Delain + The Gentle Storm + The Courtesans
@ The Islington Academy, London
25th October 2015
Review & photos by Graham Hilling
The first signs of Winter can be felt as I arrive at the Academy in Islington to be greeted by a fairly sizable queue of punters waiting to get into the warmth of the venue. This evenings gig has been sold out for some time so the queue is no surprise and inside the venue it is pretty rammed even though the evening is only just starting.
Good news then, for the first band of the evening, The Courtesans. This is an all female 4 piece from London. Playing music that doesn’t really fit nicely into any pigeon holed genre they set about converting the audience in a systematic manner.
The songs are slow (almost doomy in places), overlayed by a sultry, smoky vocal from Sinead La Bella.
The band look completely at home on the small Academy stage (made even smaller by the massive drum kit sitting behind them), and there’s no shortage of confidence here.
While not quite as polished as the other bands on the bill tonight, they more than make up for this with a great stage presence and an impressive live performance which is well rounded and contains songs with real hooks.
The songs themselves are growers rather than immediately catching you, requiring some effort on the listeners part to fully appreciate them. Give them this though and before you know it, they’ll be in your head, and are difficult to remove. “Genius” and “Liberate” are both good examples of this.
Seems the crowd have also bought into this philosophy as by the end of the set they receive a well deserved round of applause and I’m sure they have made some new friends this evening.
Next up are The Gentle Storm, for those that don’t know, this is a collaboration between Arjen Lucassen who performs composing and arrangement duties and Anneke van Giersbergen on vocals and lyrics.
These two have worked together before on various projects but Lucassen is not keen on touring and is missing from the live performing band. Difficult to find fault with the assembled musicians though, they all have impressive credentials and play together as The Gentle Storm in a band that is as as squeaky tight as any I have seen.
Merel Bechtold (MaYaN, Delain) on guitar (doing two sets this evening, playing later with Delain), Ed Warby (Hail of Bullets, Ayreon) on drums, Joost van den Broek (After Forever) on keys, Johan van Stratum (Stream of Passion) on bass and Marcela Bovio (Stream of Passion) on backing vocals.
This squeaky tight performance is in no short measure down to the truly impressive drumming of Ed Warby. An absolute powerhouse of a drummer that propels the whole band along. Top marks here.
Anneke van Giersbergen herself never stops smiling, so much so that that it is almost a little disconcerting! Infact, the truth is that the whole band look very happy to be playing this evening. The stage is barely large enough to contain their enthusiasm (as well as their physical presence).
Annekes’ vocals are simply beautuful and crystal clear in equal measures and compliment the music perfectly. She has an amazing range and this is put to good use.
Tonight they play a set of songs covering various periods. We get “The Storm” and “Strange Machines” and even Devins “Fall Out” and set closer “Shores of India”.
All delivered with incredible enthusiasm and panache.
Even if you didn’t know the songs, you’d have to be pretty stony faced not to be wowed by this performance, which, in much the same way as the last time I saw them, sees the band not put a foot wrong and deliver something truly impressive. Top marks indeed.
Following on from this, Delain will indeed have to produce an epic performance in order to finish the evening in style. Did they manage it? Of course they did!
Playing to a venue that is now heaving at the seams, Delain take to the stage. In similar fashion to The Gentle Storm, they all look very pleased to be on the stage and performing to such an appreciative audience.
I’ve seen the Delain songs develop through the various albums and I’m in no doubt that the current album, “The Human Contradiction” has some of their best works to date.
The start the set as they mean to continue with “Go Away”. “Army of Dolls” and “Here Come the Vultures” remain two of their most powerful songs and both resonate perfectly tonight.
Midway through the set we get a taster of the new album (due in 2016) in the form of a new song – “Turn The Lights Out”.
Difficult to judge on first hearing but it didn’t sound like a duffer to these old ears and bodes well for the new year. Certainly, it is well received by the packed crowd.
“The Gathering” is another song that has become a regular at Delain gigs and it gets the collective voices in the venue going. Interesting to see on the set list there is a small copyright sign by the name of the song and several exclamation marks! Clearly a tongue in cheek reference to the band, The Gathering which Anneke joined around 1995.
A short break and back for an encore and finishing with “We are the Others” which draws inspiration from the tragedy of the Sophie Lancaster murder.
A good way to finish an impressive set and an even more impressive evening of great music and atmosphere.
Charlotte Wessels voice gets better and better and we can only look forward to what 2016 holds for this band. I predict great things for all 3 bands on the bill this evening!