Saturday 13th January 2007
P60 in Amstelveen, Netherlands
I hadn't heard of Dutch band Trisomy before tonight, though I gather they've been on the live scene in their home country for a few years now including support slots for both Epica and After Forever. Self-professed goth-rock-metallers, they take to the stage around 9.30pm and are sole support act this evening. Their music immediately reminds me of 'Mandylion'-era Gathering and while singer Eva Kokken lacks the range of Anneke van Giersbergen, she holds her own with a powerful vocal performance. The rest of the band are individually talented musicians and, collectively, Trisomy put on a professional show in their allocated time on stage. However, as tight, well written, and well performed the music is, there's little stylistic variation between songs and the band will probably struggle finding greater success, at least globally, while sitting within the parameters of the ever competitive goth metal genre. Having said that, they are an entertaining band and, with a little progression in their songwriting, certainly have the potential to be bigger.
During the past few years, The Gathering have been incessantly ignored by the British music press. Perhaps this partially explains why they've only ever played a handful of UK dates during their long and varied career as one of the most pioneering, influential and original bands on the scene. Transcending their heavier goth metal roots of the early nineties, The Gathering have evolved over the years to defy generic categorisation, with each album covering a wide array of styles from the Floyd-influenced experimentalism on 1998's stunning double-CD 'How To Measure a Planet' to the trip-hop leanings of 2003's 'Souvenirs'. Perhaps such progression has been hard to swallow for the often fickle metal press in the UK, as has also sporadically been the case with Anathema, but the fact remains - The Gathering are one of those rare and genuinely progressive bands. With such a lack of UK tour dates (their last was in 2003), it was with great disappointment that during a gigging vacation in the Netherlands during April last year, I learned their planned show at The Paradiso in Amsterdam had been postponed due to illness. However, back in Holland for a few days in January 2007, I had another opportunity to see The Gathering live...
Appearing on stage around 10.30pm to a near capacity crowd in Amstelveen's P60 venue, The Gathering launch into 'Shortest Day', the catchy and up tempo opening track from latest album 'Home' and then 'In Between', also from 'Home'. Next up is 'Liberty Bell' from 'How To Measure a Planet', a song that excels in the live environment with its infectious melodies and dynamic prog-rock groove, followed by 'Probably Built in the Fifties', the atmospherically titled track from disc 2 of 'How To Measure...'. The remainder of the lengthy and varied set includes a well balanced mix between new and (not too)-old as every song played is greeted with ubiquitous applause and cheers by the large audience present in the P60. It is slightly disappointing not to hear anything from the underrated 'Nighttime Birds' album, but I guess you can't have it all! The set climaxes with 'Travel', a truly awesome composition, with its lengthy keyboard-led outro as epic and atmospheric a piece of music as anything written by Pink Floyd. The song builds into a crescendo of musical intensity with Anneke van Giersbergen's impressively powerful and emotionally rousing vocals as drummer Hans Rutten pounds his kit with a real passion. It is clear from observing band members' facial expressions during 'Travel', and other songs in the set, that every one of them is feeling the emotions of the music they play - there is a genuine sincerity to The Gathering's performance. There's then an encore of three tracks from 'Mandylion' - 'Eleanor', 'In Motion #1' and 'Strange Machines' - proving they can still heavy-it-up and 'be metal' when they want to with each of these songs sounding as fresh and having as much impact as they had back in 1995.
The Gathering are undoubtedly something special and make music with wide reaching appeal - not in the commercial sense, but rather in terms of being able to attract and sustain a large and varied fanbase. Tonight, audience members cover a range of ages from the casual dresser to the axiomatic metal fan, though all enthusiastic in their appreciation for this much loved band. Anneke van Giersbergen is one of the greatest frontwomen in the music business and with one of the widest vocal ranges. From the tranquil, serene and almost lullaby-esque mid-section of her singing in 'Waking Hour' to the powerful rock-metal bombast of her voice during 'Strange Machines', she doesn't miss a note throughout The Gathering's entire set and delivers a flawless performance. René Rutten is a skilled, intelligent guitarist with a diverse repertoire of playing styles and inventive techniques including the efficacious use of an e-bow to produce atmospheric sustain. Hans Rutten's impressively tight and highly accomplished drumming ranges from the subtly complex and intricate trip-hop beats of 'Even the Spirits Are Afraid' to bursts of metal power drumming during 'Eleanor'. Keyboardist Frank Boeijen, situated at the back of the stage, is perhaps the most subdued member of the band performance wise, though his musical presence is undeniable through the epic, ambient and modern sounds created in his playing. Bassist Marjolein Kooijman, who has now been in the band for around 3 years, appears much more comfortable on stage than when I last saw The Gathering at the Melkweg in Amsterdam and at the Progpower Europe festival back in October 2004, and performs with more confidence and greater delectation. Collectively, The Gathering are overwhelmingly stunning tonight and provide an emotionally captivating, incredible musical performance. Absolutely mind-blowingly awesome and veritably sublime.
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