The Ritz was sold out for this colossal billing and with perfect reason, the bill was stacked with four absolutely mouth-watering prospects for a night of true metal mayhem. Unfortunately, word started to come through mid-afternoon that sadly Amaranthe had to pull out citing a band illness as the eleventh hour upset, regardless of this though, the other three bands were adamant that the show had to go on and they promised us all longer sets to help compensate, and I was sure that we were in safe hands with Beyond The Black now closing the proceedings tonight. I can’t deny though that I was absolutely gutted that the Gothenburg powerhouse wouldn’t be in the house but with the promise of extended sets, and the evening still going ahead, I reckon that bittersweet sums it up pretty well.
So with the doors flung wide open at 18.30, the long snaking queue which was hugging The Ritz wall on this barmy October evening started to file into the venue, most of the masses were making their way straight to the merch stand and the shirts and vinyl was well and truly flying over the desk with many a punter wasting no time in donning the tour shirts as if they were body armour being thrown on in preparation for war.
Not long after the doors opened, the lights dimmed, and Ad Infinitum hit the stage running. The response they received was fairly impressive for an opening band, and the number of shirts in the crowd only went to prove that there was a special place in the heart of The Ritz tonight for the openers. Theßenvitz and Benedict flanked Bonny on the wings and were fairly animated in their stage presence, throwing copious amounts of visible energy into every chord and riff which constructed the catchy and alluring tracks of their brief set. The vocals from Bonny were absolutely on point, throwing in beautiful clean vocals which effortlessly sat alongside the harsher growls which intermittently punctuated the tracks with measured precision. ‘After Life’ and ‘Upside Down’ were mesmerising and ‘See You In Hell’ was a personal highlight of mine tonight, the passion that the whole band seemed to inject into it was notable and only seemed to encourage the crowd to infuse their own level of energy and vitality into the evening. Müller was a constant force behind the kit and instilled his own brand of reliability and muscle into the tracks, each beat seeming to be delivered with passion and hunger, all urging the tracks to be driven with more ferocity and venom. Bonny was the perfect orchestrator tonight, interacting with the crowd impeccably in order to set the evening off on the right foot. From the impressive shift Ad Infinitum put in tonight, I’m sure that they will have sent many a body to pick up their back catalogue without delay.
Then for a switch and a change in direction, it was time to welcome the controlled chaos of Butcher Babies. I cannot begin to describe the energy that the band brought to their stage show, it was energy beyond belief. Flury and Bonazza crisscrossed the stage, intertwining with each other so that they didn’t miss an inch of their territory tonight, add in the dynamism and power from Harvey and Shepherd and you have a frenzied and powerful event, a spectacle which only encouraged you to bang your head, and then bang it even harder. Huge anthems were in attendance tonight, ‘Magnolia Blvd.’, ‘Monsters Ball’ and ‘Sleeping With The Enemy’. They even had time to throw in an animated and spirited cover of ‘Best Friend’ which saw many a smile and knowing glance culminate around The Ritz. As the band set came to an end and the band announced that they had many a high five to give out at the merch stand after the show, the only conclusion that could be drawn was that the time we had spent with the Babies was one of success, enjoyment and a whole lot of fun.
The stage was then turned round and adorned with a bountiful amount of lighting units. The house lights were cut and the Germanic, symphonic powerhouse burst into sight. ‘Is There Anybody Out There?’ was met with a huge, colossal roar from the rabid crowd that stood before them. The huge bellows only seemed to spur the band on and ignite a fire below them, a furnace which only seemed to goad Haben et al into striking even harder with the deliverance of the set. Jennifer was an imposing and charismatic frontwoman, punching out her vocals with decadent beauty and perfection absolutely personified. As the set progressed with ‘Lost In Forever’ and ‘Songs Of Love And Death’, each body of the band seemed to grow in stature, each becoming more animated and vibrant, each beating their weapon of choice with more and more gusto as the set evolved. The opening of ‘Human’ allowed Jennifer to unleash the softer side of her vocal range, delivered exquisitely before she was further backed up with the force and might from the rest of her bandmates. The set was punctuated, or more like consistently built, around huge symphonic hymns such as ‘Heart Of The Hurricane’, ‘Winter Is Coming’, ‘When Angels Fall’ and the behemothic ‘Hallelujah’.
Sure, it would have been fantastic to have welcomed Amaranthe to Manchester tonight. We wish them all the best and a speedy recovery, but out of the ashes rose a beautiful and glorious phoenix. An evening of epic grandeur which would have been bolstered even more with the addition of Amaranthe and as we strode out into the cool Mancunian evening, I’m sure I’m not alone in my hope that Amaranthe graces us with their presence very, very soon.