Reviews - Agua De Annique & Within Temptation - Live At The Forum De Beyrouth
Review Date: 2012-07-12
Reviewed By: Fred Bteich
The Forum de Beyrouth was expecting on the 10th of July, a night of pure symphonic rock/metal, very much awaited by every fan of the genre, in a country where such concerts are not given much attention.
2 of the most prestigious bands were set to ignite the night, with AGUA DE ANNIQUE revealed by the end of June, nearly 3 months after the official announcement of the event, as the opening act of the very popular WITHIN TEMPTATION.
Being a die-hard fan of the band myself - without this affecting the outcome of this review - I was super-excited about this day and checked in at around 4:30pm at the venue, hoping to catch the bands earlier, an interview having been planned by NRJ at around 5pm, and broadcast live on MTV, with Dutch vocalists Anneke van Giersbergen and Sharon den Adel.
People had already started gathering, about 50 by 5pm, and some were extremely lucky to grab autographs from Sharon immediately after her interview at the front center door of the Forum, which was opened for barely a few minutes following huge screams of the fans as she passed by. The security people then forced us back, behind the waiting lanes, while allowing - as usual - some privileged Lebanese people to go through to grab photos and autographs with the bands' members, to the disgust of the fans. The venue filled in progressively, quickly enough I'd say, after a comment on one of NRJ's statuses - I had seen nothing official from the page itself - said doors were to open at 7pm. The horde melted in the sun, and were harassed by the security guys, who kept nagging and even threatened at some point not to allow us in if we don't step back a bit further, which was something insane, given the number of people already there. It was a nightmare, and the wait was endless. Many started nagging, having already waited since 6, 6:30pm - not to talk about the ones having been there since 3, 4pm - until the doors were finally opened at 8:15pm. Those with standing tickets were allowed first understandably, rushing like crazy chicken to reach the stage and grab the best possible location to watch the concert, while the seated fans were made to wait a little bit longer. With the start scheduled at 9pm, everyone was skeptical about it not being delayed, for the filling was extremely slow at the beginning, before a considerable amount of people was present, and the green light was given at the exact time mentioned.
Talking about the stage itself, and given the fact that 2 bands with 2 quite different styles of play were to perform, each had its own instruments. 3 monitors surrounded it, 1 central upon which the bands' logos, videos and animations were visualized and 2 on the sides, to add some effects to the whole thing. The stage consisted of 2 levels, with AGUA DE ANNIQUE being restricted to the lower one, while WITHIN TEMPTATION could share both. The lightnings were extremely annoying at first, very bright and colorful, hitting you in the face, but later on their brightness was slightly reduced, making it easier to accomodate with.
Anneke van Giersbergen was the first to hit the stage, as planned, alongside her band AGUA DE ANNIQUE. Despite having a smaller fanbase, they delivered a clinical performance if I may say, setting the tone with the lovely Dutch vocalist, swinging freely like an energetic bee over the little space she had been restrained to. The drummer Rob Snijders and 3 players accompanied her; the bassist Joost van Haaren - with the weird hair - and the guitarists Ferry Duijsens and Gijs Coolen, with the former giving it his utmost with his sensational stage presence, while the latter was a bit shy, located mainly on the far side right.
The setlist consisted of 10 tracks, the best of the band, simply known for "Anneke van Giersbergen" as of 2011.
"Feel Alive", "My Boy", "Take Me Home", "You Want To Be Free", "Circles", "Saturnine", "Stay", "1000 Miles Away From You", "Hope Pray Dance Play", and "Witnesses" were progressively played for about 45 minutes, with many WT fans discontented, coming only for their beloved band without even giving Anneke a chance, sending her and the other members disgraceful messages, mocking her name in the Arabic language, treating the bassist and the guitarists with gays, while she could only smile and turn deaf to them - she is an incredibly lovely polite person -, covering the scene with her sweet powerful voice, rarely troubled.
How sad should a band feel when they hear words such as "boring", "Is this what we paid 35$ for?", "Bring on WT, an-nteke", "Khallsina ba2a", "The bassists are gays" being thrown at them, while barely a few knew the lyrics of their songs, making them think they are completely useless - whereas that is not at all the case, their music is exceptional for those who really know what I'm talking about -, brought here just to fill in the gap and for "Somewhere" to be understandably sang? It was good in the end to hear respectful applauses and screams of appreciation by many, lifting the ambiance a bit.
At 9:45pm, the stage was cleared and after 30 minutes of endless, irritating wait, it was set for WITHIN TEMPTATION by 10:15pm.
Lights went off, the crowd went wild, as the screen behind flashed "Within Temptation presents" followed by a short movie from the 2011 album "THE UNFORGIVING" entitled "Mother Maiden". Meanwhile, guitarists Stefan Helleblad, Jeroen van Veen and Ruud Jolie, colonized the lower level while the keyboardist Martijn Spierenburg and the newly-added drummer Mike Coolen settled on the upper floor, before the music kicked in and the popular vocalist Sharon den Adel joined them to start the glorious 100-minute performance. The 4 2011 tracks "Shot In The Dark", "In The Middle Of The Night", "Faster" and "Fire And Ice" enchanted the crowd, mostly the new fans, with Sharon reaching her comfort zone progressively and dancing swiftly to the rhythm while continuously interacting with the audience. The brilliant "Ice Queen" was up next, extremely well-played, after which "Our Solemn Hour" and "Stand My Ground" took it to another level with the bombastic riffs and the angelic vocals.
Another small stop was made, during which a second short movie was projected, eponymous of the upcoming track to be played "Sinéad", before the crowd went absolutely mad, covering the male vocals on the song "What Have You Done" and keeping the same intensity on the upcoming track "Iron". Some classics were yet to come, the first of them and one of their best "Angels" leaving the audience in awe with Sharon hitting unreal notes, followed by the soft "Memories" sang while sitting in the middle of the stage with her dazzling white and silver self-made dress. The band came back then with some newer tunes, "Where Is The Edge" and "The Heart Of Everything", after which they left the stage to the endless screams of "We Want More".
Surely enough, they weren't done for the night. At least, everyone knew Anneke would not leave without singing one of the most epic symphonic duets "Somewhere" with WITHIN TEMPTATION. The song was exceptional, despite the band modifying its tone, seemingly because Anneke was a bit tired, letting Sharon take her place at some moments and bowing to her in the end for the amazing tenacity and effort she's made throughout the night. "Never-Ending Story" came next, followed by "Stairway To The Skies" during which a superb Ruud Jolie jumped right in front of the crowd to perform an outstanding guitar solo, throwing some picks along the way. One more song was left to enjoy, and understandably so, the band finished with a flourish with the old faithful "Mother Earth" mesmerizing, while Sharon took her cam to film the incredible audience who were there to sing, to headbang, to applaud and most certainly, to tell this band that coming to Lebanon was no fluke; you have a huge fanbase in such a small country.
The concert ended at around midnight with the classic photo taken from the top of the stage, including the band itself, some AGUA DE ANNIQUE members, and of course the giant crowd left gasping for more, with a few having the luxury of going backstage to get memorable autographs and pics, after everyone had left.
Overall, despite some lingering annoying technical problems, the slight forgottenness of lyrics by Sharon and strangely enough, a lack of organization with no security near the stage, it was unarguably one of the best rock/metal performances at a Lebanese event by some miles, and I am sure this will be the opening door for many more to come, hopefully of the same caliber performance-wise, but of a much bigger one organization-wise.
The worst technical problem of the night came during a WT song, when Stefan Helleblad's guitar was not connected to the amp - more like the amp was off - which was something really embarrassing.
If you ask me, I think if given the opportunity again, WT would be elated to come back, but I'm afraid it would not be the same for AGUA DE ANNIQUE. Again, it partially goes back to the fact that security forces hadn't been deployed there to kick the butts of some FRONT ROW fans, who should have been the most respectful die-hard ones given their location, and to the fact that our society my friends, is made of ignorants who attend any concert for the sake of attending. Were they behind part of the band not showing up for the final photo, or had they already left by the time? Only they, will have the answer.. but what is for sure, is that people who couldn't attend missed a night in Heaven, and the chance to hear the 2 best voices in the metal business, coming from goddesses that deserve much respect and appreciation for the great effort and the fantastic show they put.