April 15, 2016 – for most Americans, this was merely the day that income tax filings were due. I had filed mine months before, received my refund, and spent a large chunk of it on a trip to New York City. For what, you may ask? Only the greatest concert of my life, and a day that I never thought I would see – a once in a lifetime chance to experience the grand spectacle that is AVANTASIA, live!
Tobias Sammet brought his all-star project to the United States for just two dates, for the first time in the 15-year history of the band, and they did not disappoint. Performing at the PlayStation Theater in New York City’s Times Square, the band blew the crowd away for a solid three and a half hours, with no opening acts and no intermission.
Covering all seven studio albums from The Metal Opera through the recently released Ghostlights, Tobias and crew took us on a roller coaster of emotion and joy that nobody in attendance is ever going to forget. The musical talent assembled on stage for a live AVANTASIA show is non pareil – Sascha Paeth and Oliver Hartmann on guitar, Michael Rodenberg on keyboards, Andre Neygenfind on bass, and Tobias’ EDGUY bandmate Felix Bohnke on drums were joined by an all-star cast of legendary vocalists:
Michael Kiske (UNISONIC), Ronnie Atkins (PRETTY MAIDS), Eric Martin (MR. BIG), Herbie Langhans (SINBREED), Amanda Somerville, and the great Jørn Lande (ex-MASTERPLAN) all joined Tobias to deliver twenty-three amazing songs spanning the history of the band.
There were epics: “The Wicked Symphony”, “The Scarecrow”, “Stargazers”, “The Great Mystery”, and “Let The Storm Descend Upon You” were presented in their original full lengths and executed to perfection with everyone chipping in on the vocals, including Oliver Hartmann doing double duty on guitar and vocals for many of the songs.
There were ballads: “Farewell”, “Lucifer”, and my personal favorite, “What’s Left Of Me” really resonated with the crowd and helped pace the set. Eric Martin’s performance on “What’s Left Of Me” is something I’ve been looking forward to since The Mystery Of Time was released in 2013, and it was worth every minute that I waited to experience it live.
Michael Kiske sounded like he was in his prime – I saw him with HELLOWEEN twice in the 80’s and hearing his voice come across so perfectly gave me flashbacks to those classic shows, especially when he teamed up with Tobias for “Reach Out For The Light” and “Avantasia”. Jørn’s delivery was spot on, and his growly vocals and showmanship were pure greatness – I’m still finding myself randomly singing “Lucifer”; his performance was that powerful and resonating with me. Ronnie Atkins crushed his songs as only he can with the voice that made PRETTY MAIDS so successful.
Herbie and Amanda provided excellent backing vocals all night, each with a few opportunities to come to the front of the stage on various songs to join the other singers, and very obviously had a blast throughout the entire show, headbanging and slinging their hair around – they were completely into every moment of the set and it showed.
Eric Martin was really the surprise of the evening – he stepped up to the plate and tackled songs that he did not originally sing on – including “The Great Mystery” for the absent Bob Catley with just a few shows of practice under his belt, “Dying For An Angel”, “Twisted Mind”, and “The Wicked Symphony”, and handled them perfectly. I don’t think anyone could have asked for more or better from Eric.
I’m forgetting someone; oh, that’s right. Mr. Tobias Sammet! The man is a tireless workhorse, singing on 21 of the 23 songs performed, and he nailed every single one, including solo performances on the opening song, “Mystery of a Blood Red Rose”, and the closer of the main set, taking over Bob Catley’s vocals on “The Story Ain’t Over”, and absolutely killed it. Tobi is one of my favorite vocalists, and I was in heaven all night long.
Time waits for no man, however, and the end was near. Tobi insisted on finishing out the set, curfew be damned; he’d pay the fine to make sure that we got the full show, and closed out the set with a duet with Amanda on “Lost In Space”, and the grand finale, “Sign Of the Cross/The Seven Angels”, the band’s traditional closer with everyone on stage belting out the classic AVANTASIA songs.
So, it cost about $3,000 in travel expenses for my wife and I to attend this show, and it was worth every penny. Infinity Concerts took a big chance bringing AVANTASIA to New York to play this one, and it paid off in spades. This was THE concert of the year, the decade, and possibly of my entire life. I don’t think anything will ever top the shared experience that we all had that night.
LIVE IMAGES AND WORDS: FRANK ZABER/IMAGES FROM THE DARK