It’s been just over 3 months since Nightwish played their earth-shattering show at Ratina Stadium in Tampere. They’ve been touring all over since then and we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to come back and see how they’re faring after the long months on the road! Not expecting them to top a performance meant for a live DVD, we nevertheless hoped it would be a night to remember!
This was our first experience at Espoo Metro Areena (formerly known as Barona Areena). It has more or less the same capacity for concerts as the Ice Hall in Helsinki, so it’s a bit of a shame that these shows are starting to move out to Espoo, since it’s a harder and more expensive place to get to than Jäähalli.
The stage was set up nicely with the drum riser in the back with a staircase in front of it. There were also two risers on the sides for Tuomas Holopainen (left) and Troy Donockley (right) with platforms so that the remaining members of the band would be able to interact with one another easily. The screens were up as well, promising that there would be something for us to see on the backdrop once things got going. They had the same stage props from Ratina, and now that I’ve gotten used to them, I admit that I don’t love them. They’re perhaps a bit too rugged and simplistic and frankly, not that nice-looking as compared to the props from Imaginaerum or Dark Passion Play. With a stadium band, it’s nice to have something to fill the negative space on stage, but these are so minimal that they really don’t do much of anything.
The lights dimmed right on time and there was an anticipatory shiver running through the crowd as soon as the first notes played. Reminiscent of Ratina, Nightwish came on stage to “Shudder Before the Beautiful” and followed it with “Yours is an Empty Hope.” “Amaranth,” however, was traded out for “Ever Dream.” I was sad to see it go because it’s a good song, but “Ever Dream” was a nice alternative and a clearly popular one based on the intense sing-along. The first four songs or so were embellished with phenomenal pyrotechnics – miniature firework blasts, flames, and more! They weren’t quite as grand as they were in the summer because of the indoor venue, but they certainly have a strong effect nevertheless.
“The Islander” was the acoustic choice, rather than the instrumentals they’ve been known to play, with Marco singing it solo for the first half under some lovely spotlights. There wasn’t a great deal of band banter apart from the usual greetings in Finnish and English from Marco and Floor respectively. In fact, I don’t think the band said much of anything before “Nemo,” which was around halfway through the show.
I am always willing to gush about how great I think Floor Jansen is at this point, but first I’ll take a moment to give a round of applause to her stylist. Whoever is in charge of dressing her is a wizard and worthy of praise because she always looks like a goddess. And again, a hand to the lighting technician as well – the lights weren’t quite as epic as they were during the summer show, but nevertheless, they were stunning. As I was saying though, my love for Floor only grows as the shows go on. I like her own take on the songs – though I’m sure some of the changes have been made due to the sheer intensity of Tarja’s range, some changes seem to have been made simply as a stylistic choice, and I like hearing new takes on favorite songs.
I’ll discuss the downfalls of the setlist later, but before I do that, I want to say how unbelievably thrilling it was to hear Floor sing “The Poet and the Pendulum” and “7 Days to the Wolves” off of Dark Passion Play. The former was my #1 song that I have been dying to hear Floor sing, and it was everything I dreamed it would be. The high parts were almost painfully beautiful and she brought a new level of power and life to the music. Other song highlights from the night were “Alpenglow,” which is a personal favorite from the new album, and “Sleeping Sun,” because I love the gentle beauty in the way Floor sings it.
Kai Hahto maintained his excellent drumming, though it is sad, in a nostalgic sense, that he still doesn’t have the visual aspect that Jukka Nevalainen had. We began to wonder how he’s doing these days – at least we haven’t seen any updates on his condition, so we hope for the best. I couldn’t see Troy Donockley on the stage during “Ghost Love Score” and wondered if he’s not fully integrated into the older songs right now. That, for me, would be another reason to take “Ghost Love Score” off the set now and keep “The Poet and the Pendulum” in its place, as it at least hasn’t been heard live as often.
Marco Hietala (bass) and Emppu Vuorinen (guitars) were able to move seamlessly around the stage and interact with one another and Floor, and even Tuomas behind his keyboards or up the stairs to Kai’s pedestal. They have such great chemistry and energy as a band, and I’ll say again how happy I am that they all look so happy on stage these days.
I have one minor complaint about this show, and that was the setlist. In all fairness, I think it’s safe to say that a large majority of the people at this show were also at Ratina in July. For one, “The Greatest Show on Earth” worked beautifully in an open-air scenario, at dusk, with fireworks, but in all honesty, in an indoor stadium it was just long and dull, even with the pyrotechnics. Normally it’s excusable to have a long or dull song, but in this case, the song is 20 minutes long. If they had skipped it, that would be four more songs and/or an encore they could have included. Plus, the combination of “Ghost Love Score” and “The Poet and the Pendulum” was a bit much. Those three songs together were nearly half of the show. “Ghost Love Score” could have been replaced by “The Poet and the Pendulum” and “The Greatest Show on Earth” could have been left out in favor of several songs. I’d be happy to hear something off Once, or even “Feel for You” or “Dead to the World” from Century Child – I’d love to see Floor and Marco face off in that duet. Lastly, I cannot believe that they didn’t play “Endless Forms Most Beautiful!” While “Alpenglow” is the song I get most excited about off Endless Forms Most Beautiful, the title track is a close second and a far better live song than “Élan” or “Yours is an Empty Hope,” for example. I’d have left off the latter in its favor since at least “Élan” is a single. To summarize these thoughts though, I think for the dedicated fans who saw them play at Ratina, and I assume there were several thousand at this show… well, the setlist was a bit lackluster.
With that in mind, Nightwish doesn’t have bad shows, at least now that they have Floor on board. I am just constantly in awe of her, always hoping that this time things work out indefinitely. I adore Troy Donockley and his presence has added a lot of flair to the stage, as well as visual balance. I also appreciate them as a band in that they don’t have what I refer to as their “Smoke on the Water” – the song that every band has that must be played live – “Trollhammaren” for Finntroll, “Run to the Hills” for Iron Maiden, “Thunderstruck” for AC/DC, and so on. Songs come and go all the time from Nightwish’s sets and there doesn’t seem to be one mega-hit for them that fans can’t live without. Anything goes, and that’s amazing. It also keeps the band from hating one song that they play to death (or did that happen with “Wishmaster”?). Either way, though this wasn’t the freshest gig they’ve played set-wise, it was still a great show. It doesn’t make up for missing Ratina by any means, but it was still nice to have for those who missed out on the Tampere show.
1. Shudder Before the Beautiful
2. Yours is an Empty Hope
3. Ever Dream
5. My Walden
6. The Islander
8. Weak Fantasy
9. 7 Days to the Wolves
11. The Poet and the Pendulum
14. Sleeping Sun
15. Ghost Love Score
16. Last Ride of the Day
17. The Greatest Show on Earth
Photos: Amy Wiseman