Following the January 31st release of their latest album, “Hydra,” WITHIN TEMPTATION embarked on the Hydra Tour around Europe. The first show on this tour was at Kaapelitehdas in Helsinki on February 26th, 2014, and the band had nearly filled the venue. The crowd was full of people from all walks of life – from bright-eyed teenagers to hardened old rockers. Even big names like Perttu Kivilaakso and Paavo Lötjönen (APOCALYPTICA) could be seen at the event.
Kaapelitehdas [The Cable Factory] is an event center seldom used for gigs, and not a particularly good place to host a single band event. When the Finnish Metal Expo used to be there, it worked well because the long, narrow corridor hosted a bar in the back and the side room had the expo booths, so people could wander to and from the stage area at their whim. Unfortunately for concert-goers, WITHIN TEMPTATION’s popularity has outgrown The Circus, but hasn’t grown big enough to fill Jäähalli (the Ice Hall: a mid-sized hockey arena). This meant that rather than having a large open space in which to watch the band, the huge crowd was pushed so far back that they might have been at the end of a stadium, but without the benefit of the lift you get from seated spots. Hopefully everyone managed to see the stage, and to compensate a little, there was a runway at the front of the stage so the band could come a bit further into the crowd.
Equally unfortunate was the way the VIP area was set up upstairs, and this was just due to the generally poor nature of the venue. The walls on the balcony are a bit too high and badly positioned against the stage so that essentially, only the first person against the wall can actually see anything. This meant that if you wanted to see the band, you probably had to show up pretty early to find a place to watch. It also didn’t help that if you were close enough to see the stage well, there was a huge hanging set of speakers ensuring that even if you got a good spot, you couldn’t see half of the band for the entirety of the show. But enough complaints – let’s talk about the show itself, because let’s face it; in the moments you could see the stage, it was worth the strain to see over everyone else.
The band was hidden behind a Hydra screen until the opening short video, “Dragon,” began to play right around 21:20. There was no officially-stated start time, claiming it would be only “around 21:00,” so I can’t declare this a late start by any means. When the voice stopped telling its tale about the legend of the mountain dragon, they immediately played “Let Us Burn,” the first track off the “Hydra” album. The stage was adorned with two ’50s-looking machines, several 5-headed hydra spotlights, and the Hydra backdrop. Sharon den Adel (vocals) was also wearing a Princess Amidala-style headdress in the shape of a serpentine dragon, which she removed after the first song was over.
The first third of the show was dominated entirely by new songs off the “Hydra” album. The band’s playing was very solid all around and den Adel sounded absolutely perfect. She is also the most adorable thing ever when thanking the Finnish crowd with what sounded like “kitosh” (rather than kiitos). The second track was the single released in 2013 that featured popular Finnish soprano Tarja Turunen [ex-NIGHTWISH], who unfortunately was not present to sing her half of the song. If I am to complain about anything in their live performance, it’s that they have a lot of songs featuring guest vocalists on their albums, and they played a backing track for every single one of those songs. For each one performed during this show – “Paradise,” “Dangerous,” “And We Run,” and “What Have You Done” in the encore – they never once adjusted the track for the live performance. So, while the songs sounded perfectly good, they almost had the effect of lip sync, only without den Adel’s backing track playing. It comes off as though they were simply playing over the album itself. What I would have loved to see is some variation on the songs specifically for the sake of live performances. For example, den Adel’s voice is undoubtedly strong enough to perform Tarja’s parts in “Paradise.” It would have been really cool to have seen her sing the whole song herself. The thing about the backing track is that it doesn’t allow for much diversion from the album, and makes the songs a little less free and fun than songs that are just performed straight-up manually. A big part of the enjoyment that comes from live shows is seeing how they might tinker with the songs, and you lose this potential when you have a backing track.
Either way, the show was long (around 2 hours!) so there wasn’t a whole lot of talking between songs other than general greetings and appreciation toward the crowd. After the first segment of “Hydra” songs, the screen showed “Mother Maiden,” one of the three short movies released with their 2011 album, “The Unforgiving,” before playing its first single, “Faster.” They followed that up with two more Unforgiving songs before playing “a song for thrill-seekers”: “Dangerous,” a new track that featured Howard Jones [ex-KILLSWITCH ENGAGE] on the album, who was heard now only in the backing track.
The second group of songs ended with “And We Run,” the unusual track that added an element of rap with Xzibit as a guest vocalist (again, heard only in the backing track). Another video then played, this one called the “Elements Intro,” which portrayed some (hard to see from where I was standing) footage of what seemed to be robots with living parts in them. They then played songs from their older albums for the last five songs, including as “See Who I Am” and “My Solemn Hour,” and then left the stage after “Mother Earth.”
They returned for an impressive four-song encore, starting with “Memories” and “What Have You Done,” before Sharon explained how much she loves “Summertime Sadness” by Lana Del Ray and wished she had written it herself. Before the last track, she got the crowd to raise and lower their arms with her before asking them to be her choir for “Ice Queen.”
The band’s look on stage was a bit grungy, with synthetic-looking shirts, but they were for the most part dressed pretty sharply and looked pretty respectable, if you want to word it that way. Den Adel, as usual, was dressed in a rather feminine and flattering way, with a white blazer-type coat and a loose-fit shiny shirt underneath. After a few songs she took off the coat and put on some lower-arm black tasseled sleeves. After the “Elements” video, she switched to a very glamorous, glimmering silver dress with black shear that did something that words cannot explain to her cleavage. And, for the encore, she switched again into a cute short Gothic black dress (that seemed to be unwilling to stay up where it was meant to be). If I may pay a compliment, that woman is absolutely gorgeous and easily looks almost 10 years younger than she is.
Also, the band’s chemistry on stage was wonderful. They interacted with each other a lot, playing very tightly, and den Adel’s voice was as crisp and clear as I’ve ever heard it. For someone whom I’ve read had no official training, she really is wonderful, and she’s come a long way since 1997’s “Enter” album. The guitarists and bassist often walked out to the end of the runway to play for the crowd, and den Adel also made a few appearances out at the end so the crowd could get a good look at her. She also has her own way of being on stage, from her gentle dancing, to the way she moves her arms to older songs like “Mother Earth” and “Ice Queen.” She is sweet and feminine, but she still looks like she belongs in a metal band when she headbangs.
If I’m going to again complain about the venue, the sound quality from the VIP balcony was atrocious – the bass was so heavy and hard it sounded like static (though it got better towards the end). Apparently long cement boxes aren’t great for sound – who knew? Fortunately, those down on the floor said that up near the front of the stage at least, the sound quality was perfect, so it’s good to know that you need only pick your location to get the best of the show.
Overall, while the gig wasn’t at a particularly flattering location, they still managed to pull off a great show with great sound and received in wild cheers from their adoring fans in the end. It’s a shame they’re forced into the one awkward venue that Helsinki offers, because they’ve always sounded great at places like The Circus. Either way, WITHIN TEMPTATION is definitely on the pricier side of shows, but if you love their music, I’m sure you’d consider it money well spent. I, for one, consider a 2-hour show with 20 songs to be a pretty worthwhile, especially when they’re touring a new album and play almost every song off it. Just make sure you show up early enough to find a good viewpoint!
Dragon Intro (short video)
1. Let Us Burn
2. Paradise (What About Us?)
3. Covered by Roses
4. Silver Moonlight
5. Edge of the World
Mother Maiden (short movie)
7. In the Middle of the Night
8. Shot in the Dark
10. Tell Me Why
11. And We Run
Elements Intro (short video)
12. See Who I Am
13. Stand My Ground
14. Our Solemn Hour
16. Mother Earth
18. What Have You Done
19. Summertime Sadness (Lana Del Rey cover)
20. Ice Queen
Written by Bear Wiseman
Photos by Jana Blomqvist