Words: Trent Cornell
Photos: Anne-Laure Marie
German supergroup Avantasia have been among the music scene, throughout phases, for the better part of twenty years – however, one of the things they’d never undertaken during that period together was embarking on a journey to Australia’s shores. Last night, the masses gathered (to near capacity) to bear witness to their first ever live performance in Melbourne, in what was – quite possibly – one of the most prolific live performances The Forum has ever played host to.
Before even discussing the performance itself, the venue was the perfect host for the collective of musical masters; the sky-blue roof stretches above the auditorium, providing an illusion of being a Coliseum, while Roman-style statues and gargoyles adorn the alcoves and flank the wide concert stage. Befitting, considering what the night was about to present to the ever-eager crowd. The night was also divided somewhat into two sections; the musical performance, and the visuals that accompanied throughout. Throughout the entire night, the imagery that accompanied the individual performances provided a separate sensory experience; whether it be abundant in colors, laced with fantasy, or clung to darkness, it further deepened the journey that the music was already taking you on. Absolutely brilliant!
The lights hit. The crowd started to amp themselves up. Symphony No. 9 (Ode to Joy) filled the theatre, before transitioning into Avantasia’s Ghost in the Moon, which was met with tremendous roars; none more so than when Tobias Sammet himself emerged from the rear of stage. Sammet went on to further rile up the crowd, telling them they’re in for many surprises throughout the night – Starlight saw the first of many, with Ronnie Atkins emerging from the shadows to assist with the performance. Book of Shallows followed with which, in my opinion, provided one of the highlights of the night – when Adrienne Cowan joined Atkins centre stage, providing some growling vocals to support the heavier section of the Shallows … HOLY SHIT! This was the first moment (of many) where the crowd absolutely lost it and kicked into a frenzy. Talk about the perfect combination of beauty, and brutality.
Atkins left the stage and Sammet took the time to talk to the crowd, quickly learning that Melbourne’s faithful are full of unpredictability – with one fan suggesting the band play Slayer’s Raining Blood – to which Sammet delivered a sly, tongue-in-cheek response that riled the crowd further. He began performing The Raven Child, this first of the slower tempo performances, which saw the computer-generated imagery that adorned the backdrop of the band shift to a darker, somewhat-brooding display – the production value of the night was absolutely brilliant. Jorn Lande was the next to take centre stage alongside Sammet, lending his earthy tones to not only Raven Child, but with Lucifer – both of which were fantastic performances.
Geoff Tate was the next man to be brought into the mix, lending his talents to both Alchemy and Invincible, before Cowan returned to team up with Olli Hartmann for a rising performance of Reach Out for the Light. Although the past handful of songs were a lot slower, and softer, in comparison to what Avantasia opened with, it really hit the corner pocket comfortably. It truly was the heavy-metal operatic delivery that Sammet promised the crowd would witness; and these more sombre moments were beautiful to listen to.
The performance of Moonglow was phenomenal, with Sammet and Cowan combining with one of the more prominent performances of the night – it’s hard to recall a complete live performance where the vocals throughout were flawless. Last night was THE night! Melbourne channeled their inner Michael Sembello, with Sammet and Eric Martin teaming up for their take on Maniac, combined with sublime guitar solos and pitch perfect vocals. Who would have thought a song like that would translate so well to the heavy metal genre?
Martin remained for Dying for an Angel, before handing the reins to Bob Catley who took to the stage for a scintillating rendition of Lavender – the vocal pairing was incredible. Speaking of tremendous vocals, Cowan again returned to combine with Catley for The Story Ain’t Over, which just continued to raise the bar that each individual performance forcefully pushed up another notch.
Returning to a heavier tone, that is synonymous to what opened the night, The Scarecrow, Promised Land and Twisted Mind not only provided some memorable performances, but saw the likes of Lande, Martin and Tate return to the stage for their respective songs – again, cannot talk about the combined talents of Avantasia more than I already have. They’re more than a supergroup; they’re a masterclass of music.
Looking like the sombre side of the night was well and truly in the rear-view mirror, the more rambunctious side of Avantasia was in full effect with self-titled Avantasia, and Let the Storm Descend Upon You. Master of the Pendulum, was definitely in a class of its own – especially with the participation from the Melbourne crowd – providing, yet again, one of many highlights of the night.
Shelter from the Rain continued to channel the overflowing energy on stage, featuring Herbie Langhans for the first time of the night, before slowing the night back down to a steady pace with Mystery of a Blood Red Rose and Lost in Space; Melbourne were on their feet, Avantasia receiving tremendous applause for what was one of the most flawless performances that has graced our streets in a very long time. However, that wasn’t the end – returning to the stage with Encore performances of aptly titled Farewell, and Sign of the Cross/The Seven Angels, the latter seeing all members taking to the stage for one hell of a sendoff.
If this hasn’t been apparent yet, I was absolutely mind-blown by the performance that was delivered last night. I don’t speak for everyone in attendance, of course, but I wouldn’t hesitate in the slightest to suggest that not one person who bore witness to what I did last night wouldn’t agree with me. Avantasia, please come back again – because if your first Australian Tour was THIS phenomenal, I’m dying to see what the second coming both looks and sounds like!