GIG REVIEW: AVANTASIA Live at House of Blues, Anaheim, CA
I really hate to admit it, but I figured I’d get this out of the way right off the bat. I never travel for shows. I am lucky enough to live in a large, centrally located city that is more than happy to host 99% of all touring metal bands. One exception to the rule, of course, is my newly-found tradition of flying down to Atlanta, GA for ProgPower USA. Aside from that, the fifteen minutes it takes to drive to a venue in downtown Denver is the extent of my travels. That was true until I saw the Avantasia Ghostlights World Tour announcement earlier this year. Kicking off in Berlin and ending in Sao Paulo (with the exception of some festival appearances later in the Summer), the Ghostlights World Tour began selling out left and right. I was pretty bummed to find out that of all of the dates on this massive tour, only two dates were announced for the United States. However, the thought of seeing Avantasia at the House of Blues in Anaheim, right in the middle of the Disneyland park, was more than enough to get me to buy a plane ticket to California.
Honestly, power metal fans know that Avantasia is truly the gold standard for supergroup metal/rock operas. The band’s latest album, ‘Ghostlights’, released in January, was no exception. Ranking at the top of multiple charts around the world, fans quickly latched onto the amazing hooks and beautiful melodies that Tobias Sammet and crew had to offer. So really, it was no surprise that such a massive tour was to follow. Joining Tobias Sammet, Sascha Paeth, and Michael Rodenberg on the road are guest vocalists Michael Kiske (Helloween, Unisonic), Jorn Lande (Allen – Lande, Masterplan), Amanda Somerville (Kiske / Somerville, Trillium), Ronnie Atkins (Pretty Maids), Eric Martin (Mr. Big), and Herbie Langhans (Sinbreed). Also found sharing the stage were bassist André Neygenfind, guitarist and vocalist Oliver Hartmann, and drummer Felix Bohnke (Edguy). This concert was way over the top, larger than life, dramatic, beautiful, and quite honestly, the best concert I have ever seen.
I have been an Avantasia fan from the very first time I heard ‘The Scarecrow’ in 2008. Not only am I able to say that I was at Avantasia’s first-ever show in the United States; but I can say that I saw them in a small, intimate setting, as the theater only holds about 1,250 people. The lights went down, and one-by-one, my favorite musicians in the genre walked out to “Zarathustra” from ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’. Even though I was stuck in one of the smallest photo pits I have ever been in, I felt like I was dreaming. ‘The Wicked Symphony’ was one of my all-time favorite releases, until ‘Ghostlights’ came out. It is a stunningly beautiful album that held true to Avantasia’s metal opera roots while progressing and changing enough to keep fans on their toes. One of those reasons was the addition of vocalist Herbie Langhans, who wooed the crowd with his beautiful baritone vocals on “Draconian Love” and high-energy back-up vocals throughout the night with the equally as beautiful and passionate Amanda Somerville. The setlist was an impressive three hours long, featuring new songs like “Mystery of a Blood Red Rose”, “Ghostlights”, “Unchain the Light”, “Lucifer”, and “Let the Storm Descend Upon You”.
The high energy never let up throughout the night, as one new guest vocalist after another came on stage and made the crowd go wild. One of the greatest memories I’ll have about this setlist is the new spins put on songs with new voices fronting them; “The Wicked Symphony”, “Stargazers”, and “Twisted Mind” were all performed without Tobias Sammet. This gave fans a new spin on old favorites as Ronnie Atkins, Eric Martin, and Oliver Hartmann (just to name a few) took on a more center-stage position.
The highlight of the night was the finale: a medley of “Sign of The Cross” with “Seven Angels” performed with every musician on stage. As a huge fan of The Metal Opera albums, this brought tears to my eyes. I have never seen a band (except Iron Maiden) remain so tight and on-point throughout such a long set. The vocals were spot-on from all sides of the stage, and everyone else was equally as impressive. How anyone can play guitar, bass, drums, or keys for three hours straight is beyond me. These guys, despite being exhausted from traveling around the world and performing for hours every night, were still hilariously playing off of each other. They were all as equally funny as they are gifted in music.
I do, however want to point out one thing, and I will try to keep my soap box to a minimum. Throughout the night, Amanda Somerville was pointed out at various times, referred to as a sex kitten, and even as the only member on stage that knows about another male musician’s genitals. I witnessed it and will say it myself: Amanda’s live performance is incredibly passionate and borderline erotic. Her facial expressions and body movements are incredibly sexy and enticing. I just wish that the members would refrain from introducing her strictly based on that, as she is just as talented as the rest of the male members of the band (who didn’t once get referred to as a sexual object).
There; soap box done. I was completely blown away, and once the show was over, I just stood there in awe not quite processing all that I just experienced. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that night going as perfect as it did; from my friends I experienced it with and the new people I met, to the setlist and the performance of the band members; it must have been Disneyland, because it was truly magical. I can only hope that we will see Tobias and the crew again in the United States soon. If you have the incredible opportunity to catch these guys on the remainder of the tour, or at one of the festivals they will be playing this summer, don’t miss it! This was easily a night I will never forget.
Check out our Photo Gallery of the gig here!