Billed as the Worlds Collide tour, it was certainly an earth-shaking night as the long-delayed and much-anticipated outing of the joint Evanescence and Within Temptation trek landed in London for the opening leg of the jaunt. Both bands, hungry to make up for lost time, put on full-stage shows, each a retina-burning, eardrum-blasting spectacle that had a full-to-the-rafters O2 dazzled.
With two of the most acclaimed vocalists on the planet and a joint library full of big-hitting classics, this was going to be an event to be remembered, and so it proved, the audience roars of approval coming close to drowning out the huge bank of speakers at times.
Evanescence – Within Temptation – Veridia
O2 Arena, London – 14 November 2022
Words: Paul Monkhouse
Photography: Robert Sutton
Whilst debut album Fallen was a global phenomenon, it’s often forgotten that Evanescence put in years of hard graft and roadwork before the 2004 breakthrough. When Amy Lee walks on the stage, you know that every inch of the journey has been hard won, her spirit having been bruised and battered by life and the industry but never broken.
When she looks around the rammed O2 at a sea of smiling faces and says “we’ve been dreaming of this for years” it’s not just hyperbole, this really does mean the world to her. It’s a revealing moment and one that sees that emotion reflected back to her. Evanescence are here to play the best show anyone’s seen and pull out all the stops to do just that.
The pummelling drum pattern of Will Hunt, percussive bass of Emma Anzai and snarling riffing from Troy McLawhorn and Tim McCord introduce Broken Pieces Shine, its digital countdown the perfect start of their set, Lee walking on and singing the opening lines in that most distinctive voice. There’s an energy here on stage, fiercer than we’ve seen before, the singer prowling and virtually bouncing in equal measure, and you get the feeling that this is a band reborn. Certainly, the recent album The Bitter Truth was full of raging fires and extra crunch, but Evanescence are a much heavier animal live and a roaring, towering monster tonight.
Made Of Stone crushes and the early classic Going Under explodes, the audience singing every word, the floor of the O2 turned into a mass of writhing bodies. Latest member Anzai is a great addition to the band, her backing vocals spot on point and bass playing full of barely controlled force as she slaps the strings, her instrument held practically vertically.
With her in the fold, McCord’s switch to guitar adds extra muscular power to McLawhorn’s fretwork, the two meshing perfectly, the chemistry evident and Hunt is one of the most impressive drummers in the world. With such a strong team behind her, no wonder Lee is so joyful, safe in the knowledge that the band are firing on all cylinders, this tour gelling the unit.
Of course, it’s not all pedal-to-the-Metal mayhem. Wasted On You sounds gorgeous. Its drive perfectly counterpoints the keys and lilting vocals at its start. Similarly, the deceptively restrained opening of The Bitter Truth medley, Lose Control / Part of Me / Never Go Back, turns into something much different, its twists and flow showing multiple facets.
A stripped-back Far From Heaven is stunning, Lee’s voice touching the stars and Your Star glories in its contrast between the piano and guitars, the song building to a sinister edge. A run of End Of The Dream, Better Without You, and Call Me When You’re Sober absolutely piledrive, the heavy-duty rocking kicking up a serious amount of sparks.
Contender for anthem of the night, Use Your Voice, is a rallying call to arms, a deafening shout of defiance and independence that could bring down governments and destroy all barriers. By the time Evanescence finished with My Immortal, the band came in for its powerful climax and then segued into a triumphant Bring Me To Life as twenty thousand souls sang every word. It was game over.
With a futuristic stage set featuring a giant robot head, huge video screens and multiple platforms that looked like something from Fritz Lang’s seminal Sci-Fi classic Metropolis, Within Temptation were out to make their portion of the show as eye-popping as it was musically explosive.
With the aptly sonorous tones of Winston Churchill above them, his image on the screens, the band tore into epic opener Our Solemn Hour, its sweeping instrumentation and the soaring voice of Sharon den Adel bringing together power and beauty. The grinding riff and sublime chorus of Faster turned up the heat even more. The song is the perfect surge of adrenaline for an action film soundtrack, flames from the pyro reaching even higher.
Highlights were many. The planet-destroying power of Stand My Ground with its irresistible hook, the guitars tearing through everything, and the brawling heavyweight clout of Angels, which saw the singer standing on the crown of the robotic head, both magnificent. With the multi-sensory blast of The Purge and an emotional and stirring Raise Your Banner, dedicated to the people of Ukraine as den Adel waves a yellow and blue banner, Within Temptation knows exactly how to do grand gestures.
Fortunately, there is a craft and humanity here, though, and this offsets any thoughts of bombast during the show, the whole highly entertaining but highly personal, and at times intimate, despite the cavernous hall.
An almost pop sense of melody weaves its way through the industrial techno grind of Entertain You, and the Rammstein-like The Reckoning is a filthy, muscular delight, but when the band play an affecting Supernova and the big ballad All I Need, you get a real sense of their range, each side played to perfection.
Throughout the set, this juxtaposition of eviscerating riffs, pounding rhythms, sweeping keys and near-operatic vocals is an intoxicating one, at times perfectly encapsulating that visceral power of music to excite and move us.
With the triumphant closing run of Ice Queen, What Have You Done, and the massive Mother Earth, Within Temptation had confirmed their place in hearts and minds, their position on the top table of bands confirmed unequivocally.
Considering that den Adel apologised that she was suffering from a heavy cold and hit one or two off notes during the set, no one seemed to notice or care, her voice a thing of almost supernatural wonder.
More than rising to the occasion, Within Temptation certainly made up for any lost time and left ringing ears and singing hearts as they took their bows. A band to conquer worlds.
Nashville band Veridia opened the evening with a set jammed full of modern alternative rock with a big twist of pop sensibilities. Don’t be misled, the quartet certainly kicked, but there were some huge, gleaming hooks lying just under the gritty surface.
Their first show on these shores for the tour, there was an obvious joy at being onstage at the cavernous venue, the band embracing the experience rather than feeling overwhelmed. Singer Deena Jakoub made the most of the huge stage, running from side to side as she danced and twirled, her powerful voice a rockier version of Pinks.
The giant groove and punch of Still Breathing and Feed The Animal filled the space, but it was in the intimate I’m Not Ready that the band were at their most powerful. The song, written by Jakoub for her father just before his passing, was made even more special by the guest appearance of Amy Lee on vocals and piano.
With a dynamic set and a raft of great material written over their decade together, Veridia are something special and have the crossover appeal to be a global name. It’s only a matter of time before they fill the space as headliners.
The Worlds Collide tour has been transcending any expectations, the power of positivity, people and music in perfect harmony. The universe is a better place because of it.