After Forever
Saturday 31st May 2003
Festival de la Rotonde, Hirson, France

By Charlie Farrell

The Festival de la Rotonde has been running for a couple of years, featuring an eclectic mix of old names, including Saxon and Paradise Lost as well as lesser known acts and local French bands. On the first day of the festival, After Forever were the headliners on the 2nd stage, which was unfortunately considerably smaller and more compact that the main stage, with a less powerful and sophisticated sound system. Nevertheless, it was clear that the band were a big attraction and drew the biggest crowd for any of the bands on the second stage throughout the 2 days of the Festival.

As Sonarta Arcticaís set came to a close on the main stage the majority of the audience rushed over to position themselves for band's set. A tape of Ex Cathedra kicked in and the crowd erupted in cheers. More cheers followed as the band members made their way on to the stage and launched into Monolith Of Doubt bridging smoothly into Semblance of confusion. The band seemed very impressed with the crowdís response and vocalist Floor Jansen thanked them for the warm welcome and said how pleased the band were to be able to play in France once again.

Next up was Tortuous Threnody. Apparently this is rarely played live, but its one of my favourite songs from Prison of Desire. However Floorís voice seemed to get a bit lost in the mix, a problem which seemed to be resolved later on.

"The next song is from Decipher", threatened Floor "its going to be nice and hard" and indeed it was. Unfortunately my enjoyment of the set was interrupted at this point by some disruptive characters and crowdsurfers who spoilt the enjoyment of those of us at the stage front. They were dealt with rather roughly by the security staff and ejected from the site. By this the disruption had passed, the band were coming to the end of playing Estranged.

We were all then very surprised to hear Floor announce that the next tune if from the bandís upcoming mini-CD, which is hopefully going to be released in November. Entitled Beneath it was very much in contrast to the numbers that had proceeded it. Yes the riffs were in the same style but yet not nearly so heavy as we are used to. Floor's singing was in a more normal range, with none of her trademark high soprano singing. It was all very different and a little hard to take in - especially since Iíd been quite rattled by the crowd surfers and had rather lost my concentration.

With that number over, Floor teased us, saying "The Next number, its not an After Forever song, thatís all Iím going to say". Huge cheers greeted the familiar riff of Iron Maidenís The Evil That Men Do and few in the venue remained unimpressed as the band delivered a storming version, with top-notch vocals from Floor, just the sort of performance that can win new fans for the band. Then, another surprise! A tune from the upcoming album, entitled Victim of Choices, which seemed to be more in their usual style. As with many tunes, its difficult to judge on a single listen, so Iíll leave it at that.

From then on, it was as if they moved up another gear, because the last part of the set was simply stunning! "Yield to Temptation" screamed Floor to huge cheers. Sanderís growling was excellent as it had been throughout the set and Floor got in some serious headbanging, swinging her hair around in that way that only works if you have really long hair. [A style I thought died out in the UK in the 1970s, but Iíll say no more]. "Want Some More?" demanded Floor! Duh! Stupid Question! Of course we did! "We have 2 more; at least" she continued.

My Pledge #1 followed. Even though Floorís microphone packed in part way through the song and she had to pick up a replacement, there was no sense of panic. Even when the roadie had to replace the transmitter pack that was stuffed into the back of her trousers she continued to sing, as fully committed as ever. Finally the awesome Forlorn Hope as a set closer and as the band filed offstage, while the samples closed out, Floor blew a kiss to the audience.

There had to be more, and indeed there was as the band trooped back onstage to play a brilliant encore of Follow in The Cry which was cheered by the crowd and when it came to an end, we were all rather reluctant to see them go.

All in all a very good set, delivered with a lot of energy. Its always good to see a band genuinely enjoying themselves and it was clear the the musicians really appreciated the warm response that the French crowd gave them. In fact I think that Floor thanked them after every single song. Iíd have enjoyed it even more I think if I hadnít been bothered by the small moshing/crowdsurfing minority, but the biggest shame was that the band didnít have a slot on the main stage where they surely would have been even more stunning.

Ex Cathedra
Monolith Of Doubt
Semblance of Confusion
Tortuous Threnody
Inimical Chimera
The Evil that Men do
Victim Of Choices
Yield To Temptation
My Pledge #1
Forlorn Hope

Follow In The Cry


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