The night started with three spectacularly badly chosen opening acts which were incompatible musically and of varying levels of ability and seemed to only manage to bring one fan between the three of them.
Finally, several hours after the doors opened the first of two Belgian bands took to the stage – Mental Circus, here for their first UK gig. After the intro tape (which is also the opening of their album) they took to the stage. They only have one album so as you’d expect most of the set is based around songs from that album. They also do a very good cover of the Evanescence song “Bring me to life”. The band all put in good performances and guitarist Yorgo moves around the stage to use the space. Singer Sanne does a great job of engaging the audience as well as singing. It’s a great set and it’s just a shame that the combination of awful weather, poor promotion and valentines day served to limit the size of the audience.
Next up were the headliners, Hell City, another Belgian band. As with Mental Circus this was my second time seeing the band live – the last time I saw Hell City was in front of a much larger crowd at the Metal Female Voices Fest in Belgium. They were introduced by Blaze Bayley and ran through a short set of their own material before welcoming Blaze Bayley onto the stage to join them. With Blaze they did an Iron Maiden covers set – “Two minutes to midnight”, “Hallowed by thy name”, “Man on the edge” and “Fear of the dark”. It was great to hear Blaze doing some of the Iron Maiden songs from the Bruce Dickinson era as he doesn’t normally do those in his solo shows. Singer Michelle Nivelle did a superb job with the maiden material- sounding even better than Blaze, although when it came to holding the long notes at the end of a song Blaze managed to hold them for far longer – even Michelle seemed surprised how long he could hold a note for.
Michelle is a great singer and between singing she headbangs, works the crowd, moves around the stage and puts in a superb performance. During “Man on the edge” she came off the stage and sang from the crowd. Blaze Bayley demonstrated his years of experience when he got the crowd involved, getting plenty of noise from the small crowd.
Two great Belgian bands with both putting on a great show that made the long journey to see them well worth it. It’s just a shame the venue is so badly located as the fact that it’s pretty much impossible to get home from using public transport definitely limits the audience.