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The Scala, London 29 September 2004

My biggest fear was not that this gig would not sell out, but rather that the sound at the Scala would be disappointing. It actual fact I needed have worried as the absence of a support act, meant that the sound was as well-mixed as I've ever heard at this 700 capacity venue. It was certainly great from my vantage point near the sounddesk and you could hear Sharon den Adel and the band perfectly, even if getting a good view was rather less straightforward.

I don't think that the band were sure exactly what to expect, and after several failed attempts to launch their 'Mother Earth ' album in the UK, perhaps they weren't convinced that the latest (Sanctuary Records) one would be any better than the previous attempts. However by the time they entered on stage, they must have seen how full the venue was and the big roar that greeted them must have blown away further doubts. There was a good number of the crowd who had already seen the band at one of the big European festivals (or on DVD) and the band were in fact playing to an audience who knew the lyrics to most of the songs and who danced, clapped and swayed with the music on cue.

The band were on top form, despite having been off the road in recent months while they put the finishing touches to the follow up to 'Mother Earth'. Sure they have made the odd festival apperance, but it has been 15 months or so since they last played a venue of this size. In fact the stage sized rather restricted the props which they could employ, so they had to make do with just a big screen behind them which showed a serious of projections, mainly of nature scenes and two plinths either side of the stage which the guitarists and vocalist Sharon den Adel used to good effect. I guess that we will never get to see the bridge or the inflatable forest which the band have used on previous tours.

While guitarist Ruud Jolie and keyboard player Martijn Spierenburg sport spikey hairdos and look slightly more Gothic than band leader Robert Westerholt and laidback bassist Jeroen, whatever poses they throw, they are never going to take the audience's attention away from Sharon, who looked stunning in a crocodile-skin corset and frilly dress. Right from the moment that she appeared from backstage after the intro to 'Deceiver of Fools', she had the crowd in the palm of her hand and the audience sang along, clapped and waved under her command.

With the 'Mother Earth' album to promote, the bulk of the set was taken from that album, with only the single track 'Restless' from the band's debut disk 'Enter'. One or two songs were slightly re-arranged - most significantly 'Dark Wings' and of course there were several new(ish) tunes, destined for the band's upcoming album 'The Silent Force'. Even so, a good number of the crowd appeared to be familiar with tunes like 'Orff' and 'Jane Doe', which have been part of the band's live set for a year or so, so it seems likely that a good number of the crowd had already seen the band playing live in Europe.

There were numerous highlights, including the appearance of Sharon amongst the crowd on the balcony along the side of the venue during the epic 'The Promise', the softer ballads such as 'Our Farewell' and 'Never Ending Story' (performed acoustically), during which is Sharon's voice seemed better than ever, not to forget the perfect finale of the powerful 'Ice Queen'.

I might have liked to have heard one or two more of the older tunes, but in the circumstances they played a set which was perfect for the audience. Around 80 minutes in length and featuring all their big European hit singles as well as some excellent tasters of the upcoming album. The crowd certainly loved them and when they return they will surely be playing a bigger venue.

Setlist: Deceiver of Fools / Caged / Mother Earth / Our Farewell / Orff / Promise / Dark Wings / Restless / Jane Doe / Foresaken / Running Up that Hill

Encores: See Who I Am / Never Ending Story / Ice Queen

Review: Charlie Farrell

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