When I saw that Avantasia was promoting a Moonglow world tour, I was expecting Australia to be added to the itinerary. After all, you can’t call it a world tour unless every continent has been included. Plus, after a couple of successful tours in Australia with Edguy, Tobias Sammet would have to know he had a loyal following here. Of course convincing one of our current promoters in Australia was a different story, so it was a surprise when the Australian leg of the world tour was announced not long after the European dates had been published and far in advance of North American dates.
I have been lucky enough to see Avantasia live in Italy and Germany as part of The Scarecrow tour and those shows were exceptional, so I was doubly excited that I would have the opportunity to see the production on home soil surrounded by my fellow Australians. Everyone I spoke to was excited with anticipation of who would be announced in the line-up.
When I walked into the Metro Theatre I was surprised at how few people were attending and was really embarrassed that Sydney couldn’t put on a better welcome, but by the time the house lights went down it looked full. The audience was interesting—most of the people were relatively older/mature/well-seasoned (to put it nicely) metalheads, including me.
As the house lights went down AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long” was cranked up to pick up the mood in the room. I assumed it was in tribute to the hosting country only to be oblivious to the real message of the song.
As the curtains drew back, Beethoven’s 9th “Ode to Joy” movement rang through the theatre and the band watched and waited for drummer Felix “alien drum bunny” Bohnke to count them in.
Avantasia opened with the whole band, backing vocalists and Tobias Sammet performing the epic opening song “Ghost in the Moon” which started the Moonglow CD showcase. Tobias Sammet has always been a quality performer and showman to watch (and photograph) and tonight he didn’t disappoint.
I had three songs in the pit in which to take my photos and I wanted to make the most of my time, capturing everyone in as many variations as possible. And, just like when I covered Avantasia’s Scarecrow tour at a festival in Milan, I managed to lose my balance and yet again take a clumsy tumble. At least this time I didn’t have one of the major performers staring down the barrel of my lens and posing. (Apologies to the other photographer in the Wacken T-shirt who I collected on my way down.) It may have had something to do with my excitement of seeing Avantasia live again but this time DownUnder.
Ronnie Atkins joined Tobias for the next Moonglow song “Starlight” and remained on stage for “Book of Shallows” during which Adrienne Cowan joined in, showcasing her death metal vocal style in lieu of Mille Petrozza. Not only did she nail the vocals, but her womanly charm added some much needed feminine wiles to the stage.
With the allocated three songs in the pit over, I was free to enjoy the rest of the show and take it all in through the wide angle lenses of my eyes. At this stage in the set, Tobias addressed the audience. Firstly, he thanked us for the warm reception, complimented the venue “what a nice, little club” as he looked thoroughly around (the Metro Theatre would have to be my favourite live venue in Sydney as its tiered design means you can see the stage no matter where you stand) and began to explain that none of the band had toured in Australia before (except himself and Eric Martin who toured with Mr Big last year) so he had forewarned them that in Australia “the crowd is little, but the crowd is awesome”, to which the audience erupted in response. He then gave us a directive that we were to make as much noise as possible whenever he said “Australia” or “Sydney”.
The support for the Moonglow album was unmistakeable as when Tobias started to apologise that Avantasia would “shove the new album down your throats”, instead of the dampened enthusiasm for new songs most bands experience when touring a new album, Sydney responded with an explosion of cheers which genuinely surprised Tobias gauging by the expression on his face.
Tobias introduced the next song with a description of commercial radio in Germany playing the same twelve songs (no different to Australia) and the appropriateness of this 12-minute epic radio single to be played on air. When Jorn Lande appeared on the back riser for “The Raven Child” the audience exploded. Backing vocalists Adrienne Cowan and Herbie Langhans provided some additional visuals headbanging and looking like they were having fun, showing that being a backing vocalist doesn’t mean you can’t be metal at the same time.
It was during “The Raven Child” that I was tapped on the shoulder and escorted with other members of the pit crew by security to cloak our cameras—no in-crowd shots could be taken with our professional cameras, so if you are interested, I suggest you take to social media to look at the Avantasia photos of the rest of the line-up on stage—Avantasia have been touring with their own photographer so the photos on official pages are quality. This at least freed me to just write my notes for the rest of the show, but with so much happening on stage, even this meant I was missing some good bits while scribbling in the dark, but without those notes there’s no way I’d be able to tell you all about the show.
Jorn introduced “Lucifer” (Ghostlights) sharing he was enjoying his first time in Australia and explained the song was “about the good and about the bad”.
As a fan I saw a lot of Moonglow tour images pop up on my social media feed leading up to the Sydney show and was happy that even though we didn’t get the all the props, the layout of the stage was the same and we still were treated to an amazing, ever-changing video backdrop.
When Geoff Tate appeared on the back riser to start singing “Alchemy” (Moonglow) the audience greeted him with a rowdy reception and joined in the first fist-pumping moment of the night. During the song one of the original collaborators and strongest supporters of the Avantasia project, Sascha Paeth, was spot-lit and introduced by Geoff for his lead break.
Next Geoff introduced “Invincible” describing the song as being about the “strength of the individual”. The stage cleared leaving only Geoff, Tobias and keyboardist Miro Rodenberg to perform the arm waving movement inspiring ballad.
While drummer Felix Bohnke was being placed back in his fish tank for the next song, Tobias was made small talk, picked up a lead and talked about black snakes. (On Edguy tours, Tobias and the rest of the band were pretty spooked about the likelihood of having an encounter with one of Australia’s myriad of venomous snakes.) His voice dropped and the words “white snake” were spoken, however the tone was so conspiratory I couldn’t pick up if he was referring to the band or his manhood because of the din of conversation in the air. Tobias went on to say that it was a blessing to be able to do the Avantasia tour with his “most favourite stars” when in 1999 he started working on the Metal Opera album as a project.
With that introduction the first song in the set from Metal Opera “Reach out for the Light” started and was received with an echoing boon. The other tour guitarist, Oliver Hartmann, who is also an original member of Avantasia from the first album, started off the singing. He was joined by the audience not just in the chorus but the whole first verse. I’m known to get a little emotional seeing live bands and tonight was no exception—whenever a song from Metal Opera was performed, I’d tear up. Adrienne move down to join Tobias at the front of the stage belting out the second chorus and the audience went into a fist pumping moment during Sascha Paeth’s lead break.
Tobias’s reputation of being a quality performer was no less diminished tonight. Unlike some performers who look into the crowd and gesture out into oblivion giving the illusion they’re gesturing to a particular someone, Tobias takes time to look at the people in the crowd. He makes eye contact with individuals, be they in the front row or further into the venue. He addresses them and even responds to their comments. I have witnessed since first seeing him perform in 2002 and chuffed that that part of him hasn’t disappeared after so years of performing. The reason I state this is during his banter before the next song, Tobias noticed someone walking in and along the side of the mat black painted theatre, pointed to the stairs leading up to the stage area and said, “The stage is this way”. I didn’t see who it was, but am guessing Eric Martin or Bob Catley, or both got ‘lost’. While looking in that direction, Tobias took the opportunity to jovially barb the people in the seated balcony area as being “amazing but you don’t know how to show it”. He also decided to antagonise the long-standing rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne and with the slight mention of “Melbourne” was heartily booed by the audience.
Tobias introduced the next song with the answer to the question so many of us had after listening to Moonglow for the first time, “Why?” His answer, “Because we can” and proceeded to introduce Eric Martin. Eric also expanded on the reason, that they were the only ones “brave enough to do this song” and the band launched into “Maniac”. (Of the covers on Avantasia albums, I would have preferred Ultravox’s “Dancing with Tears in my Eyes”.) Thinking back to how long Tobias was talking for leading up to “Maniac”, it was probably Eric Martin who was AWOL and Tobias was stalling until Eric was mic’d up and ready.
During “Maniac” I giggled to myself when a thought came to mind that most of the audience would have remembered when the original song was in the charts and receiving high rotation radio play in the ‘80s. Then that thought led me to the realisation of why the audience appeared much older than the usual metal audiences in Sydney—because of the calibre and reputation of everyone that would be on stage tonight. Collectively there over 350 years of musical history and experience in Avantasia which attracts a long and loyal following.
It was during “Dying for an Angel” (Wicked Symphony) sung by Tobias and Eric that the ‘youngsters’ in the audience identified themselves—they were the ones scattered on the dance floor jumping in unison whenever the tempo of the music allowed it.
Bob Catley, who has been a member of the Avantasia family since Metal Opera PT.II, was introduced to us as he appeared on the riser to sing “Lavender” (Moonglow) with Tobias. As the most experienced member of Avantasia, Bob is testament to how a quality performer only gets better with age.
Before “The Story ain’t Over” (Lost in Space Part 1), he thanked Sydney for its warm reception and dedicated the next song to his father’s whose name was also ‘Sydney’—Sidney William Catley. (Bob lost his father suddenly in 1998 while recording his debut solo album, The Tower.) The audience was encouraged to sing along with the band “the story ain’t over” during the choruses.
Tobias took the opportunity to thank us for our support and state that they didn’t take it for granted being on tour here (Australia). He explained that Avantasia was originally only meant to be a project that ended after Metal Opera Pt.II, but with the support of Sascha Paeth he continued to write more Avantasia material and released the next full-length album, Scarecrow, in 2008. He explained “The Scarecrow was a resurrection of Avantasia” which resulted in an invitation to headline at Wacken that year and being able to put so many people together for such an undertaking would not have been possible without the encouragement and support of Sascha. More thanks to the supporters of Avantasia were gushed as “The Scarecrow” started.
When Jorn took the reins in the second verse, the emotion that poured out of him and Tobias when he joined in was infectious, prompting the audience to join in with the same passion. As the outro of the song faded, Jorn thanked the audience and was back-announced by Tobias in song as “the king of the north, Mr Jorn Lande”.
Tobias departed the stage to take a break and left “the king of the north” on stage. Before launching into “Promised Land” (Lost in Space Part 2) Jorn thanked Tobias and paid him a gracious compliment that “to do this (Avantasia world tour) was amazing”. Eric Martin returned to the stage where he and Jorn seemed to joke around and have fun while belting out this Avantasia classic.
Eric remained on stage while Jorn under the chant of “king of the north! king of the north”. He told us about how he was loving being able to tour with so many legendary people including his “new partner in crime, the man from Seattle, Geoff Tate” who joined him on stage. When the unmistakable guitar riff of “Twisted Mind” (The Scarecrow) started, heads began to bang.
Tobias returned to the stage to sing “Avantasia” (Metal Opera) with Geoff Tate bringing forth another surge of cheers. As they sang the chorus, the younger people began to jump in time enthusiastically and the audience joined in belting out the chorus. At the end of the song during the cheering and applause, Tobias again was making eye contact with individuals on the floor and mouthing “thank you” to them.
According to Tobias, we were now 2 hours and 5 minutes into the set and he thought that we might be too tired for the next 12-minute epic “Let the Storm Descend upon You” (Ghostlights). We weren’t tired, but I was starting to wonder if Adrienne and Herbie, who had been on stage for all but one song so far in constant movement, might have been. The epic started with a guitar solo by Sascha Paeth before Jorn Lande and Ronnie Atkins joined Tobias on vocals. Mid song we were treated by a double guitar solo by Sascha and Oliver Hartmann.
All the star vocalists were given the opportunity to chat to the audience and introduce songs. Ronnie used his chat to sing a tribute to Australia music in respect of the great talent this country produces with a little Bee Gees followed by a touch of AC/DC. Ronnie introduced the next song saying “it ghost lights this”. Probably my favourite song from that album “Master of the Pendulum” then started. The youngsters started jumping and even I couldn’t keep still. My love of this song was slightly biased (or so I thought) because the guest singer was Marco Hietala (Tarot, Nightwish), but as Ronnie ripped through those vocals I realised I loved it because it was a strong, melodic song in a tempo (like a jig) that couldn’t do anything but brighten you mood. Tobias and Ronnie gave this song a killer performance.
When I saw the line-up for the Moonglow tour included Herbie Langhans, I was excited and expect “Draconian Love” (Ghostlights) to be in the set list, but this wasn’t to be the case. Herbie moved centre stage to introduce “Shelter from the Rain” (The Scarecrow). Oliver Hartmann started the vocals and was joined by Herbie. Adrienne then came down from the backing vocalists’ riser to join them before Bob Catley returned. The little Metro Theatre stage started to look a little crowded.
During “Mystery of a Blood Red Rose” (Ghostlights) sung by Tobias and Bob, a lady handed a long stem, red rose to Tobias, which he slipped through loops in his jacket given the effect of a rose sitting in a jacket button hole. I thought it was a gorgeous gesture by the fan and kicked myself for not thinking of it.
When Tobias introduced the last song, he explained “The last song is not a shit song. It’s Lost in Space”. He then laughingly told us off “you all look up the set list on the internet and act surprised”. Of course he was referring to the song that was not favourably reviewed by media when it was released, but this audience didn’t care. It cheered “Lost in Space” as much as one of the songs from Metal Opera and the youngsters favoured it with more jumping.
It wasn’t our last song for the night and after a short time Tobias returned to the stage with more thanks and announcing it was time to “sink the Titanic”. While the whole theatre was carried away by the moment and we waved our arms from side to side during the introduction of “Farewell” (Metal Opera), Tobias called us “really cheesy”. I doubly laughed at the Countdown* moment we were all reliving based on our average age. Of course, Farewell wouldn’t be done properly without Adrienne Cowan lending her (this time angelic) vocal talents to the part of Anna.
During the show members of the band and ‘cast’ would be introduced sporadically. So while the fish tank was being removed from around Felix’s drum kit and Tobias cleared the drum riser of drinks and other items in preparation for the finale, the musicians and backing vocalists were introduced once again including not to mention “bass player extraordinaire Andre Neygenfind”.
Ronnie Atkins, Geoff Tate, Eric Martin, Jorn Lande and Bob Catley all returned to the back riser to launch into “Sign of the Cross” (Metal Opera) taking turns singing (or missing) their various parts of the song. The living legends retained their statuses by still being able to give quality, energetic and emotional performances in spite of being on the road for some time already.
All the singers then descended to the front of the stage to join in a crescendo of “The Seven Angels” (Metal Opera) before their final thanks, applauses to the audience and group bow.
Avantasia definitely “shook us all night long” with almost 3 hours of energetic and passionate performances. Every song had its place in the set and sure, there were probably some other songs I would have loved to be included as would everyone there. The songs that were still firmly ear-wormed all the way home and when I woke the next morning were “Ghost in the Moon”, “Moonglow” and “Master of the Pendulum”.
I had two disappointments. One, the Avantasia VIP package didn’t include a meet and greet. I imagine trying to stage it with so many stars would have been a logistical nightmare and a time-consuming event, however I would have been happy with Tobias and the band sans ‘cast’. And two, that I was unable to make the trip to see the tour in Melbourne as well.
My biggest wish now is that the tour produces a behind the scenes footage packed “Avantasia Moonglow World Tour” live DVD/Blu-Ray/4K release as an eternal memory of the metal tour of the decade.
*Countdown was an iconic music television show broadcast weekly in Australia during the ‘70s and ‘80s showcasing live performances and video clips by touring, charting and upcoming Australian and overseas bands of the time. The live audience was always waving their arms from side to side during the live ballad performances.
Tobias Sammet – lead vocals and mastermind
Sascha Paeth – guitars and primary supporter to Tobias Sammet
Oliver Hartmann – guitars/backing vocals/cast vocals
Miro Rodenberg – keyboards
Andre Neygenfind – bass
Felix Bohnke – drums
Bob Catley – lead vocals
Jorn Lande – lead vocals
Ronnie Atkins – lead vocals
Eric Martin – lead vocals
Geoff Tate – lead vocals
Adrienne Cowan – backing vocals/lead vocals
Herbie Langhans – backing vocals/lead vocals
1. Ghost in the Moon
3. Book of Shallows
4. The Raven Child
8. Reach Out for the Light
11. Dying for an Angel
13. The Story Ain’t Over
14. The Scarecrow
15. Promised Land
16. Twisted Mind
18. Let the Storm Descend upon You
19. Master of the Pendulum
20. Shelter from the Rain
21. Mystery of a Blood Red Rose
22. Lost in Space
24. Sign of the Cross and The Seven Angels