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Friday 1st November 2013
The Ritz in Manchester, UK
Reviews & Photography by Mark Holmes
Paradise Lost's 25th anniversary shows always promised to be something of a special occasion and, on a bill alongside two other seminal bands, the triumvirate of esteemed metal acts have a combined sixty six years of history between them. And the first of these tonight in Manchester, Katatonia, were in tow with their own celebration. Performing 'Viva Emptiness' in its entirety to mark a decade since its release and a revamped, remixed and remastered reissue, fans of the Swedes were in for a sonic feast of melancholic class. With doors opening at 6pm and Katatonia hitting the stage an hour later, The Ritz is nicely full by the time they commence working their way through said masterpiece. And to thwart setlist predictability, they start with 'Inside the City of Glass'. And I'm sure they engender a degree of perplexity amongst their fans present in the audience as the track is now longer in duration but is no longer an instrumental. Apparently, it was never intended as such but transpired to be so due to time constraints in the studio. Does it work with vocals? By fuck, does it work - the dulcetly melancholic tones of frontman Jonas Renkse's voice adds a new layer of emotion onto a song that was already loaded with affective intrigue. It works perfectly as a potent start to their set and, from then on, they proceed to play the tracklist from 'Viva Emptiness' in reverse. Apart from eschewing predictability, it's also a shrewd move in that they climax with 'Ghost of the Sun', a perennial fan favourite and apt set closer. In actual fact, the entire album itself is a perennial fan favourite in their canon of work and regarded by many to be amongst their best work, and that's certainly an opinion I hold myself. As such, tonight is sheer bliss to hear all the album tracks performed live. The sound through the PA is, unfortunately, a little bass heavy which abates some of the intricacies in particular songs although, overall, live renditions of the songs this evening are fantastic. With mass sing-alongs, clap-alongs and a general convivial atmosphere amongst the crowd, it feels like the celebration its meant to be. And it certainly doesn't feel like ten years since I first heard 'Viva Emptiness'. Time flies, I guess, but it's also testament to Katatonia's songwriting abilities in that the songs sound as fresh and relevant now as they did a decade ago. A phenomenal performance from the most phenomenal and unique of bands. Viva Katatonia!
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With the duality of tonight's celebratory essence through the decennary of Katatonia's 'Viva Emptiness' and Paradise Lost's 25th anniversary, Lacuna Coil are merely sandwiched between the two on the bill with, seemingly, no celebration of their own. However, with Paradise Lost a prominent influence upon the Italians' own take on that eternally tenuous label of goth metal, their inclusion on the tour's lineup seems apposite in its own way. Appearing on stage to loud cheers from the crowd, Lacuna Coil proceed to entertain The Ritz's audience with an hour long set of slickly performed material. Vocalists Cristina Scabbia and Andrea Ferro bounce around the stage with unremitting energy and, largely backlit throughout, coupled with their small statures, one could be forgiven for thinking there are a couple of sprightly kids fronting the band rather than a couple of forty-somethings. Still within the parameters of the touring cycle for their last full-length offering, 'Dark Adrenaline', it's from said album that they draw most of the material for tonight's set as well as a four tracks from 'Karmacode' and three onetime singles, 'Heaven's a Lie', 'Swamped' and 'Spellbound'. As impressively slick and effective as Lacuna Coil are in their performance this evening, I can't help but feel a little detached from their set. It's enjoyable enough although it leaves me feeling a little distanced. Perhaps it's as simple as there being too much back-lighting (which there also was for Katatonia, although this worked to perfection within the context of their melancholically-charged aesthetic). Or perhaps it's a running order issue as I can't help but contemplate whether Lacuna Coil would've fared better as the opening band. Whatever the case, it's still an enjoyable performance although the "wow" factor is inexplicably absent.
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Paradise Lost at The Ritz in Manchester, UK, 1st November 2013
Photograph copyright 2013 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
And so, onto the main reason the majority of people in a packed Ritz are here this evening. Paradise Lost arrive on stage to, by far, the biggest cheers of the night and their promise of a special set to mark the milestone of a quarter of a century in existence is consolidated right from the off with the rarely performed 'Mortals Watch the Day' from 1992's 'Shades of God'. This is swiftly followed by 'Host' track, 'So Much Is Lost', the twenty year old 'Remembrance' from 'Icon', and then the title tune from sophomore album 'Gothic'. The Halifax lads are in full-on nostalgic mode and, as the evening progresses, it becomes clear that their intention is to represent the majority of their thirteen albums in their set (bar 'Believe in Nothing', a release allegedly dismissed by the band themselves as their weakest work). Thus, the likes of 'Rotting Misery', 'Enchantment' and 'True Belief' are performed alongside more predictable airings of 'Isolate', 'Faith Divides Us - Death Unites Us', 'Say Just Words' and 'One Second'. Refreshingly, they have a near-perfect sound/mix through the PA and, with an unusually boisterous and buoyant crowd reaction for a Paradise Lost gig, the band seem to react and reciprocate to the energy on the floor with a dynamic display of their own. I've never seen 'em so animated! I've also never seen guitarist Greg Mackintosh smile so much, indicative that the band themselves are chuffed with such a positive reaction on this special occasion. Nick Holmes is in fine voice, delivering clean and growled vocals with equal passion and, commenting how "fucking hot" it is in the venue, it's not surprising seeing as the place is rife with energy this evening. Ever-changing images projected on a screen at the back of the stage, often relevant to the era from the song being performed, enhance the nostalgic feel of the night and it seems all too short when they exit the stage, pre-encore, after less than an hour. Returning after a cacophony of foot stamping, yells for "more" and general alcohol-fuelled cheering from an enthusiastic audience, the band come back out for four more numbers - the aforementioned 'Rotting Misery', 'One Second' and 'True Belief' before Nick informs everyone that "this is going to be the last song from us Yorkshire cunts". And, sure enough, 'Over the Madness' signifies the end of their set. And what a set it's been. Maybe a tad short, it could be argued, for their twenty fifth anniversary celebrations but I'm sure the majority would've been most satisfied with its content.
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