Live at The Key Club

in Hollywood, CA

December 7th, 2010

Review by Travis Baumann

Epica return to North America for a second bout of touring for the "Design Your Universe" album. Epica's fan base has continued to swell as anyone who encounters them cannot help but fall under their spell.

The entire band is a talented group of individuals but it all circles around the enchantress Simone Simons, a beautiful Dutch redhead with an angelic voice. I was taken by the notion that she is a real life combination of Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, a living fairytale princess as I watched her perform for my third time.

For all her beauty and talent, it is the epic combination of the driving musicality unleashed by the host of men she travels with that builds the powerful experience that is Epica as a whole.

Founded by Marc Jansen, formerly of Afterforever fame, he took that inspirational combination of relentless, driving guitars, epic keyboard orchestrations, lush choirs of vocal atmosphere, and a unique mixture of uplifting and doom-filled lyrical inspiration to bring about one of the best musical acts of its type.

Simone is talented in the extreme with a voice that pulls you in and paints a complex tapestry with their stories. Marc backs her up with a harsh growl that adds dramatic flare and balances the light with the darkness. They play upon this with their on-stage interaction that brings a new level to their music in a live setting. Marc also plays guitar and along with their bass player, Yves Huts and drummer, Arien Van Weesenbeek, they build a relentless juggernaut of power. Isaac Delahaye adds his intricate lead guitar parts into this mix and to top it all off, Coen Janssen layers in classic keyboard orchestrations for an unparalleled effect.

One of the great things about seeing a band like Epica live is you really get to appreciate them as people as well as musicians because they are all really friendly and personable and exude a charismatic charm the way they engage and speak to the audience.

Marc is not only friendly, but funny as well, with his song introductions, rabble rousing, and banter he engaged everyone present. Simone is a real delight to hear speak and Coen also came out to address the crowd between the main set and the extensive encore. The other three members who didn't speak, wore huge smiles on their faces giving away the enjoyment their rapport with the fans brought them.

They are one of the few metal bands that can pull off a mellow ballad in the middle of a super charged set and have everyone in the audience entranced. It was the beauty of Simone's voice in conjunction with equally beautiful keyboards that got such a respectful and heartfelt response.

Favorites of the night for me included their single off the last album: "Unleashed", "Martyr of the Free World" which is as epic as their name sake, "Cry for the Moon", a classic of theirs off of their debut album - which invoked a great sing along, the massive "Kingdom of Heaven", the ominous "Consign to Oblivion", and my favorite song of theirs still, "Obsessive Devotion" - "because nothing lasts forever, but you... you do!"

Their set was nearly two hours long and included an incredible gothic metal rendition of the "Imperial March" from Star Wars, even utilizing Darth Vader's signature mechanical breathing samples to punctuate it.

Their interaction with each other on stage is a lot of fun to watch, and you can tell they are having a great time up there. On some songs Simone and Marc would face each other and as their vocals go back and forth they would force each other back and forth on the stage as well.

Towards the end of the set Marc and Issac had a guitar battle where they would smack each other in the head or flip the other member's hair in the middle of the show down.

Coen on keyboards and Arien on drums also had a contest where each would play an intricate solo piece and then throw their arms in the air for the crowd to judge with their applause. Arien "won" on this night but they were closely matched.

Marc had all the women yell, then all the men and went back and forth. It is really great to see such a high ratio of female fans for this band and it certainly makes the show a more diverse and enjoyable atmosphere.

When Coen spoke before the encore started, he said this was the best show of the tour so far. They loved the sunny weather in LA and loved how enthusiastic the audience was. Everyone was screaming and shouting or singing along.

They put on an amazing show, and even though it was a close call to the last time I saw them, I think this concert was even better. The Key Club offers a great intimate setting for a band like this ,with just enough stage room for their ensemble to move around and also a great sound system. I am already looking forward to their next tour.

I have become a huge fan of this band over the years, and they put on such a good show that they still amaze me with each tour. Their music is an uplifting and awesome thing, and they really combine it with an intense dose of energizing fun as well, which I really enjoyed.

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