When Eric Martin and Geoff Tate – the respective voices behind the iconic power ballads “To Be With You” and “Silent Lucidity” – perform in Anaheim on May 19, it won’t be with Mr. Big or Queensrÿche, the rock acts with whom they topped the charts a quarter-century ago.
Instead, they’ll be part of a touring party for an ambitious group that is currently making major waves internationally, and finally starting to make inroads in America – Avantasia, a symphonic power metal band founded two decades ago by German vocalist Tobias Sammet (Edguy). The group’s new album, Moonglow, which showcases Tate and Martin on multiple tracks, debuted at #1 in Germany upon its February release and also cracked the Top 10 in Sweden, Austria, Spain and Switzerland. (Here in the States, the record debuted at #46 on Billboard’s Top Album Sales chart.)
Avantasia is currently in the midst of a five-month, 21-country world tour that features four American concerts, only the second time the band has scheduled domestic live performances. (The group made their U.S. debut in 2016 at the old Downtown Disney House of Blues.) Sammet hopes it won’t be the last.
“We were always told that there was no fan base [in the U.S.] for such a type of music,” Sammet says during a interview on a day off in Spain during the group’s recent European tour. “But I have a firm belief that if what you do is special and you do it with all of your heart and you deliver something that people can’t get anywhere else, there is a potential audience. The first tour in the U.S. was just putting our toe into the water to test the waters. Now, we dare to walk in a couple of feet and see how it feels when the water is around your ankle. If it goes down well, then I hope we can slowly build this up.”
For the uninitiated, Avantasia features multiple vocalists – many times on the same song – and performs lush, heavily orchestrated hard rock that’s commonly described as “metal opera.” The easiest frame of reference is probably a heavier Meat Loaf, although Sammet doesn’t object to the descriptions “Queen on steroids” or “Trans-Siberian Orchestra without the Christmas.”
“I haven’t really found the right term for it myself,” Sammet admits. “That proves it’s something that doesn’t exist. When people hear ‘rock opera’, they think quite often of some storytelling in between [songs], and then comes somebody reading a poem. We don’t do that bullshit – we just go on stage and play music, like Meat Loaf or Queen would do.”
Overseas, Avantasia performs in arenas and large theaters when they’re not headlining metal festivals where they play before tens of thousands, but Sammet says it won’t be difficult to scale down the group’s live show – which routinely clocks in at three hours in length – when the band visits the City National Grove of Anaheim.
“You’re doing the same thing – it’s just a little hotter, and you’re a little closer to the audience,” Sammet says. “The bells and whistles are nice to have, but it’s about the songs and the performance. That’s the core of the show, and that works even in a small place. The energy, the music – that’s what it’s all about.”
Much of the group’s Anaheim performance will showcase material from Moonglow, a concept album with a fish-out-of-water theme that Sammet describes as “a very heartfelt, honest, old-fashioned, out-of-vogue record.” The closing track is a cover of Michael Sembello’s “Maniac” – the 1983 #1 hit that was immortalized by the movie “Flashdance” – on which Sammet and Martin share vocal duties.
Sammet promises to perform the song in Anaheim. “’Maniac’ is a very, very brave song,” he says. “I think it’s a very well-crafted song. It’s got such an energy with Eric that I said, ‘We have to do that song live. It will add a new flavor to the show.’”
Tobias Sammet’s Avantasia performs May 19 at the City National Grove of Anaheim, 2200 E Katella Ave., Anaheim, $47.50 and up. All ages.