@ Wembley Arena, London, UK
12th April 2014
Review by Kirsty Birkett-Stubbs
Photos by Inty Malcolm
Football and female-fronted symphonic metal. A perfect ‘match’ conceived only in the mind of Wembley. And its pockets, which must be full of lovely pound coins as a result. See depending on your preference this weekend is the FA Cup semi-final, or Within Temptation’s Wembley Arena soiree. And if you happen to have room in your heart for both, well aren’t you sickeningly lucky. I hope your team lost.
The music’s clearly the important bit, and whilst it doesn’t feel that long ago that Dutch epic-constructors Within Temptation were playing fairly moderate sized venues throughout the UK, the step up to Wembley appears to have been fairly effortless. Such is the fervour that fans are turning up to queue long before the chanters over the way have seen kick off. And they’ll be here long after those fans depart, perhaps with the faint sounds of Within Temptation in their ears, and never knowing what they’re missing.
Treading the boards first are Delain (4/5), a fellow Dutch symphonic metal band who also favour a spot of female pipes in the form of Charlotte Wessels. They even have a former Within Temptationer in keyboardist and founder Martijn Westerholt. Which is where the similarities end. Actually that’s a lie – Delain are easy stable mates for Within Temptation, but what of it – if you know what someone likes why serve them the opposite? And this crowd seem to like Delain.
It’s probably their biggest show in the UK to date, it’s a big show by any stretch, but if Delain have nerves they’ve channelled them into something else. In the case of Charlotte it seems to be utter delight as she grins and bounces about the stage in her floaty dress.
With the keyboards and drums raised on either side there’s a feeling of grandeur as ‘Go Away’ sweeps across the floor, and that classically trained voice rings out. If this were Last Night At The Proms it’d probably be pin-drop-hearing quiet, but here appreciation is measured in the cheers.
Seeming to rise out of the amps, ‘Stardust’ takes a hard edge to melody and makes it a hit, as the crowd will Charlotte to take the final steps down the central walkway.
Instead she remains resolute at half way, closer to the stage. Occasionally the vocal seems a little crowded out but when the instruments step back it’s strong, clear, and capable.
Just how capable is made apparent by the keyboard-led ‘Army Of Dolls’, with its almost pop middle section, which sees Charlotte rise and fall but never scrape her vocal knees.
Then the keyboard sings out the opening to ‘We Are The Others’, poppy – in the kind of epic way pop isn’t any more, and inspired by the tragic Sophie Lancaster case. It’s not only a fan favourite but a defiant cry against the rest of the world that sadly remains relevant even today.
Get the Devil Out of Me
Army of Dolls
We Are the Others
You can feel the heat from the bursts of flame that herald ‘Let It Burn’ even up in the stands. What it’s like on stage you can only imagine, but if Within Temptation (4.5/5) are trying to make this feel like an arena show they’re succeeding.
A huge staircase dominates the centre leading straight down to the walkway, which Sharon del Adel doesn’t even hesitate to fully utilise. They’ve a big stage to play with and it looks like Within Temptation are determined to cover every inch of it.
And every inch of the whole damn arena with Sharon’s voice alone. If it’s been nearly 20 years it doesn’t sound it. It may be intricately wrought and even gilded on the outside, but at their core Within Temptation continue to be metal. Albeit delicate enough to slip onto most fingers.
‘Faster’ sings of fairytales and indeed Sharon looks, and sounds as though she could be the heroine of one. As with Delain, the sound is superb and how much of that is down to the crew and how much of it is down to the fact that these ladies actually know how to sing is debatable.
After a stripped back start ‘Iron’ comes down like a hammer on the forge, the guitars and keyboards stepping on and lifting one another as the sound layers to a steady pulse.
‘In The Middle Of The Night’s’ more commercial edge is blunted by the sheer musical force, proving once again that on the record is very different to on the stage. And sure sometimes it’s overblown, and epically emotive to the point of cringey (see ‘Edge Of The World’, which could be anyone’s power ballad), but at a time when every new artist has to be so achingly fucking cool, Sharon and her long fringed gloves are an absolute delight.
Despite the fact that guest appearances come courtesy of a screen as opposed to any living breathing person, Within Temptation don’t shy away from chucking in a multitude of duets from newbie HYDRA – from the vocal melding of Sharon and Tarja Turunen (Nightwish) on ‘Paradise (What About Us?), to the oddly paired ‘And We Run’ featuring Xzibit, and the dramatic ‘Dangerous’ with earnest fist-clencher Howard Jones. (Killswitch Engage)
And surprisingly it works just fine. Which bodes well for the future when everything will be screens and holograms, and nary a scrap of human performance. In a depressing kind of way.
If you’re keeping back a favourite for the encore ‘What Have You Done Now’ featuring Keith Caputo – courtesy once again of the screen – is the obvious choice. More interesting is the inspired decision to make the ‘Whole World Is Watching’, originally a duet with Soul Asylum’s Dave Pirner, an acoustic number, taking it from slightly sickening to just plain sweet.
A cover of Lana Del Ray’s ‘Summertime Sadness” works but based on Sharon’s freewheeling dancing it’s unlikely she’d care if you thought otherwise. She’s enjoying it, and that’s really the whole point of Within Temptation. It’s almost metal’s version of pop, but it’s unabashed – the band never apologise for their music and their fans never ask them to. On that basis it might not be that long before Within Temptation look across the way for a venue. It’d beat the football any time.
Within Temptation Setlist
Let Us Burn
Paradise (What About Us?)
Edge of the World
In the Middle of the Night
Our Solemn Hour
And We Run
Tell Me Why
See Who I Am
Stand My Ground
Covered By Roses
What Have You Done
Whole World Is Watching
Summertime Sadness (Lana Del Rey cover)