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Lacuna Coil, Moonspell, Passenger, Poison Black
Astoria,London 27 December 2003

Organising a gig just two days after Christmas didn't appear on the surface to have been the smartest of moves but it certainly didn't prevent the crowds from turning up to see this excellent line-up. The Astoria was packed and with G.A.Y. moving to New Years Eve, it meant that Metal was back big time at the venue and no silly curfew for a change.

Having travelled back from Manchester in the afternoon I unfortunately didn't arrive in time to catch Poisonblack, who were one of the bands I was most looking forward to seeing. However I didn't miss much of a performance if what friends told me was true.

Next up was the side-project from Anders Friden of In Flames - Passenger. Without a proper introduction or intro tape, Anders and the other guys just sort of wandered on stage, introduced themselves and started playing.

The sound wasn't great but despite the characters on stage, the crowd remained fairly unresponsive. So much so, that halfway through the set Anders said something to the effect "We know that you're all waiting for Moonspell and Lacuna Coil. Thanks for giving us 1/2 hour of your life". I don't know if the band played any warm-up gigs in Sweden before they came out, but this was just the 3rd gig of the tour and things didn't seem to be happening on stage. I'm sure that they can do better than this.

To be honest I quite like Moonspell, but they are not a band that fire any great emotions in me. I spent the time in the upstairs bar from where I could hear a good part of the set. However I didn't hear anything to tempt me back inside the hall and I quite enjoyed the breather before the main event.

Of course any visit to the UK by the lovely Christina Scabbia is enough to get the hearts of many a male metalhead beating just a little faster than usual and this occasion was no exception. When the lights went down at just after 10 past 10 and the large LC symbol was projected onto the backdrop, huge cheers went up from male and female alike and the intro music (taken from 'Nightmare before Christmas') played over the P.A. Even bigger cheers went up when the band appeared, though the loudest were reserved for the appearance of Christina, who arrived last of all.

Launching straight into the appropriately entitled 'Swamped', it was clear that there were major problems with the mix, which was extremely muddy, at least as far as the instruments were concerned, though the voices of both Christina and Andrea could be heard clearly above the mess. Things got a little better for 'To Live is To Hide', but still remained very bass heavy, at least from where I was standing and didn't improve any further throughout the rest of the set. The band moved quickly from song to song, thanking the crowd each time though the between song spiel had a distinct Americanised feel to it. Call me a cynical old fart, but Christina calling the crowd 'muthafuckas' didn't have a real ring of authenticity to it.

After a triple dose of Comalies material, they rather interestingly chose to play 'Half Life' from the E.P. of the same name, but the subtlety of that too was rather spoilt by the muddy sound, however for 'Cold Heritage' male vocalist Andrea, the drummer and most importantly the bassist, left the stage. With just the two guitarists and samples for accompaniment Christina delivered the song perfectly and for once we could all appreciate the music properly.

The full band returned for 'Senzafine', which once again sounded less than stellar, but the set closer of 'Tightrope' was great and really got the crowd going. Barely fifty minutes had passed and the band had disappeared off stage. Fortunately they returned to play the two best tracks off Comalies, with Christina explaining in between that she had been suffering from a head cold and there had been a chance that the gig might have been cancelled. "But you are my medicine' she told the crowd. The crowd certainly had an effect, because she sang just as well as I've heard her do on previous visits to London.

And so, for the second time in just over a year, Italy's finest had treated a pretty much sold out Astoria to a set of just over one hour in length. I'm sure I'm not the only one who would love them to get the opportunity to play just a little longer - at least long enough to fit in some tracks from 'In A Reverie'. Come back soon guys ... and bring a different sound engineer with you next time.

Setlist: Intro (Nightmare Before Christmas) / Swamped / To Live is to Hide / Entwined / Self Deception / Humane / Half Life / Cold Heritage / Senzafine / When a Dead Man Walks / Tightrope Encores: Heaven's a Lie / Daylight Dancer

Review: Charlie Farrell

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