The Gathering - LIVE: Lakei, Helmond 2011

Ghost Ride Tour
September 17 -- 22:00-23:30
Capacity 800
Support: Day Six

The expectation for tonight's show was that it would be a quiet one, and it seems people were right. Helmond, a small town right next to Eindhoven, does not have the drawing appeal of its much larger and more popular neighbour. Nor does it have the draw of Amersfoort, where The Gathering had played the day before to a rather strong crowd. Tonight, they play in front of maybe only 200-odd people, resulting in a very intimate atmosphere for the fans, but perhaps a letdown for the band themselves.

Despite this, the evening becomes an odd and unusual one. Whilst new singer Silje Wergeland usually does all the talking to the crowd in English, there is a slight change this evening. Bassist Marjolein Kooijman, herself a recent member as of 2004, does most of the talking tonight, mostly in her native Dutch. She engages the audience with very upbeat banter, mostly regarding a crowd participant called Mario who cheered rather like an ape. "Only in Helmond do you hear that sound." Marjolein tells the crowd, to Silje's reply; "I feel like I'm in the jungle."

As such the pressure seems off for the band's Norwegian frontwoman. Still, even two years on from her joining, all eyes continue to be on Silje and whether she can do justice to the songs originally performed by her predecessor. The set does seem very geared towards songs that make the most of her softer and slightly lighter vocal style. There are some very noteworthy exclusions from the set list – prolific songs such as Liberty Bell, Monsters, and most of all Strange Machines don't make an appearance, replaced with more unusual cuts such as Analog Park, Great Ocean Road and Herbal Movement. In fact, there's a strange bias towards songs from if_then_else, of all albums. That being said, nowhere in the set do any of these songs feel like filler, coming across more as interesting and exotic tracks that may have been forgotten over the years.

The end result is a set of songs that, for the most part, Silje truly excels with. There are one or two songs that don't quite suit her delivery (Leaves being a definite example, not quite having the intensity of its original version), but these are overshadowed by the ones that she more than suits. Ultimately, Silje's graceful voice is enough to make the crowd forget there ever was a singer before her. This is exemplified by the startlingly powerful performance of Great Ocean Road, a previously obscure track from How To Measure A Planet? that feels like it now belongs to the new singer. After two years, Silje seems truly comfortable in her role, and gives the kind of charismatic performance only hinted at whilst she was still in Octavia Sperati.

In the end, though, it is all about the present and the future. The West Pole is neglected to an extent – missing from tonight's show is A Constant Run, usually a regular feature, leaving only the cold, dreamy No One Spoke and upbeat rocker All You Are. However the arguable centrepiece of tonight's show is Heroes For Ghosts, in all its glory, giving the band the opportunity to really show what next year has in store for their fans. It is perhaps an ambitious move to play such a lengthy song at over ten minutes, especially given not all fans are yet familiar with it, but then The Gathering's fanbase have probably gotten used to such moves from the band by now. Their faith in the band is rewarded, with the new song being one of the highlights of the night.

For a band so known for both their gloomy and dreamy takes on rock music, both band and crowd seem in very good spirits. Marjolein gets some screams for Slayer after (presumably) asking if anyone likes metal, before the band break into the classic Mandylion track Eléanor, whilst a call for an encore is simply replaced by a strange but hilarious chorus of ape sounds (this time from half the crowd). Closing with the double-whammy of On Most Surfaces and the emotional Travel, The Gathering make a terrific, friendly and intimate show out of what could have been a quiet and unremarkable evening. With a now very stable line up and a new album on its way, The Gathering look set to make a real comeback in the new year.

“ charismatic performance ”

Setlist: Herbal Movement / Saturnine / Shot To Pieces / Leaves / Analog Park / Great Ocean Road / Broken Glass / Heroes For Ghosts / In Motion #1 / Eléanor / No One Spoke / All You Are // On Most Surfaces / Travel

Written by James Donovan
More: 2011, Female-fronted, Gigs, Gothic,

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