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Epica - Live in Worcester Massachusetts
Written by Sara Letourneau   
Saturday, 13 February 2010

Epica - Live in Concert

January 30th  2010

Worcester Massachusetts / The Palladium

 

"Earlier today I was freezing my Dutch ass off. But you guys have definitely warmed me up!" Simone Simons during the Worcester show, commenting on the frigid temperatures that day

 

Simone Simons of Epica

 

If anyone had told me one year ago that I would be at a sold-out Epica concert this January in Worcester, Massachusetts, I would have thought they were crazy. Worcester is not the best place to be in the wintertime. It’s a bit of a drive for anyone who lives closer to Boston (including myself); and when other Massachusetts towns get a dusting of snow, Worcester gets walloped with the white stuff. So making a trek up there during this time of year is, well, risky.

Well, on January 30, it sure was cold – but it didn’t snow. That meant I could safely make the drive to and from Worcester – and go to the Epica show!

Worcester was the fourth stop on Epica’s North American headlining tour to support the band’s new album "Design Your Universe". It was also the second of four sold-out shows in a row. No one had to tell me this; the upstairs room of the Palladium was packed when I got there around 9:00 PM. I had originally bought VIP tickets for the show, but due to circumstances that were out of my control, I had to miss the meet-and-greet. I didn’t let that dampen my spirits, however.

My first 15 minutes at the Palladium were spent listening to – or, rather, enduring – the Canadian melodic death metal band Threat Signal. Most of the fans there didn’t seem to mind Threat Signal much. The band had a lot of energy and seemed happy to be there. I’m not a death metal fan, though, and Threat Signal’s discordant pummeling and screaming doesn’t match Epica’s theatrical style at all. So for the short amount of time I watched Threat Signal, I kept asking myself, "What are these guys doing here?"

Blackguard is also on the bill for the North American leg of the "Design Your Universe" tour. This hardcore folk metal band (also from Canada) was first to play at the Worcester show. I can’t judge that band’s performance, since I completely missed it. But, I did notice between Threat Signal’s and Epica’s sets that one member of Blackguard (maybe the singer?) was hanging out with fans at the band’s merchandise booth and thanking them for coming that night.

Finally, it was time for Epica to play. The lights dimmed as the triumphant instrumental "Samadhi" began. The crowd cheered wildly and started chanting "E-pi-ca! E-pi-ca!" Oliver Palotai (Kamelot, Sons of Seasons), who is substituting for Epica’s keyboardist Coen Janssen during this tour, came onstage first. Following shortly after were the other male band members: Mark Jansen (guitar/grunts), Yves Huts (bass), Isaac Delahaye (lead guitar), and Arien van Weesenbeek (drums). The cheering rose as "Samadhi" segued into "Resign to Surrender," but it couldn’t compare with the roar of excitement that soon followed – the moment Simone came onstage.

The Worcester show featured half a dozen songs from "Design Your Universe." "Martyr of the Free Word" is clearly one of the new fan favorites. Its chorus was one of the loudest audience sing-alongs of the night. The album’s single "Unleashed" sounds more confident and even better live than on CD. Halfway through the main set was a big surprise: "The Imperial March"! Epica had performed the renowned Star Wars piece as part of its "Classical Conspiracy" live album. This metal version retains the menace and magnificence of John Williams’ original, and is nothing short of exhilarating when you experience it

There were plenty of Epica standards as well. "The Obsessive Devotion" and "Seif al Din" brought out the band’s energy and pumped up the crowd. Definitive tracks such as the lively "Sensorium" and the medieval-inspired "Quietus" also were played. Mark grunted the verses to "Quietus," to the crowd’s surprise and delight.

"Cry for the Moon," another trademark song of Epica’s, had been featured mid-show during the previous shows on this tour. For the Worcester show, it kicked off the encore – the perfect place for it to be. As usual, the band saved "Consign to Oblivion" for the very end. I think that song is a bit anti-climactic, but as long as it’s still one of the fan favorites it’s sure to close out every Epica show for years to come.

My personal highlight of the show was the title track for "Design Your Universe." It’s a colorful, exquisite composition, from the soft, flamenco-tinged start to the final majestic chorus. That magic was still evident in the live version. It left the audience screaming for more as Epica left the stage at the end of its main set.

Everyone was looking to Simone for an outstanding performance, and she certainly gave us that. Vocally she waltzed between her sweet "normal" voice and her lilting mezzo-soprano notes with little effort. Her best performance of the night was the poignant ballad "Tides of Time," in which she uses her classical training to its fullest.

I have to say that Simone’s stage presence impressed me. She headbanged as much as the guys did and frequently tossed her bright red hair back and forth. Other times, she bobbed her head to the beat and mouthed along with Mark’s lyrics. Between songs Simone chatted with the audience, commenting on our enthusiasm and – of course – the frigid temperatures that day. Also, her dress sense is quite stylish. That night, she rocked out in a fitted leather jacket over a metallic gold mini-dress, black leggings, and high-heel boots.

The guys of Epica thoroughly enjoyed the show, too. Isaac and Yves ran around the stage and divided time evenly between the right and left sides as well as in the center. Mark, being the band’s male leader, frequently told the crowd how thrilled Epica was to be there. The most memorable of his interactions with the audience was the cheering match he egged on between the male and female fans. And, of course, when the crowd kept cheering after the second song of the encore, Mark asked us what we all wanted to hear: "You guys want one more? All right!"

There really wasn’t much to complain about for the show, except for the venue. The Palladium has two performance areas: a larger downstairs area, and the smaller upstairs area where Epica played. This narrow, rectangular bar room with a tiny, L-shaped loft area got warm and cramped very quickly. The acoustics were poor as well. So, the usual beauty of Epica’s orchestral bombast and intricate riffs sounded deep and overdriven instead. Despite noticing this, I was enjoying the show too much to pay much attention to it – and so was the rest of the audience.

Indeed Epica was the hottest thing in Worcester that winter night. I certainly didn’t feel the cold as I dashed out of the Palladium after the show ended. I doubt the other fans felt it, too. We have listened and watched from the other side of the Atlantic as Epica has become not just one of the most popular female-fronted metal bands out of Europe, but also one of the most mature, creative, and electrifying bands of its kind. Simone, Mark, and the other members showed exactly this during the Worcester show, and left the crowd in awe. And now, days later, everyone who was there is hankering for the next time Epica will play in Massachusetts.

Setlist:
Samadhi (Intro)
Resign to Surrender
Sensorium
Unleashed
Martyr of the Free Word
Seif al Din
The Imperial March
Quietus
Tides of Time
The Obsessive Devotion
Design Your Universe

Encore:
Cry for the Moon
Sancta Terra
Consign to Oblivion

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