Within Temptation @ Jaxx

This past week I’ve missed three shows I would have really liked to see (Konono No. 1 topping the list), but I’m getting back in the game this weekend, even though the sky fell on Thursday with regards to my work. Despite working late today and getting to the show over an hour late, I caught Within Temptation on their first U.S. tour ever, and it was nothing if not fun. If you’re a regular reader of this site, you probably know that I have a soft spot for female-fronted gothic metal, even if it’s cheesy, poppy or both. Within Temptation were the band that got me hooked on this subgenre, and I was embarrassingly excited to see them live.

They played at Jaxx, a metal-oriented club way out in the burbs that has a really bad reputation around here for just kind of being a nasty club — rude staff, no ventilation, overly crowded, etc, not to mention the fact that it’s in a strip mall in northern Virginia (and let me tell you, there’s suburban hell and then there’s northern Virginia). This was the first time I’d been, and I actually kind of liked the place. The sight lines and the sound were excellent, and there’s definitely an intimate feel to the place as it’s quite small and there’s not really any divider between stage and audience. Also, interestingly enough, I saw more people there wearing earplugs than at any other show I’ve been to. I guess metal fans (not that this was an especially metal crowd, but still) know they’ve gotta wear them if they want to still have their hearing five years down the road.

Anyway, the show. It sold out a while ago. It was the band’s fourth show in the U.S.; their tour only has them playing about 15 dates in North America, so we’re lucky they played in the DC area. They were opening for Lacuna Coil, so unfortunately they played a pretty short set, and it was heavy on stuff from their new album, The Heart of Everything. I think they played the first five songs from that album, plus “Ice Queen” and “Mother Earth” from Mother Earth and “Stand My Ground” from The Silent Force. And even though I’m not really a huge fan of the new album, I have to say that the highlight of the show, by far, was “The Heart of Everything” — when Sharon den Adel breaks out the snarlier side of her vocals, the effect is awesome. And that song rocks.

As for the band, they seemed genuinely excited and happy to be playing for an audience that’s probably a tenth of the size of the audiences they play for on the other side of the pond. It helps that the fans seemed pretty deliriously happy too — most of them seemed to know the songs from The Heart of Everything, which hasn’t even been released in the U.S. yet (though, come to think of it, none of the band’s earlier albums have had a domestic release here either). Sharon den Adel has tremendous stage presence, and not just because she’s gorgeous and wears elaborate dresses — she has a real charisma that I thought came across really well in the small club. Also, it was funny to see her walk on stage and 80 percent of the males in the club break out their cameras or cell phone cameras.

In the end, the band’s live show isn’t substantially different, musically speaking, from what’s on record, so this wasn’t the most memorable show I’ve ever seen. They pulled it all off admirably, but I was mostly just excited about the novelty of seeing the first U.S. tour of a band that’s become legendary, it seems, for great live shows. Hope they can come back as headliners and play much longer sets. (I left right after their performance, as I find Lacuna Coil mostly boring.)

Tomorrow: Ahleuchatistas and Alec K. Redfearn and the Eyesores. Sure is a good two nights to get back into my concert-going ways!

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