The night begins with Pain of Salvation mainman Daniel Gildenlöw acting as a curator for the evening on a stage decorated in the style of a '70s living room, complete with brown leather couches and a Jimi Hendrix poster plastered on the wall. He introduces the opening act, Árstíðir, a six-piece neofolk group from Iceland. With Gildenlöw remaining on stage, the young act launch into a cover of Pain of Salvation's 'Road Salt', complete with Gildenlöw on vocals naturally. The song retains its overdose of emotion with additional dimensions thanks to the extra instrumentation provided by the band, and is a moving introduction to the show.
Gildenlöw vacates the stage to allow Árstíðir to continue their set. Their music contains a robust yet impassioned sound and is extremely relaxing, conjuring strong visions of their native country. The voluminous nature of their sound emanates from the unusual employment of three acoustic guitars (one of which is a baritone guitar) and a cello alongside the more conventional violin and piano. As well as the instrumentation, each of the members sing and an a capella number showcases their wealth of talent beautifully. A cover of Anathema's 'Everwake' is served up in Árstíðir's footprint, complete with Anneke van Giersbergen joining the band on stage, which the audience is keenly receptive to. The set is a warming one that, although particularly different to the music of the headliners, goes down a storm with a hearty audience applause concluding their performance.
After Árstíðir leaves the stage, Anneke van Giersbergen probably most notable for being the former vocalist and guitarist of Dutch metal-turned-rock outfit The Gathering takes to it almost instantly with no time or need for a change over. Humbly standing behind her acoustic guitar, she smiles at the enthusiastic crowd reaction, many of the members in attendance solely for her. She opens with The Gathering's 'My Electricity' from the 'How to Measure a Planet' album, exclusively on acoustic guitar of course. The song sounds even more soothing and van Giersbergen's silky sweet voice conjoins with the guitar sublimely. The acoust set oscillates between van Giersbergen's work with The Gathering, her solo work (inclusive of the Aqua de Annique project whose name changed to Anneke van Giersbergen) and a couple of covers thrown in for good measure. From The Gathering era, the venue is treated to 'Locked Away' with its beautiful melodies that translate on to the acoustic guitar tremendously, although the sinister element is eliminated with just the single instrument. '4 Years', 'Beautiful One' and 'Circles' represent van Giersbergen's post-Gathering material and these tracks are nothing short of art. The covers are not in the slightest predictable; Cyndi Lauper's 'Time After Time' sees van Giersbergen inviting the members of Árstíðir on stage to help her out, musically removing the song from its '80s sound with commendable results. The closing number is a cover of U2's 'All I Want is You', ending van Giersbergen's performance fantastically. The venue roars with admiration, a sharp contrast to the quieter acoustic set. Such a shame she could not play for longer, possibly due to the venue's curfew.
Back on stage on his own, curator Gildenlöw introduces Pain of Salvation who enter after a doorbell sounds off, as if invited into the makeshift room on stage. Gildenlöw asserts that the theme of the night is dementia, the stage representing the condition of older relatives he has that has the room preserved in time as if the clock stopped ticking there. With the stage set up explained, Sweden's highly-worshipped prog chameleons kick start their show with a new song from the forth coming acoustic album 'Falling Home'. This number is typically modern Pain of Salvation with its overload of emotion and ambiguous influences.
Those familiar with Pain of Salvation's acoustic live album '12:5' may have a better picture as to what to expect from the band in an acoustic environment but since that album was released, Gildenlöw and co. have written several full-lengths. The setlist features choices from throughout the group's career, although of course the emphasis on the last three albums is expected and welcome, seeing as their acoustic renditions have not been committed to tape. Songs including the folk-tinged 'To The Shoreline', the love-it-or-hate-it 'Disco Queen' (sadly truncated) and curious 'Mrs. Modern Mother Mary' are offered to the crowd who seem wholly supportive of these decisions.
Maintaining the appearance of covers in all the sets tonight (not to mention it is a particularly Pain of Salvation thing to do anyway), there are a few covers played; Kris Kristofferson's 'Help Me Make it Through the Night' sees Anneke van Giersbergen joining Gildenlöw on the brown couch with vocal duties but the most startling transition of all is Dio's metal classic 'Holy Diver' transformed into a jazz/reggae/swing amalgamation, perfectly bridging the band's metal roots with the multi-influenced rock they create now. This draws out a humorous reaction from the audience who are completely caught off guard. The song works, initially beginning as jazz before mutating into a reggae passage followed by a swing moment. The gig is worth the price of attendance for that surprise alone.
Returning to the nostalgic era of Pain of Salvation, the group close the main body of the set with an acoustic version of the lengthy spectacle 'The Perfect Element'. The audience ovation matches the smile on the band's faces and the leave the stage with the crowd hungry for more. Naturally, an encore is on the cards, a cover of the Kansas classic 'Dust in the Wind' with the members of Árstíðir helping out beginning the end. This is followed by 'Chain Sling', which resembles the '12:5' version with Árstíðir still remaining on stage. The closing number is the newer '1979', with Gildenlöw's heartfelt vocal performance reigning supreme.
This was an incredible night, showcasing the creativity and idiosyncratic humour Pain of Salvation have. While they never used to tour the UK so often, this show is proof that there is a demand for them and hopefully they can be annual visitors to Great Britain.