THE 69 EYES
Opening for Within Temptation tonight, and the sole support act on their current tour are The 69 Eyes from Finland. Well known as a fairly mainstream rock act in their home country, their self-proclaimed label of 'Helsinki Vampires' perhaps goes some way towards perpetuating the darker cult image the band are renowned for in other parts of the world. Originally formed back in the early 90s, the Finnish quintet's sound has progressed over the years to incorporate a balanced fusion between discernible influences of Lords of the New Church, Sisters of Mercy, and The Cult. Punk, goth, and rock in equal parts, their image also pertains to these generic leanings, although despite such retro inspirations, The 69 Eyes' songwriting also incorporates a contemporary rock-metal groove. Appearing on stage just after 8pm, their 45 minute set includes both older material and songs from latest release 'Angels' such as the album's title track and single 'Never Say Die'. Surprisingly popular with those in attendance, the near capacity crowd remain largely animated throughout, reciprocating with the band's own highly energetic performance. Sticksman Jussi69 appears to be having most fun on stage, beating his kit with wild enthusiasm and, at one point, masturbating his drum sticks while spitting out water onto the stage. Climaxing with what sounds like a few bars of Pantera's 'I'm Broken', the Finns exit to huge cheers from the Academy audience. Although lacking in originality, The 69 Eyes are a very entertaining live band and are sure to have gained many new fans after tonight's impressive performance.
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Wednesday 28th November 2007
The Academy in Birmingham, UK
And so on to tonight's main attraction, Dutch symphonic metallers Within Temptation. Having been a fan of the band for many years, it's been interesting to observe their progression from the goth metal roots of debut release, 'Enter', in 1996 and sophomore effort, the 1997 EP 'The Dance', to the folkier edged second album 'Mother Earth' (2000) with Sharon Den Adel's Kate Bush inspired vocals, and the more commercial leanings of 2004 's 'The Silent Force' and latest release 'The Heart of Everything'. Although massive in mainland Europe since the millennium, they've only gained widespread recognition in the UK with the release of 'The Silent Force' and, officially released by Roadrunner over here in 2005, the wider distribution has led to a rapid increase in their popularity and performing in bigger UK venues.
As the lights dim, intro music plays for a few seconds, then cuts out, before restarting. Band members take to the stage and launch into opening number 'Jillian' from 'The Silent Force' before Den Adel begins singing off stage, and then appears to ubiquitous cheers from the Academy crowd. Wearing one of her characteristic extravagant gothic dresses, she rips off the bottom half at the end of the first song to reveal a shorter skirt (Bucks Fizz Eurovision style!!), which is symbolic of the transition from her image of yesteryear to the rock chick visage she now perpetuates in the mainstream media. Perhaps also symbolic of the band's changing musical styles it's apt that opening track, 'The Howling', from latest release is up next. This is swiftly followed by 'Stand My Ground' and then 'What Have You Done' with Life of Agony's Keith Caputo's vocals played on a backing track which is synchronised with the song's video on the projection screen behind the band. In fact, playing to a click, there are orchestral/choir parts on backing tracks for most of the new songs, though never detract from the live elements of Within Temptation's performance, as the band keep in perfect time to the click. Older material is represented with an effective acoustic version of 'Restless' from 'Enter' and 'The Other Half (Of Me)' from 'The Dance', although Robert Westerholt's death growls on the latter don't sound quite as biting as they once did. Before this evening, I last saw Within Temptation on 'The Silent Force' tour in Utrecht in the band's home country and, to be honest, remember their performance that night to be much better as it does look like they're 'going through the motions' tonight at various points during the set. This seems to be mainly with the latest material as the band are far more animated, and look like they're having a lot more fun, with older tracks such as the awesome 'Mother Earth'. Further, Den Adel's vocals are a little weak for the first 4-5 songs as if she needed to warm up her voice, as she sings with a greater passion during the remainder of the set. On stage for an hour and fifty minutes, Within Temptation climax with final encore song 'Ice Queen', originally a huge hit in the national Dutch singles chart. Although a little lacklustre in places, the Dutch metallers generally deliver a solid performance to an appreciative Academy audience. Far from brilliant, but certainly an entertaining and enjoyable set.
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THE 69 EYES
Reviews & Photography by Mark Holmes