Tobias Sammet’s Avantasia hit London’s O2 Forum on Tuesday 17 April for a three-hour metal opera extravaganza. Shoehorning in enough vocal talent to launch a spaceship to the moon, the show galloped through no less than 24 epic songs, leaning heavily on the excellent new album, ‘Moonglow’.
Words: Johnny Churchill
Photos: Robert Sutton
Bombastic, energetic and completely over the top, this was a mesmerising and magical show that held the sold-out crowd spellbound for the duration.
There were with huge contributions from Jorn Lande, Ronnie Atkins, Geoff Tate, Eric Martin and Bob Catley, plus the superb backing singers, Adrienne Cowan, Ina Morgan and Herbie Langhans, all of whom have the talent to star in their own right.
Opener ‘Ghost In The Moon’ allowed Tobi to show off his excellent voice alone and set the tone for the night ahead. This 9-minute melodic metal masterpiece sounded majestic, but the tempo really went through the roof when Ronnie Atkins hit the stage for ‘Starlight’ and ‘Book of Shadows’. Atkins is some singer, wow, and he just left it all out there on the stage. Three songs in and this was already becoming a show to remember. And then came Jorn Lande….
From the reception the crowd gave him you could just feel something special was happening and the double header of ‘Raven Child’ and ‘Lucifer’ was breathtaking. One of the most intense, stunning metal moments I’ve enjoyed in many years. In an ideal world Jorn would sing for the entire 3 hours but Tobi had another ace up his sleeve. “Yes, that’s right London: Geoff Tate!!”
Clad in black and as suave as you like, Tate’s vocal prowess is beyond doubt. And tonight he was given room to shine with two songs from ‘Moonglow’; ‘Alchemy’ and ‘Invincible’. Normally for a ballad there’s a queue at the bar but not tonight as Tate held The Forum in the palm of his hand with his crystal clear vocals on ‘Invincible’, a really beautiful song.
‘Reach Out For The Light’ and the rather gorgeous ‘Moonglow’ followed with Tobi sharing vocals with lead guitarist Oliver Hartmann, plus Ina and Adrienne, while Mr Big’s Eric Martin was waiting in the wings…
Looking 30 years younger than he has any right to and shamelessly enjoying singing the ridiculous but fun ‘80s pop cover ‘Maniac’, Martin was an instant hit, and promptly took it up a notch with the awesomely heavy ‘Dying For An Angel’, a track from ‘The Wicked Symphony’ album, which is sung on record by the evergreen Klaus Meine of Scorpions!
The last star guest of the night was Magnum’s Bob Catley, who hit the stage to roars of approval from the London crowd, to share vocals with Tobi on the sublime ‘Lavender’, from the ‘Moonglow’ album. This was another magical moment in the show and Catley continued with yet another fan favourite, ‘The Story Ain’t Over’, another track that really suited his wonderful voice.
At this point most shows would be winding down but not Avantasia. The second half started with another chance to hear the incomparable Jorn Lande for the utterly essential ‘Scarecrow’. As the tracks kept rolling on, further highlights – and I’m talking proper ‘this is utterly bloody brilliant’ highlights – included a return to the ‘Ghostlights’ album with the full twelve minutes of ‘Let The Storm Descend Upon You’, plus ‘Master of the Pendulum’ and ‘Mystery of a Blood Red Rose’.
All of which showcased the remarkable band’s talents – particularly Tobi Sammet who sang tirelessly on almost every track, Sascha Paeth and Oliver Hartmann on guitars, Felix Bohnke on drums, Miro on Keyboards and Andre Neygenfind on bass. Their staying power and energy, particularly Bohnke’s, was impressive to say the least.
With the full cast on stage for the last track ‘Sign of the Cross/ Seven Angels’ the spaceship finally docked back on earth and we were released from the spell. Returning to reality with a firm belief that any band that plays for less than 3 hours or has no twelve-minute songs is really just phoning it in! Here’s hoping Avantasia tours again and returns to London, because this really is a must-see event.