Epica – Shepherds Bush Empire, London – 3rd February 2017

Tonight’s show is the penultimate date on the current Epica European tour.  It’s a co-headline tour with Powerwolf, with Powerwolf closing some shows and Epica closing others.  In London it’s Epica who is top of the bill which makes sense as they have a bigger fanbase here than Powerwolf (Epica most recently headlined the Forum while Powerwolf headlined the Underworld).  Along with these two bands is German band Beyond the black.

The timings for the show seemed bizarre.  The doors opened at 6pm to allow longer sets, but the benefits of the early doors were mainly lost since Beyond the black weren’t due on till an hour later.  Had they started at 6.30pm then that would have given Powerwolf a set time as long as Epica’s.  Stupid timings aside, this was a good night.

First up were Beyond the black.  They’re not so well known here although they did play Bloodstock last year and supported Saxon a couple of years before that. Tonight’s show though was their first with the new lineup (Bloodstock was a temporary one after the band all quit leaving singer Jennifer Haben as the only one left).  It’s very clear tonight that the new lineup is working well – they’re all playing well, interact with each other and look to be having a great time on stage.  Jennifer Haben’s vocals are absolutely beautiful and she really impressed a lot of people in the crowd – they’re a good fit with Epica musically and I’m sure that Beyond the black will have made a lot of new fans tonight.

Next up was Powerwolf.  They’ve got the stage set up with ramps and with their ornate keyboard stands as well as a full stage set.  It’s a setup that suits their very theatrical over the top performance style, as does having a large stage to play on rather than the small stages they usually get to play on in the UK.  It’s clear that they have plenty of fans in the audience, and they really do a lot better on the larger stages.  They really know how to get the crowd going and put in a superb performance, and I’m sure they will have won over quite a few Epica fans with their set tonight.

Epica are only doing one UK date (something that always causes fans to complain), but it’s a strategy that certainly seems to be working – there are fans here tonight from all over the UK who have travelled for this gig, and the choice of a single large UK date rather than several small ones means that Epica can bring their full stage setup including plenty of lighting, raised areas where Coen can wheel his keyboard from one side of the stage to the other, and plenty of space for the guys to run around and Simone to windmill without her hair whipping the other band members.

Normally Epica play a few songs from the latest album but tonight they include more than I’d expected with seven of the songs tonight coming from The Holographic Principle album – a sign of how happy they are with the album, and the new material really does go down well.  As always, adding more new material means some old favourites have to be omitted from the set, so songs like “Sancta Terra”, “Cry for the moon” and many other great songs don’t get an airing tonight. With a lot of bands missing out some fan favourites would go down badly (When Hawkwind don’t play “Silver machine” for example, you walk away disappointed), but such is the strength of Epica’s new album and back catalogue that people weren’t disappointed by the setlist choices.
Epica put in a great performance and as always look to be having a lot of fun on stage – it’s always good to see a band that actually enjoy performing, and Epica look to be enjoying themselves as much as the audience are.  Their set is a great end to a fantastic night of music.

Epica setlist:

Edge of the Blade
A Phantasmic Parade
Universal Death Squad
Storm the Sorrow
The Essence of Silence
The Obsessive Devotion
Ascension – Dream State Armageddon
Dancing in a Hurricane
Unchain Utopia
Once Upon a Nightmare

Sancta Terra
Beyond the Matrix
Consign to Oblivion

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About Ant May

I spend half my life at gigs or festivals and the other half writing the reviews and editing photos, and somehow find time for a full time job too. Who needs sleep - I've got coffee.
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