Album: Vehicle of Spirit
Label: Nuclear Blast
It’s always a good day when you go outside and find a Nightwish demo in your mailbox. I hadn’t been expecting to do another review of this DVD since I’ve seen the Wembley half of it at its screening. However, the Ratina show was so memorable that I couldn’t resist taking another swing at it. After all, Wembley was indoors and Ratina was far, far more atmospheric, at least in my memory.
After the big wash of excitement wore off half a minute after pressing play, we were surprised to hear that the intro track, “Roll Tide” by Hans Zimmer, was not included – perhaps they couldn’t get the rights for it? As the band took the stage, we immediately noticed that the video looked oddly… turquoise. We’re not sure if it was the twilight, the DVD quality, the cameras, or the editing, but the color wasn’t particularly good, leaving some of the blonde hair a bit greenish and the crowd as a whole with a rather bluish hue. Hopefully it’s not like that in the BluRay, but I guess we’ll have to wait and find out.
Of course, the show started out with “Shudder Before the Beautiful”, which like in the Wembley show, had the excessively electronic-sounding keyboards by Tuomas Holopainen, leaving me wondering whose stylistic choice it was and why it was turned up quite so loud. Marco Hietala‘s voice stands out nicely in the ending chants, which was unexpectedly cool. I had noticed neither of these things back during the live show.
I’m not sure how much I’ve whined about this already now, but again, Floor Jansen‘s growls are too quiet in “Yours is an Empty Hope.” They don’t need to be turned up much at all to make it work, but when they’re so quiet, they almost sound like a sound glitch or an error in editing. It’s weird to have them at all if they’re turned down so far that you can hardly hear them. Also, Jansen’s ethereal wordless vocals are eerie and fantastic.
In our interview with Jansen, she mentioned that she considers “Amaranthe” to be one of the trickier songs for her to sing, as its poppy style is not her usual style. It was fascinating to re-watch this song in that context, because this is the track she tinkers with vocally the most. The verses are very delicately and almost tentatively done, she encourages the crowd to sing her parts more than in most other songs; she also completely flips over the chorus, doing her own thing and almost growling the word “caress” in the beginning. It’s only in the “reaching, searching” part where she returns to her own style again. None of the above comments are meant to be taken as criticism, as I actually really enjoy this version of the song; I like seeing a completely new take on an already good song.
It was awesome to hear “She is My Sin” again, and big props to the guitars as done by Emppu Vuorinen in this one – there’s a tricky rhythm in there and he seems to have a lot of fun with it. As well, I have to express the joy I get from the pipes in “My Walden”, which was much softer and less abrasive than bagpipes, which is always nice. Plus Troy Donockley‘s vocals in the beginning are always lovely. It’s cool that the flutes are turned up enough that you can hear them properly, which was not always the case in the live show. The flutes on “The Islander” also stand out nicely and add a new level to the gentle beauty of that song. This song still has the power to send chills up the spine, particularly during the absolutely perfect harmonization between Hietala and Jansen.
I was thrilled to be reminded that “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” had been played at the Ratina show. I think it’s easily one of if not the most live-friendly tracks from the album and I’m sad to say that it certainly won’t be the one they keep on, as it was only played at some shows on the tour, not all. “Alpenglow” continues to be a forever-favorite of mine and the one song I hope they indefinitely keep in their sets. There is just something magical and powerful in that song and getting a close-up of what was going on on stage while they were performing it makes it even more special. Flashing back again to an old album, the same keyboard effect from “Shudder Before the Beautiful” is present in “Stargazers”, but considering the older Nightwish style in that song, it’s not quite as jarring.
Again, thinking back to the interview, it was great to re-see Jansen performing “Sleeping Sun.” I find her voice gentler than Tarja Turunen’s was, meaning that I do, in fact, prefer this version. Particularly in the context of the twilight hour, the dark crowd with some phones or lighters in the air, with the warm light on her, it was indeed perfect – Jansen nailed it! Vuorinen’s solo was also beautifully edited – he is nearly a silhouette with purplish fog billowing out behind him. It looks so cool! In fact, a big round of applause to all of the editing in this particular song – it’s very tastefully and flatteringly done.
“Ghost Love Score” remains a highlight, even if I have grown tired of it as a live song. Particularly, the fire blasts in the end during the “my fall will be for you” parts really and truly creates a memorable atmosphere to this song. “Last Ride of the Day” is one of many good examples of how great the stage looked, with the three lower screens, the larger screen, and then the six hanging light screens above – with the amusement park showing on it in the wide-angle shot, you can get a glimpse of how fantastic their stage set-up was. Indeed, Ms. Jansen, you couldn’t call it minimalistic! (I refer again to the interview).
Of course, as you may recall, the show ends with “The Greatest Show on Earth.” I had forgotten somehow that the fireworks were already firing at the beginning of the song – epic! While the video cannot quite capture the buzz in the atmosphere that was present if you were physically there, it is certainly a vast improvement on the performance at Wembley. Even if the video couldn’t capture the feeling, the open-air setting and the lights (I’m looking at you, blue sky-like background and while spotlights in part I) is so much more entrancing when contrasted against the indoor shoow. And of course, the fireworks. Everything is better with fireworks; in particular, the drone shots of the stadium surrounded by the river are unbelievable. The only thing it was missing was Richard Dawkins‘ live performance of his lines.
With that covered then, the only other thing I haven’t delved into is the extras. Reviewing them feels a little bit like announcing spoilers though. Essentially, the last disc is comprised of extra footage from various other shows all over the world, including one song from the show at Espoo Metro Areena last year. I hate to reveal too much, but some of the highlights for me personally from disc 3 include “Sahara” from Tampa Bay, where Jansen’s stronger and deeper voice give the song an extra kick, and the live premier of “Edema Ruh” from the Nightwish Cruise, which was done acoustically and somehow makes this song way better than it originally was. As well, the vocal harmonization between Jansen, Hietala, and Donockley is top-notch. Lastly, “Last Ride of the Day” at Rock in Rio with Tony Kakko (Sonata Arctica) singing alongside Floor Jansen was a tad weird but totally cool to see, and Kakko looks really excited to be there.
The other special treat on the third disc is a short, 7.5 minute interview conducted with Richard Dawkins before the Wembley show. The questions are quite entertaining and very interesting, including topics like the last live performance he’s seen, his own experiences on stage in front of big crowds, and doing the recordings for Endless Forms Most Beautiful.
Again, I’m so glad to see the evolution this band has undergone in recent years. Contrasted to Showtime, Storytime (2013), the band naturally seems far more comfortable, both with the music and each other. I cannot comment enough on how lovely it is to see the great big smiles on all of their faces while they perform. If you want a memento of Nightwish at their prime, this is definitely worth your money.