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This DVD is definitely what both Anneke for her departure and The Gathering for their 15th anniversary project deserved. What they delivered on this DVD is nothing but their best.
The show was recorded at Santiago, Chile at a venue called Teatro Caupolicán. Being a Chilean myself and having been to that venue several times I have to say that the sound quality is the greatest you can get from here. The stage looks good enough (neat animated clips on some songs), the sound quality rocks, there are good captures by the cameras and the crowd is as wild as always (loads of flags, messages and TG logos everywhere!), nothing can go wrong with this.
About the songs they picked it is quite obvious that they were focusing on their heavier material (since on 'A Sound Relief' they focused on their latest more atmospheric songs). ‘Shortest Day’ makes a great intro, the crow jumps a lot and the band is really cool. It is amazing how you can enjoy and feel like if you were there when it shows Anneke jumping and dancing, that’s what a happy and talented artist looks like. The second song, again from their latest full-length ‘Home’, is ‘In Between’ which is a little more calm but still rocking. They immediately start with ‘Liberty Bell’ from ‘How to Measure a Planet?’ and again everyone starts jumping, great choice! The show continues with ‘Probably Built in the Fifties’ and the atmospheric ‘Even the Spirits Are Afraid’. I have to make the light effects highlight here, on ‘Even the Spirits Are Afraid’ there is a great blue light effect on the crowd which makes this song even more captivating. This first 5 songs make you think this is goning to be a great concert.
The show continues with the popular ballad ‘Saturine’, which is the only song from ‘if_then_else’ they’re playing. It is okay that they don’t play more songs from that release since most of them are on ‘A Sound Relief’ or on ‘Sleepy Building’ and it isn’t as strong as the other albums for this DVD. ‘Monsters’ and ‘Alone’ continue with a perfect performance and shows highlights of their two latest albums, ‘Souvenirs’ and ‘Home’. Then we listen to the song that gives this DVD its name, ‘A Noise Severe’, which closes the first half of the concert.
So far, we haven’t listened to any song from their mid-period (‘Mandylion’ and ‘Nighttime Birds’) but this second half takes us back to 1997 with loads of songs from this two amazing albums. The classic ‘Leaves’ and ‘Eléanor’ (one of the greatest songs by them) make the audience really thankful and crazy. ‘In Motion #1’ is a really great surprise, they didn’t play that song before and it’s definitely among the best ones from ‘Mandylion’. Then we come back to ‘Home’ with Waking Hour, a good ballad, to continue with this heavier and older songs with ‘On Most Surfaces (Inuït)’ on which Anneke plays the guitar and doesn’t move that much but still make a powerful performance. The climax of the night is after with ‘Strange Machines’, what is not to love about that song? I’d say most people have seen those videos of the band back then in 1996 performing this song with everybody high, jumping and going extremely crazy, here the scene is pretty close to that one but with a more mature band which still is not afraid of showing how much they enjoy playing that song. Best closer song ever.
Now it’s time for the encore (two encores, actually). The first one comes with two great songs but not as popular as the songs played before, ‘Adrenaline’ and ‘Third Chance’ from ‘Mandylion’ and ‘Nighttime Birds’ respectively. The performance is as strong as before and the audience is a little more calm, which is expected after 16 songs. After this tour they don’t play many songs from their heavier albums, so any fan can thank the fact they played these 2 old ones. The second encore is even better; we start with the majestic ‘Black Light District’ from their 2002 EP with Anneke again playing the guitar. This song is pretty long (about 15 minutes) but you don’t get bored because of the energy and the captivating atmospheres they create which are as good as on the CD. The only thing that I have to complain about is that Anneke said the speaking words at the beginning and I wished they had Sarah Jezebel Deva’s voice in the background instead to make it even more atmospheric. We’ve come to the very last song, ‘Travel’ from 1998. This song is emotional, strong and great on live performances, good choice if you don’t mind ending a concert with everyone with tears in their eyes. They say goodbye and it’s lovely to see how humble and happy they are. Thank you, The Gathering!
Then if this DVD is so amazing, what’s the mistake that made me take 5% off? Well, there are actually two songs they didn’t include on the record. ‘Broken Glass’ was between ‘A Noise Severe’ and ‘Leaves’ and then ‘Great Ocean Road’ was at the beginning of the first encore, before ‘Adrenaline’. I don’t really care for ‘Broken Glass’, it was performed ‘A Sound Relief’ so it’s okay not to have it here and it was taken out because the crowd was too noisy through it and the ballad lost its magic (look for videos on YouTube). The one that REALLY makes me mad is ‘Great Ocean Road’. I have two reasons for hating their choice to leave it out, first because it’s a song from ‘How to Measure a Planet?’ which is an album full of synths and the live versions of their songs have more guitars and a rock feel to them which makes them more enjoyable and nice to have (listen to ‘Liberty Bell’, ‘Travel’ or ‘Probably Built In the Fifties’ here and you’ll see), plus they didn’t include that song on any other live album or DVD, not even on ‘Superheat’. This was the last chance to record ‘Great Ocean Road’ with Anneke live, they did but at the end didn’t include it. What a shame, what a big disappointment and what a bad choice!
Anyway, I recommend this DVD to new The Gathering fans because it’s clearly one of the best compilations of both their old and new material with Anneke and a great production. If you don’t fall in love with them with this record, you won’t fall in love with them with anything (unless you only like their debut ‘Always…’). Everyone should buy both the DVD (which also comes with extra material) and the double live-album, the versions of most of the songs here are better than the studio ones and you’ll want to hear them with your headphones.
Not entirely sure why I bought this really, I enjoy much of The Gathering's material but I've never really been head over heels in love with them, and generally live DVD's (except for Cliff 'Em All) are reserved for bands I have a major boner for, because you generally watch them twice through at most and then just put a song on now and then. Anyway, onto the review.
It's funny, the little blurb on MA has this as "A collection of The Gathering's heavier material" or something along those lines. I guess I never really realised just how, well, non-heavy most of their stuff is. There's a few moments where a proper riff will actually appear, or at least things'll get rather depressing and loud, but none of it gets above "loud rock band" type heavy. Indeed, a lot of it tends towards a sort of alt-rock MOR thing, just sort of plodding along. Suffice to say I struggled to play the whole thing through without just picking and choosing favourite songs.
Things pick up a lot more in the last half of the set; again I would never say it gets "heavy" but after the rather cool title track of the album, the better songs come on; 'On Most Surfaces' is some pretty cool sort of rocky stuff, 'Eleanor' has some rather nice dynamics and a deft usage of double kick, and 'In Motion' has this rather nice laid back doom-y feel to it. It's arguably some sort of doom metal, albeit the least heavy type you could possibly imagine. Most of the songs have been dicked around with somewhat too; there's a lot of deviation from the studio versions, which is a pretty good thing. Indeed, most of the songs here have some rather nice moments; a sublimely arranged instrumental section, some celestial vocals from Anneke, even just a groovy bass line for a bit (on the subject of bass; it's high in the mix but low on the visuals; we hardly ever see the bass player). All in all the band wants to sound like a rocky slowdive, Anneke wants to sound like Lisa Gerrard. There's worse combinations, definitely.
Poo-pooing must be done, though. It's pretty obvious that all the musicians here are extremely capable on their instruments, they're good arrangers, songwriters and so on, so it's super frustrating when they limit themselves to what is pleasant, occaisonally good, but rather bland alt-rock. A few moments aside, things rarely grip you here; there's just not really all that much emotion, just some competently played layers of smooth-ness. A slightly nastier guitar tone, a longer, deeper mellow section or two, some more forceful vocals, perhaps a bit of unhinged-ness certainly wouldn't go astray. Basically, they're properous Europeans and it shows through a bit too much. In general the whole package- the band's stage presence, the visual production, the music- is just way too polished.
That said, there are some good songs here and I'll probably play my favourite songs on here fairly often. This isn't a bad DVD and Gathering fans will love it. One final note, though: Anneke's "swing my arms around for a whole song" dance thing is REALLY bad, she does it all the time in the DVD, and thus I'm taking 10 points off for it.