Sonata Arctica – Witherfall Live Islington Assembly Hall

Another long trip down to London sees me taking in Sonata Arctica, with a single support in the form of Witherfall, both playing an acoustic set in a fairly intimate setting. The beautiful surroundings of the Islington Assembly Hall look quite akin to a theatre in days of yore, a fitting scene for when promises to be an intimate evening of laid back entertainment.

Witherfall take to the stage and their elegance and poise is obvious from the off, with vocalist Joseph Michael’s tongue in cheek sense of humour also on display frequently throughout their set. It’s always interesting to hear songs reimagined by a band, especially with the translation across into acoustic from their usual full electric set proving to be of no obstacle this evening. The dark humour aside, the band themselves absolutely nail everything with a level of precision that does themselves justice, even if the crowd strangely seem not as interested as they should be at times. The songs are indeed beautifully translated across and echo a level of beauty where some fierce riffs and drum bashing usually shred through your ears and body in general. A set that truly did themselves proud.

There is a palpable sense of excitement as Sonata Arctica take to the stage and it’s quickly obvious that despite the low key appearance and set up, there is truly no nailing this band down. Tony quite quickly takes to his feet, prowling the stage whilst singing coming across like a tiger hunting his prey. They continue on from where Witherfall left off, displaying their own intricate patterns and technical abilities in a setting that too many bands have not performed to this level of ability in. The entirety of the band shows phenomenal skill as they in turn delight the now raucous crowd, be that with their individual talents or their collective ability to produce such delicate yet still uplifting melodies and music, even in the quieter settings of an acoustic set.

While songs such as ‘Life and Only The Broken Hearts (Make You Beautiful)’ could translate over with more ease than some, the transition of ‘The Rest Of The Sun Belongs To Me’, ‘Fullmoon’ and ‘Wolf And Raven’ show an entirely different tier of both composition and planning to have been translated across not just successfully, but in a manner that comes across so effortless as to actually disguise how much is actually being done to fully bring all of the sounds through. Add in the likes of ‘Black Sheep’ and ‘Paid In Full’ and the thirteen hours of coach journey for travelling to the gig and home are worth it for the sheer joy that shines out through the crowd and band, reflecting brightly on each other, the sheer uplifting of spirit that rings out around the room. The band is all on top form and in great spirits, as the camaraderie between different members is there to be seen if you pay attention.

Acoustic sets can be notoriously hard to master and even harder to fully pull off in a live setting, but with acts of the sheer quality of Witherfall and Sonata Arctica around, the bar can only keep getting higher and higher. A phenomenal show.