As the wonderful suite of Download Festival side shows sweeps the country following Saturday’s inaugural event, Brisbane finally got treated to their first taste of Arch Enemy in almost 10 years (Arch Enemy toured Australia for the final time with Angela Gossow in 2012 but only played select performances in Sydney and Melbourne). As to be expected, that period of absence ensured that this evenings proceedings would sell out, making this one hell of a show not to miss.
London The Band started the evening off, and although I really liked their overall sound their performance seemed slightly off. Musically the band was great, with a heavy guitar, drum and bass tone providing an absolutely wonderful soundscape that was enhanced that little bit more by having the overall mix front of house just right. Musically I couldn’t fault this band. Unfortunately, vocalist London Gabraelle had been battling illness leading up to the performance and vocal delivery suffered as a result. All in all a good performance, just marred by an unfortunate external factor that was outside the bands control.
It’s always a thing sign for the night you are in for when a headlining acts stage entrance is delayed while more security made their way to the venue to ensure the event ran smoothly. This proved out to be a good call as – for the most part – there didn’t seem to be any problems with cried surfers or fights. After about a ten minute delay to the scheduled run time, Motorhead’s Ace of Spades kicked in signaling that the upcoming onslaught was about to begin.
If you were ever in any doubt as to what it takes to become a headlining band then Arch Enemy as a template would be one of the best ones out there to model yourself on. Alissa White-Gluz is – in every sense of the word – a star. The crowd engagement, stage movement, vocal delivery and all-around performance are impeccable. Even an unfortunate microphone drop early on into the set, which would have spooked most singers, was recovered effortlessly and didn’t impact on her overall performance.
Michael Amott is still one of the only guitarists that can effectively pull off what I am going to dub the “held vibrato” – that second long pause where a note is held before the vibrato is applied that has become so synonymous to Arch Enemy tracks. The fact that this still comes across brilliantly in a live setting – particularly when combatting front of house sound systems, is still amazing. Jeff Loomis seems to have been a live aspect that Arch Enemy has been missing. His performance in Brisbane brought an air of humility, grace and professionalism to the second guitar role in the band and it was impressive to watch. There was nothing overly eccentric or showman like about what he did, but each time he was afforded the opportunity to step into the foreground to display his skill, you better believe that all eyes in the venue were on him.
Even the lesser known members were putting on a great performance. Sharlee D’Angelo continues to be one of my favourite bassists – not due to any technical playing or precision – but due to the fact that his timing in terms of stage movements and crowd interactions are impeccable. This is perhaps more prevalent in the smaller venue (as opposed to the larger festival spaces) and was well on display during their performance in Brisbane. Finally, Daniel Erlandsson’s performance continued to showcase why he has been a staple of the band for two decades.
Probably one of the only negatives from the crowd for the night was that there were a few times during the performance where Alissa would beckon the crowd, asking for their participation at which she was met with a less than desired response. This could have been due to the fact that the speakers were so loud and hearing the response in the crowd was a difficult task, or could have been due to the exhaustion effects on fans from the sweltering venue acting more like a sauna – but either way these incidents of little crowd response were few and far between. Most of the time the cheers would have been heard down the street, and the glee showed in each Arch Enemy members faces.
I’ve been lucky enough to see this incarnation of Arch Enemy a few times in Europe, but never on a stage as small as the one at The Zoo. From the minute the band walked out you could tell how well choreographed that their performance has become, and that even the confines of a relatively small stage housing the five band members was not going to be any sort of deterrent to their performance. Loomis and Amott both knew the exact time to work their way to the front (often together) to showcase their guitar work; D’Angelo provided much more of a visible presence on stage, often alternating with White-Gluz up front, yet never taking attention away from the other members during key moments; and White-Gluz knew just the right times to engage with the crowd for the best responses. Perhaps the only detraction from their set in terms of the visible performance was that on such a small stage was that when you factored in the light show, the other band members and smoke effects it was near impossible to see Erlandsson on drums.
Unfortunately for Arch Enemy there was also some minor technical hiccups, specifically Loomis’ guitar during My Apocalypse and a minor speaker blowout during Bloodstained Cross. While these two incidents were barely noticeable, the latter was out of the bands control, and the former was handled in a very showman way that you would have been hard pressed to notice it if you weren’t looking for it – a true credit to Loomis and just another perfect example of the caliber of artist that this band maintains.
The set list was a very good mix of newer tracks blended with some older classics. Totally understandable in the scheme of things. But the way in which it was layered was really well done. Never persisting too long in new or old respectively. Changing it up frequently kept the fans guessing what would come next.
Saving their ‘best for last’ in their encore, Arch Enemy ensured that their show ended on a feeling of maximum energy, amping their performance up for some crowd favorite tracks (and even a sneaky guitar solo section), that made for a fitting end to an epic evening. When all things were considered, and taking into account the minor technical blemishes, Brisbane was still treated to one of the better performances it has seen this year. Arch Enemy will always be an impressive band to watch live, so here’s hoping it’s not another decade before Brisbane gets to see them again!