4 March 2008, Carling Apollo Manchester
Fabulous evening. Great show. This was my introduction to Nightwish live, just what I wanted, an experience which made me walk away feeling good. Really good.
Before you read on, I'd better explain that if you're a Nightwish fan, you won't find this much of a review (and I'm sure you'll find better pics elsewhere :) This isn't the kind of band I normally see - or at least, I haven't till now - and this was a much bigger show than I'd normally attend. I have their most famous album Once, when I bought it I liked it okay but at the time I didn't keep playing it. What follows is more in the way of a set of impressions.
From the first one, of the sticky floor underfoot which I hoped was more to do with the rain outside than anything spilt. I've never stood at the Apollo before; for this gig they'd taken out all the seats, leaving only the barriers. And the sound desk in the middle. I went with some friends from the Finnish class, and we saw more turn up. No Finnish flag waving, though. How would the band have reacted to that? By saying something to us in Finnish? Ah...! The support was playing when we arrived. Pain (right - no jokes about the name please, nor about the first song we heard, called IIRC The Same Old Song) are a straightforward metal band with a singer who's giving his vocal chords a major longevity test with his gravelly style. They actually weren't as bad as I'd feared, nor was their ambitious version of Eleanor Rigby (I kid you not). But I was conscious that one of my favourite bands Indica had supported in Scandinavia and while maybe they wouldn't have been right for England I'd have still liked to have seen them.
I'm told that about a third of the set consisted of Dark Passion Play, interesting, considering that this is the tour to promote this important new album.It's further interesting because the band might have had an incentive to concentrate on the new material, since they've changed their vocalist, from one with a distinctive operatic style, to the more rock based Anette Olzon. Being new to this band I have no particular prejudices - fans were very divided at first. It seemed to me that there were some songs which might have been asking more of her voice than she was able to give, ie. in terms of high notes, but she still performed them. One could just as easily make comments about the inevitable toll a long tour makes on a singer. I liked Anette. She was active on stage, she seems to really like the music and enjoy projecting the songs. And she seems to like being in this band and to get on with them. And it was very striking that she made a point of giving it all to Once's two treasured songs, which ended the main set the encores, Nemo and Wish I Had An Angel. True, she had to - getting those wrong would have been bad news - but all credit to her.
Several things I hadn't expected. I had an idea that the band's writer and leader, Tuomas Holopainen, wouldn't be saying much, but I didn't know that it is the excellent and mythologically bearded bassist Marco Hietala who chiefly engages with the audience, and who does more of the singing than I realised. Elsewhere there is the more than decent guitarist Emppu Vuorinen, and drummer Jukka Nevalainen. I always think it's the mark of a good band, that the drummer has a slightly deranged air about them, and you could say that about 'Julius' with his bandana - I'd better quickly say that on the website he does in fact come across like a good humoured and well grounded guy. Just like the rest of the band.
So, I only knew a few of the songs, and I'd better not try to comment much. A lot of the hour and a half was a chaotic impression of grand and melodious noise. But when I did recognise something, it was powerful and not a little awe inspiring. They will have been very familiar to all the true fans, but for me those two superb songs from Once were fresh and new, gaining extra dimensions from being played live. Nemo especially. Let's mention one other; compulsory for me since Indica's Jonsu sang on the cd of the Finnish vocal version, Erämaan viimeinen. We had a spell of three or four songs when a 'special guest' came on (right - 'fraid I didn't catch his name) to play pipes etc., and therefore inject the proper Celtic flavouring into the central performance, a spellbinding instrumental rendering of Last Of The Wilds. Instrumentals can be a little bland at times, on disk, but live is where they belong, and the memory of that piece will stay with me for a long while.
I think my lasting memory of this concert will be of the sea of people in front of me. In the pics - no, I don't seem to have caught them at their best. I used to mock that horns of rock gesture but I couldn't now. I don't generally get to see anything like that, what with the small venues and different kinds of band I tend to go to. This was good and positive and sent you away on a high. At the end there was the nicest display of band-fans bonding I've seen for a long while. Maybe it isn't cool to call it nice... but I can understand it now, why Nightwish attract the fervent loyalty they do. And I can almost imagine it from the band's point of view - just think, each show, they see that forest of hands... I think I've been converted :)
Very good. The Nightwish website is, hand on heart, the best band website I've seen. True, I don't survey websites systematically, I simply view them according to curiosity. But this website excels, however you want to judge it; and my main criterion is this:- will a new fan get good value out of coming here? They will. The site is straightforward and the language is pitched well (I'm only commenting on the English part - there are also Finnish, Swedish, German and Portuguese areas!)(and I have to personally regret that it's set up with American rather than English spellings). It's huge but easy to navigate. And it pulls off a difficult trick; of making a fan feel that they've had some access to the band and its members, without ever being intrusive in the members' lives. It doesn't avoid difficult stuff; eg. you can read here the letter they sent to Tarja (the previous vocalist). Engaging, down to earth and never patronising, the site reflects the band itself. Finally, the forum! For someone like me, who follows bands who get a few messages a day, it's simply astonishing. Nightwish fans could be organised into a fair sized army, except that I suspect they'd be too pacifist for that. There aren't enough hours in the day to read all the new stuff. Which is just as well, because most of the fans are young and like teenagers everywhere, they don't tend to hold back when it comes to expressing their enthusiasms, their obsessions, and occasionally, their anger. I'm a little too old myself to want to wade into it, but it's all kinda heartwarming.