Live Review : Kamelot + Evergrey + Visions of Atlantis @ Academy Club in Manchester on March 21st 2019

I have to confess to being a tad over-excited this evening as this is power metal royalty Kamelot’s first ever visit to Manchester. For a band of their stature and longevity that fact is at best an oversight and at worst rather embarrassing, though to be honest not wholly unexpected. You see power metal acts struggle to comprehend that the UK stretches beyond the north circular and visits north of the border (which in their minds lies around Watford) are a rare occurrence. Which explains why the crowd are up for it the moment Visions of Atlantis hit the stage. There is no denying there is a distinct feel of Nightwish in the air but the vocal duelling between Clémentine Delainey and Michele Guetuele manage to keep them firmly on the right side of originality. Big is very much the order of the day here, big swirling keyboards, big choruses and big lung capacity as those aforementioned choruses are belted out. Subtlety has indeed taken the night off as this un-ashamedly bombastic, but it is also highly entertaining and they earn every inch of the rapidly filling Club Academy’s adoration.

Evergrey are the archetypal ‘always the support act, never the headliner’ and they seem to have cursed by some vengeful spirit to always hunt the lower escalones of festival bills and touring packages. I’ll seen them countless times over the years but I don’t think I have ever seen them perform more than a short truncated warm up set. And actually that is all rather a shame as what they do they do very well. They are on the slickly commercial end of progressive metal, more Journey than Dream Theaterbut the (short) set we get tonight is tight, melodic and highly enjoyable. As you can guess from a band that have been operating at this level for over twenty-five years they know how to interact with a crowd that is not theirs and also how to perform effectively in a small confined space hemmed in by another act’s shrouded equipment. Tom S. Englund is a great frontman, who exudes charisma and works the crowd to the point where you could be fooled into thinking they were headlining. Great fun and as ever left me desperate to see what they could do with a full length set.

The Club Academy stage is tiny, low and has a bloody great pillar in the way two thirds of the way across, yet somehow Kamelot have managed to fit an arena sized setup into its tiny confides. Power Metal acts play cavernous halls on the continent but in this country struggle to fill tiny clubs which explains why most acts seem reticent to play more than one show over here. However whilst small there is still an highly enthusiastic British audience for Metal’s most grandiloquent and over-blown of genres and on this rare northern appearance Kamelot are treated as returning heroes. They play route 101 power metal in that its keyboard drenched, instantly catchy, full of euphoric guitar solos and wonderfully pompous and whilst as a die-hard fan I am horrendously biased they are stupendously fantastic tonight. They may be playing to a far smaller crowd than they are used to but we get the full unadulterated Kamelot spectacular packed with showmanship and pizazz, in-fact they come across as such consummate professionals that they would probably give their all even if the audience was one single person.

This tour may be to promote last years “Shadow Theory” but Kamelot know what their audience want and play only three songs from it, instead taking us on a perfectly balanced jaunt through their highly impressive back catalogue. We get the fan-friendly scream-alongs of ‘The Black Halo’, ‘When The Lights Are Down and “Epica” sublime 'Centre of the Universe’alongside the more complex role play spectacular of 'Sacrimony (Angel of Afterlife) ‘which sees them joined by both honorary sixth member Lauren Hart and Visions of Atlantis’ Clémentine Delainey for a tour de force of traded vocals and stage theatrics. However track of the night for me is, as ever, the stunning ‘March of Mephisto which sees Lauren perfectly immolate the recorded versions bloodcurdling screeches. We end with 'Liar Liar, which consists of magnificent vocal pyrotechnics from Tommy Karevik and a musical finale fit for a festival headline set. We even get a breathless promise by guitarist, founder and musical powerhouse Thomas Youngblood to visit Manchester again and you know what, I may be a sucker but they looked like they had so much fun tonight that I actually believe him…..

Words by Stewart Lucas
Photography by Johann Wierzbicki