautiful interpretation of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here. This “gentle” section of the show continued, Anneke stunning the crowd with a heartfelt rendition of The Moment set to Joost’s soft keyboard playing, before Marcela came back on stage to join her for acoustic covers of Ayreon’s Valley of the Queens and Comatose.
The strings of Cape of Storms rung out for the rest of the band to come back on stage for a song that screams epic with the powerful melodies and heavy sound setting the scene for Anneke to emotionally belt it out with that strong vibrato on one of the best performances of the night. One more The Gathering song was sandwiched between two more Ayreon covers, Waking Dreams and Isis and Osiris – the ever amazing Strange Machines had the whole band headbanging with an intense energy to some of the best riffs written during Anneke’s whole career – unsurprisingly her characteristic smile never leaving her face while dancing her way through a heavy metal classic.
Fans of Devin Townsend need not be dismayed that Anneke couldn’t perform with him at his Royal Albert Hall show the week before, because the encore tonight was a cover from his latest album Fallout. Anneke powerfully performed the lead vocals on an effervescent track in a fantastic duet, Marcela taking over Devin’s vocal parts in another of the show’s highlights, before finishing the show with the instrumentally rich and textured Shores of India.
Stream of Passion are a band that are always so much fun to watch live, and Friday night’s performance was no exception, but The Gentle Storm took it up another notch with a show that’s exciting, epic and emotional. With a great setlist, brilliant backing band, and one of the best vocalists going right now, they’re unmissable. Make sure you catch them at one of their festival appearances in Europe this summer!