Live Review: Tarja / Temperance / Beneath The Embers – Manchester Academy 2, Manchester 04.02.2023

Phil Pountney

With the night finally here, I once again made my way across the Pennines, excited for the much delayed Tarja gig and this was going to be one of epic proportions I was sure. Set in the modest Academy two, I made it through the ‘late doors’ just in time to secure a spot and brace myself for Beneath The Embers (BTE).

As Rowland et al made their way onto the cramped stage they launched straight into ‘Contact’, from their latest opus ‘Condemned’, and from the off they brought us a decent display of their own brand of metalcore which was topped with a healthy dose of thrash running through its veins. Rowland constantly interacted with the ever growing crowd with flair and enthusiasm while the wings were well managed with Radburn and Bredin, both supplying the technical riffs with apparent ease, while the meaty and muscular bass duties were supplied by the brawn of Gloster. The set progressed and the band seemed to grow into their surroundings with confidence and buoyancy with each song that passed, each contributing to the impressive BTE signature tracks such as ‘Condemned’ and ‘Set Me Free’ before it all ended on the drum heavy and punchy ‘Fade Away’, ironic really because I very much suspect that this will have been just another platform from which these lads are going to springboard up the metal ranks in years to come.

After a brief interlude, we were greeted by the Italian Temperance and their catchy and melodic power metal. They wasted no time in leaping into their set and the huge ‘Pure Life’ unfolded. As a solid unit, they worked the stage, each taking turns to navigate, each stalking across the breadth of the structure with purpose and intent while always returning to their initial allocated place of residence as if on a bungee rope. The dual vocal attack, peppered at times with efforts from Pastorino, worked well, each vocalist certainly putting in a shift and dazzling with the quality of the oral output on show. It would be unjust for me to omit that Lina Victoria undoubtedly has the voice of an angel, a true enchanting wonder, and it was clearly evident that this particular seraph was let loose and soared high gracefully into the rafters of the Academy 2 tonight. The set was fairly short and sweet yet was punctuated with all the gems you would expect from a brief Temperance set, ‘Diamanti’ and ‘Of Jupiter And Moons’ were personal highlights and both truly showcased the talents of all factions of the band with relative ease, allowing each member to fully immerse themselves in their duties and deliver a set which was one I have no doubt will have made them a few new friends tonight.

Then it was onto the headliner and the main reason I’m sure everyone was crammed into the venue for tonight, and that is for the iconic and symphonic royalty, the unmistakable Tarja Turunen. Now it baffles me how Tarja is not playing bigger venues than the one she was gracing tonight but I put those thoughts aside and pondered how lucky I was to be in such an intimate venue with an absolute icon of our world. As Tarja and her band took to the stage, the roar that projected from the crowd was impressive and this only goes to cement a smile on the face of Tarja which made it hard to disguise just how happy she was to be spending a Saturday evening in our company.

The set was well constructed and was forged with a good mix of old and new, covers and originals. ‘The Shadow Self’ was the most represented album tonight, ‘Demons In You’ and ‘Diva’ were absolutely phenomenal and really allowed Tarja to showcase her vocal range and talents to the few hundred in attendance. ‘I Walk Alone’ was left until the encore before it was unleashed and the loudest cheer of the evening definitely went to the unmistakable and absolutely goliath ‘Wishmaster’, a jewel which so many of us hold so close to our hearts. 

Tarjas voice really was something to behold, magnificent, delicate and mesmerising in equal proportions, the attributes that the band standing behind her possess are also worthy of praise, the bass in particular had the funk and soul brought with the metal heart courtesy of the absolute groove ridden Doug Wimbish, a true accomplishment on the left flank. As each track was ticked off the set list, the whole evening was being turned into a success of grand magnitude, the crowd delivered back their appreciation and love for the Finnish neoclassical soprano and in exchange Tarja just seemed to step up through the gears with every passing minute, a monumental example that Tarja simply does not walk alone when she comes to Manchester.

This gig had been a long time coming, and a wait which for some had been unbearable at times, that being said though, as you walked out through the doors and into the cold winters evening it was evident that this had certainly been anything but a winters storm.

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