So let’s set the scene – Arsenal have just defeated the reigning champions Wigan Athletic in a nail biter of a penalty shootout at the home of football, Wembley Stadium, and as 80,000 people file out of the stadium a completely different audience is queuing up just next door at Wembley Arena for Dutch symphonic metal band Within Temptation. It was a quite a scene seeing the red of Arsenal and the blue of Wigan contrasting with the sea of black from the WT fans!
Within Temptation have toured the UK before, but this was their first outing at Wembley Arena. Sure, the dressing rooms look dated and it’s not the country’s top concert venue anymore, but if those hallowed corridors could speak they would talk of all the legends that have played there from The Beatles to The Who though to Pearl Jam and Iron Maiden. During our interview with lead guitarist Ruud Jolie he mentioned that despite its age and condition, Wembley is still legendary.
So onto the gig; in the back of our minds, there was always a concern that a band like Within Temptation – who let’s be honest are not the most main-steam of bands – wouldn’t be able to fill an arena like Wembley. But our fears weren’t warranted as the turnout was incredible, with all the standing tickets sold out and most of the seated tickets also gone. And of course with that came an atmosphere you can only get in a big stadium. There was a buzz throughout the night as it felt like metal had found a new home in the capital.
The evening kicked off with support act Delain. As support bands go, Delain were perfect to whet the appetites of the crowd; a lot of their influences are similar to Within Temptation, their keyboardist Martijn Westerholt was WT’s keyboardist in the past and as strong female voices go, lead singer Charlotte Wessels is well on her way to be at the same level as the likes of Sharon den Adel. Delain were only on stage for 9 songs, and despite their warm reception, their performance seemed rushed. There was a good spread of old and new material – we particularly enjoyed Stardust from the new album The Human Contradiction – and the whole crowd went wild for their closing number (and fan favourite) We are the Others. Based on this performance, we wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Delain headlining in the not too distant future.
On to Within Temptation…they arrived on the stage with a bang, literally! As flames shot up from the front of the stage, they started their set with the first track from their new album Hydra, Let Us Burn. This was the first we’d seen of the stage and it was a sight to behold with two giant dragon heads encased a screen which played the music videos as the band performed. As this is the Hydra tour, there were no fewer than 8 tracks from the album. When we reviewed the album last month, we said how the collaborations were a big part of the allure of the album and the live crowd agreed, with the loudest pop for And We Run (with Xzibit), and Dangerous (with Howard Jones). A small part of us wanted a surprise appearance by Xzibit, but it was not to be!
Despite the night being Hydra heavy, a lot of classic Within Temptation tracks were played – Angels was warmly received as was Mother Earth. We get chills whenever we hear Our Solemn Hour, but to hear it live with Churchill’s voice booming though the arena is an experience we won’t forget in a long time
The encore proved to be the best part of the night as some of Within Temptation’s best tracks were saved for last. Beginning with, arguably, what put Within Temptation on the map with What Have you Done, following on from that came a haunting acoustic version of Whole World is Watching. Die-hard fans know about Within Temptation’s hugely underrated Q-Music Sessions covers album, with den Adel even saying to the live crowd that they don’t really like doing covers…but regardless, we were treated to their version of Lana Del Ray’s Summertime Sadness, and if for any reason you doubted den Adel’s vocal range, this alone proves it. The night ended with Ice Queen, which definitely left the crowd happy.
There were no great surprises on the night – we expected an incredible performance and that’s what we got. Den Adel even pulled a bit of a Beyoncé, with multiple outfit changes over the course of the two hour set; we will say that purists will be delighted to hear that they involved a lot of leather!
Written By: Omar Malick
Photos By: Kayla Elliot