Melbourne’s Forum Theatre was ready to host a show like no other, a metal opera of gargantuan proportions. Avantasia is the brainchild of Tobias Sammet and he has brought this juggernaut to Australia for two massive shows. As the fans started streaming in, I picked a vantage point up close and got ready to have my foundations rocked to the core. You Shook Me All Night Long by our very own AC/DC was turned up to eleven and acted as a support act as such. The fans singing along getting their voices primed for a night that would certainly test even the most seasoned live music fans. With a run time of approximately 3 hours, it will take a lot of stamina to keep up with the Avantasia entourage, but I knew everyone in the room would give it a red-hot go!
Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 (Ode To Joy) built the tension, you could feel the anticipation hanging in the air, and as the lights dimmed the crowd roared, alive with the excitement of seeing this tour come to fruition in front of their eyes. Tobias and his all-star band blasted into Ghost In The Moon, the stage turned into a multi-level musical playground with an enormous screen showing album covers and the creepiest of illustrations. Tobias was instantly engaging with the audience, a most charismatic frontman, he was decked out in one of his trademark jackets completed with cap, bandana, and scarf. While the cap didn’t last long the rest of his ensemble remained unchanged all evening, he was witty and a great storyteller, winning us over within minutes. Moving on we saw the first of our guest artists, Ronnie Atkins who sang Starlight and Book Of Shallows. Vocally brilliant Ronnie sang with conviction, almost spitting out the lyrics as he powered through the tracks. Tobias popping in and out to accompany him as he did with all the special guests over the course of the show. The Raven Child was up next and singer extraordinaire Jorn Lande was welcomed with a thunderous applause, his voice tremendous and while he barely seemed to move his mouth his range was incredible. The rear screen turned to fire as Tobias and Jorn ripped out Lucifer, and it was one to behold, blindingly brilliant.
Enter the voice of progressive metal himself Geoff Tate, and he has never sounded better. Dynamic in his delivery, Geoff has the most expressive and recognisable voice in the industry, his opening song Alchemy was sung with Tobias and wow did they complement each other superbly. After chatting with Geoff recently he said it was one of his favourites to perform and now I can see why. Then the spinetingling perfection of Invincible, accompanied only by Miro Rodenberg on keys, Geoff and Tobias left us speechless with this beautiful ballad, arms aloft the crowd swaying in unison, a highlight of the night for me, so much so I can still feel the chills. Reach Out For The Light and Moonglow were perfect additions to the setlist and it was time backing/lead vocalist Adrienne Cowan’s to shine, this pocket rocket was bloody sensational and for a tiny lady she had such a bold booming voice. Channelling her inner demon on speed dial she could change the tone of a song in an instant. The cover of 80’s classic Maniac saw Eric Martin blast into life, smashing out this killer tune with gusto, the crowd throwing themselves into it loving every second. The heat was certainly starting to rise and Dying For An Angel had the punters bouncing in approval, the backdrop showing a skeleton playing a violin which was quite impressive. Eric Martin was having the time of his life; he was in fine form vocally and his comedic side showed several times giving us all a belly laugh.
Bob Catley was the master of Lavender and The Story Ain’t Over, Tobias did mention Bob was one of his favourite singers and he definitely didn’t disappoint. Felix Bohnke was behind the kit for the duration of this epic performance and he was a demon on the drums. His timing and playing skills were perfection, add to this his stamina to play out a three-hour show and make it look likes child’s play. He took to his feet and roused the crowd with hands clapping in the air as the intro to the Herculean epic The Scarecrow rang out. Metal horns were up and fists were pumping, the fans revelling in its brilliance and Jorn and Tobias working the stage liked seasoned professionals. Eric joined Jorn for Promised Land and then it was a battle of the voices with Eric and Geoff duelling on Twisted Mind. The crowd had their singing voices primed for the whoa whoas at the beginning and it was sublime from start to finish, a highlight for all in attendance. Geoff stayed on for the blistering Avantasia and guitarists Sascha Paeth and Olli Hartman shredded up a storm, keeping the show running like clockwork all night. Backing/lead vocalist Herbie Langhans was spectacular, he and Adrienne worked the stage remarkably well, their sensational voices keeping depth to the music which gave the operatic feel of many levels. Let The Storm Descend On You, Master of The Pendulum and Shelter From The Rain all made the extensive setlist which totalled out at 24 songs.
Mystery Of A Blood Red Rose had Bob back on vocals and the punters went crazy, loud as hell all night, screaming back replies when they were asked “Are you with me Melbourne!!”. Adrienne stepped back up for Lost In Space and didn’t we love it. Tobias engaging every second, I was blown away with his stage presence, a born entertainer. Andre Neygenfind had the bass line covered, the band were incredibly tight, exceptional musicians and clearly experts in their fields. After a brief reprieve giving us time to catch our breath they were back and straight into Farewell and then reaching celestial heights with Sign Of The Cross/The Seven Angels. Fists punching the air on autopilot the hoards relishing in this final song of the night which had all members of the huge production back on stage, then with thanks a plenty and waves goodbye this monumental show concluded.
Tobias Sammet you are a musical genius, your powerhouse vocals wowed me all night, and your high energy and endurance was astounding. Avantasia, you exceeded every expectation I had and then some, it was a show that knew no limits and pushed musical boundaries way beyond where I thought possible. Let’s hope we see you back here sooner rather than later, I for one will be there in a heartbeat!
Review Contributed by Cassandra Hale