Delain and The Gentle Storm, Marble Factory, Bristol, 22nd October 2015Delain and The Gentle Storm, Marble Factory, Bristol, 22nd October 2015

I don’t suppose many thought that The Gentle Storm – a project put together by all-round genius Arjen Lucassen and ex-The Gathering vocalist Anneke van Giersbergen – would ever tour as such, especially given Lucassen’s dislike of playing live. However, a touring band was assembled, and after a few one-off headline shows The Gentle Storm hit the UK opening for Delain on what made for an extremely enjoyable evening.

Things didn’t start too well with The Gentle Storm’s opener ‘Heart Of Amsterdam’ seemingly swamped with taped orchestration but once the sound was sorted out the band were free to play their hearts out. Much of the attention focused on van Giersbergen’s exceptionally beautiful voice, but she was ably supported by a strong band which also featured Stream Of Passion’s Marcela Bovio on backing vocals. Given the diverse and complicated nature of a lot of the material on ‘The Diary’ it’s no surprise that material was drafted in from earlier parts of van Giersbergen’s varied back catalogue, so the aforementioned ‘Heart Of Amsterdam’, ‘Brightest Light’, ‘The Storm’ and ‘Shores Of India’ were augmented by two songs from The Gathering (‘Strange Machines’ and ‘Eléanor’), one from her work with the Devin Townsend Project (‘Fallout’) and ‘Witnesses’ from her solo project Agua De Annique (which appears to have been dropped as the dates progressed). It was a magnificent performance by all concerned, and one which won over even the most diehard Delain fans.

However, although the consensus amongst the neutrals in the crowd was that they’d have been happy to go home after The Gentle Storm, Delain were never going to make things that easy. Delain these days are a very different proposition from the project keyboard player Martijn Westerholt put together almost a decade ago, and Charlotte Wessels is a very different singer to the unknown he recruited to breathe life into his songs. Delain swiftly became very much a band, and Wessels now commands the stage with the authority of an Amazonian queen, although she still seemed genuinely surprised – and excited – by the adulation of the Bristol crowd on the opening night of their first UK headlining tour. It was refreshing that the band were playing for the sake of playing, rather than to promote a new release, so the set was spread from across their back catalogue with the likes of ‘Frozen’ and ‘Silhouette Of A Dancer’ representing that first ‘Lucidity’ album and the pairing of ‘Tell Me Mechanist’ and ‘Army Of Dolls’ from the most recent ‘The Human Contradiction’ kicking the show off. Delain also had the confidence to gauge the audience reaction to a new song – ‘Turn The Lights Out’ – something few bands seem willing to do these days: it won’t surprise you to know it went down extremely well with what was by now a hugely partisan crowd, in the same way as it’s no surprise that the evening wrapped up with a storming version of ‘We Are The Others’ – their protest against bigotry that unfortunately few bigots will ever get to hear.

© John Tucker October 2015