This site is all about soundtracks: music especially written for movies, television and games. There are some exceptions to that rule, one of which is the music from Two Steps from Hell. Even if you haven’t heard of them, you probably know their music from music for movie trailers. The Two Steps from Hell concept consists of the composer duo Thomas Bergersen and Nick Phoenix who write so-called ‘epic music’: bold-sounding orchestral pieces, most often with lots of percussion, guitars and a big choir. Their music has quite a few fans. We attended Two Steps from Hell in Prague in 2018, which sold out quickly with people coming from all over Europe, so the decision was made to schedule an additional concert in the afternoon on the same day. Bergersen, who was the only one present at the time, told the audience that he would love to return together with Phoenix. He kept his promise by announcing a European tour in 2020. I bought tickets for the concert on Apr 25, 2020, in Amsterdam, which as you can imagine was postponed because of the pandemic. After more than two years of waiting it was finally time to experience the new concert.
When I saw the stage for the first time, I could immediately see that the presentation was important. The stage was divided into three platforms with the left and right ones reserved for the orchestra and choir. The middle one contained many different kinds of percussion instruments – for all the so-called ‘epicness’ – including a huge taiko drum in the center. As mentioned, percussion plays an important role in Two Steps from Hell’s music, and for this show, those instruments were played by Nick Phoenix himself, Greg Ellis, the musical director of the show and three percussionists from the orchestra.
In the center of the stage there was room for the extra musicians invited for the tour, which were Esther Abrami on violin, Helen Nash on electric cello and Saulius Petreikis on multiple woodwinds and brass instruments. Other band members, who could be found in front of the right platform, included Eliane Correa on keyboard and vocals, who I know from The World of Hans Zimmer tour, and Skye Emanuel on guitar. In front of the left platform you could see a piano together with some electronic instruments, including an electric violin, which was the place where Bergersen would be performing most of his magic.
While Phoenix and Bergersen are a composer duo, they write each piece individually, and because of that, they each have their own collaborators, including the vocalists who both were present: Merethe Soltvedt for Bergersen and Úyanga Bold for Phoenix. Singer Kamila Nývltováwas was also invited to participate in this tour after her impressive performance in Prague.
The music that was performed featured a beautiful set of songs from their long career. Every piece had something interesting going on, may it be the visuals, the use of the huge taiko drum, the performance of one of the soloists or the interaction between them. Many of the songs consisted of intriguing percussion parts or rapid patterns that needed to be performed by the orchestra, which were all executed wonderfully. My highlight of the evening was the impressive and emotional “Wings for Ukraine,” which Bergersen wrote out of a desire for peace in Ukraine. The piece was especially effective since the orchestra performing it was the Odessa Opera Orchestra from that country. Other pieces that I liked were the ones in which Phoenix was singing together with Bold, the wonderful string quartet, consisting of Abrami, Nash, Bergersen and a violin player from the orchestra, performing the incredible “El Dorado” and their biggest hit “Heart of Courage” as the final piece of the night.
What I loved the most about the concert was the fun factor. Not only were the band members having a wonderful time, but the orchestra members were also smiling and dancing on stage. Some of them were even wearing sunglasses during their performances. One of the things I noticed was that there was not a full choir and orchestra on stage, which is something I would expect for ‘epic music.’ If you listened carefully you could hear an audio track in the background, but it was only there to provide some extra texture and was not getting in the way of the excellent performances of the musicians. As a result, the music was not as ‘epic’ as I had hoped for, but I can imagine that touring with the large orchestra and choir required for that, would almost be impossible from a logistical and stage size perspective, and is probably terribly expensive. Luckily, the reduced number of musicians on stage was easily compensated by the enthusiasm and the performance of those who were, and ear plugs were still needed to absorb the heavy sounds. In addition, being able to hear Two Steps from Hell music live is a treat and is a once-in-a-lifetime event you should experience. I hope that I will be able to see them perform again in the future, because as you could read in the Prague report: they still owe me a live version of “Invincible!”
Where: AFAS Live in Amsterdam, the Netherlands
When: June 16, 2022
Band members: Thomas Bergersen, Nick Phoenix, Merethe Soltvedt, Úyanga Bold, Kamila Nývltová, Greg Ellis, Esther Abrami, Helen Nash, Saulius Petreikis, Eliane Correa and Skye Emanuel
Orchestra: Odessa Opera Orchestra
- Thomas Bergersen – Empire of Angels
- Thomas Bergersen – Cannon In D Minor
- Nick Phoenix – After the Fall
- Thomas Bergersen – Unbreakable
- Nick Phoenix – Master of Shadows
- Nick Phoenix – Fire Nation
- Thomas Bergersen – Evergreen
- Nick Phoenix – Am I Not Human
- Thomas Bergersen – Blackheart
- Thomas Bergersen – Star Sky
- Thomas Bergersen – Wings for Ukraine
- Thomas Bergersen – Strength of a Thousand Men
- Thomas Bergersen – Victory
- Nick Phoenix – Wolf King
- Thomas Bergersen – Flight of the Silverbird
- Nick Phoenix – Titan Dream
- Nick Phoenix – Dragon
- Thomas Bergersen – Remember Me
- Thomas Bergersen – El Dorado
- Nick Phoenix – Fall of the Fountain World
- Thomas Bergersen – Impossible
- Thomas Bergersen – Little Star
- Thomas Bergersen – New Life
- Thomas Bergersen – Never Give Up On Your Dreams
- Nick Phoenix – Rise Up (encore)
- Thomas Bergersen -Protectors of the Earth (encore)
- Nick Phoenix – Stormkeeper (encore)
- Thomas Bergersen – Heart of Courage (encore)