THE GATHERING + PALE FOREST (Madrid, March 22, 2003)

Another personal fave band of mine on recent times is The Gathering. So I couldn't miss them on this tour. I have to say I missed Pale Forest, this Norwegian band that plays a mix of dark oriented pop/rock. Blame it on the "accessibility" of the venue as far as parking is concerned. :-( r

So at 10 pm The Gathering kicked off their show with Golden Grounds, a song from their lattest album Souvenirs. We could see Anneke playing some guitars on this one, (later on we found out she does it in some more songs as well), and of course singing in top form level. It was surprising that after the initial ovation when the band appeared onstage, the audience was silent and so they remained after the song ended, not because they were cold or didn't like what they saw/heard, no way, but because we all got amazed of the ability of the band to get the crowd in the mood they want us to be. Excellent start for the show. Even The Spirits Are Afraid followed leading us all more and more into this triprock (as the band fancy to call their music nowadays) experience. The sound was crystal clear through the show, the lights were very suitable for the mood and the audience was really receptive to the somehow difficult proposal the band has to offer in these days of metal madness. I have to remark here that, to dismiss everyone's fears, The Gathering offered a quite balanced show, in which, obviously, they played a lot of tracks from their new album, but also delighted us with some much loved classics from the past, like Nightime Birds, Leaves or Eleanor, which, alongside Monsters from their latest release were the heavier songs of the evening, to the enjoyment of long time fans like me.

The band was on incredible top form, specially Anneke which, I must say is one of the better female singers I've seen live in many years. Not only she sings great, but she's also very friendly onstage, (not to mention her sensual dances and her hot look), but also the rest of the band plays very consistently. And that's something not easy to achieve when your music is full of samplers and electronic driven sounds. Hans made the drums sound natural and rocking, Frank does a really good work on keyboards filling the air with atmospheres and dealing with all the prerecorded tripping loops, (mind you, despite of the way to describe them, they don't sound techno at all), Hugo is consistent on bass and a special mention is needed for René, who is always on a personal quest for getting new sounds out of his guitar, making clear one can use the effects and processors technology in a really creative way, swithcing his playing from lead to enviromental role smoothly and without drastic changes.

Like I said, the audience was very receptive and welcomed the bands new sound. It was nice for a change enjoy of a concert in which, exceptions made of the heavier tracks mentioned above, it was not a question of energy, but a matter of creativity and, dare I say, spiritual inspiration. I personally digged a lot Spirits, These Good People, or the nice ballad You Learn About It, which they played on their first encore alongside a shocking performance of Black Light District, from their last year EP. The final Frail was something I will keep in my memory for a long time, for sure.

All in all a great show from one of the most innovative bands on the present European rock scene. Little was one to suspect from their early works like Mandylion (which is to yours truly one of the essential classics in doom/gothic metal of the 90's) the evolution this band would seek after getting more and more enviromental, to what they do nowadays, and let me tell you they do it quite well. Sure there were already a lot of dark atmospheres on those previous early works, but the band has matured wisely and gratefully, at least to these ears. If you're in for new paths for rock to develop, The Gathering is one live show you have to experience once in your life at least!

Setlist (maybe not in exact running order):

Golden Grounds
Even the Spirits are Afraid
Nighttime Birds
These Good People
Red is a Slow Colour
Broken Glass

First Encore

You Learn About It
Black Light District

Second Encore


Review and photos by Jorge Antonaya,
(c)2003 RockUnited.Com