WASHINGTON, DC: Epica performs at the Howard Theatre. October 23, 2012. ? Brandon Wu / for the Washington City Paper.

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The Howard Theatre is a somewhat incongruous venue for a raucous metal show, especially with its sharply dressed ushers with nametags like “my name is John, and my favorite artist is Chuck Brown.” But it made for a grand setting for last night’s opening show of Epica‘s fall U.S. tour, especially considering that in the past that honor would have fallen to the likes of Empire, formerly Jaxx, in Springfield, Va.

The Dutch sextet are into their tenth year, and it shows: They’ve put out a string of reliable if rarely surprising records, and their live show is polished and powerful. It’s also heavier than the records, and the mix of Simone Simons‘ melodic vocal leads and Mark Jansen‘s growls somehow comes off as more compelling in the live setting, even despite some sound issues that made them difficult to hear. If you like symphonic metal and/or enormous amounts of flying hair, this was the place to be last night.

Check out some photos from the show here.