A Updated

Tonight was a brilliant show with both bands at the top of their game

Manchester: Academy 2 – 21 April 2023

There are parallels to be drawn between the two bands on display tonight. Both bands are touring with new singers in place (Ambre Vourvahis for Xandria and Diana Leah for Delain) and both have recently released new albums. For me, in both cases the new records are amongst the best that have been released by either band, but it would be interesting to see how Delain in particular would cope with the loss of such a crucial and popular member as Charlotte Wessels and how the fans of both bands would react to the new line-ups.

Xandria hit the stage first and from my vantage point the sound is surprisingly good for this venue and the vocals are clear and concise right from the start. Fears around the new vocalist are immediately allayed. Ambre Vourvahis has an amazing voice and is a top quality performer with all eyes immediately on her. The band perform seven songs tonight, opening with ‘You Will Never Be Our God’ from the new album ‘The Wonders Still Awaiting’. ‘Reborn’ follows and is an apt choice for a band who have undergone numerous changes over time. It’s beautifully performed and it’s clear that the new band are of the highest quality. Marco Heubaum prowls the stage with a big smile on his face and looks completely reinvigorated. Hopefully he has found a group of people on the same wavelength as him both personally and professionally and this group of musicians can continue to produce more new music that is as good as their most recent release.

‘Ghosts’ follows and Ambre proves equally adept at bringing out the Death Metal growl when required and can switch effortlessly to the operatic side of things when necessary. ‘Nightfall’ is the first song of the night that isn’t from the new album but there is no drop in quality and the switch to the older classics is seamless. ‘Two Worlds’ slows things down a touch to start with, and while the use of tapes is always necessary for Symphonic Metal bands it’s really unobtrusive tonight and is simply the icing on the cake for another fabulous song. ‘The Wonders Still Awaiting’ and ‘My Curse Is My Redemption’ close out proceedings of an all too short set and it speaks volumes that the band are so confident of their new record that six of the seven songs performed tonight are from ‘The Wonders Still Awaiting’ album. I spoke to Marco and Ambre after the show to thank them for the ‘Your Stories I’ll Remember’ song from the new record which I found to be incredibly moving and hopefully they will bring it into the set next time they headline. A great show from a band of top quality musicians.

Delain are tonight’s headliners and the crowd are watching Diana Leah with interest. Some of the fans around me have only just realised that Charlotte is no longer with the band and seem genuinely shocked, so clearly there are big boots to fill for the new singer.
The set opener is ‘The Cold’ from the new album ‘Dark Waters’ and it’s soon clear we are in safe hands. Diana has a big smile on her face and while her style is different from Charlotte it’s immediately clear that she has a huge range as she effortlessly changes key during this challenging song. The next test is crowd favourite ‘Suckerpunch’ and it’s evident that there are no problems with the older material either. Now that’s settled we can concentrate on the show.

The new incarnation of the band contains both new and old members with Martijn Westerholt as the one constant over the last twenty-one years. Tonight they are all incredibly comfortable with each other and turn in a performance they can be proud of. Certainly, the audience are totally on board and are high energy from start to finish. New and old songs are performed seamlessly with the likes of ‘Burning Bridges’ and ‘Invidia’ receiving the same reception as new material like ‘Moth To A Flame’. The defining moment of the show is the outstanding performance of ‘Cordell’ which is the part of the set where the crowd seem to fully embrace the new singer. For me the new material is outstanding and hopefully the band continue in this vein, but as always the set finishes finish with ‘We Are The Others’, a song born out of the brutal murder of Sophie Lancaster and a piece of work that will always be this band’s defining masterwork, embraced as it is by so many people. I spoke to some people around me who had travelled from Newcastle, Blackpool and even Swansea for this show and all were impressed with the new line up and feel the band are in safe hands.

Tonight was a brilliant show with both bands at the top of their game and I hope to see them both again soon.

Graeme Wright

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