After two years of waiting, the tour ‘Two Steps From Hell Live – Europe Tour 2022’ kicked off on June 13th, and during 3 weeks offered 13 concerts in 8 different countries, making audiences of different races, cultures, and nationalities, and with different musical tastes, vibrate.
SoundTrackFest was present at 4 of these concerts (the two double concerts held in the cities of Paris and Berlin) and here is a detailed summary of what was lived there.
The city of Hof in Germany was in charge of kicking off the “Two Steps From Hell Live” tour on Monday, June 13, 2022. A long-awaited tour by all the fans of the band, which was originally going to be held in 2020, but had been postponed up to 2 times because of the pandemic (from 2020 to 2021 and from 2021 to 2022).
So, this tour start was more special than usual for two specific reasons, first, because it was the end of a long wait, and second, because it was the first time that Two Steps From Hell, the band created in 2006 by the Norwegian Thomas Bergersen and the British Nick Phoenix, went on tour with their music around the world, and more specifically in Europe.
At their side, a cast of amazing artists: Merethe Soltvedt (singer), Úyanga Bold (singer), Kamila Nývltová (singer), Greg Ellis (percussion), Esther Abrami (violin), Helen Nash (cello), Saulius Petreikis (brass & woodwind), Eliane Correa (keyboard), Skye Emanuel (guitar), the Ukrainian Odessa Opera Orchestra, and the Polish ReChoir choir conducted by Wilhelm Keitel.
Behind the show was the hand of Semmel Concerts and Tomek Productions, veteran creators of other high-quality productions such as ‘The World of Hans Zimmer’ tour.
Two Steps From Hell (TSFH) began specialized in the creation of music for the film industry, mainly for movie trailers, but its use was extended to commercials, television, or any type of show in which music categorized as epic was needed.
At first, Two Steps From Hell only created music for commercial use, but the popularity of these works was such that they were forced to release an album for all audiences in May 2010 entitled “Invincible” where some of their greatest hits were collected. It was so well received that this release proved to be a turning point, and the beginning of a long and successful career.
Their fans, which at that time already numbered in the tens of thousands, didn’t have enough and TSFH reinvented themselves by creating new music, not only for the industry, but also for albums that were released publicly, just like a rock band or a pop singer does. These albums became so popular on the Internet that their songs accumulated billions of views on YouTube, reaching the top of the charts.
So, it is not surprising that all these years of work culminate now with a tour, where lovers of the group and of this kind of music, can finally see Thomas Bergersen and Nick Phoenix perform their hits live. A dream for many fans, and why deny it, a long-awaited moment for us too.
Before talking about the concert, it is worth taking a moment to briefly describe the stage, which was skillfully divided into 3 sections. In the central part, and taking complete protagonism of the set-up, was the percussion section presided by a large taiko drum, which, due to its size and location, was the element that attracted most of the visual attention. Below the drum were the rest of the percussion elements, mostly in charge of Greg Ellis, which represent a very important part of the sound of Two Steps From Hell‘s epic music. In the middle, in front of the percussion section, were the multiple wind instruments dominated by Saulius Petreikis, flanked by Helen Nash and her electric cello and Esther Abrami and her violin.
On the left side, the string and wind section of the Odessa Opera Orchestra, with the female choir in the background and a Bösendorfer grand piano in the front, which would be used throughout the concert mainly by Thomas Bergersen, but also by Nick Phoenix and even by Eliane Correa on certain occasions.
Finally, on the right side, the rest of the string and wind sections of the orchestra, with the male choir in the background, and in the front, Eliane Correa‘s keyboard and the various guitars that Skye Emanuel would use.
The entire back of the stage was decorated with multiple vertical LED bars of multicolored lights, long but narrow, with a width of no bigger than a hand. These bars were skillfully used together throughout the concert, to create snippets of images and animations, giving the impression that there was a screen at the back. In addition, they were also used to create lighting effects and to set the mood for the music of the various songs performed.
Finally, outside the concert hall, in the inner corridors of the venue, there was a merchandising store, much loved by all the fans, and that at all the time had long lines of people wanting to buy some souvenirs of the tour.
The time had come, the lights in the hall dimmed and the show began. The first ones to take the stage were the members of the Odessa Opera Orchestra, some of the soloists such as cellist Helen Nash and violinist Esther Abrami, and members of the Polish choir ReChoir. The applause started and increased in volume when Nick Phoenix appeared first, followed by Thomas Bergersen, who were greeted as rock stars are greeted when they enter the stage. Nick took the center of the stage with the drums, Thomas sat at the piano, and… the concert began!
The first notes of the piece “Empire of Angels” were played, from Thomas’ second solo album, “Sun”. As the theme progressed in its development, the rest of the artists appeared on stage: Eliane Correa taking possession of the keyboard, Skye Emanuel picking up the guitar, Saulius Petreikis in front of the woodwind/brass section, and the great Merethe Soltvedt, known among all the fans for being the “voice” of Two Steps From Hell -since she is the singer of many of the most popular songs of the group-, filling us with her characteristic timbre.
At the end of the first piece, great applause from a devoted audience gave way to a second theme: “Cannon in D minor”, another great hit composed by Thomas Bergersen and included in the album “Battlecry” by Two Steps From Hell. The piece was performed in a formidable way and the multi-instrumentalist Saulius Petrekis started to show his skills, not only as a great musician, but also as a showman.
Next came “After the fall” composed by Nick Phoenix for the album “Invincible”, but before starting, Nick introduced the voice that was going to carry all the weight of this piece; that of Úyanga Bold, singer in many TSFH’s songs and owner of an exotic and incredibly powerful voice.
The concert continued with another song by Thomas Bergersen entitled “Unbreakable”, from the album “Dragon”. A song in which Thomas and Nick, continued giving the protagonism on stage to the guest artists, in this case with special relevance to the singer Merethe Soltvedt.
Next, Nick Phoenix left the percussion area and went down to sit at the piano, giving his space to Greg Ellis, who, along with the choir, did a great job on the song “Master of shadows”, composed by Nick Phoenix for the album “Invincible”.
The next song was also by Nick Phoenix, the vibrant “Fire nation”, once again from the album “Invincible”, where the protagonism was on the fabulous voice of Úyanga Bold, accompanied by Greg Ellis playing the djembe on the front line of the stage in a virtuous and very dedicated way. Then came a beautiful theme with a great performance of the choir and the orchestra, “Evergreen” by Thomas Bergersen for the album “Vanquish”.
It was time to hear for the first time in the concert the voice of Nick Phoenix with the piece “Am I not human?” from the album “Invincible”. A voice accompanied by a great work of the percussionists, and where as a curiosity, we could see how the cellist Helen Nash and violinist Esther Abrami wore sunglasses during the performance.
Next came a block of 4 pieces by Thomas Bergersen that started with “Blackheart” from the album “Skyworld” which included an excellent interpretation by Helen Nash and Esther Abrami and a stellar appearance by Thomas Bergersen on violin. Unfortunately, due to a hand injury during the tour, some concerts in some cities saw limited appearances by Thomas on violin, but this did not detract from a spectacular final result.
Next, another great hit entitled “Star Sky” from the album “Battlecry”, in which undoubtedly the protagonist was Kamila Nývltová for her beautiful voice, able to adapt perfectly to that of the interpreters of the original piece. Now, for the first time, we could see the whole band on stage accompanied by a festival of lights that made the audience applaud enthusiastically at the end of the song.
The next piece brought us a moment to reflect and pay tribute to all the people who were suffering due to the war in Ukraine. “Wings for Ukraine” written by Thomas Bergersen for his compilation “Songs for Ukraine” to raise funds for the Ukrainian people, was surprising for its beauty being played live and above all for the great emotion exuded by the choir’s performance.
After this moment of reflection and respect, and almost an hour into the concert, came the last theme of this first part: “Strength of a Thousand Men” from the album “Archangel”, one of the most powerful pieces of the whole concert and one of the fans’ favorite. All the artists performed superbly an extended version of this piece, with an Eliane Correa devoted to the keyboards, a chorus sounding much stronger than in previous songs, and with Merethe Soltvedt demonstrating why she is the “voice” of Two Steps From Hell.
It was time for a well-deserved 20-minute break, where you could see people running to the merchandising stand to buy some souvenirs among the many items that were for sale there: T-shirts, sweatshirts, program booklets, mugs, tote bags, key chains … etc … The queues at the merchandising stand were so long, that many people were still in line and had to leave without making their purchase when it was time to return to the concert.
After the break, the second part began with “Victory”, composed by Thomas Bergersen for the album “Battlecry” and one of the most emblematic songs of TSFH. Merethe Soltvedt‘s voice carried again the weight of the song, which was supported by a great work of the percussion section, choir, and string instruments.
Next, Nick Phoneix‘s “Wolf King” was played, which also belongs to the album “Battlecry”. Once again, with all the musicians present on stage, we enjoyed this magnificent song, where we could see a great predominance of the chorus, typical in Nick’s compositions, pivoting in this case on the fabulous voice of Kamila Nývltová.
Without letting the rhythm slow down, the fabulous song “Flight of the silverbird” also from the album “Battlecry” arrived, during which it was impossible to keep our feet still, especially when Skye Emanuel started playing his electric guitar in the middle-ending part of the piece, accompanied by the musical complicity of Greg Ellis and Saulius Petreikis.
Changing register, it was time for a moment of calm with “Titan Dream” composed by Nick Phoenix and belonging to the album “Skyworld”. Once again, Kamila Nývltová showed us her great vocal strength, which, together with Nick’s voice, resulted in a magnificent duet complemented by the sound of the big taiko drum.
It was time to dye everything in red and travel to the Asian continent with the song “Dragon”, which gives name to the album. Composed by Nick Phoenix and with the voice of Úyanga Bold as the central pillar, its music took us to a world of warriors and battles, where the sword blows were transformed into sound by the hands of Greg Ellis on the djembe and Nick Phoenix on the drum.
The accumulation of emotions experienced so far deserved a moment of pause, and so came “Remember me” from Thomas‘ first solo album, “Illusions”. With Thomas seated at the piano and Merethe next to him microphone in hand, they both started to perform this beautiful love song that allowed us to relax and enjoy its excellent melody. At the end, Thomas delighted us with an improvised extension of the song on the piano.
We recovered the frenetic and energetic pulse of the concert with “El dorado”, composed by Thomas and included in the album “Skyworld”, which offered us a great violin duel on stage starring Maria Mohilevska (concertmaster of the Odessa Opera Orchestra), Esther Abrami, and Thomas Bergersen, without forgetting Helen Nash on electric cello. It was incredible to see the strength and energy that can be released from a “simple” violin duel, giving rise to one of the best moments of the concert.
Next came Nick Phoenix‘s “Fall of the Fountain World” from the album “Vanquish”, which highlighted the voice of Kamila Nývltová, who once again proved why she was chosen for this tour, and who was beautifully supported by the voices of Merethe Soltvedt & Úyanga Bold.
Then we arrived to what was probably the highlight of the concert. The piece “Impossible” by Thomas Bergersen for the album “Unleashed” made the audience surrender to the brilliant interpretation by all the artists on stage. A piece that got everyone out of their seats, clapping or dancing during the final part. Saulius Petreikis, who shone both artistically and musically in the center of the stage, demonstrated his great mastery of wind instruments, in addition to his skills as a dancer and as a showman. A whirlwind of energy and creativity, which multiplied the enormous musical qualities of the piece. And let’s not forget the fantastic and complex synthesizer solo offered by Thomas Bergersen in the central part, of an “almost impossible” interpretation, in honor to the name of the piece.
As it usually happens in roller coasters when you are at the top and full of adrenaline, it’s time to come down to breathe and get strength for the next turn. So, after all the energy consumed with the previous theme, it was time to rest a bit with the beautiful “Little star”. A melodic piece that Thomas Bergersen wrote to commemorate the loved ones who are no longer with us and that is part of the 3rd chapter of his solo album “Humanity”. The staging was magnificent, with the figure of a moon and its stars depicted in the light tubes at the back of the stage, and a glowing Kamila Nývltová in the center, wearing a spectacular white dress. To accompany the heartfelt melody of the piece, the entire audience in the hall turned on the lights of their cell phones, giving one of the most beautiful and emotional moments of the concert.
Still with some cell phone lights on, the song “New life” from Thomas’ second solo album, “Sun”, started, where Saulius Petreikis once again did a remarkable job, which also featured the voices of Merethe and Úyanga.
We were in the “official” final stretch of the concert, and the joy for the great show we were living was mixed with some sadness when we arrived to the “last” song of the show. “Never give up on your dreams” sent us the message that, if you want something and fight for it, someday you will achieve your dreams. A thought that surely many of those present had in their minds when they were able to experience the first tour of Two Steps From Hell, and that not long ago could have seemed unbelievable or even unattainable.
This piece, which once again had all the artists on stage, was a demonstration of talent, professionalism, and dedication, which was performed without the slightest hint of fatigue or weakness, despite more than two and a half hours of intense concert.
The emotional applause of a completely enthusiastic and standing audience, made the artists return soon to the stage to give way to the first of the four encores that the concert left us. It started with the song “Rise up” from Nick Phoenix’s solo album “Wide world”, sung as a duet by Úyanga and Nick, with a marked rock style, where Úyanga‘s powerful and versatile voice dazzled, making the audience turn on again the lights of their cell phones.
This was followed by a new dose of adrenaline with “Protectors of the Earth”, another of the band’s iconic songs, composed by Thomas Bergersen and included in the album “Invincible”, which lifted the crowd out of their seats once again.
The applause did not stop, and the audience’s excitement was reciprocated by a new piece: “Stormkeeper” composed by Nick and part of the album “Battlecry”, which again highlighted the great strength of the choirs and orchestra used by Nick in his works.
And now it was time for the last theme, the piece that closed the concert: “Heart of courage” by Thomas Bergersen from the album “Invincible”, and one of the most listened and famous songs of Two Steps From Hell. Used on numerous occasions by the audiovisual industry for trailers, commercials, or sports events, this piece has emerged as one of the most beloved among all fans of the group. On this occasion, Thomas offered us a slightly extended version, putting an end to a wonderful 3-hour musical and visual spectacle, which was reciprocated by a standing audience applauding wildly.
Semmel Concerts and Tomek Productions have done a great job in creating a show that has exceeded the most demanding expectations, and together with a great technical, artistic, and production team, which is not seen on stage but is vital to the operation of the tour, have done a fabulous job in recreating the visual and sound world that represents Two Steps From Hell.
The outstanding choice of soloists, both instrumental and vocal, as well as the participation of the Odessa Opera Orchestra and the ReChoir Choir, have been fundamental to achieving such a perfect experience. Having both Thomas Bergersen and Nick Phoenix on stage, either with their voices or playing various instruments, has been the backbone on which the rest of the pieces of the musical puzzle have been integrated. In addition, the fact that both of them gave the protagonism to the soloists in each of the songs, in a natural and organic way, has resulted in a very cohesive and fluid show, which the audience has greatly appreciated.
This first tour of Two Steps From Hell, led by Thomas Bergersen and Nick Phoenix, and surrounded by a cast of impressive artists who brought a multicolored sound universe and a great vocal palette to their well-known epic songs, has captivated all audiences wherever it has gone.
It has been necessary to wait 2 years to be able to enjoy the first world tour of Two Steps From Hell, which fortunately, has chosen Europe as its destination. And given its artistic, sonorous, and musical quality, and the great success of audiences, it must be said that the wait has been completely worth it.
Even though the concerts have been postponed on at least two occasions due to the pandemic, the fans have withstood the challenge, and a full house has been the dominant trend in all the venues where they have played. This can give us an idea of the type of faithful and dedicated audiences that has attended the concerts; audiences for whom the music of Two Steps From Hell, has a special meaning and accompanies them in their day to day.
We are sure that Two Steps From Hell Live will be back soon with a new tour (all eyes are set on 2023), and will once again bring a world of music to all corners of the concert halls. Thousands of fans are waiting for it… and so are we!
Article by Gorka Oteiza & Josep Ferré
Pictures by Josep Ferré & Gorka Oteiza
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