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Anneke van Giersbergen - Live in Chicago

Anneke van Giersbergen
Live in Chicago at Reggies Rock Club
March 23, 2013

It’s relatively easy to see the gap between American music and the rest of the world, just go catch a top name European act and the gap between the two becomes obvious in a big hurry. I was looking to research that gap in Chicago this weekend, wondering if AvG would reinforce that idea and wondering if she would impress me to the level that other European acts had in previous live performances. She did, and I was.


AvG is not one of the acts I generally cover here on the Zine. In fact, other than Mandylion, I don’t have any music by her in my collection, even though I’ve written about her in other articles. I was kinda hoping to get the chance to talk to her after the show, but, as she pointed out at one point, “We haven’t slept in over 2 days, other than to catch short naps on airplanes” so I expect she and the band were headed towards a comfortable hotel room as fast as possible after the performance. It sure didn’t seem to affect the level of energy during the performance; I was getting tired just watching her prance around on the stage.


We’ve had no lack of coverage for the diva here on the Zine. Frozen Angel did a full interview in Greece last month. Max Levites covered an acoustic set in Paris the previous month. So this article, which covers a performance with the full band in Chicago, completes a three-month international tour, each article having un punto de vista diferente sobre el tema. And, as a result, there’s probably not a need to focus too much on her background, or the background of the band. We’re all pretty sure to recognize that Anneka’s career took flight during the mid 90s as lead singer for the band The Gathering in the Netherlands. I’ve argued on more than one occasion that that sound was very much instrumental in the development of the Female Fronted Gothic oriented genre that is now a large part of the contemporary musical scene in Western Europe and elsewhere. And, Mandylion was probably the first big release that set that concept in motion. Clearly, one of the biggest tracks on that release was Strange Machines, which Anneka performed this night, bringing the house down with a performance to be remembered. But, there was a lot more to the evening, including at least one significant surprise.

I should point out here that there are two of us developing this article. My friend Russell Maxwell flew in from Texas for the concert and, fortunately, remembered to bring his camera, something I did not. He’s also far more familiar with AvG and has provided information relevant to the music. Thanks Russell.


And, to the concert we commence. The night, which took place at Reggies Rock Club in Chicago began with a local rock band, Without Waves, who did a driving guitar based set to warm up the crowd. However, it was the second act, Novembers Doom who really got the place moving. I can’t say I’m familiar with the band, but they appear to have a very long history with Anneka, dating back to 2004 when they toured with The Gathering. Vocalist Paul Kuhr, a massive man with a fine vocal, was joined by a guest female vocalist and a solid instrumental background to provide some interesting doom metal. Their final selection was far and away the best song of the set, with Kuhr doing one of the finest growling vocals I’ve been privileged to hear. Wish he’d have performed in that style more often. They had the house rocking and clearly put the crowd into the right frame of mind for the headliners.

November's Doom

And that brought Anneka and the band on to the stage. You knew we were going European when you saw the double rack of keyboards towards the back of the stage, which were quickly addressed by a lovely blond female keyboard player. The rest of the band assembled and Anneka took front and center. It was a performance long awaited by the guests in attendance; I think she said it was back in 2007 when she last performed locally. Given the travel schedule she keeps, this is a noticeable absence and she addressed that absence on several occasions.

It was a long set list, some of the material I was familiar with, some not. Titles included;


It was a nice mixture of softer stuff with a sufficient amount of solid metal to keep the crowd moving. The band was solid, the music tight, the sound more than a little appealing. Anneke knows her business and demonstrated a level of professionalism that places her at the top of the business, where she’s been for a very long time.


Towards the end of the evening, the band took a break and Anneka grabbed her guitar to perform a couple songs solo. This was probably a prelude to the performance scheduled in Chicago for the following night, an acoustic performance, probably along the lines of the one Max witnessed in Paris in January. Nice stuff, gave the crowd a chance to cool off, I myself took a quick trip outside where the 25 degree temperatures did the trick. It was suppose to be snowing so I’m sure not complaining. However, at the end of that little break, Anneka called out some of the folks from Novembers Doom for the surprise. Seems they had collaborated on a new song for recording on a Doom release, and they did the song live, for the first time as I was led to understand. A nice vocal collaboration with a limited guitar accompaniment. The song is one of the darkest things I have ever heard, beautiful, but clearly in the Gothic theme.


That business concluded, the regular band returned and Anneka turned up the heat. Several of the bigger numbers, from recent releases, were covered to wild applause from the assembled crowd. Anneka performs with a certain joie de vivre that seems to define the entire performance.

Well, it was a solid evening of top flight music, a relatively strong crowd and a fine venue. I should point out that there were a lot of people from out of town, I was generally with about 5 other guys, and only one was a local, the rest came from all over. And, more than a few were veteran MFVF types who were no strangers to this kind of music. And this kind of music is just not something you see often. Most Gothic acts I’ve witnessed, either live or in video, tend to be somewhat less animated. The female vocalists tend to deliver their song with a somewhat reserved approach. Not all, of course, and not all the time. Even Tarja can crank it up on occasion. But Anneka is pretty much full motion, full time; the girl can move around and is a bundle of energy. And she’s no longer 21, although there didn’t seem to be much wear and tear on the body, far as I could see. She is a beautiful woman. And her stage presence is a strong point. I doubt she spends a lot of time with English, but the slight Dutch accent only made her interaction with the crowd more enjoyable. At one point, one of the more colorful wags from the crowd shouted during a between song interval, “I want to make love to your voice.” Anneka quietly smiled and crooned, “Thanks for sharing.” Perfect.


Obviously, the lady hasn’t made it this long without a lot of talent. The songs are as strong as ever; the voice hasn’t lost a thing. The band is solid and the performance brings no complaints from me. I don’t expect we’ll see her back here anytime soon, although she said she would certainly welcome the opportunity. And, if it does happen, I hope it doesn’t follow directly after shows in Santiago, Chile and Mexico City with no rest in between. I’d like to get to know her a little, there’s not much in America to compare her to. This is one of those acts you never grow tired of; let’s hope she comes back soon.

(photos by Russell Maxwell)